Editing Office - Geneva
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
All right, good afternoon. **New Zealand I will start off with a statement on the attacks that took place earlier today in New Zealand. The Secretary-General is shocked and appalled at the terrorist attack at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. He extends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of New Zealand. The Secretary-General recalls the sanctity of mosques and all places of worship. He calls on all people on this holy day for Muslims to show signs of solidarity with the bereaved Islamic community. The Secretary-General reiterates the urgency of working better together globally to counter Islamophobia and eliminate intolerance and violent extremism in all its forms. Earlier in the day, you will have seen that the Secretary-General also tweeted out that he was saddened and strongly condemned the attack [on people] as they prayed peacefully in mosques. Today and every day, he said, we must stand united against anti-Muslim hatred and all forms of bigotry and [terror].
I also have a statement on Mozambique. The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life, destruction of property and displacement of people due to the heavy rains and flooding caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and Government of Mozambique. The United Nations expresses its solidarity with the Mozambique authorities and stands ready to work with them as they respond to the humanitarian needs resulting from this natural disaster.
**Ethiopia Air Crash
As you will have seen, about an hour ago, the Secretary-General laid a wreath in honour of the UN staff who died in the Ethiopian [Airlines] crash on Sunday. The Secretary-General said that the staff who died were a mirror of the United Nations and represented the best of the Organization. He said they were doing their part in solidarity with all of us to build a better world, brick by brick, deed by deed, day in and day out. I’d like to read the names of our fallen colleagues as we pay tribute to them [for] all that they did for the world during their lives. The victims were: Joanna Toole; Anne Feigl; Maygenet Worku Abebe; Marcelino Tayob; Shikha Garg; Victor Shing Ngai Tsang; Nadia Adam Abaker Ali; Jessica Hyba; Jackson Musoni; Susan Mohamed Abufarag; Graziella De Luis; Esmat Adelsattar Taha Orensa; Oliver Vick; Max Thabiso Edkins; Ekta Adhikari; Maria Pilar Buzzetti; Virginia Chimenti; Harina Hafitz; Zhen-Zhen Huang; Michael Eoghan Ryan; and Djordje Vdovic. May they all rest in peace. **Climate Change And also last night, the Secretary-General tweeted out that he is inspired to see young people around the world march to show their leadership on climate change, and he stressed that we need to [heed] this call made by the world’s youth. **Democratic Republic of Congo The Executive Director of UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), Henrietta Fore, and the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 17 to 21 March. They will meet with Government officials and other stakeholders in the capital, Kinshasa, and travel to parts of North Kivu and Ituri provinces, to see the humanitarian situation and response, including to the Ebola epidemic. They will meet with people affected by the crisis. The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan calls for $1.65 billion to provide 9 million people with life-saving aid.
At the donors’ conference in Brussels yesterday, donors pledged a record $7 billion to support millions of people in need of humanitarian aid in Syria, as well as for refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries. The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, said that having a clarified position on funding levels so early in the year gives us confidence that we will be able to sustain a very high level of programming throughout the year. He said we hope to reach 11.7 million Syrians inside the country with food assistance and millions more with health and water services. And I would add that the Secretary-General is also extremely pleased at the result of the pledges received and thanks all the donors.
I was asked earlier about the overnight firing of rockets from Gaza. I can say that the Secretary-General deplores last night’s firing of rockets from Gaza towards Tel-Aviv in Israel. The indiscriminate firing of rockets towards populated areas is totally unacceptable, and he calls on all concerned parties to continue their engagement with Egypt and the UN to avoid further escalation that jeopardizes the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, deepens the humanitarian and economic crisis in Gaza, and undermines current efforts to address the critical needs of the population.
I was also asked by some of you about the situation in Rakhine State in Myanmar. What I can tell you is that the situation there is deeply concerning, with continued and spreading fighting between the Myanmar security forces and the Arakan Army. We condemn attacks against security personnel and express our sympathy for the victims and their families. The reported use of air strikes by the Tatmadaw are deeply concerning. We call for restraint from any disproportionate response. All sides to this conflict should ensure the protection of civilians, access to humanitarian assistance and critical services, and uphold their responsibilities under International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law. If the fighting continues, it will only complicate an already precarious situation in Rakhine State. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue a resolution of differences through dialogue.