UN ready to assist in Japan, Special Envoy for Libya to travel to Tripoli next week, Human Rights Council establishes Libya inquiry commission and more from UN Direct

Japan: The SG has expressed his deepest sympathies and condolences in regards to the tsunami and earthquake that hit Japan, issuing both a statement and speaking to the press. He explained that the UN stands by the people of Japan and will do everything it can to help the country. Experts from OCHA are in contact with their Japanese counterparts. The UN offered a UN disaster relief team to go to Japan, and is awaiting reply. IAEA has been informed of a power plant that has been shut down in Japan due to concerns of radiation and other dangers, but no release of radiation has been mentioned.  In a statement by Secretary Clinton, the U.S. is closely monitoring the tsunamis in the world, including Hawaii and the West Coast. She announced that the U.S. government has offered immediate disaster relief assistance and are working with the Government of Japan to provide further help.

Libya: this morning the SG introduced the Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah Khatib, and briefed the press on current developments in Libya after their first official meeting on the crisis. Khatib served as FM of Jordan and is currently serving as senator there. He will be dispatched to Tripoli early next week in order to undertake broad consultations with the Libyan authorities and report back to the SG afterwards. The SG explained that “the most immediate challenge in Libya is humanitarian” as the death toll continues to grow more desperate each day. He called for an end to the violence and urged for humanitarian aid to go where it needs to go. Barbara Plett from the BBC asked the SG to what extent Khatib will be dealing with the political aspect of the crisis in Libya, in addition to the main purpose of addressing humanitarian concerns. In response, the SG expects that the international community needs to take urgent action to stop the violence, which has very serious humanitarian implications. He went on further to explain that Khatib will be engaged in broader dimensions of the crisis, including political issues. On humanitarian issues, UNHCR reports that roughly 2,500 people are arriving at the Libya-Tunisia border daily and more than 230,000 people have fled the violence.  Evacuation flights haven’t been keeping pace with arrivals and new arrivals in Tunisia continue to say there are many checkpoints between Tripoli and the border. Moreover, telephones, SIM cards, and cash continue to be confiscated and clashes continue on the basis of color.   Fortunately, WFP’s shipment of more than 1,000 tons of wheat flour has arrived in Benghazi and WHO has delivered 5 health kits in Tunisia, which can help 50,000 people.

HRC on Libya: To follow up on the February 25th HRC consensus to establish and independent and international commission of inquiry following a special emergency session on Libya, the HRC officially established the panel. Cherif Bassiouni, Asma Khader, and Philippe Kirsch were named today as members of the special commission to investigate human rights abuses in Libya. The commission is due to report to the HRC in June.

Senior UN Staff Appointments: The SG made five senior-level appointments today: three USGs and two ASGs. They are the Heads of UN Office at Nairobi, UN Office at Geneva, the UN Office for Central Africa, and two Deputies (ASG level) to Michelle Bachelet for UN Women.  The new UN Women ASGs are Ms. Lakshmi Puri (India) and Mr. John Hendra (Canada).

Côte d’Ivoire: Choi Young-Jin, Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire, said that there’s no sign of violence or the crisis abating in the country. In addition to patrolling, UNOCI has been documenting and gathering information on human rights violations among other things. The WFP said that it will scale up operations in the country as there are 186,000 in Liberia due to the political crisis. Also, UNHCR stated that it is increasingly concerned by the very limited response seen so far in the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.

SG & Senior Staff Travel: Next Tuesday-Thursday, the SG will be in Guatemala. He plans to meet with President Alvaro Colom Caballeros, civil society leaders, indigenous people, and regional leaders on a bilateral basis. He will also visit the International Commission against Impunity and launch the UN Peacebuilding Fund’s engagement in Guatemala at a ceremony.  Helen Clark UNDP is currently on a four-day trip to Turkey. Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human rights, will head to Guinea and Senegal on Sunday, March 13th.

UNDP: Today UNDP Administrator Helen Clark inaugurated UNDP’s International Centre for Private Sector in Development in Istanbul, Turkey, which will engage the private sector in anti-poverty efforts.