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. At 1 p.m. in this room, there will be a briefing by Josep Borrell, the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He also, I think, spoke to the Security Council or is speaking this morning.
At 5 p.m., there will be another press briefing here — this time, by the French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna.
Turning to Ukraine: As you know, the General Assembly meeting is still going on. Paulina [Kubiak] is not briefing today, just for your information.
On the ground, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that they have facilitated 12 inter-agency convoys over the past two weeks to front-line communities in the east and south of the country. They’ve delivered food, water, shelter, winter materials and other necessities for more than 150,000 people.
This includes two convoys on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week to Borova and Velykyi Burluk towns in the eastern Kharkiv region, close to the Russian-Ukrainian border.
We, along with our partners, are also committed to staying of course and delivering, as we approach the one-year mark since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
However, we continue to need safe and unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine so that we can reach more people, more frequently. Lack of access in areas not under the control of the Government of Ukraine is limiting our ability to assist people and assess their needs.
For its part, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today noted that 12 months since the start of this phase of the war, more than 13 million people remain uprooted from their homes, including 8 million refugees across Europe and more than 5 million displaced people within Ukraine. The reports shows that their prospects for return in the near future are clouded by continued hostilities, insecurity and destruction in their home regions.
For its part the International Labour Organization (ILO) also released a report today on Ukraine. ILO estimates that employment in October 2022 in the country was 15.5 per cent below the 2021, pre-war levels. That’s a drop of 2.4 million jobs.
All of these reports are available online.
And you saw that yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General delivered remarks at the opening of the special emergency session of the General Assembly, noting that the one-year mark of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stands as a grim milestone – for the people of Ukraine and for the international community.
He will speak in the Security Council tomorrow and we will share those remarks as soon as we can.
**Türkiye — Syria
Turning to our response to the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, 53 trucks crossed from southern Türkiye into north-west Syria today, carrying aid from the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugee Agency. WFP provided food commodities, with IOM sending shelter, hygiene and other items. UNHCR also provided supplies for more than 5,000 people.
Of the 53 trucks that crossed today, 47 went through Bab al-Hawa, and six through Bab al-Salam. That brings us to a total of 335 trucks or lorries that have gone in since 9 February from Türkiye into north-west Syria.
As of today, the three-month flash appeal for Syria for nearly $400 million is 27 per cent funded.
Meanwhile, regarding Türkiye, the UN’s Resident Coordinator for Türkiye, Alvaro Rodriguez, travelled to areas affected by the earthquakes today to see the humanitarian response. He also met with authorities and first responders.
In Kahramanmaras, Mr. Rodriguez visited a tent city where 5,000 men, women and children have been taking refuge. He said he was struck by the scale of the devastation but praised the response by the Government, the international community and Turkish citizens. In Türkoğlu, he spoke to Syrian families displaced by the earthquake.
Mr. Rodriguez also met with UN Disaster Assessment teams. Those Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams remain active in southern Türkiye to support the coordination of urban search-and-rescue operations and assist in the needs assessments. A liaison team in Ankara is also working with Turkish authorities, who, as you know, are leading the response.
The UN and our partners continue to provide assistance to the Government’s earthquake response efforts. As of today, our three-month flash appeal for Türkiye for $1 billion is just over 4 per cent funded.
Tor Wennesland, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, visited Gaza today, one day after the violence that we saw in Nablus.
Mr. Wennesland is continuing his engagement with all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation. He continues to urge all sides to refrain from steps that could further enflame an already volatile situation.
An update regarding our UN peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA): As we mentioned on Tuesday, three peacekeepers from the Senegalese contingent were tragically killed when their convoy hit an improvised explosive device in the centre of the country. We now have the names of the three peacekeepers. They were Quartermaster Eugène Mingou, 50 years old; Private Ousseynou Diallo, who was 29; and Private Pierre Boubane, who was 36. We, of course, send our deepest condolences to their families, friends and all of the members of the peacekeeping mission.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, arrived in Sweden today. At the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, she discussed the critical role of Sweden in multilateralism, as well as relations between the UN and Sweden and the partnership between the UN and Sweden, across all pillars of the United Nations’ work.
Those discussions took place with Johan Forssell, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade; Diana Janse, State Secretary to Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade; and other senior Swedish government officials. She also met with the Speaker of the Riksdag, which is, if my Swedish is correct, it’s the Assembly, Andreas Norlén, and the members of the Swedish Parliament for an exchange on the impact of our partnership on the group.
In Uppsala, she paid tribute to our former Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, at his grave. The Deputy Secretary-General delivered the annual Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture titled, “Strength in our common humanity” at Uppsala University.
In her remarks, she reflected on the wisdom and action that define the late Mr. Hammarskjöld’s legacy and how we can use the lessons he taught us to act for sustainable, inclusive development today.
**Tropical Cyclone Freddy
Tropical Storm Freddy is expected to make landfall in Mozambique tomorrow.
We and our partners are supporting the Government-led response by deploying staff to Inhambane and Gaza provinces and our teams are on standby to carry out needs assessments.
In Madagascar, where the cyclone has already made landfall, and that was on Tuesday, we are carrying out assessments to evaluate the damage and determine what the most urgent humanitarian needs are.
Today, Ersin Tatar and Nikos Christodoulides met for the first time under the auspices of the Deputy Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Colin Stewart. They had an informal discussion which was open and constructive.
Our colleagues in Cyprus note that Mr. Christodoulides and Mr. Tatar addressed several issues, including the recent devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria that claimed thousands of lives, including amongst them some Turkish Cypriots, and they expressed their sympathy for the victims and their families.
**Bosnia and Herzegovina
Turning to Bosnia-Herzegovina: In a statement issued today by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, expressed her concern over continuous incidents of revisionism regarding atrocity crimes perpetrated during the 1992-1995 conflict, including denial of the Srebrenica genocide. In particular, she raised concern over recent incidents reported following a decision to amend the Law on the Centre for the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery for the Victims of the 1995 Genocide.
Ms. Nderitu also acknowledged the tireless efforts of survivors and other civil society actors in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who are working every day to tackle the denial of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to promote sustainable peace and reconciliation across the country.
Her remarks are online.
A report issued today by a number of UN agencies shows that every two minutes, a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth. The report, called “Trends in Maternal Mortality”, reveals alarming setbacks for women’s health over recent years, as maternal deaths either increased or stagnated in nearly all regions of the world.
According to the report — which tracked maternal deaths nationally, regionally and globally from the year 2000 to 2020 — there were an estimated 287,000 maternal deaths worldwide in 2020. This marks only a slight decrease from 2016, when the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) came into effect.
In total numbers, maternal deaths continue to be largely concentrated in the poorest parts of the world and in countries impacted by conflict.
For those of us who would enjoy a musical break, the UN Alliance of Civilizations and the Department of Global Communications (DGC) invite you to a musical event today in the Trusteeship Chamber. That will get under way from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m.
The event, entitled “Equal in Music”, introduces the West-Eastern Divan Ensemble, which is part of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra that was founded in 1999 by the Israeli conductor-pianist Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian author-scholar Edward Said.
The Orchestra was designated by former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2016 as a United Nations Global Advocate for Cultural Understanding.
They will be performing Felix Mendelssohn’s String Octet in E-flat major, Opus 20.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
Senior personnel announcement: Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Ms. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira of Rwanda as Head of the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS).
She will succeed Lisa Filipetto of Australia, to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for her important contribution and service in the Support Service in Somalia.
Ms. Kacyira brings to this position more than 30 years of experience at local, national and international levels. Since 2020, she has served as the resident High Commissioner to the Government of Ghana and non-resident representative to Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia for Rwanda. Lots more online.
Finally, we are now up to 57 fully paid-up Members, and we thank our friends in a country where the official language is Dhivehi… [shout of “Maldives!”]
Bingo! That it impressive. You’re just a cool cat today, Dezhi. That is very, very impressive.
We thank our friends in Malé, which is the capital of the Maldives.
**Questions and Answers
Spokesman: If you have a question, you can ask the first one for quite a while with that one.
Question: Thank you, Steph. Actually, I do have one. I saw the protest next to the UN showing all those beautiful sea creatures, ocean creatures, make me think one question; that the Japanese news outlets today recently reported that Japan is going to try to have the G7 countries to endorse its release of the nuclear wastewater into the sea, which has been… I mean many neighbouring countries, including South Korea, China expressed its concern. So, I just want to know what’s the position from the UN on this issue?
Spokesman: We’re not in the habit of commenting what people may do. But I can tell you is that, especially this week when Member States are meeting to discuss the future of the oceans, it is important that every Member State, especially those who have a coastline along the oceans, do whatever they can to protect our common natural resources and our common humanity through the oceans.
Question: Thank you, Steph. I believe you mentioned that the appeal for Türkiye is only about 4… Is it 4 per cent like, 4, one digit?
Question: Okay. I was just wondering what you think that’s attributable to, and also, do you think some of it, it’s so low because of unilateral contributions that countries are making?
Spokesman: It’s hard for me to provide a factual analysis. I mean, first of all, it was just launched, right? It was launched after the Syria appeal. I can’t get into the heads of donors, but we just hope… [sound of phone] You’ve lost your first question privileges now. [laughter] I can’t get into the heads of donors. What we do hope is that people give generously to all our humanitarian appeals.
Question: Hi, Steph. You just mentioned that for this year, 57 Members already fully paid their dues. Concerning the previous years, how many Members are behind and cannot currently vote at the GA, especially there’s a vote this afternoon?
Spokesman: Okay. So, on the… under the Article 19 rule, there are five Member States who are under the Article 19. Those are Comoros, Lebanon, São Tomé and Príncipe, Somalia and Venezuela. However, three of those countries, thanks to a General Assembly resolution, were given the right to vote despite their arrears. So, those are Comoros, São Tomé and Príncipe and Somalia. So, the only two that are currently not permitted to vote are Venezuela and Lebanon.
Yeah. Okay. Yes, go ahead, please.
Question: Hi I’m James from Asharq. Thank you for the invitation to go to that Divan Ensemble today. We’re actually covering that. And I was doing some background reading; the founder, Daniel Barenboim, was declared a Messenger of Peace by Ban Ki-moon. Is he still a Messenger of Peace? What’s that mean?
Spokesman: The Orchestra itself was designated a… what? The terminology that I used is an ambassador of… [inaudible] Exactly what I said. We can put you also in touch with our colleagues in the Department of Global Communications, who will be able give you a bit more background on Mr. Barenboim’s involvement with the UN. The Ensemble itself is a UN global advocate for cultural understanding.
But I’ll check on Daniel Barenboim individually, and I will let you know. [He later confirmed that Daniel Barenboim remains a Messenger of Peace.]
Question: Okay. Is there… what’s the significance of them playing today? Is that because of the…?
Spokesman: Well, the event had been programmed for quite some time. I mean, so there is, I think through its work, the Orchestra symbolizes how culture and how music can bring people who could be on opposite sides of any argument or decision or violence, like they can bring them together and try to work towards cultural understanding.
Oh, sorry, I never… I didn’t see your hand.
Question: Stéphane, I have two questions. I mean…
Spokesman: You’re not coming in very loudly, if you can up the volume a little bit.
Question: Okay. I will do that.
Spokesman: Okay. Perfect.
Question: Okay. I have two questions. First, on 19 August 2018, the Secretary-General submitted a report to the General Assembly about the protection of the Palestinians and he gave four options, three of them under his jurisdiction. He doesn’t need to go back to anyone. Does the Secretary-General still stand with these options? Can he go one step further and implement one of the three options that are under his power? That’s my first question.
Spokesman: I need to look at that; exactly that report. If you can send me the reference, I’ll take a look at the report.
And your second?
Question: And the second question. I mean, Tor Wennesland and the statement, president’s statement called for the de-escalation. And today 178 settlers stormed the Al-Aqsa Mosque. So those settlers keep storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque; and no one tell them what you are doing is wrong and no statement issued after they do the storming. They will come back tomorrow and after tomorrow and then after and they will continue doing that, with no…
Spokesman: We have been very, very clear in stating our position that there should be no change in the status quo of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem and that everyone needs to respect the status quo.
Question: Okay. Thank you, Steph. First question I have is the security turmoil in Mali that caused death of peacekeepers and the usual, in Central African Republic… is the Wagner Group very much involved?
Spokesman: Well, I would refer you to reports that have been issued on this…
Question: By whom?
Spokesman: There’s a recent one by the UN special rapporteur on Mali and the Peacekeeping Mission’s human rights reports, as well.
Question: But you can have it and…
Spokesman: I mean, they’re all, it’s all public documents; I don’t… and they’ve been released; the human rights, the special rapporteur, I think, released a report two days ago and the Mission’s been releasing our human right… I would refer you to the human rights report that was released, too, not very long ago. Those are public documents.
Correspondent: And secondly, I haven’t read the report, but the one on maternal deaths, hopefully it delves into countries rather than large regions.
Spokesman: Yeah, I mean, it shows that as always, the countries where there is the greatest suffering are underdeveloped countries… sorry, developing countries and countries in conflict, but I’ll encourage you to read the report.
Okay. Thank you, all. Have a great day.