HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 25 MAY 2017
 
SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR BETTER PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT

  • The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the Security Council’s open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
  • He said that during his ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, he saw the tragic results of our failure to protect civilians caught up in conflict, in refugee camps and settlements that he visited all over the world. But, the Secretary-General noted, despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict around the world.
  • He said that there are three clear ways to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict: First, he said that we must ensure greater respect for international humanitarian and human rights law. Second, we must step up the protection of humanitarian and medical missions by implementing his predecessor’s recommendations on resolution 2286, which was adopted by the Council last year. Third, we must do more to prevent forced displacement and find durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced people, he added.
  • As previously announced, the Secretary-General will travel to Italy this evening to attend the G7 meeting. On Saturday, he will participate in the Outreach session of the Summit, focusing on “Innovation and Sustainable Development in Africa”.
UNICEF URGES WORLD LEADERS TO ADOPT PLAN TO KEEP REFUGEE AND MIGRANT CHILDREN SAFE
  • The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, today called on the leaders gathering at the G7 meeting in Sicily to adopt a six-point agenda to keep refugee and migrant children safe.
  • The call comes after an update on UNICEF’s child death figures, which shows that 200 children have died on the migration route from North Africa to Italy this year – a rate of more than one child per day.
  • The six-point agenda urges countries to end detention of children seeking refuge, keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health care and other quality services, and promote measures to combat discrimination and xenophobia in transit and destination countries.
AS CHOLERA SPREADS ACROSS YEMEN, U.N. THANKS DONORS WHO PAID PLEDGES FOR HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
  • One month after the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, the United Nations thanks the Member States who have fully paid their pledges.
  • We thank: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Denmark, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, New Zealand, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, Sweden and the United States.
  • The United Nations also welcomes the additional United States announcement of $77 million for the famine response, as well as the $4.3 million from the European Commission and the $1.2 million from Norway for the cholera response.
  • As of 23 May, cholera had spread to 19 of Yemen’s 22 governorates, with 41,866 of suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhoea cases and 418 associated deaths.
  • It has been estimated that there will be at least 100,000 new cases in the next six months, but less than half of health facilities are fully functioning.
  • Since 1 May, some 1.6 million people have been supported with water/sanitation and hygiene assistance.
  • The UN supported the opening of 99 diarrhoea treatment centers and 136 oral rehydration corners by providing medicine and other supplies. We have also developed a plan to combat cholera with a two pronged approach for which $55 million are required.
WRAPPING UP VISIT TO SANA’A, U.N. YEMEN ENVOY REITERATES DETERMINATION TO FIND NEGOTIATED SOLUTION TO CONFLICT
  • The Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, wrapped up a three-day visit yesterday to Sana’a, where he met with political leaders from Ansar’Allah and the General People’s Congress and representatives of other political parties.
  • The talks focused on possible agreements to prevent the spread of military activities to Hudeidah and practical ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nation-wide.
  • During his visit, the Special Envoy also met with members of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security and representatives of civil society organizations, including youth, to discuss current political challenges and security concerns in addition to the economic crisis and recent outbreak of cholera.
  • At the end of his visit, the Special Envoy expressed his deep concern regarding the attack on his convoy while traveling from the airport to the UN compound on 22 May. He said that the incident increased his determination to continue with his efforts to find a negotiated political settlement that serves the best interests of the Yemeni people.
  • The Special Envoy’s visit to Sana’a follows visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where he met with government officials as part of his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. He also met with senior World Bank officials in order to support the World Bank-UN collaboration to address the growing food insecurity and economic crisis in Yemen.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. PEACEKEEPERS CONFRONT MEMBERS OF ARMED GROUPS IN BANGASSOU
  • The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reports that the situation in Bangassou remains volatile. Today a peacekeeping patrol exchanged fire with anti-Balaka fighters on two separate occasions outside of Bangassou. Five anti-Balaka are reported to be dead and one peacekeeper was slightly injured. Yesterday, peacekeepers also exchanged fire with some anti-Balaka, who had erected a barricade in the town’s Tokoyo neighborhood. Two anti-Balaka were killed and one was captured. The Mission also recovered weapons from the scene. Peacekeepers continue to secure key areas of the town and have begun to clear the Tokoyo neighborhood of people who belong to armed groups.
  • The UN Mission reiterates its call on the anti-Balaka and all armed groups to unconditionally cease hostilities and engage in dialogue. It is actively engaging with civil society, religious and political leaders to reduce tensions and calls on all communities to seek constructive solutions for lasting peace and stability.
NATURAL DISASTERS THREATEN PROGRESS ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS, SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL
  • In Mexico, the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction opened yesterday evening in the city of Cancun.
  • Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said that while response to natural disasters has improved in many countries thanks to stronger institutions, better preparedness and improved early warning systems, economic losses continue to escalate, threatening the progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Every year, disasters cost the global economy US$ 520 billion and push 26 million people into poverty, she said, emphasizing that implementing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is essential to reduce mortality, economic losses and damage to infrastructure.
  • Also in Cancun, UN Women and UNISDR launched a new programme to address gender inequality in risk as research shows that women and girls are more vulnerable and more likely to die in disasters.
  • The programme will open channels for women’s leadership and participation in disaster risk reduction and resilience building, and will support women’s access to recovery services and products such as micro insurance, disaster compensation and social protection.
400,000 CHILDREN AT RISK OF MALNUTRITION IN D.R. CONGO’S KASAIS - UNICEF
  • The crisis in the Kasais in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has severely disrupted life-saving interventions for children in recent months, putting an estimated 400,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition – that is according to UNICEF.
  • Across the five provinces of Greater Kasai, critical health infrastructures are no longer operational due to the conflict. In Central Kasai Province alone, more than one-third of health centers have been forced to close following looting, due to security concerns for staff or lack of medical supplies.
  • UNICEF says it needs US $40.2 million for its emergency response, stressing that even before the latest wave of violence, the Kasai Provinces were among the poorest in the country
WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY APPROVES U.N. AGENCY’S BUDGET
  • Delegates at the World Health Assembly in Geneva approved yesterday the Organization’s proposed programme budget, which includes a 3% increase in Member State assessed contributions for 2018–2019.
  • This approved budget sets out the Organization’s priorities in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. It includes increased investments in the new WHO Health Emergencies Programme and combating antimicrobial resistance.
  • Voluntary contributions have overtaken assessed contributions in providing the majority of WHO’s budget. Assessed contributions had remained largely stable prior to yesterday’s increase.
U.N. MISSION IN AFGHANISTAN RECEIVES PETITION ON GULBUDDIN HEKMATYAR
  • The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it has have received a petition requesting justice for the victims of the crimes allegedly committed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
  • The head of the mission in the country, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said Afghan citizens and others who have been victims of atrocities must not be deprived of their right to judicial redress and reiterated the UN’s support for Afghans in their efforts to seek peace, justice and security.
  • The mission said it remains encouraged by the progress in the implementation of the agreement between the Afghan Government and Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and in this context, maintains that attention to the promotion of protection of human rights is a key component of genuine and lasting peace.
HARNESSING INFORMAL TRADE CAN GIVE AFRICA A BOOST – U.N. AGENCY
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has issued a new report entitled "Formalization of informal trade in Africa". This report stresses that informal cross-border trading, in which transactions are not compliant with local tax and other rules, accounts for a large share - between 20 and a hefty 70 percent - of employment in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Putting it on a regular footing can lift sustainable prosperity and markedly improve prospects for women.
  • Key priorities to facilitate the formalization of informal cross-border trading include the simplification of licensing requirements, tax incentives, fostering partnerships, radio, television and town-hall outreach to participants in the informal economy, and intensifying efforts to tackle official corruption.