Geneva, 6 October 2016 SdeM: I am here with my friend and colleague Jan Egeland, because we have just ended an important, in our opinion, Humanitarian Task Force meeting, so will first elaborate, at length actually, about where we are in the situation and then give the floor to Jan Egeland to summarize where we are on the Humanitarian Task Force progress.
No one can deny that we are in an emergency mode, let’s be frank, regarding Syria, regarding Aleppo, about the future of this conflict. What has happened the other day when the two co-chairs, who have been working hard, I have seen them with my eyes, on possible cessation of hostilities based on the 9th of September, decided, unfortunately and sadly, to suspend their own bilateral discussions on the cessation of hostilities, it was and has been a serious setback. So pretending that that was not the case would be unfair towards the Syrian people, and towards common sense and public opinion. So let me take stock first of all and clarify on consequences on that as to the architecture of international involvement on the attempt to solve the Syrian crisis and in particular establish some type of reduction of violence, humanitarian assess and political process.
The Secretary-General has decided to establish an internal United Nations Board of Inquiry to investigate the incident involving a United Nations – Syrian Arab Red Crescent relief operation to Urum al-Kubra, Syria, on 19 September 2016.
In the evening of 19 September, as 31 trucks delivered lifesaving assistance in Urum al-Kubra, a few kilometres west of Aleppo city, humanitarians came under fire. At least 18 people, including the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Urum al-Kubra, were killed. The warehouse where supplies were being unloaded, as well as a nearby medical clinic, were also severely damaged.
The Board of Inquiry will ascertain the facts of the incident and report to the Secretary-General upon the completion of its work. The Secretary-General will review the report and decide what further steps to take.
The Secretary-General urges all parties concerned to cooperate fully with the Board.
The Secretary-General is appalled by the chilling military escalation in the city of Aleppo, which is facing the most sustained and intense bombardment since the start of the Syrian conflict.
Since the announcement two days ago by the Syrian Army of an offensive to capture eastern Aleppo, there have been repeated reports of airstrikes involving the use of incendiary weapons and advanced munitions such as bunker buster bombs. The Secretary-General underlines that the apparent systematic use of these types of indiscriminate weapons in densely populated areas may amount to war crimes.
The Secretary-General considers this a dark day for the global commitment to protect civilians. The international community has to unite to send a clear message that it will not tolerate the use of indiscriminate and ever more deadly and powerful weapons against civilians.
NEW YORK / GENEVA (19 September 2016) – In many countries, defenders of moral values are being outflanked by race-baiting bigots, who seek to gain power by wielding prejudice and deceit at the expense of the most vulnerable, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told Monday’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants in New York.
Full text of speech:
Distinguished presidents, Secretary-General, Excellencies, This should not be a comfortable summit. While the leadership of the Secretary-General, and his fine report, should be acknowledged by all – as well as the admirable efforts by Ireland and Jordan to achieve political consensus – this summit cannot be reduced to speeches and feel-good interviews, a dash of self-congratulation and we move on.
SdeM: Sorry for changing hours but you can imagine there have been a lot of internal discussions and there has been a lot verification with the field as well. So I will say a few words then as usual give the floor to Jan Egeland and we will be taking some questions.
Let me start by saying that the Russian-American, American-Russian agreement last Friday is and remains, and is indeed, potentially a game-changer, on three areas, three areas, let me remind ourselves about them so we can go through them.
The first one is the reduction of violence – talking about cessation of hostilities perhaps is an ambitious word after a war of five years, but reduction of violence, yes. The reduction of violence, and you will be having further reports we will get after we verify today, is by and large frankly holding, in fact it has been substantial.
Second point, the second dividend of the Russian-American, American-Russian agreement was and remains humanitarian access, that is what makes the difference for the people, apart from seeing no more bombs or mortar shelling taking place. On that one, we have a problem and let me explain where and then will go to more details.
22 August 2016 – Stressing the need for a 48-hour pause to the fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, the United Nations humanitarian chief today urged the United States and Russia to rapidly reach agreement on the security guarantees and operational modalities for a ceasefire there so aid workers can deliver life-saving assistance to those in desperate need.
“I’m not going to pretend – I’m angry, very angry” about what is happening in Aleppo today and throughout Syria over the last five years, said Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator in his briefing to the Security Council.
“This callous carnage that is Syria has long since moved from the cynical, to the sinful,” he said, warning that it is the failure of politics and the 15-member Council.
“So please: now is the moment, this instant, to put differences aside, come together as one, and stop this humanitarian shame upon us all, once and for all,” he told Council members.
You already heard [from] the Chairman of the Council, the Ambassador of France. Let me first summarize what we did and then of course I will take questions.
The first point was that we all remembered with sadness and horror the terrorist attack in Istanbul. It was a reminder to everyone in the Council that fighting terrorism is a priority and should be considered constantly a priority. We should not forget that aspect. However, winning – not only fighting – terrorism in Syria and Iraq too, but particularly in Syria, would require a political transition because that’s the way through which we take away the water from those who are swimming in the terrorist environment.
The second point that came up marginally but it’s an important point was the fact that today 18 towns have been reached amongst the besieged cities. And for those of you who have been following up all the different attempts to reach all the besieged areas [will know] it’s quite a landmark. It’s not enough. We’re not reaching them as much as we want. We are not reaching everywhere but if you think about what was last year [compared to] today, 18 of the 18 towns besieged were reached.
The recent “stuttering momentum” in delivering humanitarian aid to Syria’s besieged and hard-to-reach populations must be significantly expanded in the second half of 2016, the United Nations humanitarian chief told the Security Council today, warning that progress made to date was only “a trickle” of the country’s overwhelming needs.
“There is something fundamentally wrong in a world where attacks on hospitals and schools […] have become so commonplace that they cease to incite any reaction,” said Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, in a briefing to the 15-member body.
GENEVA (16 June 2016) – The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) is committing genocide against Yazidis, according to a report, “They Came to Destroy: ISIS Crimes Against the Yazidis”, issued today by the independent international Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. The report by the Commission of Inquiry also determined that ISIS’s abuse of Yazidis amounts to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
“Genocide has occurred and is ongoing”, emphasised Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the Commission. “ISIS has subjected every Yazidi woman, child or man that it has captured to the most horrific of atrocities.”