General News

Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

In a statement, the Secretary-General said he is saddened by the loss of life and significant damage caused by a break in the hydroelectric dam under construction in Attapeu in southern Laos, adding to the previous destruction caused by Tropical Storm Son. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos.

The United Nations stands in solidarity with Laos and is ready to provide support to the national rescue and relief efforts if required.

The Deputy Secretary-General is in London, where she is taking part in the Global Disability Summit.

At a ministerial event this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General said that the commitments of Governments to advance the rights of persons with disabilities is well established. However, she said that, too often, this political commitment has not translated into significant improvements in the lives of the 1.5 billion persons with disabilities across the world.

She noted that too many persons with disabilities, no matter where they live and their abilities, face discrimination, and have their agency totally discounted.

At the UN, she added that the Secretary-General has launched a review of the Organization’s approach to disabilities both institutionally and operationally and that we hope to move forward with specific improvements in 2019. Later this year, the Secretary General will be issuing his first-ever flagship report on Disability and Development, which will provide a much-needed baseline regarding the situation of persons with disabilities in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Also participating in the Summit are Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and the heads of the UN Development Programme and UNICEF.

Mr. Lowcock called for the inclusion of people with disabilities and their organisations in planning for, and implementing responses to humanitarian crises. At least 15 per cent of the more than 130 million people worldwide who are in need of humanitarian aid have disabilities.

In a briefing to the Security Council today, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, warned that tensions between Syria and Israel continue to rise, while last Saturday, we were minutes away from another devastating confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. He said that it has taken an intense effort at preventive diplomacy by the United Nations and Egypt to make sure that both sides step back from the brink of potentially the fourth military confrontation in Gaza over the past decade.

Mr. Mladenov said he returned to Jerusalem from Gaza today and is hopeful that, with collective efforts by all sides, we can avoid another war, allow Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in communities across the border to sleep in peace and begin addressing all humanitarian issues. Today, he reported, the first 100,000 litres of much-needed fuel were allowed through the Kerem Shalom crossing to be distributed by the United Nations, prioritizing hospitals and emergency services.

He reiterated his call to all in Gaza to step back from the brink. Those who seek to provoke Israelis and Palestinians to war must not succeed.

UNICEF deplores in the strongest terms yet another attack on vital and lifesaving water systems in Yemen. The agency says that a large water facility in Sa’ada, northwest of the country, came under attack this week. This is the third such attack on the same facility. More than half of the project is now damaged, cutting off 10,500 people from safe drinking water.

UNICEF says that continuous attacks on water systems in Yemen are cutting off children and civilians from water, increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases spreading in the war-torn country.

Today marks the end of the ninth outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The World Health Organization (WHO) congratulates the country and all those involved in ending this outbreak, recalling that unlike previous Ebola outbreaks in the country, this one involved four separate locations, including an urban centre with river connections to the capital and to neighbouring countries.

The total funds received by all partners to stop the spread of Ebola, as tracked by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, amount to US$63 million.

In the country today, WHO’s Director-General, Dr Tedros, urged the DRC Government and the international community to build on the positive momentum generated by the quick containment of the Ebola outbreak and to extend this success to combatting other diseases in the DRC, such as cholera and polio.

Ahead of the presidential elections in Zimbabwe on 30 July, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights welcomed the widening of the democratic space and said it was encouraging to see open political rallies and peaceful demonstrations being held in Harare, as well as the many expressions of cautious optimism from civil society.

However, they remain concerned at the increasing number of reports, particularly in some rural areas, of voter intimidation, threats of violence, harassment and coercion, including people being forced to attend political rallies.

There has also been the worrying use of disparaging language against female political candidates.

The Human Rights Office calls on the authorities – and political parties and their supporters – to ensure that the elections are not marred by such acts so that all Zimbabweans can participate free from fear in a credible election process.