HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 8 DECEMBER 2016
REFUGEES DON’T COME WITH PROBLEMS, THEY COME WITH OPPORTUNITIES, SAYS SECRETARY-GENERAL
- Today, the Secretary-General visited the Habibi and Hawara restaurant in Vienna, which serves Austrian and Arab cuisine. Opened this year, it is run by a team of refugees and Austrians, aiming to help refugees become independent entrepreneurs.
- In remarks delivered there, the Secretary-General highlighted the UN’s global campaign to change negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants, and to strengthen the social contract between host countries and communities, and refugees and migrants.
- The Secretary-General thanked the Austrian people and government for the warm hearts they showed as they welcomed refugees and migrants. Refugees, the Secretary-General said, do not come with problems -- they come with opportunities.
U.N. SENIOR OFFICIAL WARNS OF DIMINISHING ACCESS TO CIVILIANS IN SYRIA
- The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, will brief the Security Council in closed consultations at 3:00 this afternoon.
- Earlier today, Mr. de Mistura’s Special Adviser, Jan Egeland, spoke to reporters in Geneva following what he described as a difficult humanitarian taskforce meeting. He said the meeting was difficult because the Member States that are supposed to help the United Nations and humanitarian workers get access to civilians in the crossfire are poles apart in how they regard what is happening in Syria. Consequently, there has been diminishing access on the ground, even though Mr. Egeland added that the December plan for access across the front lines has been approved by the Government of Syria
- The Special Adviser noted the many efforts since July to get access to eastern Aleppo, saying that there had been three major plans and initiatives, all of which have failed.
- He said that, in addition to renewing the call for a pause, we need a pause for the sake of the civilian population of eastern Aleppo so that they can come out without being attacked. Second, he said, we need to have a better protection system for those who come out.
SYRIA: U.N. VOICES CONCERN ABOUT SAFETY OF CIVILIANS IN ALEPPO, CALLS FOR PAUSE IN FIGHTING
- The UN is extremely concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Aleppo as fighting continues to endanger them in the entire city.
- Most streets in besieged neighbourhoods in eastern Aleppo and in some neighbourhoods in western Aleppo are so dangerous that it severely impacts any movement of civilians.
- The UN urgently calls for a pause in fighting to allow people to freely and safely leave besieged eastern Aleppo and safely move anywhere in Aleppo city.
- The overall number of displaced people remains extremely difficult to gauge at this time as the UN does not have verifiable information about new displacements and people continue to arrive and leave existing shelters and lodge with family members.
- On the basis of the information provided by local partners, the UN estimates that more than 40,000 people have left besieged parts of Aleppo, including to the Kurdish-held Sheik Maqsoud area. The situation is extremely fluid as frontlines continue to shift on a daily basis.
- Despite the dangers, the UN has also received reports of hundreds of civilians who continue to flee east Aleppo recently and is in the process of verifying numbers with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and other partners. The UN responds to the needs of the displaced wherever it has access or through partners, principally the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.
- The response for the displaced in Aleppo includes medical care, hot meals, essential nutrition services for children and lactating women and winter clothing.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF WARNS ISRAELI BILL ON SETTLEMENTS WOULD VIOLATE INTERNATIONAL LAW
- The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed deep concern today over proposed legislation in Israel that, if adopted, would allow the retroactive “legalization” of so-called Israeli outposts constructed on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The Bill was approved by the Knesset at the first of three readings on Wednesday.
- The High Commissioner said that, in enabling the use of land privately-owned by Palestinians for Israeli settlements without the owners’ consent, this legislation would violate international law. He strongly urged lawmakers to reconsider their support for this bill, which if enacted, would have far-reaching consequences and would seriously damage the reputation of Israel around the world.
UKRAINE: FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT MINSK AGREEMENTS LEADS TO HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS – U.N. REPORT
- The latest UN human rights report on Ukraine has found that the failure to implement the Minsk Agreements in the country’s east has continued to result in a host of human rights violations for civilians.
- This is particularly true for civilians living close to the so-called ‘contact line’ between territories controlled by the Government and armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk.
- The latest report covers the period between 16 August and 15 November, with the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission having recorded 32 conflict-related deaths and 132 injuries.
- The total death toll from mid-April 2014 to 1 December of this year is nearly 10,000, but the Mission notes that this is a conservative estimate based on available data.
- The report says it is deeply concerning that Government forces and armed groups operating in civilian areas do not take all feasible precautions against the effects of fighting, resulting in damage to schools, kindergartens, and medical facilities.
PRESIDENT OF MECHANISM FOR INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS CALLS ON SECURITY COUNCIL TO HELP IN RELEASE OF JUDGE AKAY
- The President of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, Judge Theodor Meron, today presented the latest progress report on the work of the Mechanism to the United Nations Security Council.
- As part of his remarks, Judge Meron drew the attention of the Security Council to the ongoing detention of Judge Aydin Sefa Akay and its impact upon the Mechanism’s work.
- He recalled that, in accordance with a longstanding and consistent practice, the MICT Statute, adopted by the Council under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, affords international Judges diplomatic immunity whilst engaged on the business of the Mechanism. Nevertheless, Judge Akay remains in detention and is unable to carry out his duties as a Judge of the Mechanism. Judge Meron called upon the Members of the Security Council to assist in finding a resolution to the situation.
U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CHIEF CALLS FOR PROTECTION OF DISPLACED CHILDREN
- The High Commissioner for Refugees has called for urgent action to ensure that displaced children are protected and allowed to pursue peaceful and productive lives. Filippo Grandi made the remarks in Geneva today, as he opened UNHCR’s 9th annual Dialogue on Protection Challenges, which this year is focused on Children on the Move.
- The High Commissioner said some 28 million displaced children globally are paying the price for a lack of political will to prevent, mitigate and resolve conflict. “If we do not act together to find solutions for today’s refugees and other displaced populations, we will have failed this generation of children, and those to come,” said Grandi.
CONFLICTS AND WEATHER-RELATED SHOCKS INTENSIFY FOOD INSECURITY – U.N. REPORT
- The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued today its Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, which highlights 39 countries that are in need of external assistance for food.
- While the outlook for global cereal supplies is improving due to generally favourable growing conditions for crops, civil conflict and weather-related shocks have severely stressed food security in 2016, increasing the number of countries in need.
2016 ‘DISASTROUS’ YEAR FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF
- Ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said today that unprecedented pressure on international human rights standards risks unravelling the unique set of protections set in place after the end of World War II.
- He stressed it was within the power of every individual to play a role in pushing back against such pressures, and that many are already doing so.
- The High Commissioner noted that 2016 has been a disastrous year for human rights across the globe, and if the growing erosion of the carefully constructed system of human rights and rule of law continues to gather momentum, ultimately everyone will suffer.
- He added that many leaders are failing to grapple effectively and honestly with complex social and economic issues, and that as a result, people are turning in desperation to the siren voices exploiting fears, sowing disinformation and division, and making alluring promises they cannot fulfil.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS
- Today, the Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Ahmed Al Meraikhi of Qatar as his Humanitarian Envoy. He will succeed Abdullah al Matouq of Kuwait, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service to the organization.
- The Secretary-General looks forward to Mr. Al Meraikhi working closely with the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs to build stronger partnerships in Qatar, the Gulf Cooperation Council region and beyond.
- The Secretary-General also announces the appointment of Major General Wang Xiaojun of the People’s Republic of China as the Force Commander of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
- Major General Wang will succeed Major General Muhammad Tayyab Azam of Pakistan, whose tour of duty ended on 7 November 2016. The Secretary-General is grateful to Major General Azam for his exemplary service and contribution to the work of MINURSO.
- Major General Wang brings to this position 40 years of national and international military experience.