Lebanon + 5 more

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General (22 December 2017)



Following consultations with the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Secretary‑General is announcing the appointment of Henrietta H. Fore of the United States as the Fund’s new Executive Director.

Ms. Fore will be succeeding Anthony Lake, to whom the Secretary‑General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization. Mr. Lake brought a renewed focus on equity throughout UNICEF’s programmes and services for children. In achieving results for every child, his leadership has strengthened UNICEF’s reputation and credibility as an organization, and as a valued, expert partner for governments, civil society groups and businesses around the world, working together to achieve results for children.

Ms. Fore has worked to champion economic development, education and health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for the most vulnerable in the international and developing world in a public service, private sector and non‑profit leadership career that spans more than four decades. She was the first woman to be appointed Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Director of United States Foreign Assistance in the U.S. Department of State. A longer bio is available in my office.


I have a statement on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon: The Secretary‑General has extended the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon from 1 March 2018 for a period of three years, or upon the completion of the cases before the Special Tribunal if sooner. The extension is in accordance with Security Council resolution 1797 (2005). The mandate of the Special Tribunal, which is based near The Hague in the Netherlands, is to hold trials for those accused of carrying out the attack of 15 February 2005 in Beirut, which killed 22 people, including the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and injured many others. The trial in absentia of four individuals indicted over the killing began in January 2014 and is currently ongoing.

The Special Tribunal also has jurisdiction over attacks carried out in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 if they are connected to the attack of 14 February 2005 and are of a similar nature and gravity. The Secretary‑General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to support the work of the Special Tribunal in the fight against impunity for such major crimes, in order to bring those responsible to justice. The United Nations looks forward to the completion of the mandate of the Special Tribunal in a timely manner. The UN also looks forward to the continued support and cooperation of the Government of Lebanon.


Speaking of The Hague, the Secretary‑General is concluding his two‑day official visit to the Netherlands in The Hague. Earlier this morning, he officially opened the Humanitarian Data Centre. The Centre is established and managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is supported by the Government of the Netherlands and is part of The Hague Humanity Hub. The Centre aims to significantly increase the use and impact of data in humanitarian crises.

In his remarks, the Secretary‑General said that the challenge is to connect innovation and harness it to help these millions of vulnerable people. This Centre, he said, will help get people the support they need more quickly and efficiently by harnessing the power of data.

In The Hague, the Secretary‑General also delivered a key note address at a seminar entitled: “Security Central: the United Nations and the Current Threats to International Peace and Security.” He told the audience at the seminar, which was being held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, that the magnitude and complexity of global challenges are too immense for any country or organization to tackle alone. We need to do more to devise joint strategies and draw on our comparative advantages. He added that, together, we must spread a common message of tolerance, and present an alternative vision to the xenophobic agendas that fuel conflict and the animosity in the region and around the world.

During his visit to the Peace Palace, he also met with the President and members of the International Court of Justice. Before departing The Hague, he visited the Oumnia community centre, which works with families on preventing radicalization and violent extremism of young people.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) confirmed today that a 15th Tanzanian peacekeeper has died — he passed away in Kampala as a result of injuries sustained during the 7 December attack on a MONUSCO base in Semuliki in Eastern DRC. We of course offer our condolences to his family and the people and the Government of Tanzania, as well as our colleagues in the UN Mission.

Also from the Congo, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says it is witnessing a sharp rise in the number of people [from] the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] seeking safety in Uganda. More than [2,650] refugees have crossed the border this week, fleeing fresh violence in the Ituri Province — five times the usual number of arrivals. The majority of refugees cross Lake Albert on rickety fishing vessels.

Inside Uganda, UNHCR is stepping up its capacity to meet the refugees’ needs. Refugees are registered, medically screened and provided with hot meals and basic relief items. However, the operation in Uganda is funded only by 39 per cent. More resources are urgently needed to upgrade the reception capacity and assist the new arrivals. This is particularly important, given that Uganda already hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa — some 1.4 million refugees are currently being hosted in Uganda.

In total, the number of Congolese refugees in neighboring countries has increased by almost 100,000 people in the space of one year, reaching 623,000 by the end of last month. They add to some 4.1 million internally displaced Congolese, rendering DRC the country with the highest number of displaced people on the African continent.

South Sudan

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) today welcomed the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement by the parties attending the High‑level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa. The Mission said that the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access is an important first step in the revitalization of the peace process. It urges all parties to follow the Agreement and end the ongoing violence so that durable peace can be achieved.


On Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, since 6 November, there have been 16 humanitarian vessel movements, including two vessels that transported Somali migrants out of Yemen, and 36 Humanitarian Air Service flights. The UN also delivered 240,000 metric tons of humanitarian assistance into Yemen, including 18,000 metric tons delivered on airplanes. Separately, commercial food is entering Yemen. The Coalition has cleared fuel tankers to come in, but commercial fuel tankers have yet to make it into Hudaydah port.


The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, attended today the Astana meeting, in Kazakhstan, organized under the auspices of the three guarantors of the December 2016 ceasefire — namely Iran, Russia and Turkey. The Special Envoy reiterated his belief that maintaining and enhancing the de‑escalation of violence remains an essential contribution to the shaping of an environment conducive to political progress in Syria. He called for unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country — particularly to eastern Ghouta.

The Special Envoy also recalled his intention to convene a ninth round of intra‑Syrian talks under the auspices of the UN in January. He said he was looking forward to making substantive progress with the Syrian delegations in this context, as the round will be an important opportunity to assess the readiness and ability of the parties, with the support of the international community, to advance a political solution to the Syrian crisis.


In Australia, UNHCR is calling again on the Government to urgently find humane solutions for the refugees and asylum seekers that were abandoned on Manus Island. The agency said that since the closure of this “offshore processing” facility on 31 October this year, about 800 people have remained in a precarious situation. Seven‑hundred of them are now accommodated in three sites, but over the past month at least five security incidents have been reported in these locations. More online.