HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 20 APRIL 2017
VENEZUELA: U.N. CALLS FOR LOWERING OF TENSIONS, PREVENTION OF FURTHER CLASHES
- In a statement, the Spokesman said that we are concerned about the latest developments in Venezuela and urge that all efforts be made to lower tensions and prevent further clashes.
- We call on the Government of Venezuela and the opposition to engage sincerely to reactivate dialogue efforts, especially around the critical issues that they had already agreed to place on the agenda, namely the balance of power among branches of the State, the electoral calendar, human rights, truth and justice and the socioeconomic situation.
- We call for concrete gestures from all parties to reduce polarisation and create the necessary conditions to address the country’s challenges for the benefit of the Venezuelan people.
SECRETARY-GENERAL UNVEILS NEW INITIATIVE TO SLASH U.N. AIR COSTS
- As part of the Secretariat’s ongoing review of costs and of the use of resources provided by Member States, the Secretary-General today launched an initiative to reduce costs by increasing the efficiency in the use of our air assets. The UN currently deploys 58 fixed-wing and 157 rotary-wing aircraft in 12 peacekeeping and 6 special political missions. The annual cost of these aircraft was close to $750 million in 2015-16.
- While these assets provide essential logistics and military enabling capabilities, given their significant cost implications, the Secretary-General has asked the heads of field missions to systematically analyse and adjust the composition and utilization of their fleet and seek alternative solutions that may be more cost-effective. This is an opportunity for mission to innovate.
- Mandate delivery is of course at the core of defining logistics and safety must remain paramount. As the analysis is ongoing, the Secretary-General requested with immediate effect that passenger movements be limited to critical mandated tasks; non-mission passengers be reduced; and schedules be more finely tuned to allow for reduced fleets. Special flights must also become exceptional.
- The Secretary-General said that the Secretariat bears a great burden of responsibility when it comes to the judicious use of funding and assets provided by Member States. He has asked the Department of Field Support to lead and coordinate this initiative at Headquarters.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO TAKE PART IN YEMEN HUMANITARIAN MEETING IN SWITZERLAND
- The Secretary-General will travel to Switzerland on 23 April.
- On 24 April, in Bern, he will meet with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Doris Leuthard; the Swiss Foreign Minister, Didier Burkhalter; and the leadership of the External Relations Committees of both Chambers of Parliament.
- On 25 April, in Geneva, the Secretary-General will preside over the High-level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen with the Foreign Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden, Margot Wallström, as co-chairs. He is expected to address the press afterwards.
- On 26 and 27 April, he will chair the meeting of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination.
- The Secretary-General will be back in the office on 28 April.
YEMEN: U.N. RELEASES $50 MILLION TO TACKLE FOOD INSECURITY
- The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, has authorized the first 2017 allocation of the Yemen Humanitarian Fund for $50 million.
- These funds will go towards addressing the immediate causes of food insecurity and malnutrition by ensuring access to food, nutrition, health and sanitation for the most vulnerable people.
- They will also be part of an integrated response for the most vulnerable internally displaced people, returnees and host communities by providing shelter, food, water and other items.
U.N. MISSION REPORTS CLASHES BETWEEN GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION IN SOUTH SUDAN’S UPPER NILE
- The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has received reports of fighting between government and opposition forces around Atar and Owachi in Upper Nile. A UN patrol to Kodok yesterday observed that the town was deserted, with no civilians.
- In Eastern Equatoria, a UN patrol to Pugee, south of Pajok, yesterday met with civilians, who reported that Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers looted houses and Government offices as well as a health facility during recent military operations in the area. The UN Mission calls on the Government to investigate these reports and bring those responsible to justice.
- Meanwhile, in Marreng in Jonglei, the SPLA prevented UN peacekeepers from proceeding on a patrol and forced them to return to base after unsuccessful negotiations. The Mission, once again, calls on the Government to facilitate full access, as obligated by the Status of Forces Agreement, so it can implement its mandate, including the protection of civilians.
MIDDLE EAST ENGULFED BY ‘PERFECT STORM,’ U.N. OFFICIAL WARNS SECURITY COUNCIL
- Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said at the outset of today’s Security Council debate on the Middle East that a perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East and continues to threaten international peace and security. Millions have been displaced in the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. He added that the question of Palestine remains a potent symbol and rallying cry that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups. Ending the occupation and realizing a two-state solution will not solve all the region’s problems, he said, but as long as the conflict persists, it will continue to feed them.
- Mr. Mladenov also briefly touched upon the recent reports of the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. If confirmed, he said, this abhorrent action would amount to a serious violation of international law and present a threat to international peace and security. He expressed the hope that the Security Council can unite to send a strong collective message that the perpetrators of such attacks will be held accountable.
SYRIAN TOWN OF ZABADANI REPORTEDLY COMPLETELY EMPTY – U.N.
- Yesterday, 550 people from Zabadani, Madaya, Sarghaya and the surrounding area in Syria were evacuated to Idleb governorate simultaneously with 3,000 people from Foah and Kafraya, who were evacuated to Jibreen, outside of Aleppo city. With those evacuations, the town of Zabadani is reported to have been completely emptied.
- People evacuated from Foah and Kefraya to the Al-Mahalej shelter in Jibreen are being provided with food, water, emergency items and health services, supplied by the UN and our partners through the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. People displaced from Madaya and Zabadani to Idleb are being assisted by cross-border NGOs through two reception centres.
- The UN is not a party to the negotiations, the agreement or the evacuations, but stands ready to continue to assist people in need with humanitarian assistance, wherever they are.
- The UN emphasizes that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, voluntary, and to a place of their choosing. All those who are displaced through such local agreements have the right of return as soon as the situation allows.
U.N. MISSION VOICES CONCERN OVER IMPACT OF CLASHES ON CIVILIANS IN LIBYA’S TAMANHINT
- The UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is following with great concern the tense situation in and around Tamanhint, where intermittent fighting continues to be reported. They are deeply worried about the impact this heightened violence is having on the lives of the residents of the South of Libya.
- The UN Mission has received reports of food, water and medicine shortages, as well as increased electricity cuts. There are also reports of families fleeing their homes in Tamanhint to Sabha and Ubari. The Humanitarian Coordinator, Maria do Valle Ribeiro, is working closely with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors to continue to provide assistance. She calls on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities to prevent further unacceptable human suffering.
NEW U.N. TOOL USES SATELLITE DATA TO TRACK WATER PRODUCTIVITY IN AGRICULTURE
- A new tool offered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) uses real-time satellite data to track water productivity in agriculture.
- The WaPOR open-access database has gone live online as of today, tapping satellite data to help farmers achieve more reliable agricultural yields and allowing for the optimization of irrigation systems.
- FAO's teams have designed WaPOR to cover Africa and the Near East, with a focus on key countries that are or are projected soon to face physical or infrastructural water scarcity.
- Worldwide water utilization - the majority of which is used by agriculture - has outpaced the rate of population growth for most of the last century and some regions are close to breaching viable limits.
GOVERNMENTS FAILING TO KEEP PACE WITH DEMAND FOR ACCESS TO COLLEGE, NEW U.N.E.S.C.O. PAPER FINDS
- A paper released today by UNESCO shows the number of university students doubled to 207 million between 2000 and 2014, but governments are struggling to keep pace with the growing demand for higher education.
- The paper, Six ways to ensure higher education leaves no one behind, also says there are stark disparities in access to higher education, and that often the cost of this education is falling on families who cannot afford it.
- The paper makes a series of recommendations to make higher education more equitable and affordable such as limiting student loan repayment to less than 15% of monthly income and using different admissions criteria to respond to different individuals’ needs.