Syria; Holocaust Commemoration; AU Summit; DRC; ECOSOC

Syria: Operations Director for OCHA, John Ging, briefed the press today on last week’s four-day mission to Syria by seven UN agency emergency directors. The mission aimed to identify the gaps and challenges in the current humanitarian effort as well as to find ways of reaching a greater number of Syrians more efficiently and effectively. The needs both in and around the country are greater and more acute, Ging noted, with 2 million internally displaced and 4 million estimated in need, numbers which are increasing by the day. The UN contingent met with both the Syrian Government and opposition leadership regarding access to remote areas of the country, and are eagerly awaiting the results of this week’s Kuwait pledging conference. Still 50% underfunded, the humanitarian effort seeks $519 million to assist the 4 million people currently in need, and $1 billion to assist the 650,000 refugees outside of the country.

Holocaust Commemoration: Marking yesterday’s International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the GA held a ceremony on Friday honoring those who risked their lives to save Jews and others during the Holocaust. Themed “Rescue during the Holocaust: The Courage to Care,” the ceremony featured statements from the VP of GA, the USG of DPI, and others. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Righteous Among Nations Program at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel, which is devoted to identifying and rewarding such heroes. In a video address at the ceremony, the SG stated, “Let us be inspired by those who had the courage to care – the ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to defend human dignity.” Ambassador Susan Rice also issued a statement in honor of the day, noting that the US is launching a “comprehensive effort to prevent and half mass atrocities.”

AU Summit: The SG concluded his trip to Addis Ababa today for the AU Summit. While at the Summit, he noted that he sees Africa on the rise and welcomes progress on development, good governance and human rights. Although many African countries have made significant gains towards the MDGs, he said in an address to Summit attendees, African leaders still must accelerate their efforts to achieve the MDGs before 2015.

DRC: The SG noted today that African leaders – on the side of the AU Summit – have postponed the signing of a political Framework on the DRC. Despite there being no fundamental differences over the content of the Framework, there were some procedural issues that arose to delay the signing. The SG stated, though, that the UN remains committed to help foster greater stability in the country.

ECOSOC: ECOSCO today elected Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia as its 69th President for 2013. The four countries were elected as Vice-Presidents include Austria; Albania; Pakistan and Sudan.