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.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will be travelling tomorrow to, to participate in the preliminary meeting of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), otherwise known as a Pre-COP, which is a precursor to the meeting that will be held in Bonn.
While there, she will deliver keynote addresses to the non-state actors partnership day on 16 October and to the opening of the Pre-Conference of Parties on 17 October. She also will hold bilateral meetings with senior level officials from the participating countries, the business community as well as civil society and the UN country team.
She is back in New York next Wednesday.
I wanted to bring you an update on Sabratha in Libya: after three weeks of fierce fighting, our colleagues from UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) have been responding to urgent humanitarian needs in and around the city since last Friday. Three thousand Libyan families have been displaced and more than 10,000 refugees and migrants are stranded and in need of urgent assistance. The most pressing needs for those displaced or returning include temporary shelter, basic aid items and medical support. Today, UNHCR is delivering aid kits to local authorities coordinating the response for the internally displaced people. The agency also has sent in trucks with emergency assistance including sleeping bags, hygiene kits, food and blankets to respond to immediate needs.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing vital food assistance to displaced families. With the help of Libyan partners, the agency is delivering enough food this week to feed 1,500 people who have been severely impacted by fighting.
And I want to flag that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, was in Libya earlier this week for a visit focused on arbitrary detention, torture and other grave violations. A press release was issued by his office yesterday.
A humanitarian update, this time from Yemen: as of yesterday, there were over 820,000 suspected cholera cases and over 2,150 associated deaths in Yemen since 27 April of this year. This is the largest single-year cholera outbreak ever on record. The outbreak has spread to 92 per cent of Yemen’s districts.
This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) chartered two flights to Sana’a, carrying more than 43 tons of essential medicines and medical supplies.
Humanitarians have reached more than 2.2 million people with essential medicines and kits, including providing some 600,000 people with medicines for non-communicable diseases.
WHO and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) are also supporting local health authorities in all governorates in a polio vaccination campaign aimed at reaching 5.3 million children under 5 years of age.
The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, today wrapped up a three-day visit to Ukraine, where she saw first-hand the conflict on both sides of the so-called contact line.
She stressed the urgent need for humanitarian funding to help millions of civilians in the coming winter months.
In a UN-supported centre for the internally displaced in the country’s east, Ms. Mueller met with elderly men and women, who she said wish for peace and to be able to return to their homes. She also met with the leaders of Donetsk and Luhansk, and called for increased cooperation in the areas of humanitarian and development aid, as well as for sustained access for aid workers to all parts of eastern Ukraine.
In the capital, Kyiv, she discussed the challenging situation that 1.6 million uprooted Ukrainians face with the Deputy Minister of Temporarily Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons.
The UN-coordinated $204 million Humanitarian Response Plan remains severely underfunded, with just one-quarter of the funds needed having been received.
And on a somewhat related note, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) has named Ukrainian singer and winner of last year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Jamala, as its Goodwill Ambassador focusing on counter-trafficking.
“We greatly appreciate Jamala’s involvement in our campaign aimed at prevention of modern slavery. We believe that her engagement in trafficking prevention will help save many lives,” the IOM said in a statement. More available online.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
I want to give you an update from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on an event that happened on 15 September, which I think you, Matthew, asked about.
Our colleagues [give us an update about] an incident in the DRC on 15 September, during which 37 asylum seekers from Burundi and one soldier of the Congolese Army were killed after days of tension.
One hundred and seventeen asylum seekers, six soldiers, and four officers of the National Congolese Police (PNC) were also injured in the protest that took place in Kamanyola, South Kivu province.
After the incident, the nearby MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) base provided physical protection to asylum seekers under threat from the local population. It also provided medical assistance, as well as food and shelter to the Burundians. MONUSCO has since called on the authorities of the DRC to conduct a thorough investigation into this incident and hold those who may have violated the law to account.
The Mission has also conducted two internal inquiries into MONUSCO’s actions before, during and after the incident, including on the reactions of its Force. The Secretariat is following up with the Troop Contributing Country whose soldiers are based in Kamanyola.
The Mission is also reviewing its procedures related to such incidents, including its support to the Congolese Army and Police, its approach in protecting civilians, and its guidance and training to its Force regarding response to violent incidents.
Yesterday, the first-ever roadmap to combat animal tuberculosis (bovine TB) and its transmission to humans, referred to as zoonotic TB, was launched in Guadalajara. If you are interested, read up from WHO.
Today is the International Day for Disaster Reduction. This year’s theme is “Home Safe Home: Reducing Exposure, Reducing Displacement” and seeks to raise awareness about effective actions and policies to reduce exposure to disaster risk at the community level, thereby contributing to saving homes and livelihoods.
Senior personnel appointment for today: The Secretary-General is appointing Major General Francis Vib-Sanziri of Ghana as the Head of Mission and Force Commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF.
The Major General succeeds Major General Jai Shanker Menon of India, who completed his assignment on 30 September 2017. We are grateful to Major General Menon for his dedicated leadership of UNDOF.
Major General Vib-Sanziri has had a distinguished military career at both national and international levels, and he also possesses extensive peacekeeping experience, including in a number of UN missions. More in his biography which is in my office.
A couple of things to flag: after we are done here, Mr. Brenden Varma will brief on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.
At 1:00 p.m. there will be a press conference by Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture; Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; and Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
Also, at 5:00 p.m. Ambassador François Delattre, Permanent Representative of France and Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, will speak to the press at the Security Council Stakeout.
Immediately following that, Kofi Annan, Chair of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and the seventh Secretary-General of these United Nations, will speak at the stakeout.
Both of those events are related to the Arria formula meeting the Security Council is holding.
And today, we say a big thank you to Jamaica. Our friends in Kingston have paid their balance in full, bringing us to 136.
**Questions and Answers
If you have a question, you may take it. Otherwise, you may yield. Oh, yield to Matthew. Wow.
Question: Thank you. Thanks a lot. I have a number of other ones, but I wanted to ask you about Cameroon. Some of the things that, I guess, I have asked you about, there's now… now, I would assume that you've seen the Amnesty International study, which says that… that hundreds of people are detained without charge, packed like sardines, paying bails, people shot in the legs so they can't protest, people fleeing the hospital to avoid the authorities. So they obviously got in, were able to gather this evidence and they've called for other international organisations to send people. Has the UN sent anyone, and if not, why not?
Spokesman: We have… as you know, we have a presence in Cameroon. We've seen the Amnesty report, which raises a lot of issues of great concern to us, and I should have… hopefully have a bit more for you later.
Question: Including on the [François Louncény] Fall visit?
Spokesman: Yes. Well, when I have something on the Fall visit, I will share it with you. Ms. Hurst.
Question: President [Donald] Trump is decertifying the Iran nuclear deal today. Given that the Secretary-General has called that deal one of the… the biggest diplomatic achievements, is he disappointed in this move by President Trump?
Spokesman: Well, I think, first of all, we have to wait and see what the President of the United States actually announces. I think from what I saw, it will be in about 45 minutes, so I don't want to preempt or react to something that he has not yet said, so let's wait and see what he's actually said. As you mentioned, I think for the Secretary-General, the adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a very important breakthrough to consolidate nuclear nonproliferation and advance global peace and security. The Secretary-General very much hopes that it will remain in place. Masood and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Stéphane, on this… on Yemen as you had also… coming to Yemen. [Ismail Ould] Cheikh Ahmed, Secretary-General's representative, had said in a meeting to the Security Council that nobody seems to be listening to what the United Nations is suggesting or telling them, so… and he seemed to suggest that it is becoming a pattern. Now, do you think the Secretary-General should now change tactics and deal with it separately, in another way, because to somebody at least to listen to the Secretary-General? I mean if they keep…
Spokesman: I'm not sure… whether the tactics change, the message is the same, and the message is for a stop to the fighting and for the parties to sit down around the table and find a political solution. There is no military solution to what is going on in Yemen. Every day, we see an increased suffering of the people, all across Yemen. I mean, I think the numbers… the astounding numbers I've read out on cholera speak for themselves. When you have the health infrastructure destroyed, civil servants and doctors not being paid. The message is clear, and the message will stay the same. Yes, sir?
Question: My… just a follow-up, Stéphane. I mean, it seems… there is what is said that the Secretary-General has been calling on both parties to come to the table; they're not coming to the table. Telling them to at least stop this army action, to Saudi Arabia; they're not doing that. So…
Spokesman: Maybe… Masood, your questions are valid, but maybe they should be asked of the parties who have their fingers on the triggers. Yes, sir?
Question: Stéphane, on Catalonia, I have asked you before. Now that some time has passed since the referendum, but things are still not very clear, does the SG have a message to the… to the parties?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General's message is that he trusts the democratic institutions of Spain. Mr. Lee?
Question: Actually, I wanted to ask a… a follow-up on the Yemen question, which is that there have been quotes from the… from the… I guess it's called the Yemeni Government. The Yemeni Government in… in exile has… has said that they don't have any information about the initiative that Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that he has. Meanwhile, the rebels said that he's biased. So I guess I'm just wondering, since this is a… it's a recent article, what… what has he done since he came? He came and said, I'm presenting to both sides, and now, both sides… one side that he's presumably in contact with says they have nothing from him, and the other side won't talk to him. So…
Spokesman: I think… he is in touch with the parties, and I don't think it will be… those contacts will not be done through the media. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Mr. Stéphane. Bangladesh is facing huge challenges on Rohingya issues and you are addressing these issues rightly, but within the country, Bangladesh is facing… Bangladesh is under threat in terms of rule of law. The Chief Justice of Bangladesh forced to go on leave and leave the country. And the… the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the main opposition leader, Begum Khaleda Zia — Government issued against… arrest warrants… warrant against her. So what is your observation on these?
Spokesman: I don't have the particulars of this case, but I will look into it. Yes, sir?
Question: I wanted to ask you. You often say, you know, that the UN stands firmly behind the right to free association and… and protests. Most recently, you said that about Gabon, but I wanted to ask you. In Kenya very loudly the Government has outlawed protests in urban centres, so in a way, it's a pretty broad ban on protests, and I haven't heard anything that… that the UN in Kenya said about this. Can you say from here why they haven’t said it from there? [cross talk]
Spokesman: Well, our principle stands, and I think you have the phone numbers and email addresses of all my colleagues in Nairobi and you're free to ask them.
Question: I have a question. As you may know… as you probably do know, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is in New York. He was across the street only yesterday. But many people said that he's going to meet the Secretary-General, but I've tried to look at the Secretary-General's schedule…
Spokesman: There was a courtesy call, private meeting… courtesy call this morning.
Question: Okay. By telephone, in person?
Spokesman: In person.
Question: All right. But why isn't that in the schedule? I guess I'm wondering. When Trump meets [Henry] Kissinger, it's on the schedule. [laughter]
Spokesman: Well, I… neither [António] Guterres nor Ban Ki-moon are Trump, nor are they Kissinger.
Correspondent: I have one more question. It's a money question.
Spokesman: Please. It's Friday the 13th.
Correspondent: Okay, and the question is this…
Spokesman: It's not a Periscope question?
Question: No. It should be, but I… I'll let you off the hook this time. The question is about the Department of Public Information (DPI), and you're going to say to ask them, but I'm going to ask you, because it's the public's money and you represent the Secretary-General. I've heard that the DPI is talking… unhappy about his performance, is talking about hiring outside consultants, and I just wanted to know, given that they're already spending a lot, what is the procedure in the UN to… if a department is unhappy with its performance or someone above it is unhappy with their performance, to simply spend more money, rather than better spending what they have? Can you just… can they just hire an outside consultant without no… without going through the Fifth Committee? Is there a procurement process? It's obviously… this has been talked about in a public way, so…
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any public consultants, but as you know, if there are bids for any sort of services, it goes through procurement.
Question: Can you find out about… this is a particular example which has been recently said, as recently as 3 October, that there will be consultants hired in just… with what money would be my question.
Spokesman: Enjoy the rest… Yes, one last question.
Question: This is a follow-up on the previous question. The Catalan leaders have been pushing for an international mediation. Has the UN had any contact or do they see… do you see any role…
Spokesman: No, I'm not aware of any contacts that we've had with the regional leaders.
Question: Do you see any potential role?
Spokesman: On that question, I will refer you to my first answer. Thank you.