HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 24 MAY 2017
 
MARKING INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACEKEEPERS, SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO FALLEN BLUE HELMETS

  • Marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers, the Secretary-General spoke this morning at a wreath-laying ceremony honouring fallen peacekeepers. He said that our mission for peace will never succeed without courageous people willing to put their lives on the line and that we owe them an enormous debt. He added that peacekeepers continue to come under attack from armed groups, spoilers and increasingly by terrorists, but the closure of our operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia over the coming months reminds us that the contributions, investments and sacrifices of UN peacekeepers have contributed to the transformation of these countries from battlefields to peaceful states.
  • The Secretary-General then conferred the Dag Hammarskjöld medal in honour of those who lost their lives last year serving under the UN flag. He said that UN peacekeeping is one of the international community’s most effective investments to support peace, security and prosperity and has a positive impact on the lives of millions of people around the world. There are risks when deploying peacekeepers to a crisis area, he said, but inaction may carry even greater risks. The Secretary-General added that in the modern times in which people talk about the word branding, peacekeeping is the most important element of UN branding and the most important aspect of the UN’s image.
MALI: SECRETARY-GENERAL SPEAKS OUT AGAINST DEADLY ATTACK ON PEACEKEEPERS
  • In a statement issued yesterday evening, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack against a MINUSMA patrol that killed two Chadian peacekeepers and injured one on 23 May in Kidal region. The Secretary-General extended his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of Chad. He wishes a speedy and full recovery to the wounded peacekeepers.
  • The Secretary-General restated the position that attacks against MINUSMA will not weaken the determination of the United Nations to support the implementation of the peace agreement.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONGRATULATES NEW WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION HEAD ON HIS ELECTION
  • Yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus for his election as Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • The Secretary-General said that the new Director-General’s leadership of WHO will be crucial to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.
SECRETARY-GENERAL HAILS OUTGOING U.N. POLICY ADVISOR
  • In a statement, the Secretary-General thanks Ms. Kyung-wha Kang for her many years of service to the United Nations system where she is widely recognized for her advocacy of human rights, humanitarian principles, gender equality and women's empowerment. 
  • Throughout her work for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and in the Secretary-General’s Transition Team and Executive Office, Ms. Kang has earned a reputation as a person of principle and a voice of the voiceless.
  • Ms. Kang has driven the development of the Secretary-General’s gender parity and prevention strategies with passion and expertise, while acting as a role model and mentor to a new generation of women in the UN system.
  • The Secretary-General wishes Ms. Kang every success as she rises to meet a new challenge in the service of her country.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO ATTEND G7 MEETING IN ITALY
  • Tomorrow evening, the Secretary-General will be leaving New York for Italy to attend the G7 meeting.
  • On Saturday May 27th the Secretary-General will participate in the Outreach session of the summit. The focus of the discussion will be "Innovation and Sustainable Development in Africa." 
  • He is expected to leave Sicily on Saturday afternoon.
U.N. SOUTH SUDAN ENVOY WELCOMES CEASEFIRE ANNOUNCEMENT
  • The head of the Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, briefed the Security Council this morning on the situation in the country. He said that as rains have arrived in South Sudan, we are seeing the last push to position forces before roads become impassable. While rains may bring a respite to large-scale military manoeuvres, they also greatly complicate the humanitarian response.
  • Mr. Shearer welcomed the announcement by President Kiir of a unilateral ceasefire and pledge to review the cases of political prisoners. He added that while the National Dialogue launched on Monday could bring a welcome focus on reconciliation, for it to be credible, it will need the genuine participation of opposition constituencies. Mr. Shearer also noted that a unified regional position on South Sudan remains critical and he called on the Security Council to unite on a common strategy to advance the political process.
  • Meanwhile, the heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday visited Unity State and called on all parties to the conflict to cease violence and work together to ensure that food and other lifesaving support can reach people to end famine and severe hunger.
GREEK CYPRIOT, TURKISH CYPRIOT LEADERS SEEK TO RECONVENE TALKS, DESPITE OUTSTANDING ISSUES – U.N. ENVOY
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, met today with the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Nicosia.
  • Mr. Eide told reporters afterwards that both leaders seek to reconvene the Cyprus talks in Geneva, potentially in the near future, but he noted that there are outstanding issues.
  • He said that his shuttle diplomacy will continue to iron out these issues.
U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF SOUNDS ALARM ON CONTINUED MASS HUNGER STRIKE BY PALESTINIANS IN ISRAELI PRISONS
  • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed serious concern today as the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons entered its 38th day without resolution, and the health of hundreds of participating prisoners began to deteriorate significantly.
  • He said that he was especially alarmed by reports of punitive measures by the Israeli authorities against the hunger strikers, including restricted access to lawyers and the denial of family visits. The right of detainees to access a lawyer is a fundamental protection in international human rights law that should never be curtailed.
  • Some 500 Palestinian prisoners are currently being held without charge or trial in administrative detention. The High Commissioner reiterated that such detainees should either be charged with an offence and tried according to international standards, or released immediately.
CHOLERA SPREAKING AT UNPRECEDENTED RATE IN YEMEN, U.N. AID OFFICIAL WARNS
  • The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said today that cholera is spreading at an unprecedented rate throughout Yemen.
  • In the past three weeks, health authorities have reported over 35,500 suspected cholera cases, a third of which are children, and 361 deaths in 19 of Yemen’s 22 governorates.
  • Mr. McGoldrick calls on Members States to provide financial and political support to help avert an additional and devastating blow to Yemen, where 17 million people are already food insecure, including seven million facing potential famine and 462,000 children in the grip of acute malnutrition.
  • The speed at which cholera is spreading among the population exceeds the capacity of the health system to respond, given its weakened state after more than two years of conflict, import restrictions and the lack of regular salary payments to health workers.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people are at a greater risk of dying as they face the ‘triple threat’ of conflict, starvation and cholera.
  • Humanitarians are seeking some $55 million to prevent and treat cholera at the national, governorate and community level over the next six months. The UN and its partners thank the Government of Norway for its additional contribution of $1.2 million to fight against cholera in Yemen, on top of their pledge for the wider humanitarian response.
IRAQ: FLOATING BRIDGE PUT IN PLACE TO FACILITATE AID DELIVERY – U.N. RELIEF WING
  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that a floating bridge has been put in place by the Iraqi Security Forces north of Mosul’s Old City area, re-connecting west and east Mosul, after military operations had largely severed bridges in the city.
  • In addition to its military use, the bridge will be used to facilitate the transportation of displaced civilians.
  • The number of civilians displaced is expected to surge once military operations begin in Mosul’s densely populated Old City, where some 200,000 people are reportedly still living under Da’esh control. Protecting these civilians is a key concern for aid agencies.
  • A large number of civilians are continuing to flee Mosul, with nearly 8,000 people recorded as newly displaced from western Mosul yesterday.
  • The Iraqi authorities report that nearly 743,000 people have been displaced from Mosul since the start of the military operations in October 2016.
  • Humanitarian partners continue to provide assistance in this extremely fast-moving emergency. Since October, they have distributed food, water and other items to help 2.8 million people in Mosul and surrounding areas.
  • To address water shortages, aid agences are delivering 4.5 million litres of water to Mosul a day.
CONFLICT THREATENS 24 MILLION CHILDREN’S LIVES IN MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AFRICA
  • Conflict is threatening the lives of more than 24 million children in Yemen, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Libya and Sudan, according to UNICEF, which says that children are having difficulties accessing essential health care, water and sanitation services and nutritious food.
  • Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, countless children are dying in silence from diseases that could easily be prevented and treated.
  • UNICEF is appealing for children’s needs to be prioritized in all conflict-affected countries by providing unconditional and sustained access to all children in need for UNICEF and its partners to deliver aid and supplies. It also called for an immediate end to health facilities.
COUNTRIES AGREE TO STEP UP EFFORTS TO SUPPORT SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
  • Yesterday evening, countries taking part in the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development follow-up agreed on a series measures to accelerate the implementation of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to finance and support the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • The new measures include: stepping up efforts to invest in women and girls, supporting infrastructure that makes cities more resilient, facilitating market access for least developed countries and sharing experiences on how to finance social protection systems, among others.
  • These measures will help guide deliberations of this year’s High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July.
ON EVE OF RAMADAN, WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME LAUNCHES EFFORTS TO PROVIDE FOOD TO THOSE IN NEED
  • To mark the Holy Month of Ramadan this year, ShareTheMeal, the official app of the World Food Programme (WFP), is launching two simultaneous fundraising campaigns: one to help prevent famine in Yemen and another supporting Syrian refugee children and Lebanese children in Lebanon.
  • With the app, users can share vital food and nutrition with hungry communities around the world by simply tapping on their smartphone and donating US$0.50 or more.  This year for the first time, a function gives users the power to choose where to send their donation.
  • The ShareTheMeal community recently contributed to WFP’s famine response in South Sudan, where users shared 1 million meals with people in need in just over one month.
NO EVIDENCE THAT U.N. MILITARY OBSERVERS TARGETED IN PAKISTAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR
  • In response to questions, the Spokesman said that this afternoon in Bhimber District, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, military observers from the UN Military Observer Group
  • in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) accompanied by Pakistani army escorts heard gun shots in their vicinity. There is no evidence that the UNMOGIP military observers were targeted by the gunfire. No UN military observer was injured.