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

30 May 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.

**Iraq

I will start off with a statement on the terrorist attacks during Ramadan in Iraq.  The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the recent terrorist attacks in Baghdad, which have caused many multiple casualties among civilians observing the holy month of Ramadan.  The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.  He reiterates that the United Nations will continue to stand by the Government and people of Iraq in their efforts to fight terrorism and hopes the perpetrators of this outrage will be swiftly apprehended and prosecuted.

**Climate Change

This afternoon, as we have told you, the Secretary-General will deliver an address on “Climate Action:  Mobilizing the World” at the New York University Stern School of Business.  In his address, he will describe the increasing risks from climate change and the compelling opportunities provided by climate action to create jobs, generate economic growth and build the foundations for a safer and more stable world.  He will also lay out a five-point action plan to mobilize the world behind climate action.  The address will be followed by a conversation with students, business leaders and academics.  For those of you who cannot attend or who have not yet RSVP’d, the address will be webcast on www.youtube.com/unitednations.

**Central African Republic

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) today launched a mapping report documenting mass killings and other serious human rights violations during the multiple conflicts in the country between 2003 and 2015.

The report states that many of the violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as it sets out a strategy to fight pervasive impunity in the country.  The report, which was mandated by the Security Council, documents in detail 620 incidents, including horrific accounts of entire villages being burnt to the ground in reprisal attacks, multiple accounts of gang rapes of women and girls as young as five, serious violence against people on the basis of their religion, ethnicity or perceived support for armed groups, among other serious violations.

While the report recognizes the challenging security situation in the Central African Republic, it recommends that some steps be taken immediately to initiate transitional justice processes.  The Head of the UN Mission, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, said that successive conflicts have spawned multiple peace processes, but as long as impunity reigns, this terrible trajectory may continue.  In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes, he added.  That report is online.

**Yemen

Earlier today, the Security Council was meeting on Yemen and was being briefed in open meeting by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Yemen.  He said that, tragically, the violence continues on numerous fronts, deepening the suffering of the Yemeni people.  The Envoy said that we are not close to a comprehensive agreement, adding that the reluctance of the key parties to embrace the concessions needed for peace, or even discuss them, remains extremely troubling. Yemenis, he stressed, are paying a price for their needless delay.

So far, he said that we have managed to avert military action in Al-Hodeidah.  The Envoy said that he made clear to the parties during his recent meetings in Yemen that they must reach a compromise on the situation in Al-Hodeidah, in order to prevent such a horrific scenario.  We do expect Mr. Ismail to speak to you at the stakeout, probably around 1 p.m. or so.  We will let you know.

Also speaking at the Council meeting today was Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, who said that the people of Yemen are being subjected to deprivation, disease and death as the world watches.  He stressed that this is not an unforeseen or coincidental result of forces beyond our control, but rather it is a direct consequence of actions of the parties and supporters of the conflict.  It is also, sadly, a result of inaction — whether due to inability or indifference — by the international community.

**Sri Lanka-Bangladesh

We are deeply concerned by the devastating impact caused by Cyclone Mora on Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.  The United Nations stands ready to scale up its support to the Government-led response efforts in both countries.  The Secretary-General will be reaching out to the Permanent Representatives of both those countries.  Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the cyclone has brought flooding and landslides to various provinces and affected tens of thousands of people in both countries.

In Sri Lanka, the Government estimates that 194 people have died, 99 people are missing, and more than 80,000 people have been displaced.  The Government, with the support of the UN, NGOs and local partner organizations, as well as Member States, is responding to the flooding and is providing emergency supplies such as tents and clean water.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today deployed three assessment teams to four of the districts hit hardest by devastating floods and mudslides in Sri Lanka.  The cyclone made landfall in Bangladesh yesterday, where some 2.8 million people have been affected and more than 500 shelters have been opened.

**Nigeria

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, said today that Nigeria is facing a protection and food security crisis of global proportions in the north-east of the country.  More than 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their homes in the six north-eastern states due to the violent Boko Haram insurgency and military counter-insurgency operations.  More than 4.5 million people are food insecure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, and this number may rise to 5.2 million during the upcoming lean season.

Humanitarian partners have scaled up assistance and the delivery of food aid has increased 700 per cent from October 2016.  However, Mr. Kallon stressed that, while the humanitarian response has increased substantially, we may not have turned the corner yet and if the funding situation is not sustained, the situation can easily relapse in a famine situation.  The Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria is only 28 per cent funded.

**Refugees

Our colleagues at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said they received worrying reports over the weekend of armed criminals approaching migrant and refugee boats in the Central Mediterranean, wounding and stealing from passengers.  Several refugees and migrants who landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa this weekend had gunshot wounds, and many reported that their belongings had been stolen by members of Libyan militias.  Many survivors also reported having witnessed friends being fired at or killed while in Libya.  UNHCR stressed that saving lives remains its top priority and reiterated its call for credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.  More than 1,720 people have died or have gone missing trying to cross the Mediterranean this year alone.  The number of people rescued has so far surpassed 60,000.

And UNHCR also tells us it is appealing for urgent safe passage and admission for a group of Syrian refugees stranded in dire circumstances on the Algerian-Moroccan border.  The 41 Syrian refugees have been stranded on the remote Algeria-Morocco border since 17 April.  Both Algeria and Morocco consider the group not to be in their respective territory.  The group includes children, women and babies — including at least one pregnant woman who is reportedly in need of a Caesarean section.  UNHCR calls on both Governments to take instant and constructive steps to uphold international humanitarian imperatives and evacuate the refugees.

**Peacekeeping

Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that the third phase of training of engineering for peacekeeping for a number of future African peacekeepers under the Triangular Partnership Project started on 29 May in Kenya.  The project — launched by the Department of Field Support with support from Japan, Switzerland and Kenya — is designed to train and equip African military engineers to be deployed to peacekeeping missions.

In the third phase, 36 Japanese instructors will train up to 60 Tanzanian trainees plus some trainees from other African troop-contributing countries.  A Swiss-led training-of-trainers course for 10 trainees, as well as a Brazil-led engineering project management course for up to 20 trainees drawn from different African troop-contributing countries, will also be conducted.  All current and future African troop-contributing countries will eventually be eligible to benefit from the project.  After participating in the training, the military engineers are expected to deploy to peacekeeping missions, where they will fill critical gaps in current UN engineering capabilities.

**Tobacco

Tomorrow is World No Tobacco Day and our colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO) highlight how tobacco threatens the development of nations worldwide.  Action to stamp out tobacco use can help countries prevent millions of people falling ill and dying from tobacco-related disease, and combat poverty.  But this year, WHO is also presenting a first-ever report on the large-scale environmental degradation caused by tobacco.

**Economic and Social Council

I wanted to flag a couple of things for tomorrow.  The Economic and Social Council will hold a special meeting on “innovations for infrastructure development and promoting sustainable industrialization” to find ways to accelerate the implementation of Goal 9 of the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] in Africa.  More information on the Economic and Social Council website.

**General Assembly

Tomorrow, at 10 a.m., the UN General Assembly will meet to elect the President of the Seventy-second Session of the General Assembly.  The Secretary-General will also be attending and delivering remarks.  Miroslav Lajčák, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, has been nominated for the position of President.  Following the election, the President-elect will hold a brief media stakeout outside the GA Hall at about 11:15 a.m.  More information is gettable from Dan Thomas in the President of the General Assembly’s Office.

**Press Briefings

At 10:30 a.m., there will be a press briefing here sponsored by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service with Save the Children on key factors ending childhood around the world, and how to keep children… childhood intact.  Speakers will be:  Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children; Dr. Jill Biden, Chair of the Board of Trustees of Save the Children; and Marta Santos Pais, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children.

**Honour Roll

Today, we say a very hearty thank you to our friends in Saint Lucia [for paying budget dues in full], who bring us up to 100 and…? Very good.  One-hundred and two.  It's also my cue to take questions from you if you have any.  Well, then, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you. I have two questions. Can you please verify and give me the details of why or what happened exactly for the UN to withdraw its support for a women's centre in the West Bank, okay, if you have the details of what happened exactly.  Who called the United Nations and what was the response of the United Nations, and why, if you can explain it?  And I have a second question, if you want me to…?  The second question, in his briefing, Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov, he spoke about the 10 years of Gaza under the… under Hamas and the miseries that Gaza had been going through, but he failed to mention that Gaza also had been subject to three wars.  He did not mention the three wars, but he mentioned the miseries caused by… which is… and personally, I could… I couldn't agree more with him about the… the kind of rule that Hamas brought to Gaza, but, again, there are three wars that had been launched, devastating wars, com… completely.  And it was not mentioned.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Mr. Mladenov, I think, was very clear in what he said.  The fact that he did not mention the totality of what has befallen on the Gaz… on the residents of Gaza for the last decades doesn't mean he didn't… it doesn't take away from the historical reality.  I think, on the community centre in Burqa, I think my understanding is that UN-Women had supported it along with some bilateral donors.  Once it became clear… once it became known to the UN that the centre was named after someone who had killed dozens of children and civilians, the UN disassociated itself with the project and will make sure that such incidents do not occur in the future.  And I think we stand clearly against the glorification of terrorism.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I noticed that the Secretary‑General's meeting with… finally, with Mish… or Michel Kafando today, and I wanted to ask, there's, over the weekend and increasingly today, reports of this… the ruling party militia in… in… in Burundi training children to denounce Tutsis as lice, and essentially, call for their murder.  And I wanted to know, so, do you have… one, does either Mr. Guterres or Mr. Kafando have a response to this…

Spokesman:  We stand clearly against hate speech.  This is the first occasion for Mr. Kafando to meet with the Secretary‑General in his new role.  He's also having other… whole series of other meetings at headquarters.  And if we have more to share, we will.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you, on Cameroon, you'd said that in May Mr. {Francois] Loncény Fall would be going to the country.  I don't know if that's true.  I know that he's going in early June.  And I just wanted to make sure that… you were referring to this meeting of regional security that seems to be almost entirely about Boko Haram and [Central African Republic].  Is there anything… can you say what his agenda is there and if he's going to raise the Anglophone issue?

Spokesman:  I will check. Kyodo?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I would like to ask you about comfort women issues.   As you know, there was discrepancy between Japanese Foreign Min… Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe and Secretary‑General [António] Guterres on what they said on the agreement between [the Republic of Korea] and Japan on comfort women issues.  Why did it happen?  And, secondly, I'd like to clarify Secretary‑General's position on the agreement.  On December 2015, former Secretary‑General Ban Ki‑moon clearly welcomed the agreement.  Is Mr. Guterres, is the same position now?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  I think we made the Secretary‑General Guterres' position clear in the readout that we issued.  He said… the Secretary‑General agreed that this is a matter… the matter of the agreement is to be solved by an agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea.  The Secretary‑General did not pronounce himself on the content of a specific agreement.  He is not pronouncing himself on the content of any agreement but on the principle that it's up to the two countries to define the nature and content of the solution on this issue.  As for the discrepancies, that's… you know, I can only speak for the Secretary‑General of the United Nations and who he is today, and that's António Guterres.  I cannot speak and I don't speak for people… for the interlocutors that the Secretary‑General meets.  I think it's up to each side to issue a readout of what their principal said.

Question:  What is his position now on agreement…?

Spokesman:  I think… I don't know what other words to use.  I think the Secretary‑General says, first, that it's a matter for the two countries to resolve in agreement.  He agrees on the principle that it's up to the two countries to define the nature and the content of the solution for this issue.

Question:  Is he in the same position to Ban Ki‑moon, Mr. Ban Ki‑moon?

Spokesman:  You know, my limited capacity only allows me to speak to… on one Secretary‑General at a time.  The record for the previous 10 years is transparent and can be looked at.  I speak for Secretary‑General Guterres.  I think I've used up my words to describe his position.  Yeah, in the back.  Yeah, you.  Go ahead.

Question:  My name is Hiromoto from Nippon Television.  I'd like to also ask you about the discussion when SG [Secretary-General] and Mr. Prime Minister Abe.  And, according the press statement on 28 May from UN, SG said to Mr. Prime Minister, regarding… about the special reporters… regarding that report of special reporters, the Secretary‑General told Prime Minister that special reporters are expert on independent and report directly to the Human Right Council.  My question is this statement… is this everything that the SG told the Prime Minister about the special reporters?

Spokesman:  That's the gist and the… and what the Secretary‑General told him.  I mean, the… you know, we talk often about Special Rapporteurs here.  Special Rapporteurs have a critical role to play in the human rights architecture of the UN system.  But, they do not report to the Secretary‑General of the United Nations.  He does not appoint them.  He does not set their mandates.  Their mandates are set by the Human Rights Council.  They're appointed by the Human Rights Council, and they report to the Human Rights Council, and they are independent experts.  That's just a fact.

Question:  I have one more question.  According to the brief made by Japanese Government, they said SG told that the reporter's view do not necessarily reflect opinion… opinion of the United Nations.  Is this true?

Spokesman:  I think I just answered your question.  There are independent rapporteurs who have specific mandates, and they report to the Human Rights Council.  Evelyn?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I wonder if, in the future, when you list the countries who have paid their dues you could give a percentage of… well, what percentage is that among the…?

Spokesman:  Well, each… we can try to do that.  These are the assessed contributions, which are a matter of public record.  I can tell you if I have… how much Saint Lucia paid but I may… no, I don't have that.  But, anyway, it's all a matter of public record, but we can try to get that, as well.

Question:  Yeah, but what percentage of that is…?

Spokesman:  Right.  I don't have the assessment scale in front of me.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Perhaps you can, at one point, add it all up.

Spokesman:  Yes.  Sure.  Stefano?

Question:  Thank you very much.  About, again, the G7 and in Sicily this last weekend, the Secretary‑General spoke.  He spoke about Africa, about them… you know, importance of investment in youth and so on, but in Sicily, he's also the… was a place where actually the migrants' situation is just… you can see.  I don't think from Taormina, because it's a very luxury place, but just few miles away, you see people dying.  So, my question is, Guterres… Secretary‑General was there, that… the seven countries, what… what was his impression?  What did they decide?  Are they aware what's happening?  Are the decisions in line with what should happen? And, if you want, let's say, if he had… if he was a college professor, after this meeting, what grade he will give to this meeting?  On this specific issue.

Spokesman:  I don't think… listen, this…  The Secretary‑General was in Taormina to… at the invitation of the G7 to attend the outreach session, which was focused on Africa, which is… and we put out his remarks.  I think what is clear is that the response to the refugee crisis, the response to the migrant crisis, has been wholly inadequate from the international community.  I mean, we see it with the number of people who continue to die in the Mediterranean, and that is why the Secretary‑General and the UN has put such a great effort on this continuing discussion and compact on the mass movements of people, because it is about, not only dealing with the end result, which is these people… these human beings arriving on these shores having suffered tremendously, but it's also about dealing with the causes, whether it is conflict, whether it's economic, whether it's climate change, transit countries, how transit countries are to help and the overall support the international community gives to refugees and migrants.  Matthew and then Abdelhamid.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask, you… you… you read out this mapping report on the Central African Republic, and I wanted… just wanted to ask you about a section of it where it seemed to say… the English version didn't come up, but the Fren… so I'll ask you in your… in French.  “La politique de tolérance zéro des Nations Unies en ce qui concerne l’exploitation sexuelle n’a pas atteint son but.”  So, even in this report by the UN itself, admittedly, not their major focus, they're saying that the current zero‑tolerance policy hasn't worked.  And, separately, there's a section about Sangaris in there.  Although they say that the troops were exonerated by France, they say that… they say that the Office of the High Commissioner has a database, and they state as a fact that… that money was paid for sex with minors.  So, what is… what's… what's the response of the Secretary‑General to this report?

Spokesman:  I think maybe we don't completely agree on the translation.  “N’a pas atteint son but”, to me, means it hasn't reached its ultimate goal, which is the wiping out of [sexual exploitation and abuse].  I think no one is claiming victory in any way.   I think this report is a tremendously important report, in terms of helping the special court, in terms of helping the Central African authorities start the long process of prosecuting and finding those responsible for crimes against humanity.  I mean, they… and possible war crimes.  I think it outlines over 620 cases.  It's a very important exercise in terms of a message to the victims and in terms of a message to the perpetrators that what they have done has not been forgotten.  All of the cases that are mentioned in the report, including those of committed by international forces and UN forces have been publicly known already, so this has not unearthed new cases.  We are contin… where information is available, there will be… there is follow‑up with Member States on the allegations of violations.  The Member States concerned have been briefed.  And, as we've said, we're continuing to monitor the Member States' responses to those allegations.

Question:  I guess just… and thanks a lot.  I won't get into the translation.  Now I found in… the English section, it says, as a fact, not as a footnote of exoneration, that soldiers of the European Union military mission, the French Sangaris force, the MINUSCA military contingents from different nationalities, engaged in sexual exploitation of children through sexual inter… intercourse in exchange for cash payments.  Some girls became pregnant.  Footnote:  Off the High Commissioner of Human Rights case database.  But, there's no… it's not a live link.  And I guess what I'm wondering is, it seems when you read it that… that the UN knows that these cases are, in fact, true.  They're…?

Spokesman:  We've very often been the first ones to announce these cases.  I mean, no one… and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is responsible for tracking crimes committed by international forces, non‑UN forces.  This is… the report is part of a broader issue of crimes that have gone unpunished in the Central African Republic.  So, I think we welcome this report, and the report brings to light and puts… I think, puts together in a very powerful package the suffering of the people of the Central African Republic.

Question:  Just very specific… and thanks a lot, because I just… I guess what I'm saying is since… in the same paragraph, it says France exonerated all force Sangaris.  And then it says that the UN knows as a fact French Sangaris force engaged in intercase… intercourse for cash payments with minors for money.  What does the UN say?  Are they conf… what do they say about the French legal process…?

Spokesman:  I think what's clear is that those people who may have committed those crimes need to face justice.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  As a follow‑up, Stéphane, my question was also about… how did the UN come to this decision?  Was it by itself, or there was a phone call came from the Israeli foreign ministry…?

Spokesman:  I think it is clear to anyone… it is clear to anyone that we cannot stand for the glorification of terror.  All right.

Question:  But the…?

Spokesman:  That's my answer to your question.

Correspondent:  Yeah, but I'm asking about the…

Spokesman:  I think people found out that the centre had been named after this specific person…

Question:  So, it wasn't based on a demand by Israeli Foreign Minister?

Spokesman:  It is clear that we cannot stand for the glorification of terror.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I actually have one other question, but I wanted… this is something related to that, because here in New York City… I hadn't planned to ask this, but there's a controversy about just this issue, some alleging that the upcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade honoring Oscar López Rivera is a glorification of terrorism.  There's different… so I'm just wondering, since this is the host city, what… does he have any view on that… if it's true that he never accepts it?

Spokesman:  I'm not… this is not…  First of all, the… Abdelhamid was referring to a case which involved the UN directly in terms of UN-Women supported the case.  We have no involvement in the organization of the Puerto Rican Day Parade, and I don't know enough about the case to offer a comment.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you this.  I'd asked you last week about Cristina Gallach speaking in the GA, and you'd said it was in the context of being UNIS [United Nations International School] chair.  On, I guess, 25 May, in… in Barcelona, she spoke as the Under‑Secretary‑General and Special Adviser of the Secretary‑General.  She's listed in that capacity.  Has this post been given to her?

Spokesman:  I believe that is a post she holds until 30 June.  Thank you.  Good day.

For information media. Not an official record.