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.
We will do just a couple of updates. Most importantly to remember that we are closed tomorrow. You are welcomed to come into the building, but we will not be here — but we will however as usual be on email and WhatsApp, telegram or whatever other ways you want to find us.
**Senior Personnel Appointments
Two senior appointments to share with you today. The Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Volker Türk of Austria as Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination in his Executive Office. Mr. Türk will succeed Fabrizio Hochschild Drummond of Chile who is today being appointed as Special Adviser of the Secretary-General for the Preparations of the Commemoration of the UN’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Reporting to the Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Türk will ensure coherence in the strategic analysis provided to the Secretary-General by the political, peacekeeping, sustainable development, humanitarian, human rights and rule of law portfolios in the Executive Office.
For his part, Mr. Hochschild will support the Secretary-General in coordinating the preparation for the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN in 2020, through a system-wide process of consultations and reflections on the role of the UN in advancing international co-operation and in supporting Member States’ ability to respond to emerging challenges and frontier issues. The effective handover will take place mid-July.
Turning to Libya, the Secretary-General is closely following developments in Libya, where airstrikes and sporadic clashes continue in southern Tripoli. The UN team in Tripoli is actively helping in the evacuation of civilians from conflict‑affected areas wherever possible, encouraging even limited humanitarian truces to allow for evacuations of civilians and wounded as an immediate priority. The number of civilian casualties, and attacks on civilian property and infrastructure, are worryingly on the rise. The United Nations is also deeply concerned about reports of clashes between the two parties at the Tamanhint airbase [near] Sabha in southern Libya and the potential for widening confrontations in other areas of the country.
This afternoon, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ghassan Salamé, will be briefing the Security Council in closed consultations on the latest developments on the ground. On the humanitarian front, we have allocated $2 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to provide life-saving assistance to civilians caught up in the escalating fighting. And that’s a decision made by Mark Lowcock, our humanitarian chief. Those monies will help hospitals get the surgical and trauma kits they need, as well as provide food and other items to people uprooted by the fighting. They will also help safely relocate vulnerable migrants and refugees from detention centres in areas where airstrikes have been reported.
Mr. Lowcock urged all parties to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians, civilian infrastructure and allow unimpeded access for humanitarian workers. He stressed that there is an urgent need to evacuate more of the most vulnerable people. We are also told that 25 civilian casualties, including four fatalities, have been verified, as a result of the indiscriminate shelling in the neighbourhoods of Tripoli earlier this week. In total, 79 civilian casualties — including 18 deaths — have now been verified since the start of this recent round of violence. Since these are only the cases that could be verified, we think there could be more casualties. Moving civilians out of conflict-affected areas remains a challenge, with nearly all main roads reportedly blocked and there being a high risk of being hit in crossfire. Nearly all local trade has also ceased in these areas. Aid workers continue to provide assistance where they have access and have helped 6,000 people since the start of the present crisis.
**Central African Republic
In the Central African Republic, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix told reporters in Bangui that he was encouraged by the determination and courage of the country’s authorities and the signatories of the peace agreement to sit together and build peace through dialogue. Mr. Lacroix was speaking to reporters at the end of a joint trip with the African Union and European Union to the country. He also noted that yesterday’s meeting of the International Support Group, which was inaugurated by the President, showed not just the very strong support of partners, but also revealed concrete actions, commitments and projects to support this Agreement. Mr. Lacroix said that, while violence has decreased in the country since the signing of the accord, it’s the responsibility of every Central African to continue working towards bringing peace.
And just to give you an update on cholera in Yemen, nearly 223,000 suspected cases have been reported so far this year. This is three times the number of cases reported during the same period last year and nearly a quarter of cases are children under five. A spiralling epidemic with mass morbidity and death could occur if current trends are not quickly brought under control. Agencies are particularly concerned because this increase has come months before the usual spike in cases during the rainy season which takes place in August in Yemen.
Also, just a note from Kenya, [our humanitarian colleagues] report a deterioration in food security in Kenya following low rainfalls in 2018. Currently, some 1.1 million people are in need of assistance in connection with food insecurity, representing an increase of 41 per cent since August 2018. There is also a risk of further deterioration if the rainfall should fall below average in April and May.
In Zimbabwe, we are working to provide oral cholera vaccinations to nearly 500,000 people in the Chipinge and a number of districts. In addition, a 155,000 people in the worst-affected areas were reached with food assistance and 70,000 people have gained access to a sufficient quantity of water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene. Our humanitarian colleagues say that to date, donors have contributed at least $10.1 million for the cyclone-response component of the flash appeal out of $60 million requested — and that’s 17 per cent funded.
**United Nations Children’s Fund
On the subject of vaccines — which is very much in the news these days — the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today announced that it is launching a global campaign to emphasize the power and safety of vaccines primarily aimed at parents. The campaign will launch next Wednesday, coinciding with the start of World Immunization Week, which will spread the message that together, communities can protect everyone through vaccines. UNICEF noted that despite the benefits of vaccines, an estimated 1.5 million children died of vaccine-preventable diseases in 2017 as many families have delayed or are refusing to vaccinate their children. The campaign will be conducted on social media with the hashtag #VaccinesWork and will count on the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines. More information on UNICEF’s website.
**International Labour Organization
And the International Labour Organization (ILO) today launched a report which found that more than 374 million people are injured or made ill every year through work-related accidents. The report also says that work day lost to occupational safety and health related causes cost countries almost 4 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP).
Lastly, from 22 April to 3 May, we will see over 1,000 indigenous participants from all over the world in this building. They will be here to participate in the eighteenth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. This year’s session is focused on the generation, transmission and protection of indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge. From 22 to 26 April, the Indigenous Media Zone will provide a space for indigenous community media to cover the Permanent Forum. It is located in the UNCA Room on the 3rd Floor of the UN Secretariat Building.
And related to the Forum, there will be a press conference here on Monday at 1:15 p.m. Speakers will include the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and Dr. Cristiana Pasca-Palmer, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Henrietta Marrie, Associate Professor in the Office of Indigenous Engagement at Central Queensland University in Cairns, Australia. If you have chance, you should take a look at the amazing photo exhibit on the ground floor on indigenous issues. It is absolutely breath-taking. Speaking of breath‑taking, Masood.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, on the situation in Libya, which is getting bad to worse, and this… and it's almost like civil war situation exists there, and no amount of dialogue is going to take place. So, is the Secretary‑General going to recommend to the United Nations Security Council that the Rapid Deployment Force be used to… what do you call… stem the breakup of the country, which is imminent?
Spokesman: First of all, no amount of fighting will solve the problem in Libya. Dialogue and political solution will solve the problem in Libya. I'm not sure what Rapid Reaction Force you're referring to.
Question: But the thing is the… you already have that as a mandate in the… in the… in Chapter 6…?
Spokesman: No, there are no, there is no… there are no UN peacekeepers in Libya. Yes, Nabil?
Question: You talked about moving migrants or maybe refugees from one place to another. Can you tell us where are these people moved to?
Spokesman: Sure, they… UNHCR and its partners have been moving people from zones in the fighting towards the centre of Tripoli where they feel there's greater safety, but we're in the able to get to everyone we need to get to.
Question: And the centre, is it the facility for the UN or the Government or what kind of…?
Spokesman: I'll get you the details. Yes, Carole, then Evelyn.
Question: Stéphane, it's been several days since the Security… since the SG put out his appeal for a ceasefire. And as you know, negotiations are faltering at the Security Council on Libya, yes, and so, I was wondering if… how the… if the Secretary‑General is not disappointed with the Council's failure to come up with something?
Spokesman: Well, I think we're frustrated at the continued fighting in… that we're seeing on the ground in Libya. The Libyan people are, once again, on the front lines of suffering, being hit by indiscriminate shelling. We're seeing the use of heavy weapons in Tripoli. The Secretary‑General fully backs the work that Mr. Salamé has been doing, the calls — the impassioned calls — he has been putting out for at least a humanitarian pause. Mr. Salamé remains in contact with all the relevant actors inside Libya and also with various international partners. And, obviously, the ongoing discussions in the Security Council are ongoing, and we await to see the results. Yes, Evelyn?
Question: Is there any progress to start a conference in Libya?
Spokesman: As long as the fighting continues, it's hard to imagine a conference will take place. Masood, then Carole, then we'll let Monica brief.
Correspondent: Stéphane, I was just… you questioned the fact that what would the Rapid Deployment Force do. The Rapid Deployment Force…
Spokesman: No, what I'm saying to you… Masood…
Correspondent: …mandated, mandated by the Security Council and that it's only for the Secretary‑General to recommend to the Security Council…
Spokesman: Masood, I… there is no discussion of sending any UN Blue Helmets into Libya, and I'm not… I'm likely wrong. I'm just not sure what Rapid Deployment Force you're refer…
Correspondent: To stop… to stop…
Spokesman: I'm just not sure what force you're referring to. Carole?
Question: I'm just wondering if you have an update on UNSMIL [United Nations Support Mission in Libya] staff members, how many have left. What's the situation?
Spokesman: We continue to have both national and international staff in Libya. Most importantly, the leadership of the Mission, the Special Representative, his deputy and their staff continue to be there, and our humanitarian colleagues are there. We're, we still have a very much… a working operational presence in Tripoli.
Question: How many [inaudible]?
Spokesman: I'm not going to get into numbers. Monica, if I see any of you tomorrow, I will not be happy. And I wish you a happy Easter and happy Passover, and see you Monday.