SG announces travel to Latin America, GA debates ways to enhance disaster risk preparedness and more from UN Direct

Egypt: Yesterday, the SG spoke to the press following his briefing to the Security Council on his recent travels.  In regards to Egypt, he made clear his views on the current situation and how it should be handled, calling on all parties to avoid violence and ensure freedom. He went on further to explain that the Egyptian people are clearly frustrated and are calling for bold reforms; it is incumbent of the Egyptian leadership to listen to their aspirations.  The details of the process are entirely for the Egyptian people to define and the UN stands ready to support such efforts. In regards to the Egyptian Ambassador to the UN’s criticism of the SG’s remarks, he explained that through discussions with him recently, they clarified each other’s positions. The SG also clarified that bold reforms and bold changes mean that the Egyptian government should continue to propose and make several changes, noting the government’s proposal on a constitutional amendment.  While the Quartet didn’t discuss the situation in Egypt in great detail in Munich, the SG reiterated Egypt’s crucial role as a partner of the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and the peace process. All Quartet principals have instructed envoys to work on negotiations with the parties concerned. Yesterday, Maged Abdelaziz, Egypt Ambassador to the UN, also spoke to the press, underlining his meeting with the SG, in which both views were clarified and understood, and explaining that with the new government in place, constitutional changes are in the process of being proposed and made. Yesterday, the Egyptian government established three committees in order to: 1) draft changes (in articles 76/77) of the Constitution; 2) introduce legislative amendments that allows for a free election in September; 3) follow up on the implementation of commitments made by the President, VP, and PM.  It has also decided to investigate security breaches that occurred in the first few days of the protests.

Mideast Peace Talks: Yesterday Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UN Vitaly Churkin spoke to the press on the latest consultations the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Since December, Russia has spearheaded talks in the Security Council on undertaking a mission in the Middle East, since there hasn’t been a Council mission there since 1979. He revealed that the Quartet set an ambitious goal of completing negotiations by September 2011 and the Council wants to organize this mission soon after consulting with parties and delving more into the details of this complicated initiative. At this point, there are various possibilities in where to go; talks are to go to Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Damascus, Cairo, and Lebanon. In addition, the plan is to also work with UNIFIL and the Arab League on the ground.

SG Travel: On Sunday, the SG will travel to Quito, Ecuador and then to Peru, where he will meet with high-level officials in both countries including Alan Garcia Pérez, President of Peru and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the former SG. He will return to UN Headquarters on Wednesday.

Sudan: Today, Haile Menkerios, SRSG for Sudan, briefed the Security Council on the current situation in the country, emphasizing the historical significance in recognizing the validity of the referendum outcome in a peaceful manner. The referendum has signaled the end of one of the most deadly conflicts, which has allowed for peace to overcome decades of war. Menkerios urged parties to redouble efforts to maintain this peace on the ground while taking advantage of the political momentum in other areas. In addition to the praise by Menkerios, Ambassador Rice took the opportunity to support the announcement of the final referendum results as well as the Government of Sudan’s acceptance for that outcome. She reiterated the U.S. intention to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011. In regards to the issue surrounding the Abyei region, she said it is important to note that as long as its status remains unresolved, it could trigger further instability across Sudan.  Darfur is also another issue that Rice highlighted, urging the Government of Sudan to fully cooperate with UNAMID and provide unrestricted humanitarian access to Darfur among other pressing needs.

DRC: MONUSCO said that its human rights investigators have gathered information on 8 new rape cases committed by Congolese Government troops in January in two villages in North Kivu, which bring the number of reported rape cases to 40. MONUSCO’s human rights officers also provided assistance to both the local military prosecutor and to aid groups working with victims of sexual violence. In regards to what kinds of measures Margot Wallstrom and the UN are doing to end these crimes, the Spokesperson said that they have increased visibility, installed satellite phones, enhanced patrols, and put human rights teams on the group with the support of MONUSCO to collect evidence.

Disaster Risk Reduction: This morning, the GA held a debate on disaster risk reduction. PGA Joseph Deiss stated that more than a quarter million people were killed in natural disasters just last year, which proved to be one of the deadliest years in more than a generation. With the recent disasters in Brazil and Australia, this year may prove to be just as costly. At the meeting, Deiss emphasized the need for more advanced planning in countries. At a press conference, Deiss explained that disaster risk reduction is crucial towards achieving sustainable development, as natural disasters perpetuate cycles of underdevelopment and poverty. He noted that this thematic debate was a follow-up to the high-level plenary meeting of the MDGs. Furthermore, Deiss stated that within the UN, there is a growing recognition that disaster risk reduction is a means to addressing the negative impact of climate change. Margareta Wahlstrom, ASG for Disaster Risk Reduction, believes the best tool is to promote awareness and build stronger partnerships on this issue.

UN to Honor Holocaust Victims: Tomorrow, the UN will mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust with a ceremony hosted by Kiyo Akasaka, USG for DPI, in the GA at 10 AM to 12 PM. This year’s theme is: “Women and the Holocaust: Courage and Compassion”. The SG will make remarks. PGA Joseph Deiss, Ehud Barak DPM of Israel, and Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, US Deputy Perm. Rep. to the UN will also make remarks at the ceremony.  The event was originally scheduled for the International Day, January 27, but postponed due to inclement weather.