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

13 March 2017

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.

**Commission on the Status of Women

The Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).  In his remarks, delivered earlier this morning in the General Assembly, the Secretary-General said that in a male-dominated world, the empowerment of women must be a key priority.  Discrimination against women sounds a loud alarm that our common values are under threat, he said, warning that women are suffering new assaults on their safety and dignity around the world.

“Keep pushing.  Keep inspiring, and keep making a difference,” the Secretary-General urged Commission members, promising that they have both his and the United Nations’ full support.  There are dozens of other CSW-related events happening today, including at 6:30 p.m., when actress Patricia Arquette and Olympic gold medalist and soccer star Abby Wambach will launch the Equal Pay Platform of Champions.  And a full listing of events can be found online.

**Somalia

And a short while ago, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Michael Keating, condemned this morning’s bomb blasts at two locations in Mogadishu that reportedly killed a number of civilians.  The first suicide attack targeted a training facility for the Somali National Army.  The second took place at the gate of a hotel in Mogadishu.  “These latest attacks come at a time when solidarity, not violence, among Somalis is badly needed”, said Mr. Keating, noting that the country is grappling with a severe drought that has already claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

**Iraq

Approximately 69,000 people are currently recorded by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) as displaced in the context of the ongoing military operations in western Mosul. This figure is being further verified and current discrepancies for the Government of Iraq figures are also being addressed.  Meanwhile, the emergency assistance continues to families on the move and in areas of displacement, as well as inside Mosul, wherever access allows distributions to be undertaken.

Over the weekend, emergency packages of food rations, water and hygiene supplies were distributed among some 13,000 people inside eastern Mosul.  Further assistance missions into western Mosul are being planned.  And we’ve been in touch with Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and we are trying to get her on the line for you tomorrow, or more likely Wednesday.

**Syria

In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned the terrorist bombings in Damascus.  The Secretary-General said in the statement he was appalled by the utter disregard for human life displayed by the perpetrators, and extends his deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims, many of whom were pilgrims.  Those responsible for the bombings, and anyone carrying out attacks against civilians, must be held accountable.

**Sustainable Development Goals

And just an update on statistics — the global statistical community has come together to create a robust global framework of indicators to keep track of our efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The 230 indicators include, for example, the prevalence of undernourishment, the maternal mortality ratio and the mortality rate for children under the age of five.  You can read more about this on the website of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

**Briefings

And tomorrow at 2 p.m., there will be a press conference on empowering indigenous women and girls.  The list of speakers can be found in my office.  And speaking of tomorrow, we’ve all seen the blizzard watch, obviously.  We will send out an announcement on Twitter and by e-mail tomorrow morning to let you know if the building is indeed open.

**Honour Roll

And today we thank our friends in Cabo Verde and Croatia for their payment to the regular budget, and that gives us?  That's not even my age.  It's 60.  All right.  Joe, you look like you have a question.  I know.  I would not assume that, sir.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, my question is whether any efforts are currently under way to schedule a meeting between President [Donald] Trump and the Secretary‑General.  And, in that connection, does the Secretary‑General think it is helpful or potentially harmful in building a relationship that the High Commissioner for Human Rights made some very specific charges against the Trump Administration, I think, in his speech on 8 March, you know, alleging potential violation of international law and human rights abuses stemming from the… several policies of the Trump Administration?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Sure.  On your first part, when we have a meeting to be… to announce and schedule, I will let you know.  On your second part, it's not for me to comment on what the High Commissioner says.  The High Commissioner has a mandate.  I think we all respect that mandate.  He speaks within that mandate.  It's not up to the Secretary‑General to comment on it or approve or disapprove what the High Commissioner says.

Question:  But, I have seen statements that he has made that he considers himself to be part of and report through the Secretariat, as opposed to the Human Rights Council, which has a separate mandate.  So, wouldn't it be appropriate at least for the Secretary‑General to have an opinion whether those comments are helpful or not?

Spokesman:  I think the High Commissioner administratively is part of the Secretariat.  I think that's clear.  He does have a specific mandate as High Commissioner for Human Rights, and he speaks to that mandate.  As I said, it's not up to the SG to approve or disapprove.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  First, I just want to ask you, just a few minutes ago, the delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) talked about a request they made to António Guterres to organize an international forum of legal experts on the sanctions against them by the Security Council, and they say there's been no answer.  Are you aware of the request?

Spokesman:  I mean, I just… I was listening as I was preparing for the briefing.  We'll follow up on what was said.

Question:  Okay.  And can we find out whether there…?

Spokesman:  We will, of course, find out.

Question:  Okay.  But, will you tell us?

Spokesman:  Depends what we find out.

Question:  Can I ask about DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]?  It says two UN officials, one American and one Swedish, have been taken hostage in Kasai.  One, what can you say about that?  And, two, has DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], in fact, deployed any… any… any personnel to Kasai?  I know there was some discussion in the Council of that a coup… maybe a week or so ago.  I want to know whether it took place.

Spokesman:  We're clearly looking for these two people.  As you know, two members of the UN Group of Experts have gone missing near the locality of Moyo Muswila.  It's about… in Kasai.  MONUSCO is actively looking for them at this point.

Question:  But, how… I mean, is there… are there MONUSCO personnel in Kasai?  Like, do they travel around with no UN security?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that there are…

Question:  So, were they without security?

Spokesman:  No, I don't know the circumstances.  We're still unsure of the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of these two people.  We are actively looking for them.  Yeah?  Okay.  Yeah.

Question:  Does the UN have anything to say on the diplomatic role between Turkey and the Netherlands?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  No.   Yep?  No, sorry, behind you, Masood.  I take questions in order in which people come into the briefing room.  I try.  Yeah.  Go ahead.

Question:  Thank you.  I just want to repeat a question that has been risen in this room several times, and now that the CSW61 has started, have you received any complaints or are you aware of any women being blocked from entering the US, because of the ban?

Spokesman:  Yeah, sure.  We personally… we've not been made aware of any… any people detained at US… at the US border who were planning to attend… who were planning to attend the meeting.  So, that's… I can only speak to what we know at this point.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you but… Stéphane, do you have any comments on this report that… maybe you made a comment on some 136 or… I don't know, more than 136 people being stripped their citizenship by the Bahrainian Government without any trial or any… what do you call… recourse to law?

Spokesman:  No, I have not seen that report.  We can… I can take a look at it and let you know if we have something to say.  Okay.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask, I think you… the… the… Tanzania has said that they made some appeal to António Guterres during a quote… during a stopover on his return from Kenya?  Is that the case?  And, if so, can you say… it was mentioned by the Tanzanian ambassador in a Peacebuilding Commission meeting today, but was the stopover specifically to get this?  It doesn't seem like it's that long… big a first jump.  Was this a formal meeting with the Tanzanian Government?

Spokesman:  No, what happened, on his way back from Nairobi, the commercial flight we were on had a technical stopover in Dar es Salaam for the hour that we were on the ground.  The Secretary‑General stepped away and met with the Foreign Minister and that's it.  So, I mean, it was just… it was a meeting of opportunity because the Secretary‑General happened to be in Dar es Salaam, literally for an hour at the airport.

Question:  And give… given that one of the issues, but, obviously, I'm sure, not all the issues have to do with Burundi and the talks there and given that, even just this morning, the ambassador of Burundi said again that… that they reject and… and… and completely the Special Adviser… seems to be a big standoff between the Government and the Secretariat.  What's the status of the letters the President sent, that Mr. [Albert] Shingiro sent, and the Secretary‑General, is he trying to speak to the Government to get them to… to… to allow people in or where's it stand?

Spokesman:  There's no update to what the Secretary‑General reported to the Security Council not too long ago.

Question:  And can I ask about yesterday… last week, I'd asked Farhan [Haq] a number of times about Cameroon, including these questions about whatever happened with the allegations, not only sexual abuse in CAR [Central African Republic], but also doing business.  There was… in the middle of 2016, there was public complaints by a minister of… of… of a member of parliament in the CAR that the Cameroonian contingent in a region of… of… of CAR was doing business, and so, what did the UN ever do about that?  Did they clear them…?

Spokesman:  I'll check.  I don't have an update on that, but I will check with you.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Stéphane.  On this question of India and Pakistan and Kashmir, which the Secretary‑General has been able to get his grip around the situation over there, or is he going to talk to the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani Prime Minister about these things?  People are being killed right, left and centre.  We're still waiting for something to happen.

Spokesman:  No, I heard, I think, the question you raised to Farhan on Thursday or Friday, and I have nothing to add to what's been said publicly.  Mr. Lee?

Correspondent:  Sure.  So, I noticed that… that two other senior‑level vacancies have been put out.  Sorry.  Go ahead.

Question:  I'm just asking, as a follow‑up, anything that Secretary‑General…?

Spokesman:  No, as I said, I think Farhan answered question.  When I have something new to add, I shall add it.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, I've noticed that two new senior‑level vacancies have been announced at OHRM [Office for Human Resources Management] and the UN University, but I also… that the one for DPI [Department of Public Information], the deadline was extended.  Can you give some sense of… it was said to be 6 March.  Now it's 20 March.  Also, OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs], for example, there are other posts that neither have been extended nor have they been advertised.  But, particularly on the extension of DPI, I wanted to… does this mean that they were unsatisfied with the applications they got?  What's behind it?

Spokesman:  I don't know.  I'm happily not involved in the recruiting process.  I think, as any hiring manager has the authority to do, we can… the recruiting deadline can be extended for a number reasons.

Question:  When does Mr. [Stephen] O'Brien's contract expire?

Spokesman:  I don't know.  I think most people were extended for some time.  I don't know what the exact date is.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask… this may be or may not be… the… the… last week, I saw a meeting in the basement 1B held by the UN Foundation.  It was called Congressional Learning Trip.  And so, I guess I wanted to know, number one, what is the relationship between the UN and UN Foundation?  Can it hold a meeting of its own accord with congresspeople?  Are you aware whether it was only… you know, was it a bipartisan meeting?

Spokesman:  It was a bipartisan… I mean, it wasn't… it was far from a stealth meeting as you described it, because, obviously…

Correspondent:  On the outside, it was congressional group, and then, when you opened the door, it said UN Foundation, so it was stealth.

Spokesman:  Right.  It was a programme run by the Better World Campaign, and they often bring up staffers.  And it was very much a bipartisan group of staff members who work with senators and House members, both Democratic and Republican, an information tour of the UN.

Question:  Can groups that are more critical of the UN or do… or are seeking UN reform, such as Code Blue, such as Government Accountability Project, can they schedule their meetings in 1B?

Spokesman:  I think we've… I think… I've been here for about 16 years.  I think often groups that are very critical of the UN are able to speak at the UN.

Question:  No, but in… can they sponsor congresspeople in 1B?

Spokesman:  That's… it's up to them to see who they're willing to invite. Abdelhamid?

Question:  Good morning.  Thank you.  The freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is becoming narrower and narrower.  Yesterday, the Palestinian Authority brutalized the peaceful demonstration.  Is there any position on that?  Is there any statement?

Spokesman:  On the particular incident, no.  But, as a matter of principle, we uphold the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.