Tag Archives: Conflict

Human Cost of Arms Trafficking ‘Runs Deep’, Disarmament Chief Stresses as Security Council Debates Halting Illicit Trade on ‘Dark Web’

At a time of deepening regional tensions, expanding terrorist and criminal networks, and traditional and non‑traditional conflicts wreaking havoc on communities, the pressing issue of the spread of small arms, light weapons and their ammunition were key determinants of crises, demanding swift action to curb their illicit trade, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs told the Security Council this afternoon.

Introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the matter (document S/2017/1025), Izumi Nakamitsu said the multidimensional and cross‑cutting nature of small arms was indisputable — from arms embargoes, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, child soldiers, counter‑terrorism and the protection of civilians in armed conflict to transnational crime.

“The human cost of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms runs deep,” she said, adding that the increased links among transnational organized crime, illicit small arms trafficking and terrorism, as well as the mounting use of the Internet, including the “dark web”, were of growing concern.  Nearly all violent deaths were caused by firearms, and the rate of firearms‑related homicides in post‑conflict societies frequently outnumbered battlefield deaths.  Small arms were also key determinants in the lethality and longevity of conflicts, and their rampant spread contributed to violations of international humanitarian and human rights, often playing a role in the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.

“To invest in effective management of small arms and light weapons, including their ammunition, is to invest in conflict prevention,” she said, noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had acknowledged the inextricable link between peace and development.

In the ensuing debate, delegates agreed that the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons constituted a serious threat to peace and security around the world, contributing to instability, violence and insecurity while undermining development efforts.  Their spread also contributed to terrorism and international organized crime.

Representatives also suggested ways to disrupt the network of transnational organized crime syndicates, including by controlling arms trafficking online, in particular through the “dark web”.  They urged for mainstreaming the issue into all relevant Council discussions and called for coordinated action to tackle the problem at the national, regional and international levels.

The representative of Italy, recalling that arms trafficking usually began with legally produced weapons, emphasized the importance of implementing the International Tracing Instrument.  In addition, the Arms Trade Treaty was a crucial instrument carrying the potential to mitigate risks.

Several delegates said Africa and the Middle East were regions deeply affected by the illegal arms trade.  Egypt’s representative noted that the core of the current challenge was due to the deliberate contributions of some countries that provided illicit weapons to terrorists and armed movements.

Bolivia’s representative said the seriousness of the problem had its roots in the breadth of the illicit trade, which reached $6 billion in 2014 alone.  At the same time, trafficking produced parallel profits in the financial system and tax havens, he said, adding that the global arms trade required international controls.

The representatives of Kazakhstan, China, Ethiopia, United States, Sweden, United Kingdom, Senegal, Russian Federation, Uruguay, France, Ukraine and Japan also spoke.

Taking the floor a second time were the representatives of Ukraine and the Russian Federation.

The meeting started at 3:06 p.m. and ended at 5:06 p.m.

Briefing

IZUMI NAKAMITSU, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said that at a time of deepening regional tensions, expanding terrorist and criminal networks, and traditional and non‑traditional conflicts wreaking havoc on communities, small arms, light weapons and their ammunition were key determinants of crises.

Introducing the Secretary‑General’s report on the matter (document S/2017/1025), she said the multidimensional and cross‑cutting nature of small arms was indisputable — from embargoes, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, child soldiers, counter‑terrorism and civilian protection in armed conflict to transnational crime.

She said the impact of their wide availability, misuse and destabilizing accumulation was well documented.  Nearly all violent deaths were nowadays caused by firearms, and the rate of firearms‑related homicides in post‑conflict societies frequently outnumbered battlefield deaths.  Small arms were force multipliers and key determinants in the lethality and longevity of conflicts.

High levels of illicit arms also contributed to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law and were often used in killing, maiming, rape, torture and recruiting children, she said.  Small arms often played a role in the deaths of United Nations peacekeepers and humanitarian workers.  “The human cost of the illicit transfer, destabilizing accumulation and misuse of small arms runs deep,” she said.

Listing growing concerns, Ms. Nakamitsu pointed out the increased links among transnational organized crime, illicit small arms trafficking and terrorism, as well as the mounting use of the Internet, including the “dark web”, and the issue of improvised explosive devices manufactured with diverted ammunition.  Weapons and ammunition management had become a critical component of United Nations peacekeeping operations, she said, citing examples of operations in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali.

She said that the Secretary‑General had made 48 concrete recommendations to the Council on how to best address small arms, light weapons and ammunition, including on their management, peacekeeping, embargoes, community safety and law enforcement, civilian protection and armed violence.  Consideration had also been given to gender mainstreaming.  The Secretary‑General had also examined best practices from various mechanisms in United Nations field missions.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development had acknowledged the inextricable link between peace and development, she continued, adding that target 16.4 closely connected adequate arms regulation with properly functioning institutions and would create security conditions conducive to social and economic development.  Arms regulation should be pursued through the concept of measurability.  The sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects had noted that the illicit trade had implications on the realization of several Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to poverty reduction, economic growth and health.  “To invest in effective management of small arms and light weapons, including their ammunition, is to invest in conflict prevention,” she said.

Statements

INIGO LAMBERTINI (Italy) said the illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons constituted a serious threat to peace and security around the world, contributing to instability, violence and insecurity while undermining development efforts.  Security Council resolution 2220 (2015) underscored the need to implement urgent measures.  Addressing arms disposal efforts was critical in post‑conflict situations, he said, noting how illegal trafficking could contribute to institutional instability.  In that vein, he highlighted actions and tools that could be deployed by Member States.  Turning to the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said its third Review Conference in June 2018 was an opportunity to achieve concrete progress by mobilizing stakeholders.  Recalling that illegal arms usually began with legally produced weapons, he emphasized the importance of the implementation of the International Tracing Instrument.  Meanwhile, the Arms Trade Treaty was a crucial instrument with the potential to mitigate risks.  Pointing at the acute impact of small arms and light weapons in Africa, he expressed support for any initiative taken by those States, including the Central African Convention for the Control of Small Arms and Light Weapons, their Ammunition and all Parts and Components that can be used for their Manufacture, Repair and Assembly (Kinshasa Convention).

BARLYBAY SADYKOV (Kazakhstan), emphasizing that the spread of illicit weapons impeded the goal of sustainable development, called for the universal application of measures such as improved stockpile management and the protection of military arsenals.  Raising other issues of concern, he said it was equally necessary to take a range of actions, including those aimed at disrupting the network of transnational organized crime syndicates and eliminating their weapons storage sites.  In addition, efforts should aim at controlling arms trafficking online, in particular through trading platforms of the “dark Internet”.  For its part, Kazakhstan had been actively implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms and had put in place strict export, manufacture and supply control measures to mitigate any possible illicit proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he said.

WU HAITAO (China) said the illicit arms trade fuelled regional conflicts and facilitated the spread of terrorism while being detrimental to efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  China had proposed that the international community must commit to implementing diplomatic solutions to achieve peace and stability.  There was also a need to strengthen peacekeeping in order to swiftly restore stability.  Only a multi‑pronged approach could root out the problem of small arms.  China paid great attention to the Secretary‑General’s latest report and supported his efforts, various United Nations organs and Interpol in playing an active role in combating the illicit weapons trade.

IHAB MOUSTAFA AWAD (Egypt) said illicit trafficking and supply of small weapons had a great security and economic impact, especially if such weapons fell into the hands of terrorist groups and armed movements.  The Middle East and Africa were most affected by the rise of that phenomenon, he said, noting an increase in a number of civilian and security force injuries in that regard, stemming from some countries who deliberately supplied illicit arms to terrorist and criminal organizations.  He called upon the international community to spare no effort to combat that dangerous trend.  On the Secretary‑General’s report, he said many recommendations, which were directed to the Security Council, should be directed to the General Assembly and the Review Conference on the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) underscored the devastating consequences of small arms and light weapons in her region.  Such weapons enabled international conflict and civil war, resulting in major harm to civilians.  Concerned about the risk of such weapons falling into the hands of domestic and transnational terrorist groups, she supported mainstreaming the issue into all relevant Council discussions and called for coordinated action to tackle the problem at the national, regional and international levels.  Highlighting the African Union’s strategy on combating the illicit trafficking of such arms and its corresponding action plans, she called on Member States to support such regional efforts.  Already, positive progress had been made at the national level in confidence‑building measures, she said, also underscoring the importance of addressing resources and capacity constraints.

MICHELE J. SISON (United States) said her country remained committed to the landmark Programme of Action on Small Arms and the International Tracing Instrument.  The United States was a leading donor in the field, including through its conventional weapons destruction programme.  However, challenges persisted and more needed to be done.  Instead of trying to identify every gap, the international community needed more countries to sign up to existing commitments.  Turning to the Secretary‑General’s report, she said it went beyond its remit in discussing domestic misuse in countries that are not in conflict, and the United States did not support its reference to the International Small Arms Control Standards, as they were not in fact standards, and had been created by a small group of self‑selected experts.  She expressed hope that future reports would more accurately describe the control standards as voluntary guidelines and not practical recommendations.  The United States was taking concrete steps to combat the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and urged all countries to strengthen the implementation of existing related obligations.

PEDRO LUIS INCHAUSTE JORDÁN (Bolivia) said his was a peaceful State that did not produce, store or export weapons, and that mitigation in the trafficking of light weapons was vital for stabilizing countries in conflict.  The fight against illicit trafficking had not been won by the United Nations or the international community, and the use of such weapons promoted terrorism and transnational organized crime.  The seriousness of the problem had its roots in the trade of those weapons, which amounted to $6 billion in 2014, as highlighted in the Secretary‑General’s report.  Illicit trafficking produced parallel profits in the financial system and tax havens.  Further, non‑State actors to whom weapons were provided illegally helped to worsen conflicts, leading to war crimes and massive violations of human rights.  The global arms trade required international controls to make progress on reducing the risk of small arms proliferation, which endangered the lives of millions of people.  Also important were effective mechanisms to prohibit the supply of those weapons.

CARL ORRENIUS SKAU (Sweden) said preventing armed conflict and building sustainable peace hinged on addressing the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.  For that reason, the issue must be mainstreamed into all relevant discussions on the Council’s agenda.  Welcoming the inclusion in the Secretary‑General’s report, he underlined the complex linkages between illicit trafficking and the vulnerabilities of post‑conflict States.  Improved arms control was also necessary to achieve the goals set out in the 2030 Agenda.  Welcoming the report’s focus on gender, she noted Sweden’s support for projects aimed at increasing women’s participation in disarmament work.  Underlining the importance of controlling ammunition as well as weapons, she noted the issue’s inclusion in the European Union’s strategy.  He also pledged Sweden’s continued commitment to combating the illicit small arms trade.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom) said the majority of deaths in conflict situations in developing countries were the result of small arms and light weapons.  They facilitated the most heinous human rights violations, and in many countries were the preferred instrument of war.  He cited South Sudan as an example, where local disputes were resolved with guns, and small arms had become the norm.  In a culture of weapons, such disputes escalated faster and resulted in widespread casualties, he noted, adding that the transfers of weapons only spread that threat to other States.  To tackle those challenges, the international community must strengthen arms control, with the Arms Trade Treaty being one of the most powerful tools in that fight.  Its universalisation was a priority.  However, such efforts must go hand in hand with the implementation of existing commitments.  He praised the Programme of Action on Small Arms, while encouraging States to devote resources for stockpile security and destruction efforts.  If the world embraced action and quelled conflict, 1.2 million lives could be saved by 2030, a fitting goal for the body charged with upholding international peace and security.

GORGUI CISS (Senegal) said arms control was crucial for the maintenance of international peace and security.  Given current tensions around the world, the Secretary‑General’s report had come at an opportune time, especially in Africa and the Middle East.  Achieving peace and stability was a battle that was far from over.  West Africa and the Sahel could not escape the scourge and faced many threats, such as the proliferation and trafficking of conventional weapons and drugs, as well as terrorist attacks.  Small arms and light weapons also fuelled conflict.  Such challenges were an obstacle to sustainable development, which depended on peace and security.  Nevertheless, the last two years witnessed success in the management of conventional weapons, he said, citing among other steps the outcome document from the sixth Biennial Meeting of States to Consider the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and the recommendation of confidence‑building measures.  Highlighting the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty, he called for universalization of the instrument and its firearms‑related protocol.

PETR V. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that his country had spoken in favour of enhancing the role of the United Nations to tackle the illicit arms trade.  The pace of implementing the Programme of Action on Small Arms remained insufficient at a time when the black and grey markets supplied terrorist groups and street gangs and fuelled conflicts.  It was time to add to the Programme of Action on Small Arms; to provide, for example, controls over States for brokerage activity in areas of their jurisdiction related to exports.  There should also be a ban on the re‑export of small arms without the consent of the initial State.  The Russian Federation had very developed legislation in that area and stood ready to provide assistance to States wishing to draft their own legislation.  Turning to the Arms Trade Treaty, he said the openly weak document failed to tackle all the tasks it contained and did not include a direct ban on provisions regulating the re‑export of military goods.

LUIS HOMERO BERMÚDEZ ÁLVAREZ (Uruguay), noting that the Secretary‑General’s report highlighted the negative consequences of the unjust use of small weapons, said his country was committed to disarmament and had joined relevant regional and international treaties.  The proliferation of small arms was a fundamental part of armed conflict and a means of perpetuating them.  Selling small arms to warring parties had a direct impact on the suffering of civilians.  Access to small arms and light weapons and the lack of adequate controls negatively affected human rights and sustainable development, he said, citing the Secretary‑General’s report and noting that the illegal trade had topped $6 billion in 2014.  To combat that trade, international cooperation and the provision of assistance should be strengthened, with particular emphasis on developing national capacity.  States should adopt national standards to strengthen arms controls, and weapon‑producing countries must honour their responsibilities.  In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty was a game changer toward the international regulation and responsible trade of small arms.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said small arms and light weapons led to the highest number of victims in the world and were responsible for 90 per cent of conflict casualties and more than 500,000 deaths every year.  The illicit trade also fuelled conflict, organized crime and terrorism.  Like others, France had faced terrorist attacks, he said, urging Member States to mobilize.  Potential areas of collaboration included the development of national legislation, reduction of stockpiles, improving the security and physical management of stocks, and police and customs controls.  Increasing international cooperation on marking and tracing small arms was also essential, as was the exchange of information.  Moreover, international assistance was needed and must be adapted to the needs of beneficiaries.  Looking at the challenges ahead, he called on Member States to strengthen efforts and accede to all relevant instruments, including the Arms Trade Treaty.  Concerning the Programme of Action on Small Arms, he said France would preside over its third Review Conference in 2018, which was a unique opportunity to move forward and take steps toward mobilizing actors in various areas and tap into existing synergies.

YURIY VITRENKO (Ukraine) said that while fuelling armed conflicts, the illicit arms trade had a wide range of negative human rights, humanitarian and socioeconomic consequences, in particular for the security of civilians.  Armed conflicts driven by the spread of those weapons also served as the main cause of people fleeing their homes in search of a more secure environment.  There was an increased link among transnational organized crime, illicit arms trafficking and terrorism.  Ukraine was facing a challenge with regard to the spread of illicit conventional weapons, including small arms and light weapons, as a result of the Russian Federation’s military aggression against his country, including the occupation of Crimea and a part of the Donbas region.  His delegation had drawn the Council’s attention to the continued illicit supplies of deadly weapons, ammunition and gunmen to Ukraine by the Russian Federation through the uncontrolled sections of the Ukrainian‑Russian border.

KORO BESSHO (Japan) said that small arms and light weapons prolonged and intensified conflicts, hindering the delivery of humanitarian aid and reconstruction and development efforts, even in post‑conflict areas.  The Secretary‑General’s call for “disarmament that saves lives” represented an important vision, he said, welcoming the latest report’s recommendations and best practices.  Especially in post‑conflict areas, he called for a focus on capacity‑building for national institutions.  For its part, Japan had provided approximately $3 million to Côte d’Ivoire from 2015 to 2017 and had, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, provided capacity‑building assistance for the national commission in charge of the collection and disposal of such weapons, and helped to set up arms control guidelines.  While emphasizing the importance of the Arms Trade Treaty and expressing Japan’s support in universalizing the instrument, he pointed out that since its entry into force in 2014, only 93 States had joined, including just 6 in the Asia‑Pacific region.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) took the floor a second time, saying the implementation of the Minsk agreements was being hampered by general instability in certain areas.  Tracing the turnover of weapons was something that the authorities were incapable of doing.

Mr. VITRENKO (Ukraine), also taking the floor a second time, noted that given the number of deadly weapons used by Russian separatists, including the famous missile that took down an airplane, killing almost 300 people on board, the Russian Federation had no right to lecture any Council member.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that Canada had publicly stated that it would issue its companies licenses to supply arms to Ukraine.  Companies from the United States, particularly manufacturers of electronic grenade launchers, were already providing Kyiv with weapons, even though the United States had said there had been no official decision on that matter.  Pumping Ukraine with American and Canadian weapons of war was sabotaging the Minsk agreements, he said.

Mr. VITRENKO (Ukraine)said his Russian counterpart had forgotten to mention that Ukraine was defending its territorial integrity against the Russian Federation’s aggression.  His counterpart had very seriously prepared for the meeting and for making his statement, which had sounded ominous, as though the Russian Federation was preparing another stage of its military aggression against Ukraine.

Mr. ILIICHEV (Russian Federation) said that his delegation prepared very carefully for every single session.

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

**Migrants Day

Today is International Migrants Day.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary‑General stressed that solidarity with migrants has never been more urgent.  He said that evidence overwhelmingly shows that migrants generate economic, social and cultural benefits for societies everywhere and yet hostility towards them is growing around the world.  He called for international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed and that migrants’ human rights are protected.

Today at 2 p.m., the Secretary‑General will be taking part in a panel discussion at UNICEF House, which you are welcome to attend.  And my guests today at the briefing will include Béla Hovy, Chief of the Migration Section of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  Béla will be discussing the International Migration Report 2017, which the Department produced, and also here will be Leonard Doyle, the Head of Communications for the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

**Middle East

Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed members of the Security Council today in an open meeting — that’s part of the regular, the periodic briefing on the situation in the Middle East, as well as the briefing on the follow‑up to resolution 2334 (2016), passed just about a year ago.  He said that he is particularly concerned as to the future of our collective efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  The Secretary‑General, he recalled, has been clear that ending the occupation and realizing the two‑state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Palestine, is the only way to achieve such a vision.  Today, however, he warned, there is a growing risk that the parties may revert to unilateral actions.  His full statement is online and I believe the Council went into closed consultations.

**Mali

Our colleagues from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) tell us that a patrol — a UN patrol — hit a suspected improvised explosive device in Kidal city this morning.  One peacekeeper was slightly wounded.  In response to the attack, the Mission deployed a Quick Reaction Force and an explosive ordnance disposal team to secure and clear the incident site and to recover a vehicle that was damaged.  This follows four separate attacks against peacekeeping personnel and premises in Kidal on Friday, all of which were repelled by peacekeepers.  One peacekeeper was severely wounded.  Two UN Mission staff and two civilians were slightly wounded, as well, and they were immediately given medical attention.  In a statement over the weekend, the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, strongly condemned the attacks on peacekeepers that also put civilians at risk, adding that the Mission would continue to repel all attacks in a similar robust manner.

**Nigeria

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, today deplored Saturday’s deadly ambush on a convoy carrying humanitarian food supplies for people impacted by conflict.  He also expressed grave concern over the limitations that attacks of this nature may have on the delivery of life‑saving supplies to people in need in north‑east Nigeria.  Four civilians are reported to have been killed in the ambush that took place on the road between Dikwa and Gamboru, in Borno State.  Aid items destined to alleviate the suffering of thousands of people have also been destroyed.

**Lebanon

The Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Dahler Kardel, met separately this morning with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.  She said she also met with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri last week.  Ms. Kardel, who arrived in Lebanon last week, discussed with Lebanon’s top leaders the key issues that are on the agenda between Lebanon and the UN.  She underscored the UN’s continued support for Lebanon on crucial issues related to peace and security, stability and socioeconomic development.

**Yemen

Humanitarian organizations working in Yemen released a joint statement yesterday on allegations of corruption and bias in the provision of relief assistance, in which they condemned in the strongest terms allegations put forward by the parties to the conflict in Yemen without proper substantiation.  The humanitarian partners in Yemen emphasized that they maintain their neutrality and do not take sides with any of the parties to the conflict.  Meanwhile, clashes and air strikes are reportedly continuing in southern Hodeidah Governorate, about 100 km south of Hodeidah.  Renewed clashes along the south‑west coast have reportedly caused significant civilian displacement, although comprehensive displacement estimates are not yet available.  That’s it.  I will stop there and take some questions, and then we’ll have Brenden [Varma], and then we’ll go to our guests.  Mr. Lee.  Why not?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  I’m… And I’m… you’ve just spoke about Yemen, and I… I may have missed it.  This airstrike in Ma’rib, did you address that?

Spokesman:  No.  We’re aware of the… we’re very much aware of the reports, and we continue to call on the parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international law not to target civilians or civilian infrastructure, among other items.

Question:  Sure.  I guess just to follow… it seems it’s a pretty well‑sourced report, and it seems these were women on the way to a… to a wedding…?

Spokesman:  I mean, we’ve seen… as I said, you know… I’ve seen the reports.  We’re just not in a position to confirm them.  I mean, the reports as they stand are fairly horrific by any standard…

Question:  What I meant to ask was this… in… in creating that list under Children and Armed Conflict, it seemed that the Secretary‑General concluded or said that the Saudi‑led Coalition had taken steps to… to avoid these things.  And so I’m wondering whether an incident like this calls into… is it… is it… is it an aberration?  What were those steps that they took?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, the steps they had briefed us upon is better command and control and more detailed information as to where… I guess, better targeting.  I mean, I… you know, they’ve told us they’ve taken steps.  I mean, obviously, those are for the military side of the Coalition led by Saudi Arabia.  All of these events, as events around the world, are obviously… continue to be checked and rechecked by our staff and would be then put into the relevant reports.

Okay.  And I do have a statement on the attacks over the weekend in Pakistan:  The Secretary‑General strongly condemns the attack on a Methodist church in Quetta in Pakistan.  He extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and wishes speedy recovery to those injured.  He calls for the perpetrators of the attack to be brought to justice.  Yes, in the back?

Question:  Thank you.  On Honduras, the Organization of American States (OAS) have asked for the elections… presidential elections to be held again because of the many irregularities.  Does the Secretary‑General share these concerns, or what is his opinion on the elections?  And I have another question afterwards.

Spokesman:  Sure.  I mean, we’ve been, obviously, following the developments over the last few weeks in Honduras very closely, especially in the wake of the elections.  As far as the Secretary‑General is concerned, he reiterates his call for leadership with responsibility in this crucial moment and for a solution to differences within the mechanisms established by the Electoral Law.  He again urges calm and restraint.  He’s aware of the questions raised by the preliminary electoral observation reports of the Organization of American States and the European Union and of the pronouncements of the Secretary General of the OAS.  Yes, ma’am, and then Walter.  Yes, you.  Yep?

Question:  Hi.  [Inaudible] a few weeks ago, [António] Guterres proposed several internal change at the UN.  Could you please make some comments about the progress in the process of reforms?

Spokesman:  Sure.  The process of reform of the United Nations is not an easy one.  The proposals on management reform, on the peace and security pillar, on the development system reform are continuing.  There are very deep and detailed consultations with Member States, often led by the Secretary‑General himself.  We do hope to have more a public update, at least on the development system report, in the next few days to share with you.  But the work is continuing, and we very much continue to hope and hope we will receive the full support of the Member States for these efforts.  Ma’am?

Question:  Hi.  Eve from Al Arabiya.  So, we saw the Secretary‑General’s report on the implementation of 2231 (2015).  Does the Secretary‑General believe that there’s clear evidence of Iran’s involvement in supplying the Houthis with weapons?

Spokesman:  Sure, I mean, I know there was some exchanges last week with the Spokesman characterizing the conclusions of the report to 2231.  I just want to make it clear that we do not wish to characterize the conclusions and information contained in the report in any way.  The information and the Secretary‑General’s words in the report are clear, and the conclusions speak for themselves.  Walter?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  This morning, a new Government was sworn in in Austria.  It includes the right‑wing Freedom Party.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment?

Spokesman:  You know, we obviously… we’re aware of these latest developments and the formation of the government.  Austria is obviously a very important partner to the United Nations, and I hope to have a bit more to say on this shortly.  Evelyn.  Sorry.  I thought you had raised your hand but… Sorry, Linda, or one of you.  Whoever’s holding the mic, so since Linda is holding the mic, go ahead.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I just wanted to ask a question about the migration report that said that there are about 260 million people living in countries other than their birth, that of their birth, and that it’s… there’s been a 50 per cent rise since 2000.  I just have a question about policy… UN policy towards migration.  I mean, within those numbers, are they… does that include legal immigration, you know, where there are patterns and people follow that, or does it include sort of everyone, migrants who decide that they want to leave their countries, go wherever they go, and then have the right to stay in the country…?

Spokesman:  I think it’s a very interesting and detailed questions, and I will let our guest, Béla Hovy, from Department of Economic and Social Affairs, answer that question, because [he] is much more learned in this process than I ever will be.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I… this is… it may be a different kind of UN reform or changes, but I’d wanted to ask you, I’ve become aware that… that… that… you know, throughout the building, there’s various changes to called like flex… flex space or hot desking.  So I learned of… protocol… the protocol office, which is here on this floor, is being moved down to 3B, and I’m told that it’s going to cost $500,000 to essentially rip out the… the configuration that was put in just under the Capital Master Plan.  So, I’m wondering, I mean, I know that there are competing mandates on the Secretary‑General, but how can you justify the… the… the… the… a recently renovated space being torn down at… at pretty substantial cost when the… when the UN is also saying it shouldn’t face budget cuts?

Spokesman:  I don’t know the exact cost.  The whole point of shared space is to make much more efficient use of the space that we have in this building, which enables us to stop renting and paying tenants outside of the UN Headquarters.  So, we’re freeing up a space that we’re paying rent on.  So, obviously, there are some costs involved in the creation of that space, but in the long term, it will be a cost saving.

Question:  But in the case of protocol, like, are there prot… are there offices of protocol that are based in the Albano or in other buildings?  And… and… and was it considered sort of, basically for the next three months at least, you’re going to have diplomats going down to 3B to get whatever information they need and…

Spokesman:  I think anytime an organization is being reformed or a space is being refurbished, it involves some inconvenience.  The whole point is about better use and more efficient use of the space that we have and cutting down on costs of rental properties.

Question:  But was any of this known at the time that the Capital Master Plan built up these spaces that they would, in fact, be torn out at greater costs within two years or three years?

Spokesman:  That I cannot answer.  Yes, sir.  And then… sorry, then we’ll go to you, Evelyn.

Question:  Thank you again.  On Mexico, Congress just approved a national security law that could further endanger human rights, according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other experts of the UN in Geneva.  Does the Secretary‑General has… have any comments, or is he concerned about this decision?

Spokesman:  I can’t speak to that, because I haven’t seen those reports.  So, right now I would leave you with what the High Commissioner says and what other experts have said.  If I have something from the Secretariat, I will share it with you.  Walter, I know you… I have some more information for you, which is that the Secretary‑General congratulates the Austrian government led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.  As Austria is a long‑standing partner of the United Nations, the Secretary‑General trusts that the new government will continue to strengthen the bonds of international cooperation, uphold shared ideals, and play a leading role in the promotion of peace and security and to promote human rights, foster greater equality and minority rights.  Evelyn?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Yemen, [inaudible] months ago [inaudible] investigate, quote, mishaps, tragedies that their air force had inflicted and that these would be publicized.  Has the UN ever seen any of these or…

Spokesman:  I will check if we’ve gotten any updates.

Correspondent:  And the SG gave a very nice comment on his reform on Friday night.

Spokesman:  Alright, I will leave you with Brenden for a brief briefing, and then we will go get our guests.  Thank you.

Japan mulls record defense budget to counter North Korea

NNA – Japan plans to increase its defense budget to a record high level for the next fiscal year, allocating money to purchase more American weapon systems to counter North Korea.

The Japanese government is expected to set aside 5.19 trillion yen (approximately 46 billion US dollars) for defense in the country’s initial budget proposal for the fiscal year starting April 2018, Japan’s largest financial daily the Nikkei reported on Saturday.

The amount surpasses the 5.12 trillion yen budget for the current fiscal year and is approximately 70 billion yen more than last year.

The business newspaper said the measure would mark the sixth straight year of increases in Japan’s defense outlays, adding that most of the additional costs would go to protecting the country against the perceived threat from North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The extra funding will cover the cost of the preliminary design and the subsequent purchase and deployment of the US military’s Aegis Ashore land-based missile interceptor system in Japan, the Nikkei said.

Additionally, the Japanese Defense Ministry announced last week that Tokyo intended to begin developing a cruise missile designed to be deployed on fighter-jets and to strike naval ships and ground targets.

Called the Japanese Tomahawk, the prototype is designed to defend remote Japanese islands.

The United States and its regional allies, including Japan, have been opposed to North Korea’s weapons programs.

Tokyo found reason for extreme worry when Pyongyang fired two long-range missiles over Japan in September and also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test.

Japan also fears that potential US military action against North Korea could draw reprisal attacks by Pyongyang against Japanese territory.

The standoff over North Korea escalated in July when Pyongyang test-fired two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Experts say the entire US mainland is within the range of the missiles, which North Korea says could be equipped with nuclear warheads.

North Korea has been under a raft of crippling UN sanctions since 2006 over its nuclear tests as well as multiple rocket and missile launches. Pyongyang has firmly defended its military program as a deterrent against the hostile policies of the US and its regional allies, including Japan and South Korea.

Washington has thousands of troops in the region, partially in South Korea and Japan, and routinely threatens the North with military action to stop its weapons programs. —Press Tv

================== R.K.

Follow the latest National News Agency (NNA) news on Radio Lebanon 98.5, 98.1, and 96.2 FM

Children are the face of conflict-fuelled humanitarian tragedy in South Sudan – UNICEF

15 December 2017 &#150 South Sudan’s children are facing a raft of daily horrors and deprivations and urgently require a peaceful, protective environment, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said Friday, warning that &#8220anything less, places children and women at even greater risk of grave violations and abuse.&#8221

As the conflict in the world’s youngest country enters its fifth year, UNICEF said in a new report entitled Childhood under Attack, that more than half the children of South Sudan are &#8220in the throes of tragedy&#8221 &#8211 victims of malnutrition, disease, forced recruitment, violence and the loss of schooling.

&#8220No child should ever experience such horrors and deprivations,&#8221 said Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director in Eastern and Southern Africa, &#8220and yet children in South Sudan are facing them on a daily basis.

Years of insecurity and upheaval have had a ‘staggering impact on children,&#39 threatening an entire generation, according to the report entitled.

The numbers tell a grim story, said UNICEF, noting that almost three million children are severely food insecure; more than one million acutely malnourished; 2.4 million forced from their homes; two million out of school, and if the current situation persists, only one in 13 children are likely to finish primary school.

Moreover, an estimated 900,000 children suffer from psychological distress; more than 19,000 have been recruited in into armed forces and armed groups; and more than 2,300 have been killed or injured since the conflict first erupted in December 2013 &#8211 with hundreds of rape and sexual assault incidents against children having been reported.

Despite the huge challenges faced in a country that ranks among the world’s most dangerous for aid workers, UNICEF has been delivering lifesaving assistance to children across the country since the crisis started in December 2013, warning that while it required $183 million in 2018 to provide critical assistance to children and women, currently it is $141 million short.

Press Releases: U.S. Department of State Declaration on the Centennial of President John F. Kennedy

The Department of State pays tribute to the memory and legacy of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy on the centennial of his birth in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1917.

President Kennedy pursued a foreign policy based on American strength, a commitment to human freedom and human dignity and the determined use of diplomacy to advance our country’s interests and the cause of peace during a challenging time in our history.

He was a resolute defender of human freedom in an embattled and divided Berlin at the height of the Cold War when he rallied that city’s citizens by proclaiming that he was with them, that he too was a Berliner.

He proclaimed the importance of integrating diplomacy and defense as the surest way to protect our country against the many dangers of the early 1960s. He said memorably, “Let us never negotiate out of fear. But, let us never fear to negotiate.”

His wisdom and courage led us back from the precipice of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He concluded that “Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind”.

President Kennedy also led through the power of hope in establishing the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress and in advancing economic development initiatives for new countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world as colonialism mercifully ended.

For the men and women of the State Department and USAID, perhaps his greatest contribution was his belief in the necessity and the nobility of public service. Following his luminous Inaugural address when he challenged his fellow citizens to “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”, thousands of young Americans committed themselves to a life of service, many in our department. His legacy endures in the careers of our Foreign and Civil Service Officers today in Washington and in our embassies and consulates around the world.

As we look back at the thousand days of his Presidency, we also honor President Kennedy’s dream of peace for Americans and people everywhere. In one of his most visionary speeches– the American University commencement address in June 1963–Kennedy told graduates: “I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war….But we have no more urgent task.”

And, in that same speech, he urged Americans and people everywhere to cast aside the distrust and threats of the Cold War and to work together for a more cooperative global future.

“For in the final analysis”, he said, “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

We at the State Department remember and honor President Kennedy’s extraordinary service to the United States of America a century after his birth.