HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 27 FEBRUARY 2017
AT TIME OF DISREGARD FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES NEED FOR U.N. BODY
- In Geneva today, the Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the Human Rights Council session, saying that he came at a time of urgency. Disregard for human rights is a disease, he said, and it is a disease that is spreading – north, south, east and west. The Human Rights Council must be part of the cure.
- The Secretary-General said that we must speak up for human rights in an impartial way without double standards, adding that we must invest in human rights and recognize human rights as values and goals unto themselves – not allowing them to be instrumentalized as a political tool.
- The High Commissioner for Human Rights also spoke to the Human Rights Council, and he noted that some political leaders today wage campaigns against universal human rights, or threaten withdrawal from international or regional treaties and the institutions which uphold them. He said to those leaders that it is worth recalling what the world has achieved over seven decades – and what we all stand to lose if their threats succeed in choking off universal human rights.
- He added that, without a commitment to fundamental human rights, to the dignity and worth of the human person and to the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, our world will become chaos, misery and warfare.
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES RESTRAINT AS TENSIONS RISE IN WESTERN SAHARA
- In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General said he was deeply concerned about the increased tensions in the vicinity of Guerguerat in the Buffer Strip in southern Western Sahara, between the Moroccan berm and the Mauritanian border.
- The Secretary-General called on both of the parties to exercise maximum restraint and take all necessary steps to avoid escalating tensions, be that through actions of military or civilian actors. He also underlined that regular commercial traffic should not be obstructed.
- Today, MINURSO observers confirmed that the Moroccan armed elements have withdrawn from the Buffer Strip. The Secretary-General welcomes this withdrawal.
- The United Nations is continuing to engage with both parties to ensure de-escalation in the area and their full adherence to the spirit and the letter of their obligations under the ceasefire agreement.
NEW DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO BE SWORN IN TOMORROW
- Amina Mohammed, the new Deputy Secretary-General, will formally take office tomorrow, being sworn in in the morning.
- After that, she will speak at the Economic and Social Council in her first official engagement with that body, followed by a short encounter with the press.
NO ALTERNATIVE TO DIALOGUE IN KOSOVO, U.N. ENVOY TELLS SECURITY COUNCIL
- The Security Council was briefed this morning by Zahir Tanin, the head of the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
- He told Council members that the past months have been marked by inconsistent progress and by heightened tensions between Belgrade and Pristina.
- Mr. Tanin noted that earlier this month, Belgrade and Pristina leaders finally met at the highest political level in Brussels under European Union auspices, calling it an essential step to chart a path out of a deteriorating situation and to publicly reconfirm their commitment to work together.
- He underscored that there is no alternative to dialogue, and also pointed out that any tension or potential crisis between Belgrade and Pristina cannot be seen in isolation from the challenges that the region already faces.
- Mr. Tanin emphasized that good neighbourly relations, dedication to a common future within a unified European space, a commitment to human rights and the rule of law, and resolving disputes only through the peaceful means of dialogue and compromise are as essential for Kosovo as they are for the entire region.
- This afternoon, the Council will hold closed consultations on sanctions on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and other matters.
U.N. AIMS TO PROVIDE IMPARTIAL LIFE-SAVING AID TO ALL IN NEED, RELIEF CHIEF SAYS IN YEMEN
- The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, arrived in Aden yesterday. Speaking to the press in Aden today, Mr. O’Brien said: "We are here to help and provide neutral, impartial life-saving assistance to all people in need, regardless of where they are in Yemen."
- He met yesterday with Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Bin Daghr and senior members of the Government of Yemen to discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between authorities and humanitarian partners. Mr. O'Brien stressed the need to ensure protection of civilians and humanitarian access to affected populations.
- He visited a hospital in the centre of Aden yesterday, where he saw first-hand the damages suffered by the hospital as a result of the conflict. He also visited the Al Qateea’a neighbourhood and listened to the concerns of families who have been frequently displaced.
- Mr. O’Brien is currently visiting Yemen’s Ibb Governorate.
SYRIA: U.N. REITERATES CONCERN FOR SAFETY OF 400,000 PEOPLE BESIEGED IN EASTERN GHOUTAH
- We remain extremely concerned for the safety and protection of more than 400,000 people who remain besieged in eastern Ghoutah in Syria.
- Intense fighting in and around eastern Ghoutah has been reported over the past week, resulting in death and injury to civilians, and affecting civilian infrastructure, including damage to medical facilities, and schools closures in several districts.
- The last UN inter-agency mission to the area was in late October 2016 and civilians currently have limited access to critical food, health and nutrition assistance.
- The United Nations calls on all parties to the conflict to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to ensure unimpeded, sustained and unconditional access to all people in need across Syria. This includes recent requests to reach several locations in East Ghoutah.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. MISSION STOPS ARMED MILITIA FROM REACHING BAMBARI
- The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that, yesterday, some 40 heavily-armed members of the coalition led by the Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de Centrafrique (FPRC) were a few kilometres north of the town of Bambari. In accordance with measures previously announced, in order to prevent a war in Bambari between the FPRC and the Mouvement pour l’Unité et la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC), the Peacekeeping Mission intervened by air to stop the offensive progression of the coalition.
- Three members of the coalition were apprehended by the UN Mission. The Central African Republic’s judicial authorities will proceed to interrogate them regarding their presence around the city, with the support of the UN Mission. Seven members of the coalition were also wounded during the operation and one died.
- The UN Mission once again calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and reiterates its determination to use all means authorised by the Security Council to prevent fighting in Bambari. The Mission also denounces the pressure exerted by the FPRC coalition on displaced people in Ippy, east of Bambari, preventing civilians from leaving the area.
U.N. MISSION DEPLORES VIOLENCE IN LIBYA’S TRIPOLI, STRESSES NEED FOR CEASEFIRE
- Over the weekend, the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) deplored the outbreak of violence in Tripoli’s Abu-Selim district that resulted in many casualties. The Mission commended the Presidency Council and community leaders’ efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and prevent further escalation. UNSMIL also called for the terms of the agreement to be implemented immediately, and for those responsible for acts of violence to be held accountable.
- Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Libya, said that this incident once again demonstrates the need for a swift political solution, including a united Libyan army, operating under civilian control, to provide security for all Libyans.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY SOUNDS ALARM ON SPIKE IN NUMBERS OF SOUTH SUDANESE FLEEING TO SUDAN SINCE START OF 2017
- The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it has seen a significant increase in South Sudanese refugees fleeing to Sudan since January. Initial expectations were that 60,000 refugees may arrive through 2017, but in the first two months of the year alone, over 31,000 refugees have arrived. Initial estimates show that over 80% of the new arrivals are women and children, including unaccompanied and separated children. They are in need of immediate life-saving assistance, which UNHCR and its sister agencies are trying to address.
NEW WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION LIST UNVEILS BACTERIA NEEDING NEW ANTIBIOTICS
- The World Health Organization (WHO) published today its first-ever list of antibiotic-resistant "priority pathogens" – a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.
- The list was drawn up in a bid to guide and promote research and development of new antibiotics, as part of WHO’s efforts to address growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS NEW ENVOY FOR GUYANA-VENEZUELA BORDER CONTROVERSY
- The Secretary-General is announcing today the appointment of Dag Halvor Nylander of Norway as his Personal Representative on the Border Controversy between Guyana and Venezuela.
- Mr. Nylander will actively engage with the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela with a view to exploring and proposing options for a solution to the border controversy between the two countries.
- If, by the end of 2017, the Secretary-General concludes that no significant progress has been made, he will choose the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement, unless the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela jointly request that he refrain from doing so.
- Mr. Nylander was most recently the Norwegian Special Envoy to the Colombia peace process.