Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General this morning briefed the Security Council during its open meeting on women, peace and security in the Sahel.

The Deputy Secretary-General returned yesterday from a joint UN-African Union mission to South Sudan, Niger and Chad. She was joined for part of the mission by the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, who is chairing today’s meeting.

The Deputy Secretary-General pointed to the need to address the stark cost that women and girls pay for conflict. She said they heard a universal and increasingly frustrated call by women for greater inclusion, representation and participation in all areas of society.

The Deputy Secretary-General also noted there is a clear need to keep countries experiencing fragility today from becoming the failed states of tomorrow.

She stressed the importance of urgently increasing our budget support for development in these and other fragile countries. Investment in development must be transformative, she said, adding that it must support only scaled-up, integrated projects.

The Deputy Secretary-General warned that the cost of inaction is high. Poverty, weak institutions and gender inequality, including the abhorrent practices such as child marriage, are creating an environment ripe for extremism.

The UN Human Rights Office said today that UN human rights monitors have documented what appear to be deliberate, ruthless and brutally violent attacks on civilians, particularly against women and children, by Government and aligned forces, as well as armed youth in parts of Unity State.

A report issued today documents acts that constitute gross violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law – that may amount to war crimes. The investigation has also identified three individuals who may bear the greatest responsibility for the violations committed. The human rights monitors found that between 16 April and 24 May, at least 232 civilians were killed and many more injured in attacks on villages in opposition-controlled areas in Mayendit and Leer. The report also documents the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, with at least 120 women and girls raped or gang-raped, including children as young as four. The brutality and ruthlessness of the attackers, as described by survivors, suggests their intent was to take a “scorched-earth” approach, killing or forcibly displacing people, burning their crops and homes, punishing and terrorizing them to ensure they never return.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, called on the Government to halt all attacks against civilians, launch investigations and hold the perpetrators accountable, including those who bear command responsibility.

Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock arrived in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) yesterday.

He is seeking to better understand humanitarian needs there, as well as to see the support the United Nations is providing and to gauge need for further assistance.

Today, he visited UN-backed projects in South Hwanghae Province. At two hospitals, he saw the difference that UN humanitarian assistance is making in the lives of the most vulnerable, including children and pregnant and lactating women. With funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund, the UN has been able to reach more than 6,500 women and children.

Mr. Lowcock also met with children and caretakers to discuss early screening for child malnutrition.

He visited a kindergarten in Sinchon County, which had received UN nutrition support up to 2016. Since November 2017, UN operations had to discontinue nutrition support to kindergartens due to a shortage of funding.

Mr. Lowcock stopped at the Pyongyang Children’s Foodstuff Facility, which produces 160 MT of food for 80,000 children and pregnant and lactating women. Production, however, is under capacity due to funding constraints.

Tomorrow, Mr. Lowcock is expected to meet with Government officials, the donor community and humanitarian partners. He will also visit the Korea Rehabilitation Center for Children with Disabilities.

Humanitarian partners, through the DPRK’s 2018 Needs and Priorities Plan, are seeking $111 million to provide vital humanitarian assistance to 6 million of the most vulnerable people. Only 10.5 per cent of this funding has so far been received.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, today said that he was concerned by the consequences of Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports, with the exception of basic humanitarian supplies, through the Kerem Shalom crossing. He urged the authorities to reverse this decision.

Mr. Mladenov said that Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza should also do their part by maintaining calm, stopping incendiary kites and preventing other provocations.

The United Nations is continuing its engagement with Israeli and Palestinian counterparts, as well as regional and international partners, to reduce tensions, support intra-Palestinian reconciliation and resolve all humanitarian challenges.

Mr. Mladenov said that everyone must step back from the trajectory of confrontation and escalation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that conditions in Hodeidah, even before the escalation of the conflict, had been some of the direst in Yemen. Hodeidah had registered the highest incidences of suspected cholera cases (around 14 per cent of reported cases countrywide since the start of the epidemic in April 2017) and diphtheria (209 suspected cases). In addition, there had been 252 suspected cases of measles.

WHO says that the intensification of fighting in Hodeidah endangers not only those directly affected but also the 70 per cent of the population who depended on vital supplies, including health-care supplies, that flow through Hodeidah port. The port constitutes a lifeline not only for the city but for all the northern governorates.

According to local health facilities, a total of 328 injured and 46 deaths had been recorded in Hodeidah between 13 June and 7 July. However, fighting has decreased in the city and the port remains operational.

In Haiti, the Core Group – comprising the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, the Ambassadors of Germany, Brazil, Canada, France, the United States, and the representatives of Spain, the Organization of American States and the European Union – has expressed concern over the acts of violence and looting, which largely paralyzed the country during the weekend.

In a statement, the Core Group said it is saddened by the loss of life and expressed its condolences to the families of the victims, adding that nothing can justify behaviors that threaten the lives of people as well as the progress made in recent years in terms of stability and security.

The Core Group further encouraged all parties in Haiti to exercise restraint and respect the constitutional order.

The UN Migration Agency today said that in 2017 it assisted more than 72,000 migrants to return home voluntarily.

This represents a 27 per cent decrease compared to 2016, when some 98,000 migrants were provided with return and reintegration support. The agency said this decrease was mainly due to a lower volume of voluntary returns from the European Economic Area and Switzerland. However, the region still the on from which the largest proportion of beneficiaries returned.

This morning at the High-level Political Forum, participants discussed how to build resilience and how to advance science, technology and innovation for the Sustainable Development Goals.

During the resilience session, speakers highlighted the need for political will to devote resources towards disaster risk reduction and strategic planning in both developed and developing countries, and the need to involve vulnerable sectors, including the urban poor, persons with disabilities, youth and women.

The session on innovation focused on strengthening the partnerships between scientists and policymakers.

In the afternoon there will be a session reviewing the progress toward achieving SDG 7, which calls for ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

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