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.
Good afternoon. Our colleagues in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) said today they are dismayed by the toll of the simultaneous terrorist attacks on a Malian G5 Sahel unit position in Boulkessi and the Malian Armed Forces in Mondoro, that took place on 30 September and 1 October 2019 in central Mali.
The Mission condemns with the utmost energy these attacks, following a General Assembly session where security in Mali and the Sahel was given an important place on the agenda of several high‑level meetings attended by Heads of State of the region.
The Mission and all of us extend our deepest condolences to the Government of Mali and the grieving families. The Mission wishes a speedy recovery to all those injured.
Back here, the Security Council held an open meeting this morning on the theme of “Peace and Security in Africa: Mobilizing the Youth towards Silencing the Guns by 2020.”
Addressing Council members, the Secretary‑General’s Special Adviser on Africa, Bience Gawanas, noted that nearly 20 per cent of Africa’s 1.2 billion people are between the ages of 15 and 24.
She stressed that, if the right investments are made, and their social and political and economic engagement recognized and nurtured, societies may repay peace dividend.
Ms. Gawanas pointed out that, across Africa, youth are demanding urgent action and are making their voices heard. Young people are at the centre of pro‑democracy movements, effectively mobilizing, organizing, leading and clamouring for inclusive and accountable governance, youth participation and economic opportunities for all.
The Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis‑Plasschaert, expressed grave concern today over the violence that accompanied some of the demonstrations in Baghdad and other governorates. She called for calm and deeply regretted the casualties among both the protesters and security forces.
The Special Representative said that every individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law. She urges the authorities to exercise restraint in their handling of the protests to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters while upholding law and order and protecting the people, public and private property.
And we have an update from Haiti today on the humanitarian situation. Security incidents and roadblocks have disrupted the UN and NGOs’ (non‑governmental organizations) humanitarian programmes.
Our colleagues report that the health sector is probably the most impacted, with hospitals facing significant challenges to operate.
Fuel shortages, lack of safe water and other essentials are also affecting orphanages, civil protection units and other emergency services, which are also functioning with limited capacity.
Many schools have been closed for the past two weeks, leaving an estimated two million children and young people without any access to education.
In the beginning of the year, 2.6 million Haitians were food insecure. Should the current situation continue, our humanitarian colleagues warn that thousands of people already facing the consequences of severe food insecurity could be further impacted, with food assistance unable to reach them.
UN agencies and their partners are seeking to resume response efforts as soon as possible.
And a couple of notes from our agency colleagues. The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, just concluded a four‑day visit to Mexico, where he met with refugees and asylum seekers in the northern and southern parts of the country. Mr. Grandi listened to their stories about the violence, abuse and persecution they suffered at the hands of criminal gangs, which forced them to flee their countries.
And the Director‑General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros [Ghebreyesus], just wrapped up a visit to the Bahamas, where he was assessing the health impacts of Hurricane Dorian.
During his visit, he went to Abaco and Grand Bahama islands, where most households and infrastructure, including health-care facilities, were completely destroyed.
The health sector in Abaco and Grand Bahama suffered a substantial blow, with equipment and medical supplies destroyed, electrical and water supplies interrupted. In Grand Bahama, three health clinics have been destroyed; two in Abaco are now gone.
WHO has deployed 20 staff members and coordinated the mobilization of five emergency medical teams for the response. The agency has also mobilized $1 million from the Contingency Fund for the hurricane response. Dr. Tedros reiterated WHO’s commitment to support the Government and the people of the Bahamas for the recovery of the health system.
And the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will be conducting an official visit to Malaysia on 4 and 5 October, marking this the first ever visit by a UN human rights chief to the country.
During the visit, she will meet with the Prime Minister and other high‑level Government officials, as well as the national human rights institution, civil society, the National Bar Association and the UN and diplomatic community.
She also plans to visit an alternative learning centre for Rohingya refugees.
**World Food Programme
And the World Food Programme (WFP) announced today the launch of Stop the Waste, a global campaign to raise awareness about huge amounts of edible food that is discarded daily.
As part of the campaign, WFP has enlisted top restaurateurs and celebrity chefs from around the globe to join the movement by making their own pledge to #StopTheWaste.
While there is enough food in the world to feed everyone, one third of the four billion metric tonnes of food produced each year is lost or wasted, costing the global economy nearly $1 trillion annually.
At the same time, war and unrest are forcing more people to flee their homes than at any time since the Second World War, making it difficult for millions of people to grow their own food or buy it at an affordable price.
**Nansen Refugee Award
And lastly, another note from UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency). The Agency announced the Nansen Refugee Award winner. He’s a lawyer whose work has supported the efforts of the Kyrgyz Republic to become the first country in the world to end statelessness.
Through his organization, Ferghana Valley Lawyers Without Borders, Azizbek Ashurov has helped over 10,000 people gain the Kyrgyz nationality after they became stateless following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. That includes some 2,000 children. And I shall stop there. Betul?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Steph. As you're aware, today marks the first anniversary of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and UN Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard says the Secretary‑General can and should do more. So, the question is, can the Secretary‑General do more? And will he do so?
Spokesman: Look, the Secretary‑General, I think, has spoken out very clearly on condemning the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, for full light to be made of what happened to him and to make sure that those responsible are held to justice. The legal issues have not changed. There is no mandate for the Secretary‑General… legal basis for the Secretary‑General to launch an investigation without a mandate from the legislative bodies. It is up for those Member States to take these things into consideration. Yes, sir?
Question: Two questions for you. First one is about North Korea's latest missile launch, which is, it seems, the missile that potentially could go the furthest of any that they've launched this year. How concerned is the Secretary‑General? And does he believe the Security Council now need to meet on this matter?
Spokesman: Of course, the launch is extremely… is very concerning. The launch of a ballistic missile is yet another violation of Security Council resolutions. And I think, ahead of what we've learned of the working‑level… resumption of working‑level talks between the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and the United States later this week, the Secretary‑General hopes that both parties work to sustain these talks and to make progress on the implementation of the 12 June 2018 US‑DPRK joint declaration towards denuclearisation and sustainable peace on the Peninsula.
Question: And my other question, I see the statement that has been issued in Baghdad by the UN about the… the… the… the violence there and the protests and the use of live ammunition. "Grave concern" was the words. Given there is another circumstance elsewhere in the world in the last 48 hours where live ammunition is being used, does the Secretary‑General have grave concern, too, about the situation in Hong Kong?
Spokesman: Look, they're two different situations in the sense that the UN has a political presence and a political mandate in Iraq. The Secretary‑General, as a matter of principle, supports the right of people to demonstrate peacefully and always encourages security forces to show restraint.
Question: So, just to answer that question, does he have grave concern, those words, about Hong Kong, or is it different when a permanent member of the Security Council is involved?
Spokesman: No, I don't think it has an issue to do with the permanent members. Edie and then Maria.
Question: As a follow‑up on North Korea, did the Secretary‑General meet with the representative of the DPRK on the sidelines of the GA? And can you give us any elaboration on his message?
Spokesman: It's… you know, my… I think all our brains are a little fried from the General Assembly. As I recall, there was no formal bilateral, but if I'm wrong, I'm sure the correction gods will get to me. Maria?
Question: Thank you, Steph. So, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergei Ryabkov, was quoted on Monday saying that he expected more reaction… clear reaction from UN Secretariat on the visa problems created to Russian Delegation. Thirteen members of Russian Delegations were not given visa on time to participate in General Assembly events this year. So, do you have any… your reaction on that? And, also, there was a suggestion announced by Russian officials to move the First Committee to Vienna or Geneva, to other place from New York, so I wonder if you received any official request for that.
Spokesman: As far as I understand it, we have now received an official letter from the Russian Federation regarding the visa issues. We've received the letter. We're studying it and [will] take whatever action is appropriate from the Secretariat's end. I have… I'm not aware nor have I seen any official correspondence regarding moving the committee, but, obviously, any shift in the location of a work of a General Assembly committee will be a decision taken by Member States. Oui?
Question: Stéphane, regarding the situation in Mali, a minister from the Malian Government has said that the UN had been intervening militarily in Boulkessi in support of the G5 Sahel force, as well as the French forces of the Barkhane Operation. Can you confirm this involvement of UN troops? And could you also elaborate on possible consultation going on in the Malian capital with the UN?
Spokesman: No, I'm not able to confirm details of any military operation from our end. Obviously, the leadership of the UN in Mali is in discussions with the Malian Government. We will do whatever we can to help to support the Government, and the Mission is obviously there in that respect. James?
Question: Hi. Thanks, Steph. Thanks so much. Betul asked you a question about Khashoggi, the murder, and whether or not the Secretary‑General could do more. You made the standard case, which is that you support a request for accountability and justice, and that's all well and good. But there's this one organization which falls directly under the Crown Prince. It's called the MiSK Foundation, with which the United Nations has a partnership. There was that event just before… or during the GA that the UN Youth Envoy pulled out of, but the relationship between the UN and MiSK continues. There's a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) MiSK event in Paris, in November, I think. And the MiSK is a… it comes directly under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman… and the head of the organization, he received four phone calls from the hit squad in the consulate in Istanbul at the time that Khashoggi was being murdered, so there are very questionable ties between… about the UN's relationship with this organization. Other organizations, the Gates Foundation, pulled out of their relationship with MiSK. Is it even being considered the UN shouldn't be associating itself with this organization to send a message about what's right and what's wrong? [cross talk]
Spokesman: I hear your statement. I have no further update on the relationship between… with the MiSK Foundation, which, as you know, has been a relationship that has been going on for about 2 1/2 years now. Nabil?
Question: Mr. [Geir] Pedersen said he will announce the names of the Constitutional Committee for Syria — soon, maybe. There are some lists in the media on the internet from both sides, the Government and the opposition. Is the list confirmed? And do you expect him to make it public before the beginning of the meetings?
Spokesman: He said he would make it public. I would encourage… it will be just before… sometime a little bit before the start of the meeting. I would encourage people to be patient and wait for the list as it is issued by him as opposed to lists that may be floating around the inter‑web.
Question: And do you know if all members are invited? And have they confirmed their participation in the meeting…? [cross talk]
Spokesman: I don't know if they've all… if all have confirmed, but obviously, they've all been invited. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I just want to know, does the Secretary‑General encourage Security Council reform, or does he… is there anything… any statements he has as far as that or anything he can do?
Spokesman: This Secretary‑General, as many other Secretaries‑General before him, have talked about the need for Security Council reform, but that is one reform that is firmly in the hands of the Member States and especially the members of the Security Council, so voilà. Betul?
Question: Steph, I might have missed a question on Cyprus regarding the meeting between the Secretary‑General and the Turkish Cypriot leader. Have you had any remarks or a readout of that meeting and… [cross talk]
Spokesman: No, we issued a readout right after the meeting.
Question: The Turkish Cypriot leader after that meeting said that the SG would take an initiative to convene a meeting either between the two leaders or a meeting, 5+1, including the guarantor countries, and he talked about a date, either October or November. Do you have any lines on that? [cross talk]
Spokesman: Nothing that I can confirm at this point, but if you didn't get the readout, that's a problem, because I know we issued it.
Thank you. Same time tomorrow for even more excitement.