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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General arrived in Addis Ababa today to attend the second annual UN/African Union (AU) conference, which he co-chaired with the Chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat. At that conference, the Secretary-General reiterated his pledge to reinforce the UN-AU partnership based on the principles of solidarity and mutual respect, in conformity with the UN Charter.
He said that the United Nations could not afford to fail in Africa. He underscored that the UN and the African Union are working together to implement the UN’s Agenda 2030 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
They also jointly reviewed a number of regional situations where both organizations are involved in peacekeeping or mediation efforts.
Following a working lunch, the Secretary-General and the AU Commission Chair both addressed a special meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council.
The Secretary-General said at that meeting that the African Union is the United Nations closest partner. He told the representatives that he was encouraged by the important measures taken to further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two organizations.
In speaking to the press afterwards, he said that the recent visit by the Ethiopian Prime Minister to Eritrea and its success and the recent decisions by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on South Sudan give hope that the African continent is moving in the right direction. He said the evident political will by the Ethiopian and Eritrean Governments to resolve their problems was very good news.
Before leaving Addis for New York, the Secretary-General had a working dinner with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed. And we have put out the joint communiqué following the UN-AU meeting.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, has arrived back in New York from Niger, where she spent Saturday and Sunday on a joint United Nations-African Union visit, which included the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Margot Wallström. You will recall that she also visited Chad and South Sudan earlier.
In Niger, the Deputy Secretary-General had bilateral meetings with authorities in the capital, Niamey, including President Mahamadou Issoufou. She expressed her hope that more women will rise to leadership roles in the country. Climate security and renewable energy were also discussed in a number of meetings.
The Deputy Secretary-General also visited a women’s health centre specializing in obstetric fistula care and met with a range of women’s groups, both in the capital and in Maradi.
She is due to brief the Security Council on her trip on Tuesday.
**Children and Armed Conflict
This morning, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, spoke to Security Council Members at the open debate on “Protecting children today to prevent conflict tomorrow”.
She told Council Members that she was profoundly shocked by the appalling number of grave violations perpetrated against children last year. Over 21,000 violations were documented by the United Nations, a significant increase compared to previous years. The majority of these acts were perpetrated by armed groups, she said. She added that while those responsible for grave violations must be held to account, we must not forget that children that have been recruited should be treated primarily as victims.
She stressed that while the current situation is grim, progress has been made in many countries and the resolution adopted today is a further step in strengthening the framework of child protection. The resolution provides child protection actors with political space to engage parties to conflict at an early stage and move towards an era of prevention, she said.
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Executive Director Henrietta Fore also briefed the Council.
I was asked last week about the amnesties granted in Equatorial Guinea. I can say that the United Nations welcomes the decision announced by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea on 4 July to grant a general amnesty to all citizens condemned by the Courts of Justice of Equatorial Guinea for political offenses in the exercise of their activities. The presidential decision marks an important step towards the creation of conditions for a peaceful political climate ahead of the national dialogue scheduled for 16 to 21 July.
The United Nations underlines the paramount importance to promote maximum inclusiveness to ensure a national dialogue in which all parties and representatives of Equatoguinean society are engaged. The United Nations encourages the Government to continue to undertake all possible confidence-building measures ahead of this event.
The United Nations, through the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), stands ready to support such efforts.
From Mali, our peacekeeping colleagues tell us campaigns for presidential and parliamentary elections later this month kicked off on Saturday. Last Friday, the Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the country (MINUSMA), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, held a press conference in Bamako, in which he reiterated the UN Mission’s support for free, credible, transparent and peaceful elections. Among other things, the Mission has reinforced the capacity of electoral actors, implemented projects to safeguard electoral materials, and has recruited, trained and deployed some 60 electoral assistants. The Mission is also responsible for transporting all election materials in the areas where it is deployed.
Mr. Annadif stressed that while the 2013 elections helped restore constitutional order following the coup, the 2018 elections must ensure that observers in Mali are convinced that the democratic process is irreversible. The presidential election of 29 July, he added, should be an opportunity for Malians to choose a candidate who will deliver their ambition for a united, democratic, diverse and prosperous Mali.
In Haiti, our Mission (MINUJUSTH) reports that the situation remains tense and volatile following the suspension of a fuel price hike by Prime Minister [Jack Guy] Lafontant on Saturday.
The announcement by the Government of a fuel price increase on Friday triggered violent protests, roadblocks and widespread looting in the capital, Port-au-Prince, and other cities over the weekend, resulting in at least three people killed and international flights cancelled, MINUJUSTH said.
The Mission is encouraging all actors to engage in constructive dialogue in order to elicit a peaceful resolution to the situation. The Mission’s police component has been assisting in the removal of road blocks to ensure access to key road axes and will continue to closely coordinate with relevant authorities should the situation require it.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria, Ali Al-Za’tari, today welcomed the request from the Syrian Government for the United Nations to provide humanitarian assistance to thousands of civilian families in the affected rural areas of southern Syria.
Mr. Al-Za’tari said that the United Nations is ready to start its humanitarian response immediately and mobilize urgent humanitarian assistance convoys to respond to the basic of needs of civilians in the governorates of Dara’a, Quneitra, and Sweida, in coordination with the Syrian Government, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and humanitarian partners.
The United Nations reconfirms its readiness to expand its humanitarian assistance, and calls on all parties to the conflict to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection to people in need, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that floods and landslides caused by torrential rains have left scores of casualties in western and central Japan, 112 people reported dead and dozens missing, according to local sources.
The most-affected prefectures are Hiroshima, Okayama and Ehime.
There have been reports of damage to homes and the disruption of gas lines, telephone networks, highways, and public transportation.
In a statement we issued on Saturday, the Secretary-General welcomed the first anniversary of the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
To date, 59 States have signed the Treaty and 11 have ratified it. Once fifty States have ratified the Treaty, it will enter into force, becoming an important element of the nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation regime.
The United Nations remains committed to the total elimination of nuclear weapons as its highest disarmament priority.
A new report released today by our colleagues at the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) says that global fish production will continue to grow over the next ten years, even though the amount of fish being captured in the wild has levelled off and aquaculture is slowing down.
By 2030, the report estimates that fish production will grow to 201 million tonnes — that’s an 18 per cent increase over the current production level of 171 million tonnes.
The agency warned that this growth will also require better management of fisheries, reducing waste and tackling problems like illegal fishing, pollution and climate change. The full report is available online.
And after I’m done you will hear from Brendan Varma, the spokesman for the President of the General Assembly, and after that my guest today will be Elliot Harris, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, who will brief you on the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which started today. And we will be bringing you more updates on the Forum over the next ten days.
At 12:30 on Tuesday, the President of the International Federation of the Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, will be here to brief you.
**Questions and Answers
Anything before we go to Brendan? Yes, Edie.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. What is the Secretary‑General's reaction to The New York Times story over the weekend about the United States using strong‑armed tactics to try and kill a breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly?
Deputy Spokesman: We don't really comment on the actions that are taken by different Member States as they proceed in their debates with each other. It's certainly a good sign to know that the resolution did go through and that it has been accepted by the World Health Assembly. And we hope the World Health Assembly's proceedings will continue to go on track. Yes, Joe?
Question: Yeah. I just want to confirm whether the Secretary‑General is going to have a full‑blown press conference, I believe on 12 July was the date we were given.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes. Yeah, right now, yes. As far as I'm aware, we're good to go for 12 July, which is this Thursday, and that should be starting at noon. So, that will be right here in place of the regular noon briefing. Yes, Cia?
Question: Hi. I was wondering if you have any update on Matthew Lee's situation. What's going on? And can you tell us the story of what happened to him exactly, because we know from his side of the story, but we don't know from the UN's side. Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: I've provided details concerning that situation. The short answer is that there was an altercation last 3 July, and since this was the second incident in recent times in which your colleague had been disruptive in dealing with security after an earlier incident on 22 June, there's a review taking place that is under the aegis of the Department of Public Information (DPI) and the Department of Safety and Security (DSS).
Question: Do you know how long the review will going to take? Is he going to be away for a long time, or is he going away for good?
Deputy Spokesman: As far as the timeline, I don't know how long it will take. I know that the review is currently ongoing.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, Philippe?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Does [António] Guterres still plan to go to Kinshasa in July?
Deputy Spokesman: There were no firm plans for him to go to Kinshasa, so there's no trip at this stage to announce, and we haven't ever announced any such travel. If and when he's ready to go there, we'll let you know. Yes, please?
Question: The Member States are starting today the last round of negotiations for the Global Compact on migration. What does the SG expect of this compact, and does he think it's going to change things on the ground very much?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we certainly are hopeful for any agreements by Member States to deal with the issue of migration. As you know, it's been one of our key concerns, and the Secretary‑General believes it's crucially important for all States, whether they're receiving States, transit States, States of origin or otherwise, to come together to deal with what has been a very strong increase in the numbers of migrants worldwide. And so we're hopeful that they will come together on this. And as you know, Louise Arbour, who is the representative dealing with the issue, is working with the states trying to forge a path forward. Yes?
Question: Yeah. I just want to ask a follow‑up to the question about the 3 July incident involving Inner City Press. Will the review include an evaluation of the actions by security itself that were alleged looking into whether, in fact, physical force… any physical force was used against Mr. Lee and the circumstances surrounding that as opposed to just his conduct, which, of course, I understand, but is… is the security's actions itself… are they going to be examined?
Deputy Spokesman: We are looking into the matter thoroughly, including the actions taken by the security forces. At the same time, I would point out that there is a concern whenever anyone, whether media or otherwise, has an altercation with the security in the build… inside the building. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. This week, the President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan of Turkey will be inaugurated into a new term, and basically, this is not just an inauguration, will be a start of a… an… an… for first time, a new system, political system in Turkey, which is presidential, with vast powers. Do… does the SG has any comments about this major political change in Turkey?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the basic point is that we have made clear at the time of the elections that the Secretary‑General took note of the recently concluded presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey, and he looks forward to continuing cooperation with Turkey on an extensive range of issues. Yes?
Question: Just a quick follow‑up on the question before. You talked about the importance of all States to come together. Are you concerned with the fact that the United States is not participating in this process?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we'll see whether States… other States get involved as the process continues, but certainly, we're hopeful for as wide a participation of States in this discussion as possible. And with that, come on up, Brenden, and then we'll go on to our guest.