Highlights of the Noon Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General 21 Aug 2007
The Security Council today discussed in its closed consultations the Secretary-General's report on the revised concept of operations for the UN presence in eastern Chad and the northeastern Central African Republic. Council members received a briefing on the report by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi.
That report proposes that the tasks and functions of the military component would be performed by a European Union military force that has been accepted by President Idriss Déby of Chad. Also, there would be no direct involvement of the multidimensional international presence in the border area.
Council members this morning also received a draft Presidential Statement, circulated by France, responding to the Secretary-General's report on Chad and the Central African Republic.
Asked why the report focused on the northeastern Central African Republic when there were many refugees and displaced persons in the northwest, the Spokeswoman said that the report focused on areas with security problems. She noted that displaced persons were being taken care of throughout the country, by aid agencies.
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSIONER REPORTS GOVERNMENT-SPONSORED ABDUCTION AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN DARFUR
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today issued a report detailing cases of abduction, rape and sexual violence in South Darfur, in which it says that the Government of the Sudan must protect women and children from sexual and gender-based violence.
The report, a follow-up to one issued last April, contains testimonies from victims and eyewitnesses describing how women were abducted, kept as sex slaves or subjected to other human rights violations in Deribat and surrounding towns by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and affiliated groups. These and other violations occurred in late December 2006 in the wake of air and ground attacks on civilians in the area.
The report, prepared in cooperation with the UN Mission in Sudan, says the abuses may also constitute war crimes and it recalls that no investigation had been carried out by the Sudanese Government.
U.N.: GAZA HUMANITARIAN CONDITIONS REMAINS DIFFICULT
Kevin Kennedy, the Deputy UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today expressed his concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
Kennedy said that, while basic humanitarian needs are largely being met in Gaza, the situation remains very difficult. Tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and income due to a lack of imports and basic materials to keep factories running, as well as a lack of export opportunities.
There are increased demands on UN agencies to provide assistance and much remains to be done, he added.
DISASTER TEAMS STEP UP HURRICANE RELIEF IN WORST-HIT MEXICAN AND CARIBBEAN REGIONS
Hurricane Dean made landfall on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, early this morning. It has weakened to a Category 3 storm now that it is moving over land.
The United Nations Country team is working with authorities to prepare the region for this hurricane. Five hundred and thirty storm shelters - with a capacity of 73,000 people-- have been set up on the eastern part of the Yucatan peninsula.
Concerning the other countries already hit by Hurricane Dean, the United Nations has sent Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams to Jamaica and Belize.
In Haiti, UN agencies are participating in assessments along with the United Nations mission in that country. MINUSTAH is also supporting urgent repair works and the distribution of water and food rations.
RELIEF TEAMS DEPLOY TO EARTHQUAKE-AFFECTED PERU AMID CONCERNS OVER DECLINING DRINKING WATER
United Nations Assessment and Coordination team had been deployed to the country. A World Health Organization (WHO) team of experts is also in Pisco and Ica - the most affected areas-- to identify the health needs of the affected population.
WHO reports that the there is a good local response but that the destruction of four health facilities and the lack of drinking water are major concerns.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it has already distributed 500 tonnes of food which it had airlifted from its centre in Ecuador. One hundred tonnes of energy biscuits will be shipped to the area as well as other food items.
FOOD AGENCY LAUNCHES EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE OPERATION FOR NORTH KOREA FLOOD SURVIVORS
The World Food Programme says it will begin immediately to delivery emergency food assistance for floods victims in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
It reports that the government of that country has agreed to food distributions over a three month period to 215,000 people in six provinces affected by the flooding. Following this request for assistance, WFP has already started distributing its pre-positioned aid.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that many medical warehouses had been ravaged by the floods and that there is an urgent need for emergency health kits, anti-cholera kits and other basic medical supplies. WHO will be organizing the provision of those supplies while an OCHA specialist should be deployed in the coming days to facilitate the coordination of aid assistance.
FOOD AGENCY WARNS OF LONG RECOVERY FOR NEPAL
The United Nations World Food Programme reports the current floods across Nepal have affected many parts of the country, exacerbating the food security situation.
The food body adds that unfortunately, ethnic tension and insecurity has prevented WFP from conducting an in-depth emergency food security assessment in these districts and to date, the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people most in need.
DISARMAMENT PROCESS MAKES HEADWAY IN DR CONGO
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has reported that by last Friday's deadline, three Ituri Armed Groups had provided lists of combatants who will join the third phase of the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration programme.
The Mission says that there are some 3,500 combatants likely to join the process. They include members of the Mouvement Revolutionaire du Congo, the Front of Nationalists and Integrationalists and the Ituri Patriotic Resistance Front.
JORDAN TO ENROLL ALL IRAQI REFUGEE CHILDREN IN SCHOOL
Thousands of young Iraqis have started enrolling in schools in Jordan since this past weekend, after the Jordanian Government decided to let all Iraqi refugee children attend public schools, regardless of whether or not their parents have residency permits.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) warmly welcomed this generous decision and the positive impact that it will have on the lives of thousands of refugee children. It hopes to see strong support for the $129 million educational appeal that UNHCR and UNICEF put out late last month, which is designed to bring back to school some 155,000 Iraqi refugee children throughout the Middle East.
UNDP PREPARED TO ARRANGE EXTERNAL REVIEW OF KOREA ISSUES
The Spokeswoman, in response to questions, reiterated that the UN Ethics Office legally has no jurisdiction over the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which has its own structure and its own Executive Board. The Ethics Office, she noted, has jurisdiction over the UN Secretariat.
She confirmed that the Secretary-General encourages a thorough and independent investigation into all matters related to the case, including its whistle-blower aspects.
The UN Board of Auditors is preparing to begin the second phase of an external audit into the operations of UNOPS, UNICEF, UNFPA, and UNDP in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as requested by the UN Secretary-General.
Montas noted that UNDP has said that it is proceeding to arrange an additional and complementary external review to take place under the auspices of UNDP's Executive Board. A formal announcement on this review will be made in a few days.
This review would look into issues relating to UNDP's operations in DPRK not covered in the second phase of the external audit, which could include Artjon Skhurtaj's allegations, Montas said.
She added that the review could look into whether existing systems to protect staff from retaliation are adequate.
Asked about protection against retaliation for whistle-blowers at UNDP, the Spokeswoman said she had discussed this matter with UNDP, and said that it has a Harassment and Abuse of Authority policy, which has both informal and formal mechanisms available to both staff and individuals on short-term contracts to address allegations of retaliation.
Asked whether the Secretary-General would prefer for the UN system to have a uniform mechanism for dealing with ethics, the Spokeswoman said that he would. The Secretary-General, she said, is determined to have ethical norms prevail throughout the system.
However, she added, the UN system comprises many different entities that have their own governing bodies, and any changes to that system would have to be agreed by Member States.
U.N. HAS CONTINGENCY PLANS IN AFGHANISTAN: Asked whether the United Nations was doing any contingency planning for potential refugee flows in southern Afghanistan, the Spokeswoman said that it was.
STATES EXPECTED TO MEET ON SOMALIA: Asked if the Secretary-General had discussed the Somali situation with the African Union and its Chairman, the Spokeswoman said that the subject had been raised during several conversations between the Secretary General and the Chairman, Alpha Oumar Konaré. She also noted that Konaré would be at UN headquarters next month, for a special meeting on Darfur.