Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
5 August 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Central African Republic
The Head of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), Babacar Gaye, this morning spoke to the Security Council and he said that the country had seen progress in the political process with the Bangui Forum, as well as an improvement in the security situation, although that remains fragile.
He said that this improvement of the security situation had allowed the return of some internally displaced persons and a resumption of some economic activity.
In Bangui specifically, Mr. Gaye said that the security is gradually improving. He noted that the Boy-Rabe and the PK5 neighbourhoods remain hotspots and that MINUSCA is using a robust approach to restore rule of law there.
On the humanitarian front, the Head of MINUSCA urged Member States to sustain the positive developments in the country by responding to the humanitarian appeal which is only 30 per cent funded. More than 2.7 million people require assistance.
He added that the UN mission's military and police deployment are regularly adjusted to better protect civilians and support humanitarian action.
His full remarks are in my office, and Mr. Gaye will speak to you at the stakeout as soon as the Security Council is done with him. And we will of course announce that.
Meanwhile, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, otherwise known as UNRWA, has warned in a report to the Secretary-General that unless $101 million is secured by the middle of August, the Agency's financial crisis may force it to suspend some education services. This would mean a delay in the school year for half a million students attending some of the 700 schools and eight vocational training centres across the Middle East.
In a letter transmitting the report to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern over financial situation confronting the Agency and the humanitarian, political and security consequences that will result if adequate and sustainable financing for 2015 and beyond is not made available immediately.
The Secretary-General has also personally spoken to several world leaders in the past few weeks on this topic, and he calls on all donors to urgently ensure that required funds be contributed to UNRWA at the earliest possible date so that the children can begin their 2015-2016 school year without delay. The full statement is available online.
**Meeting with United States President
And just to recap: The Secretary-General met yesterday in Washington with US President Barack Obama. And speaking to reporters afterwards, he said that in an extremely constructive meeting – they discussed Syria, Yemen and South Sudan. On Yemen, they talked about the grave humanitarian situation, where more than 21 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance and we have been asking for generous support.
On South Sudan, the Secretary-General said that the United Nations is working very hard with the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, IGAD, and the African Union so that an agreement between the parties can be adopted at the 17 August summit meeting of IGAD.
And he also congratulated President Obama on his announcement earlier the week of a Clean Power Plan, which he said would power economies and generate jobs, and they discussed ways to move forward on an ambitious agenda to deal with climate change.
The full transcript was issued yesterday.
An update on Myanmar: our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) said they are working to deliver food to more than 200,000 people in the most flood-affected parts of Myanmar.
Efforts are under way to provide emergency assistance in Bago, Chin, Kachin, Magway, Mon, Rakhine and Sagaing, where many communities are still cut off by high waters and damaged roads.
Working with the Government, and local NGOs [non-governmental organizations] and other UN agencies, WFP has now reached 82,000 people with food since the start of the response on 2 August.
And more information is available from the World Food Programme.
**Central Emergency Response Fund
And meanwhile, the Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN, Stephen O'Brien, announced today the release of $70 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund – otherwise known as CERF – for chronically underfunded aid operations to help millions of people forced from their homes by violence and instability.
With nearly 60 million people forcibly displaced around the world, we face a crisis on a scale not seen in generations, said Mr. O'Brien.
He added that the funds will help sustain lifesaving relief in some of the world's most protracted and chronically underfunded emergencies.
More than $20 million of the funds released today will allow humanitarian partners in Sudan and Chad to sustain basic services and protection activities for millions of people from Sudan's Darfur region, where the crisis has entered its thirteenth year.
And the Horn of Africa – home of some of the most vulnerable communities facing recurrent cycles of conflict and climatic shocks – will receive $33 million.
And $8 million have been allocated for neglected communities and displaced people in Myanmar and Bangladesh in areas such as emergency shelter and access to healthcare – more on the OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] website.
And the Afghan conflict has taken a toll on civilians in the first six months of 2015. That's according to the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the announcement made today.
According to the latest report on civilian casualties, there have been nearly 5,000 civilian casualties, including more than 1,500 deaths, reported in the first half of 2015. This represents a 1 per cent increase in total civilian casualties compared to the same period last year.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, stressed again that all parties to the conflict must fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians – more information on the website.
And colleagues at UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] and WHO [World Health Organization] have asked us to announce that they are supporting a new vaccination campaign launched today in Kiribati to protect children from a potentially killer virus.
The rotavirus vaccine – which will help prevent severe and life-threatening diarrhoea among infants – is now part of routine immunizations which are part of a comprehensive child survival package.
In the past five years, the Pacific island nation has experienced repeated diarrhoea outbreaks, many caused by rotavirus, leading to hospitalization and even deaths of children under the age of 5.
And I've asked to offer some more details and clarification to the UN's support to the Government and people in Sri Lanka.
And so as I said last Friday, the UN supports the Government and the people of Sri Lanka in their efforts to advance reconciliation and accountability. At the request of the Government of Sri Lanka, the UN is exploring the provision of a broad package of technical and financial assistance in consultation with all key stakeholders. The framework of UN support for peacebuilding in Sri Lanka was presented in Sri Lanka last June by the Resident Coordinator. And that presentation is available online on the UN's country office in Sri Lanka and that's un.lk.
What is being discussed for support by the Peacebuilding Fund are initiatives to advance the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka through the resettlement of internally displaced persons, national reconciliation, and the development of credible transitional justice mechanisms in line with international standards. UN support is always built on the basis of inclusive, transparent and participatory consultations with all key stakeholders.
$1 million has already been disbursed to support resettlement and integration initiatives for the remaining internally displaced persons in the north and east on seized land that has been returned by the Government. For the rest, the UN continues to consult with the Government of Sri Lanka, and all key stakeholders, to finalize the details of UN support.
The same principle of inclusive, participatory and consultative processes will apply to UN support for the establishment of credible accountability and reconciliation mechanisms that meet international standards.
And lastly, the UN of course believes that there should be genuine and inclusive consultations on a national basis, including the Northern Province, to help arrive at the right model in the Sri Lankan context.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks for that. I'm going to have to, I guess, go over that Sri Lanka statement. But I wanted to ask you about… and I asked you… I guess, on Yambio in South Sudan. In a follow-up question to yesterday, Farhan said and gave an answer that seemed to acknowledge that civilians were not allowed in the camp but saying things had calmed down now. What I want to ask is I've since heard two things, one that hotels in Yambio were closed during this fighting which people are basically saying was a retaliatory attack by Government forces on civilians and that the UN did take in hotel residents into the camp. And I'm also told that national staff didn't go home and stayed within the camp. So I wanted to know, maybe you will need to ask them, but how is this consistent, if it's safe enough for civilians not to be let in the camp, why did the UN keep its national staff inside the camp and allow in generally more affluent people from visiting Yambio into the camp but not those who live there?
Spokesman: I don't know, Matthew. We can check with the mission.
Question: Does the United Nations support parliamentary elections in Syria as a way out of the crisis?
Spokesman: I think the UN's position on the way out of a crisis has been very ably detailed by the Special Adviser, by the Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura. And I will leave it at that. If I have anything else to offer, I will give it to you.
Question: Of course, you have been hearing about these leaks from Iran about the new initiative including one item of it which is holding parliamentary elections?
Spokesman: I think, you know, it is important that all the parties involved in the Syrian conflict support the processes laid out by the Special Envoy as a way to move the process forward and to end the terrible suffering of the Syrian people. Yes, sir.
Question: Stéphane, you said that UNRWA needs $100 million?
Spokesman: 101, yep.
Question: 101, yes. What if this money cannot be or OCHA or UNICEF or other United Nations agency can help them?
Spokesman: Well, the immediate impact will probably be the delaying of the openings of the school year. I think in any situation when children are not in school it creates all sorts of other problems; and, of course, the children are the first one to suffer by the lack of access to education. It's not a matter of other UN agencies giving money. It's a matter of donors of Governments stepping up to the plate and ensuring that the children that UNRWA serves are able to get the schooling that they need in time. As I mentioned, we are talking about 700 schools that are spread out in the Occupied Palestinian territory, in Gaza, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Jordan. These children need to have access to education and UNRWA relies on its on Member States to fund its operations. Matthew.
Question: I guess I have some other stuff, but follow-up on that is I'm sure you've seen there has been a call at least within Gaza if not the West Bank that the UN used its central fund to at least make up part of this and also just with the announcement of the CERF. Is the CERF, I understand there is competing needs all over the world but could CERF funds not be used for some part of this?
Spokesman: Obviously, we are looking at different… all sorts of different options. The point being globally, there has never been a greater need for funding of a humanitarian operation. I think the vast, vast majority of all our humanitarian appeals and operations are critically underfunded. I mean, I think the CERF is really your reserve tank. It's your emergency. It is exactly that, an emergency. I don't think we want to get to that point yet, and that is why we are doing this appeal. And, you know, Mr. O'Brien took the decision to release some of the CERF money to other… to critically underfunded operations. But it's really not a matter of the UN kind of moving money from one account to another. It's really the need for fresh resources.
Question: Did UNRWA come up at the meeting yesterday of the Secretary-General and President Obama? And I also wanted to ask you about this, I saw in at least in the pool report, it said that Robert Orr was there as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, which I don't think is his role anymore?
Spokesman: No, he is a special adviser.
Question: One dollar a year guy?
Spokesman: Dollar a year. That is incorrect. That is his previous title.
Question: Did this issue come up in the meantime?
Spokesman: You know, the readout of the meeting is really supplied by the Secretary-General and the President in what they said publically to the press. Ms. Lederer.
Question: Thank you, Stephane. The Russian media, Interfax News Agency, is reporting that Russia has invited the main Syrian opposition group to visit Moscow and I wondered whether this was possibly part of Mr. de Mistura's new effort?
Spokesman: I will check. I had not seen that report. Obviously, I think the discussions held in Moscow previously have been very helpful in moving the process forward and we've always been very supportive of the Russian effort. Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask on Burundi, the Government there has put out a statement saying that they are now armed groups disguised as the military as official Government soldiers. Apparently, I guess, they are basically trying to say that when you see a Government soldier kill somebody it might not be a Government soldier, it might be an armed group disguised. So I wanted to… things seem to further deteriorating and I wanted to know, what… yesterday it was said there might be some UN individual named to deal with it, what are the steps being taken given what is happening?
Spokesman: Obviously, I think the Secretary-General and his colleagues, political and others are keeping a very close eye on the situation. We are getting reports from our… from the human rights offices there. I think we are obviously very concerned about the possibility of a quick spiralling, negative spiralling of the situation in Burundi. It's incumbent on the Government to ensure that whatever security operations are taken are taken with full respect to human rights law, to international humanitarian, international humanitarian law. We've already expressed our concern of the treatment of the media. I think what we are seeing just underscores the need for the political dialogue to resume and to put Burundi back on the right track.
Question: Can you say anything more of the idea of a person to lead?
Spokesman: No. I think Farhan spoke about it yesterday. I have nothing else to add. One more.
Question: Thanks a lot. I'm asking because you gave the readout of WFP, and you mentioned Rakhine State, and some there are saying that the Government's own aid or the aid is being funnelled through something called the State Ministry of Ethnic Affairs. There is a concern that people are raising, that given the issues that have been there, one, that the aid be provided even handedly and not be provided in such a way as to [inaudible] people?
Spokesman: I mean, I think I spoke about that. It's critical that any humanitarian aid, especially humanitarian aid, given by the United Nations be free of any political context and that everyone who needs it have equal access.
Question: Who is watching that, WFP?
Spokesman: Our colleagues in Myanmar. If I can get more details I will. Thank you. See you tomorrow.
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