Ecuador: UN food convoy heads to quake-ravaged areas

19 April 2016 – The United Nations food relief agency has sent a convoy to assist some 8,000 people severely affected by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador, leaving more than 400 people dead and thousands more in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

At the request of Ecuador’s Government, the World Food Programme (WFP) and authorities organized truckloads with enough food to feed 8,000 people for 15 days in the worst-hit areas. WFP has also mobilized an emergency team to the quake-affected areas to assess the humanitarian and food security situation, the agency said in a press release.

Because the region was bracing itself for the impact of El Niño, emergency food assistance kits had been ready to go. The kits, including quinoa, rice, pasta, tuna, sardines, oatmeal and lentils, were designed months ago by WFP and the country’s Secretariat for Risk Management as the most effective type of assistance for people living in the coastal areas.

“This first delivery of food assistance will make a tremendous difference in the lives of people who are overcoming such hardship,” said WFP Country Representative Kyungnan Park. “WFP was ready to react swiftly to this emergency thanks to joint efforts with the Ecuadorian Government to prepare a response to the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is currently affecting the country.”

Additional food assistance will be delivered to 12,000 people and more than 1,000 hospital patients also affected by the earthquake. As more information about the extent of the damage and food needs becomes available, further assistance will be provided upon the Government’s request.

Meanwhile, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is reporting that at least 150,000 children are affected by the April 16 earthquake. According to preliminary Government reports, the earthquake damaged 119 schools, affecting 88,000 children. Some 805 buildings have been destroyed and 608 have been damaged. Two hospitals have entirely collapsed in Portoviejo and will be airlifted to Quito by

In some of the worst hit areas, UNICEF says that mudslides are causing further damage to infrastructure and hindering access of relief teams and supplies. Some cities are still without full power and only 40 per cent of communication lines are working.

UNICEF is concerned about health, water and sanitation conditions in the coastal areas – which are already considered hotspots for Zika, Dengue, Malaria and Chikungunya.

“We are in a race against time to protect children from disease and other risks common in such emergencies,” said Grant Leaity, UNICEF Representative in Ecuador.

In Washington, Ban urges multilateral action to aid refugees, close infrastructure gaps

April 16, 2016 – Addressing the global challenge of forced displacement and fostering greater investment in infrastructure were the main topics of discussion today as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke to leaders in Washington, D.C., at the Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group.

“Supporting States in addressing large movements of refugees and migrants is an issue ripe for more concerted multilateral action,” the Secretary-General told the 93rd meeting of the Development Committee. He was joined by President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong King, and Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

“We must strengthen international cooperation mechanisms, and boost our collective work,” he said, noting that Governments are struggling for solutions and often responding by shutting borders, detaining asylum seekers and migrants, and other measures.

To strengthen support, the UN will hold a high-level discussion on 19 September in New York to discuss ways to address large movements of refugees and migrants.

In addition, next month, Mr. Ban will convene the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, for world leaders to come together with the private sector, civil society, academia and others, to find new ways to address the root causes of humanitarian challenges. As part of the Summit, there will be a high-level round table on forced displacement, and a special session on migration.

In today’s speech, Mr. Ban pointed to six areas for “immediate action” to share challenges and obligations while maintaining the international community’s commitment to sustainable development.

He called for countering xenophobic narratives and sharing responsibilities in a more equitable, predictable and transparent way.

“We must better support countries that are hosting large numbers of refugees, including through your excellent new initiative of offering concessional loans to middle-income countries hosting large refugee populations,” he said.

This includes, for example, the World Bank’s recent announcement that it will offer Jordan $100 million in financing at rates usually reserved for poorest countries, to create some 100,000 new jobs for Jordanians and Syrian refugees over the next five years.

Mr. Ban also highlighted the need to create “safe, orderly and regular pathways” for refugees and migrants, enhancing cooperation to fight traffickers and smugglers, and continuing to fund humanitarian and development projects hand-in-hand.

Calls for investment in infrastructure

Earlier today, Mr. Ban spoke at an inaugural meeting of the Global Infrastructure Forum on the need for more investment to close gaps in electricity, water and sanitation access.

The Forum is one of the major deliverables of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development held last year in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was created to identify and address infrastructure gaps, highlight opportunities for investment and cooperation, and work to ensure that projects are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Mr. Ban said that together, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Climate Change Agreement which will be signed in New York this Friday, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda are international commitments “to transform the global economy, expand opportunities, and leave a healthier planet for future generations.”

The Forum’s role is to improve alignment and coordination among established and new infrastructure initiatives, bringing together multilateral and national development banks, UN agencies, development partners and the private sector.

All of which allows “for a greater range of voices to be heard,” he underscored.

Mr. Ban urged international support to bridge existing infrastructure gaps, particularly in vulnerable developing countries.

He noted also that the Forum should also work to ensure that all infrastructure investments are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Least Developed Countries have ‘untapped potential’

Also today, Mr. Ban addressed the Ministerial Meeting of the Least Developed Countries. Addressing the so-called LDCs, which also include a group known as the Small Island Developing States, Mr. Ban called for their voice to be heard in all global decision-making and norm setting processes.

The LDCs “are disproportionately affected by environmental challenges, health emergencies, natural disasters, poverty and hunger, and youth unemployment,” Mr. Ban said, but they also represent “enormous reservoirs of untapped potential.”

The UN chief urged the participating Governments to attend a high-level meeting in Antalya, Turkey, at the end of May, which will focus on the development of LDCs.

United Nations begins informal briefings to select next Secretary-General

Kicking off what he has called a “new and transparent process,” General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft today opened informal dialogues with candidates for the next United Nations Secretary-General, for the first time providing an opportunity for substantive and open engagement with the candidates – for the full UN membership and the public.

“We are sailing into uncharted waters here,” said Mr. Lykketoft addressing the press ahead of the start of the informal dialogues.

Calling the process a “potential game-changing exercise,” he said the informal briefings were part of a “very transparent, very interesting discussion about the future of the United Nations.”

Over the course of the next three days, the official candidates – currently eight of them – will answer questions related to promoting sustainable development, how to improve efforts to create peace, how to protect human rights, how to deal with huge humanitarian catastrophes, and how to resolve challenges defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Watch live the informal dialogues with the candidates for UN Secretary-General

At the end of the process, Mr. Lykketoft said, expressing his personal view, one single candidate could emerge, making it difficult for the Security Council – which is tasked with making the official selection, as stated in the UN Charter – to choose another candidate.

Defining some of the qualities in who would be the “best person” for the job, Mr. Lykketoft stressed independence, strong moral authority, great political and diplomatic skills, and some experience in being at the head of a huge administration.

As part of the informal dialogues, each candidate will have a televised and webcast two-hour timeslot, starting with a short oral presentation. Representatives from Member States will then ask questions, followed by the President of the General Assembly, who will ask a few of the more than 1,000 questions submitted by the general public on social media under the hashtag #UNSGcandidates.

The three candidates who will go before the General Assembly today are listed below, in order of appearance.

Igor Luksic is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. He is nominated by the Government of Montenegro.

Irina Bokova is currently the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. She is nominated by the Government of Bulgaria.

Antonio Guterres was most recently the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is nominated by the Government of Portugal.

Following their sessions, each candidate will have the opportunity to speak with the press. The events can be followed live on UN WebTV.

In Washington at Nuclear Security Summit, Ban highlights roll of UN watchdog agency

At the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C., Secretary-General Ban Ki moon has attended a working lunch with other dignitaries and in his remarks, he is expected to spotlight the crucial role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the area of nuclear security.

Many states lack sufficient capacity to act on nuclear security threats and this is where the IAEA role is indispensable in providing expertise, advice and technical assistance, said UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric.

The spokesperson also noted that the UN chief will also highlight the importance of UN Security Council resolution 1540, requiring the states to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and of the UN Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

On the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General met with the President of France, François Hollande. The Secretary-General and the President discussed the situation in Western Sahara.

They also exchanged views on the situation in Mali. Mr. Ban thanked France for its continued support to the implementation of the peace agreement in Mali, for the review of the mandate of the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and for tackling issues of insecurity and the re-establishment of State authority throughout the country.

He thanked France for its continued support to the democratically elected Government of the Central African Republic, underlining the need to maintain international attention on the situation in the country.

On the allegations of misconduct by peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), the Secretary-General and President Hollande agreed on the imperative of a thorough investigation to ensure that perpetrators be brought to justice.

Mr. Ban also met with the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko and commended the country for its important contribution to global nuclear security.

Regarding the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Ban expressed his deep concern over the precariousness of the security situation and reiterated the urgent need for full implementation of the Minsk agreements. President Poroshenko also updated the Secretary-General on the domestic political situation in Ukraine.