Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

15 November 2016

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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General, joined by the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, held a press conference this morning in Marrakech just before the opening of the high-level session of COP22.  He told the press that the entry into force of the Paris Agreement shows that every country understands that climate change is happening, and that no country, however resourceful or powerful, is immune from the impacts of climate change.  They also realize that it is in their own national interest to take action now.

Asked about US President-elect Donald Trump’s stated intent to back out of the Paris Agreement, the Secretary-General said that he believes that Mr. Trump understands that there are market forces already at work on this issue and that we need to harness these forces for the good of the planet and all the species on this planet.

The Secretary-General then spoke at the official opening of the high-level segment of COP22, saying that countries have strongly supported the Paris Agreement because they realize their own national interest is best secured by pursuing the common good.  Now, he added, we have to translate words into effective policies and actions.

The Secretary-General then joined all of the heads of delegations at an official lunch hosted by His Majesty King Mohammed VI. The Secretary-General and the King were then scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting afterwards.

**Iraq

Our humanitarian colleagues report that more than 56,400 people have now been displaced as the military operations to retake Mosul continue.  More than 2,000 displaced people moved towards camps east of Mosul over the past two days.  Three-quarters of all the displaced people are in camps, while others are with host families or in ‘critical’ shelter arrangements, such as unfinished or abandoned buildings, and other informal settlements.

The United Nations and NGO (non-governmental organization) partners continue to assist displaced families, host communities and vulnerable residents in newly retaken areas.  Since 17 October, when the military operation began, nearly 114,000 people have been reached by the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners with a one-month food ration.  In addition, the Government has provided 10‑day food rations to approximately 108,000 people.

Meanwhile, a new initiative is being launched today, aiming to help families who have been newly displaced as a result of the Mosul offensive get easier access to accurate and timely information.  An initiative starting in Hasansham camp for displaced Iraqis, newly-built by the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, is aiming to give families a communications lifeline.  One Iraqi radio station, Radio Nawa, will be distributing 2,000 small transistor radios, so that people can listen to a non-partisan information service, take part in radio phone-ins, raise questions or comments, and engage on-air with local and central government officials and the Iraqi security forces.

**Syria

An assessment conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) shows that food production in Syria has hit a record low, as widespread insecurity and unfavourable weather conditions in parts of the country continued to hamper access to land, farming supplies and markets.

After five years of conflict, the assessment says, many farmers have lost the ability to cope. Rising prices and scarcity of essential inputs such as fertilizers and seeds mean they will have no other option than to abandon food production if they do not receive immediate support.  This will likely have grave consequences not only for the food security of farming households but also on food availability in the country, and may ultimately lead to further displacements.

**Malaysia

The UN Human Rights Office today called on all sides to stay calm and exercise restraint ahead of this weekend’s planned anti-government protest in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, voicing concern over reports that organizers have been subjected to threats and harassment.

The Office said that police have reportedly advised the public against taking part in the rally.

It urges the Government to abide by its international human rights obligations to protect the rights of all Malaysians to gather peacefully and to express their opinions, and to investigate the reports of harassment and intimidation.

**Haiti

The UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) reports that electoral preparations are ongoing as scheduled for the first electoral round on 20 November, including in the departments affected by Hurricane Matthew.

The Mission has today begun deploying its security forces in all of Haiti’s 10 departments in support of the 9,400 Haitian National Police officers deployed for the elections.

According to the Integrated Security Plan signed yesterday in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian National Police (HNP) is the first responder and the entity responsible for providing election security, while MINUSTAH's police and military will be in a position to support if necessary.

Yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) airlifted vital aid to support Haiti’s hurricane relief effort.

A UNHCR-chartered cargo plane carrying emergency relief supplies including shelter materials and solar lamps for 80,000 people arrived in Port-au-Prince.

The airlift includes 16,000 rolls of heavy duty plastic sheeting to provide emergency shelter and more than 8,500 solar lanterns that will enhance the security of vulnerable families currently living without electricity.

In the Bahamas, UNHCR is also responding to the Government’s appeal for help by working with the Bahamas Red Cross to provide urgently needed relief, including tarpaulin, plastic sheeting, blankets, hygiene kits, and portable stoves to nearly 7,000 people impacted by the hurricane.

**Community Violence Reduction

A day-long event to mark the tenth anniversary of community violence reduction (CVR) programmes in peacekeeping will be held tomorrow.

A High-Level Panel Discussion on Community Violence Reduction in Peacekeeping and Early Peacebuilding will begin at 10 a.m. in Conference Room 4 with the Secretary-General's Chef de Cabinet, Edmond Mulet, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Dmitry Titov.

Community violence reduction programmes aim to combat insecurity through mediation and development of alternative livelihoods for youth involved in armed violence.

**Antimicrobial Resistance

I also want to flag today a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] highlighting mounting evidence that food systems may be major conduits of antimicrobial resistance.

This evidence points to the need for greater vigilance over the way antibiotics are used on farms and for a giant research leap to rein in farm-driven antimicrobial resistance, especially in livestock production.

The livestock sector is expected to account for two-thirds of future growth in antimicrobial usage.  You can find the report and its recommendations on FAO’s website.

**UNICEF

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced today its first portfolio of investments in technology solutions:  the UNICEF Innovation Fund will source and support companies that might be overlooked by traditional investment vehicles.

This first portfolio includes start-ups in Nicaragua, Bangladesh, South Africa, Pakistan and Cambodia, with an eye to investing in 20 to 40 additional companies in 2017.

The UNICEF Innovation Fund is inviting technology start-ups to apply for investment and become part of this growing portfolio of open source solutions.  The next round of applications for investment from the Fund is now open and the deadline to apply is 1 January 2017.  And there’s more information on UNICEF’s website.

**Press Briefings

The guest at the Noon Briefing tomorrow will be the Director of the Operational Division at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), John Ging, who will brief the press on the situation in Sudan/South Sudan and Haiti.

**Questions and Answers

That's it for me.  Are there any questions?  Yes, Michael?

Question:  Farhan, the Secretary-General seems to believe that Donald Trump will come around and see the light on climate change.  Donald Trump seems to believe that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China.  How do we situate ourselves between these two beliefs?  I mean, what is the science that Ban Ki‑moon is basing his opinion on in the situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you've seen the reports put out by the great community of scientists, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Ban Ki‑moon himself has travelled around the world, trying to provide examples of the places he's visited, from Antarctica to the Amazon rainforest, of the effects of climate change.  At this point, the Secretary‑General believes it's very clear.  You saw just yesterday the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) came out with a report about how 16 of the 17 warmest years in our recorded history have happened this millennium, this century.  The amount of factual information about the warming of the earth is growing and is, at this stage, incontrovertible.  What we believe is that, as he meets with world leaders, as he meets with business leaders as well, you will see the growing consensus among all of the need to do something and to do something now.  What the Secretary-General said today at his press remarks in Marrakech is that he came away from his own talk with Donald Trump with the impression that this is someone who understands business, and he understands that, therefore… he would be able to understand, therefore, the way that there are market-driven solutions for the problems that we face.  You were going to say something else?

Question:  Did Donald Trump express this in… in the call with Ban that he was interested in market-driven solutions or any… did he express any opinion on climate change?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, as I think I said a day ago, this was a fairly short call of about ten minutes or so.  It was a brief introductory call.  They do intend to stay in contact, though, and I do believe that they'll continue to discuss this issue.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yeah, the… to follow up my colleague's question, the entire Republican Party platform and many of its leading members believe that climate change doesn't exist and rely on charlatan scientists paid for by oil companies.  Has the Secretary-General addressed Speaker [Paul] Ryan or anyone on this?  Because… and then… well, I'll ask you later.  I have a question on Syria.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, on this question, the Secretary-General has been very clear, and you can see any number of speeches he's given over his time as Secretary-General about the realities of climate change.  There are many speeches in which he's had to confront the arguments of skeptics head on, and he has done so.  The facts are on our side, and we believe that anyone who looks at the facts and who actually sees what's happening, the recorded facts just of climate-related events, of the effects of warming temperatures, of the effects of desertification, of the melting of the polar ice caps, of any range of phenomena related to climate change will see that this is something that is real, that is happening, that is serious, and that needs to be dealt with urgently.  Yes, Matthew and then you.

Question:  Sure.  I was trying to actually figure out on the call, you said it was a very few minutes and an introductory call.  And then the Secretary-General in this Q&A in Marrakesh said… said, "As you may know, last week, I spoke to President-elect Mr. Trump, and I brought up many issues, peace and security issues, including the issue of climate change."  What were the other issues raised?  And I guess, if it was a very few minutes, was there really time… I mean, was it mostly Ban Ki-moon raising issues, or can you characterise in some way what was said back?  And I have another COP22 question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I'll stick with saying that it was basically an introductory call.  It gave him an opportunity to raise the issues that that are very near and dear to his heart and the goals of the UN and of the Charter of the UN.  And as we made clear in the readout, he made clear his confidence that the US and the UN will continue to have a strong relationship and that they'll work on issues of peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights throughout the world.

Question:  Right.  Did he… did he… do you know if he raised Yemen? [Cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't believe that this was a discussion on specific country topics.

Question:  And the other one on COP22, I just want to ask you, one of his other answers was at length about Morocco, and it didn't mention either… so I wanted to know, do you have… yesterday, you'd said you thought it was being worked out on the ground, Sulima Baruk, this representative who was banned from attending COP22.  Was it… now that he's there and he's already spoken and I guess he's met with the King, was she able to access it?  What's your… what's your report back on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, the meeting with the King is happening, I think, more or less, right now as we speak.  We'll get a readout of that meeting later.  Regarding the case of this particular NGO representative, yes, we had heard on the ground that it's being worked out.  I do not know what the arrangement is.  You can also talk to Nick Nuttall, who's been our source of information on this as well.  Yes, Olga?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  I have a question on Syria.  What information does UN have on the situation in Aleppo after… after the reports that, within the next 24 hours, it will be an offensive in the city?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, in terms of that, what I can say, our latest information is that we are extremely concerned about the sharp deterioration of security in the western countryside of Aleppo due to reports of an increase in fighting and aerial bombardment.  Unconfirmed reports indicate that many people have been killed and civilian infrastructure, including medical facilities and educational facilities, has been badly damaged as a result of the increased fighting and bombardment.  The United Nations reminds all parties of their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure under international humanitarian law and humanitarian rights law.  Beyond that, of course, we're still waiting and hopeful for any sort of agreement on the ground that would give us the access we need, but we have not gotten that so far.  Iftikhar?  Oh, I'm sorry.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  According to the latest FBI figures published today, there has been an alarming, 67 per cent increase in hate crimes against Muslims in the United States.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say on this?

Deputy Spokesman:  On that, what we can say is that recent reports of hate crimes in the United States are of great concern.  The Secretary-General roundly condemns all forms of discrimination -- racial, based on gender or gender orientation, ethnic and religious.  All reports of hate crimes should be thoroughly investigated and, when confirmed, vigorously prosecuted.  Tarik?

Question:  Thank you.  I think you answered the question about the SG [Secretary-General] meeting with King of Morocco, if you can just tell us what issues he's going to discuss with him, beside the climate change.  This is one question.  The other one is about the Special Representative to Yemen.  I hear that he's in New York.  Is he going to meet with Security Council, with the SG when he comes back?  Is there any news about the reaction of both parties to the conflict?  What… what's happening in Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, with Yemen, he's not here right now, but we do expect at some point he'll come to New York and brief the Security Council.  And we'll keep you apprised of when he does that, and we'll see whether we can bring Mr. [Ismail] Ould Cheikh Ahmed to talk to you.  You're aware of his priorities.  In recent days and even in recent hours, the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has been also trying to help with efforts to revive a cessation of hostilities, and so we'll monitor how that develops.  But, certainly, we appreciate any efforts, any additional support in terms of getting us to a resumed cessation of hostilities in Yemen.

Regarding Morocco, we do anticipate a readout of the Secretary-General's meeting, but like I said, the meeting is something that's just been happening.  So, hopefully, this afternoon, we'll have something for you on that.  [The following readout was issued later: The Secretary-General today met with His Majesty Mohammed VI of Morocco.  He thanked His Majesty for his warm welcome in Marrakech and congratulated Morocco on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of its entry into the United Nations.  The Secretary-General commended Morocco’s contribution to the work of the Organisation, including through the deployment of peacekeepers, as well as its leadership in support of the climate change agenda.  He expressed his eagerness to help make the COP22 meeting a success.  The Secretary-General further underscored the importance of making progress in the Western Sahara negotiating process, as called for in the relevant Security Council resolutions.]

Question:  But is the envoy… I saw this John Kerry announcement that the Houthis agreed to a unilat… a ceasefire beginning Thursday and which the [Abd Rabbuh Mansur] Hadi side said that they… is too unilateral.  Was the envoy present?  What's his role in this mediation by John Kerry?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, he's been meeting with different parties.  As you know, in recent days, he's been travelling to Sana'a and to Riyadh to meet with the various parties themselves.  And, certainly, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed welcomes the efforts of John Kerry to support the peace process in Yemen and hopes that his recent visit will contribute to a peaceful and comprehensive end to the conflict.

Question:  Was he in Oman?  I mean, was the envoy in Oman?

Deputy Spokesman:  He's traveled to a number of places.  I believe he's been in Oman, but there's been a series of visits over the recent days.  Yeah?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you about South Sudan.  There's a… Radio Tamazuj has a report quoting an unnamed aid worker that a woman was found raped and killed just outside the UN camp in Wau, and the aid worker says that the UN is not patrolling even as women get firewood and is calling for a… a increased deployment by the UN to Wau.  Have you… are you aware of that?  And what is the UN's posture in Wau?  Does it believe that there are killings happening just outside its base, which it's not taking action to try to prevent?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, the UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan], was informed yesterday afternoon of a deceased body of a female located some 3 kilometres from the Wau protected area, adjacent to the UNMISS compound.  The Mission is deeply concerned by this apparent killing of an unarmed innocent civilian.  UNMISS urges the local authorities to undertake a rigorous investigation to find the perpetrators of this crime.  The Mission also urges community leaders to actively engage with UNMISS to find ways of ensuring that they can together further improve the safety of vulnerable persons and all other civilians living close to the base.  Since early May, UNMISS female-formed police units have been providing escort to women and girls who leave the area to look for firewood and other non-food items, and the Mission continues to encourage community leaders and internally displaced people to use these escorts for their protection.

Question:  And just on Burundi, I… I'd asked, I guess, Friday and then yesterday about this letter.  And I just… I'm sure you've now seen it, that the Ambassador of Burundi, Albert Shingiro, has said that the letter exists and that the request is that… is essentially that… that… that either there be another envoy or anything that take place with incoming Secretary-General [António] Guterres.  He gave a number of quotes out.  So I just wanted know, how… what's… just can you clarify whether the [Pierre] Nkurunziza Government has requested any change as to the status of… of… of Mr. [Jamal] Benomar and, separately, what your response to that is and also if you have any comment on the forthcoming ethnic census that the Government has announced, which many people there are saying is a… is a frightening echo to what took place in the country next door.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we'll have to see what the details are of that as that census is being developed, but, obviously, our past concerns would be relevant.  Regarding Jamal Benomar, of course, the basic point is that he continues to be the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, and he works on the Burundi file with the full confidence of the Secretary-General.  Decisions by the Secretary-General-designate are something I cannot speak to at this point.  We'll have to wait for when he takes office.

Question:  But now that Shingiro said there's a letter, can you at least say that there is a letter and then try to…

Deputy Spokesman:  We have… the Secretary-General has received a letter.  I mentioned that there'd been an exchange between them.  I'd said that last week.  Yes?

Question:  On the bombing in Syria, Russia and/or Damascus has also bombed Idleb and Homs.  And do you have anything on that?  They say they're combatting ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Sham).  Is ISIS in any of these places, or is it still Nusrah?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're very concerned about any sort of actions that are near population centres, and we believe that any actions, whether they are actions against Da’esh or otherwise, have to take into account the tenets of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and that would mean ensuring that there's no strikes against heavily populated areas that could cause major losses of civilian life.  And, of course, we stick by that.  Have a good afternoon.

For information media. Not an official record.