Tomorrow is, no surprise, the start of the General Assembly. We will have Brenden Varma, speaking on behalf of the PGA [President of the General Assembly], brief you as soon as I am done. The Secretary-General does expect to have a busy week: we so far have more than 130 bilateral meetings scheduled through next Monday. And he will have about 34 major speaking events this week. We will be sharing these remarks as we go.
And we will be trying to get you an embargoed copy of his speech for tomorrow to have it ahead of time. Obviously, he will kick off the new session with a speech laying out his priorities for this General Assembly session, and you can watch all that live.
**United Nations Reform
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at a high-level meeting on reform organized by the United States. He said that to serve the people we support and the people who support us, we must be nimble and effective, flexible and efficient.
The Secretary-General highlighted reform efforts that are currently under way, citing the strategy to end sexual exploitation and abuse, as well as plans to achieve greater gender parity in the UN, protect whistle-blowers, and strengthen counter-terrorism structures.
The Secretary-General also said that reforming our peace and security architecture is to ensure we are stronger in prevention, more agile in mediation, and more effective and cost-effective in peacekeeping operations — as well as the development system to become much more field-focused, well-coordinated and accountable.
To underpin all these efforts, we are pursuing sweeping management reform to simplify procedures and decentralize decisions, with greater transparency, efficiency and accountability.
The Secretary-General stressed that the true test of reform will not be measured in words in New York or world capitals. It will be measured through tangible results in the lives of the people we serve, and the trust of those who support our work through their hard-earned resources. Value for money while advancing shared values — this is our common goal, he added.
He also spoke at the high-level event for financing the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs]. He said that the world has the resources to deliver the 2030 Agenda, and that the international community must ensure that these resources are delivered where they are needed most.
The Secretary-General stressed that while globalization has brought extraordinary benefits, it remains fundamentally unequal, and these unequal gains are reflected in peoples’ fears, anxieties and outright anger. Financing for development must help developing countries attract innovative finance and gain greater access to financial markets and private investment, he added.
The Secretary-General also announced a finance summit, which will be held in New York in September 2018.
And he just spoke at a high-level stakeholder event and dialogue on climate change, which brings a number of stakeholders on climate change, especially leaders at the governmental, regional and subregional levels.
He said that when countries adopted the Paris Agreement, they rose to a global challenge, but now we have an even bigger one: raising ambition and staying the course.
He called on all actors to step up climate action before it’s too late, and highlighted examples of solutions that are already making a difference around the world. He added that the UN is ready to assist countries in tackling climate change and reiterated his commitment to host a climate summit in 2019 in September for this purpose.
He will be addressing shortly an event on support to the millions of people across the Caribbean affected by Hurricane Irma.
He will welcome the Regional Response Plan that has been developed with the support of national and regional disaster management agencies.
On that note, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, yesterday allocated $10 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund [CERF] to help the tens of thousands of people impacted by this disaster.
In addition, our colleagues at the World Food Programme [WFP] have launched a $5. million emergency operation in Cuba to provide food assistance for four months to 660,000 people. The announcement came during a two-day visit by the Executive Director of WFP, David Beasley, to the impacted communities in the island.
And finally, the UN Migration Agency [IOM] has appealed for $4.95 million dollars to help rebuild communities affected by Irma as well as Hurricane José in the Caribbean region, Cuba and the United States.
Turning to Myanmar and Bangladesh, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, despite continued advocacy efforts for unhindered humanitarian access, the UN and its partners are not being granted access by the Government to areas in Myanmar’s Rakhine State where there are still security operations ongoing.
As a result, the UN cannot independently verify reports of continued violations of human rights of people fleeing the area, as well as of the number of people who have been uprooted or are on the move.
It is estimated that some 415,000 people have crossed into Bangladesh since 25 August. More than 170,000 people are reportedly not able to access primary health services. Nearly 300,000 people, including 154,000 children under the age of five and nearly 55,000 pregnant women, require additional food assistance. Funding is urgently needed to support and scale up existing services, as well as to set up new services across different sites.
At the start of the school year, the World Food Programme is warning that more than 1.5 million vulnerable children across West and Central Africa risk going to school hungry or dropping out altogether, due to lack of financing for its school meals programme.
Altogether, WFP’s regional programme faces a $76 million funding gap. The repercussions are dramatic, since the WFP-provided lunches and snacks are the only meal some of these youngsters get.
That’s the case in conflict-torn Central African Republic, where the school meals programme, aimed to reach more than 200,000 youngsters, is only half funded. Yet a more critical case is Burkina Faso’s programme, reaching nearly 83,000 children, and zero per cent financed. Other particularly at-risk countries include Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
Studies show the meals help improve attendance and performance rates. They are also a key incentive for parents to send their children, particularly girls, to school.
From Syria, we are calling on all parties to the Syrian conflict to ensure the protection of civilians from the effects of violence in eastern Deir Ezzour, following increased reports of civilian deaths and injuries due to airstrikes in recent days.
We call on all parties to do their utmost to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians in the conduct of military operations and strictly follow international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions in and from the effects of attack.
On 14 September alone, dozens of civilians were reportedly killed following a number of airborne strikes in several locations in the eastern part of Deir Ezzour Governorate.
You will have seen that yesterday we issued a statement on the recent vote in the Parliament of the Kurdistan of Iraq.
In it, the Secretary-General said that he believes that any unilateral decision to hold a referendum at this time would detract from the need to defeat Da’esh, as well as the much-needed reconstruction of the regained territories and the facilitation of a safe, voluntary and dignified return of more than 3 million refugees and internally displaced people.
The Secretary-General respects the sovereignty, territorial integrity and unity of Iraq and considers that all outstanding issues between the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government should be resolved through structured dialogue and constructive compromise.
The Secretary-General calls upon the leaders across Iraq to approach this matter with patience and restraint. The UN stands ready to help these efforts.
Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has welcomed the recent statement by Hamas announcing the dissolving of the Administrative Committee in Gaza and its agreement to allow the Government of National Consensus to assume its responsibilities in Gaza.
In a statement yesterday, Mr. Mladenov commended the Egyptian authorities for their tireless efforts in creating this positive momentum. All parties must seize this opportunity to restore unity and open a new page for the Palestinian people.
The UN stands ready to assist all efforts in this respect. It is critical that the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza, most notably the crippling electricity crisis, be addressed as a priority.
Last night, here in New York, our colleagues from the UN Development Programme [UNDP] honoured the 15 winners of their Equator Prize, which recognizes the work of communities that are helping to protect the environment and tackle climate change.
This year’s winners come from 12 countries and addressed issues like biodiversity conservation, climate change adaptation, and many others. Full list of winners on UNDP website.
Just to note that the International Atomic Energy Agency's [IAEA] sixty-first General Conference today approved by acclamation the appointment of Director General Yukiya Amano to a further four-year term of office, which will commence on 1 December 2017.
A senior appointment to flag: the Secretary-General has appointed Bintou Keita of Guinea as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. She will succeed El Ghassim Wane of Mauritania, to whom the Secretary‑General reiterates his deep gratitude and appreciation for his dedicated service to the organization.
Ms. Keita joined the UN in 1989. Since 2015, she has been serving as Deputy Joint Special Representative for the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur [UNAMID]. Her bio is in my office.
Today, before the start of the General Assembly, we extend our thanks to Côte d’Ivoire and El Salvador who have now paid their budget dues in full bringing [the Honour Roll] up to the magical number of 129.
A couple of press encounters to flag: 2:30 p.m., at the GA Stakeout on the third floor, there will be a press encounter by Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner for Trade on the launch of the Alliance for Torture-Free Trade.
At 6 p.m., back in this briefing room, there will be a briefing by Norio Maruyama, Spokesperson for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
And at 8 p.m., at the GA Stakeout, there will be a press encounter by the Foreign Minister of Norway, His Excellency Mr. [Børge] Brende.
Just to remind you that we do not expect a noon briefing, we will post the highlights online. Obviously, we will share the schedule for press encounters — and also a reminder that this afternoon, there will be the special high-level event on preventing sexual abuse and exploitation hosted by the Secretary-General. We will be putting out a press release after that.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, regarding the high—level meeting today about the reform, UN reform, it was striking that the meeting was very short, and the Secretary‑General spoke second, actually, and not first, what is unusual, if I'm not mistaken; and why there were no other High Representatives who spoke at the meeting?
Spokesman: Sure. First of all, with… the meeting was not hosted by the Secretary‑General. It was hosted and led by the United States, co-hosted by a number of other nations. So, since it's not the Secretary‑General's meeting, I think there's nothing to be read into the fact that the Secretary‑General spoke after the host of the meeting. I would add that the Secretary‑General was very happy to participate in this meeting and was very receptive to the words delivered by the President of the United States. As to why other countries did not speak, again, that's a question for the host. And that's the way it was organized. The Secretary‑General was a guest, an honoured guest, we would hope, and… voila. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Two things about… one about Myanmar and also about Yemen. In Myanmar, I guess I want… I wanted to know, I've… over the… the weekend, I heard from some people that work in the Department of Political Affairs [DPA], and I wanted to get you to respond to this, the idea being that the Secretary‑General has been urged for some time, in fact months, to be more vocal or be more active on the issue of the plight of the Rohingya and that, at least at an earlier stage, his analysis was that this might put Aung San Suu Kyi in a difficult decision with the military. Is that… is that an accurate depiction? And, if so, what… obviously, the… the… has the plight changed so much, or does he think he might have gotten involved earlier?
Spokesman: I would say it's an accurate description. I think anyone who would have read or seen the Secretary‑General's statements on the situation in Myanmar over the last two weeks could only say that he's being vocal and being extremely vocal on the situation. There is a time for diplomatic engagement. There's a time for speaking out more loudly. There's a time for speaking out loudly and remaining engaged diplomatically. The Secretary‑General has a number of tools in his kit, and he uses them as he sees fit.
Question: And has he spoken to Aung San Suu Kyi since…
Spokesman: Not since about ten days ago. We, obviously, very much are looking forward to hearing what she will have to say in the speech she's scheduled to deliver, I think it's about Tuesday in Myanmar, and I think late tonight here in New York.
Question: Sure. And on Yemen, I wanted to ask, I'd also heard that… that… and… and on the issue of the envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, that… that his contract was expiring 20 September and that the decision was made to extend it until February. Given… there's… one, I just want to know factually if that’s true. And, if he has been extended, is this… does… did the Secretary‑General consider the fact that it seems to be difficult for him to communicate with those in power… de facto authorities in Sana’a and…
Spokesman: We… we've… I'm not aware of the contractual basis of our envoy. What I do know is Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed is our envoy, continues to be our envoy for the foreseeable future, and the Secretary‑General fully backs him and the effort… and his efforts. Mr. Klein?
Question: Yes. Regarding the Kurds…
Spokesman: Regarding the?
Question: The Kurds.
Spokesman: Yes, sir.
Question: Is the Secretary‑General essentially saying that the desire for self-determination on the part of the Kurds should take second place to this notion of the territorial integrity and unity of Iraq, or is he just saying that's something that should be postponed, the referendum postponed? I mean, it…
Spokesman: The issue of self-determination is enshrined in the Charter. The Secretary‑General, as the leader of this Organization, obviously, respects the Charter. I think the statement is fairly clear. For the Secretary‑General, Iraq is at a very difficult and critical time. He understands the issues on both sides, and he feels that they are best resolved at this very time through a constructive and positive dialogue between the authorities in Erbil and the central Government in Baghdad.
Question: But if the Iraqi authorities refuse to consider the idea of a referendum that includes self-determination as one option, then… then what… I mean, I guess, what… where do we go from there? I mean, are the Kurds then supposed to just, you know, wait forever to realize their own aspirations or self-determination, or is it just a matter of postponing this until Da’esh is defeated? I guess I'm not understanding the priority.
Spokesman: I think where we go… we can only go from where we are. I'm not going speculate to where we may be. For the Secretary‑General, he feels that, at this point in time, these issues need to be raised and dealt with in a constructive dialogue by both the central authorities in Baghdad and the authorities in Kurdistan. Mr. Arikat, welcome to this briefing.
Question: Thank you. Thank you for taking my question. I wanted to ask you, very quickly, on Syria. You mentioned the area of bombardment in eastern Syria. Do you know who did that? Is it the international coalition led by the United States, or is it the Syrian Air Force?
Spokesman: We have no way of independently verifying at this point who does the bombardment. The focus right now is on the suffering of the people themselves who are on the receiving end of these bombardments, regardless of who manufactures the armaments or who drops it. Evelyn?
Question: May I just follow up very quickly on something that you did not mention, which is the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]? The Americans keep saying that Iran is complying with the… with the text or with the technical aspect but not with the spirit. Do you see it that way? Is that how the United Nations sees it? And what is the spirit?
Spokesman: For the JCPOA, the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] has done its reporting, and they're in the lead. And it's not for the Secretary‑General to second-guess that reporting. There is a mechanism through which he also reports to the Security Council, and he will… he has done so and will continue to do so. From our point of view, we regard the agreement as a key diplomatic achievement in recent years for this region, and we feel that everything should be done to support it and to keep this agreement. Evelyn?
Question: Could you go over the numbers for Myanmar again? Four hundred and fifty have crossed or 415?
Spokesman: Four… 415 [thousand]. We'll give you all the… we'll… just so there's no confusion, we'll give out the numbers.
Question: And the 170, no access to health care, is that in Bangladesh or…
Spokesman: Yes, this is in Bangladesh. What the point…
Spokesman: Our point is that we do not have the access we need in Rakhine State. The numbers we're giving is for what is going on in Bangladesh. Yes, sir, and then… go ahead, and then we'll move to the right after we're done with the left.
Question: It's been a practice that the United Nations issues a statement on the anniversaries of massacres, like Srebrenica, for example. Those days, the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, and why there is no statement on this occasion? Thank you.
Spokesman: I think a lack of a statement does not lessen our memory for those who perished. Yes, ma'am?
Question: [inaudible]. Alexandra from AP.
Spokesman: Sure. You need to press your microphone, Alexandra.
Question: Alexandra from AP. I wanted to know if there was… if there was any development in the UN looking into the allegation… the Code Blue allegations about the sexual abuse cases and what they called a failure of the UN to properly investigate those cases, especially the failure to invest… to interview some of the victims. I was wondering if you could describe what the UN is doing to look into those allegations and if anything has been done in the last few days, especially since they've come up right ahead of this meeting this afternoon about the same subject. Thanks.
Spokesman: Sure. What I can tell you… and bear with me, because the information I got was a little… is a bit wordy, but it is very important. We've seen the information provided by AIDS-Free World, which alleges a series of lapses in the investigations. As repeatedly stressed by the Secretary‑General, we will not tolerate anyone committing or condoning sexual exploitation and abuse. We, obviously, take these matters extremely seriously and are committed to transparency in all cases. A preliminary inquiry by the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has indicated that all 14 allegations refer to the incidents that took place in 2015 and '16. Thirteen of these originated from the military police components of the peacekeeping Mission and related to fact-finding activities following receipt of information regarding possible instances of sexual exploitation and abuse by Mission military personnel, while the last one was brought to the attention of us through AIDS-Free World’s report itself. MINUSCA was able to establish that 7 of the 14 case files disclosed in the report are already recorded in the Misconduct Tracking System maintained by the Department of Field Support (DFS) and were, in fact, acted upon. Two of these are not listed in the public website as information on possible sexual exploitation and abuse was deemed insufficient to warrant further investigation. Our colleagues at the UN Mission have requested a full-fledged investigation to be conducted into six of these allegations as well as into the ones brought to its attention by Code Blue. A formal referral of… to the concerned Member States is in process to ensure that offenders are held accountable by their respective countries of origin, while strengthening support measures for victims. MINUSCA has also taken immediate measures to ensure that all Heads of the Mission component are reminded of the UN's procedures on reporting misconducts and investigations directly to the Head of the Mission. The Mission's Conduct and Discipline Team works closely with and regularly reminds the National Investigations Officers from troop— and police—contributing countries of their responsibilities to strictly follow the highest investigation standards in order to minimize further trauma on victims. A full investigation into the matter is being prepared by the Mission with the support of OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], and the results will be made available to you. I will give that to you in writing as well, because that was a lot of words. Go ahead.
Question: [inaudible] Did you determine whether the victims were, in fact, not interviewed and…
Spokesman: I think they're… they're… my understanding is that they're looking into these cases. Some of them were, in fact… were in our tracking system. Two of them… this deemed to be insufficient information, my understanding is that the mission is then going… looking back at the cases raised by Code Blue, and we'll update you as we can.
Question: [inaudible] Will they look back at these two cases that were…
Spokesman: They will look back into these cases.
Question: So, like, for example, for these two that were deemed insufficient, were the victims interviewed?
Spokesman: That… I don't have that information. I will try to see if I can find it. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Hi. Elizabeth Joseph with CNN. Does the Secretary‑General have meetings scheduled with the visiting North Korean delegations?
Spokesman: He will… he's expected to meet the Foreign Minister of the DPRK at this point.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Thank you. I have a question, but before a follow‑up with the first question about the meeting… the conference today. Was the Secretary‑General surprised how short it was? I mean, President [Donald] Trump spoke a little bit more than four minutes. I mean, was he surprised…
Spokesman: No. Again, this was not our meeting. Right? We were invited to speak. The Secretary‑General was invited to speak. He, of course, was delighted to be involved in this meeting. I think a large number of Member States signed on to the declaration. As to the length of the meeting, I think those are questions for the organizers…
Question: But, like…
Spokesman: I spoke to the Secretary‑General afterwards. I caught up with him. He was all smiles, and he was very happy.
Question: Okay. So my question is, there was, just an hour ago, a stakeout of the foreign… Italian Foreign Minister, Mr. [Angelino] Alfano, here, and I had a question, like, how the journalists on the Libya situation about the migrants issue, the human rights aspect. And my question was how… the timing, because the Foreign Minister, the Italian Foreign Minister, has been repeating — UN will have to intervene more in Libya as far as to do with the humanitarian affair. We expect the UN will… the mission of the UN will get bigger on that side. So, my question was on him on the timing. I said, okay, you've been talking about that, but when this is going to happen, because at the moment, the people are dying there because they are not… you know, they stopped; they're not able anymore to cross. And he say, well, Italy's not the UN…
Spokesman: Stefano, what's the question?
Question: The question is, Italy's not the UN and practically just keep saying, you know, we hope this happens soon. So who is really… you know, who is in charge at this point to make sure that this UN Mission in Libya [UNSMIL] will be able to take care more about the migrants there? They are in condition that the humanitarian condition are very, very bad and…
Spokesman: You know, obviously, we're all very aware of the political situation in Libya. I think the Secretary‑General is rather bullish on trying to… on his thoughts on finding a positive outcome. The focus is on political stability returning to Libya. Obviously, creating the environment in which the UN Mission can return and operate fully with a full country team that can help support the Libyan Government, the Libyan authorities, in providing the humanitarian help to all those people who are trying to make the crossing or who are stuck in Libya and who deserve to be helped in dignity and with all the possible help we can give them. Right behind you. We're going to move down the line.
Question: Yes. Modibo from Voice of America. Yes. Do you think that the G5 [Group of Five] countries have the tools and means to fight the trans-border crimes with the kind of mandate they have from the UN?
Spokesman: I… sorry. Okay. The… what is clear is that the G5 countries are in the front lines of fighting extremism in the region, and it's not just a mandate, but it will also be the technical and financial support that the international community is able to give them. They will not be able to do it on their own, and the UN and the international community needs to support them as much as possible. Yeah, right in front of you.
Question: Two-part question on Myanmar. Remember Secretary‑General last week, and he said, until now, all communication with the Myanmar Government had sort of fallen on deaf ears. Has he actually sort of been able to gain any traction in that conversation over the last few days? And the second thing about the humanitarian situation in… in Bangladesh, has the Government reached out for… for more aid and more support? And does the UN have a plan to actually ramp up, including making any sort of clear financial allocations?
Spokesman: The… our humanitarian colleagues are scrambling, in the best possible sense of the term, to try to get as much aid there as quickly as possible. I mean, the numbers that I keep reading are staggering, if you stop to think about those numbers for just a second. When you talk about the number of pregnant women, the number of children under 5, I mean, it's… they're just numbers being read out here, but when you think about each of those numbers represent an individual who has trekked through very hard conditions to get someplace. We know that Bangladesh with the recent floods is also facing its own difficulties. Our humanitarian colleagues are putting a plan together which will need substantial financial support from the international community and is working hand in hand with the authorities in Bangladesh to try to get as much support on… on site — water, food, social services. I mean, we talked last… I think, last week about World Health Organization [WHO] vaccinating tens of thousands of children against polio and measles. I mean, this mass movement of people creates all sorts of challenges in public health, in education, in access to water. So, we're working very closely with the authorities in Myanmar. On your first part, as I said, there's been no other phone call between the Secretary‑General and Aung San Suu Kyi. I think he has made his position and his message very clearly and very publicly. He told… he was speaking in an interview last week where he said he really thought this… the upcoming statement by Aung San Suu Kyi is almost the last chance to try to reverse the situation. Obviously, he made a call to… for a halt of military and security operations. It seems that… I wouldn't say that that call has been heeded. We will, obviously, listen very closely to what she has to say. Oleg?
Question: Just a quick follow‑up. Is there an estimation of how much will be required…
Spokesman: No, I can't. It will be a large amount. I don't have an estimate right now. Oleg?
Question: Stéphane, thanks. Can you confirm that Secretary‑General is going to meet [Sergey] Lavrov after his speech addressed to the GA? And what are they going to discuss? Are they going to discuss Ukraine, Syria, what other issues? And, also, while meeting President [Petro] Poroshenko, what message Secretary‑General is going to convey to him? Is he going to try to mediate something between these two countries? Thank you.
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General will meet Foreign Minister Lavrov. I don't have the exact time and date, but I know that bilateral is scheduled to discuss. We'll be putting a readout afterwards, but I think, as you can imagine, there are a number of pressing issues to discuss with the Russian Federation — Syria, Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East in general and many others. And, as for Ukraine, I would say… I would wait for the readout, as well. Adam?
Question: Yeah, just a follow‑up on Yemen. I know you said you… you weren't sure if the Special Envoy there had had his contract extended, but I just wanted to ask it from a different angle. Are we expecting a personnel change in the next few weeks? And, if not, is there concern that he's apparently still not able to speak to the Houthi rebels in that area?
Spokesman: No, no personnel change that I'm aware, and the Special Envoy continues to have contacts on various parties and various sides. Abdelhamid, then Matthew.
Question: Thank you. I have two questions. One on Western Sahara about the whereabouts of Mr. [Horst] Köhler. In a statement attributed to the Spokesman, he said that he's going to the region to visit various parts of that concerned area, so if you can tell us more about his travel schedule. And the second, there is a report that Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov will submit a report to the Quartet and beyond, which is called the Contact Group, and he would be assessing the peaceful settlement and how it is has been not moving forward 50 years after occupation and 25… 24 years after Oslo.
Spokesman: I'll check on the report. I've not heard. Your first question, I believe Mr. Köhler was here, and I don't have any schedule to announce on his travel. Obviously, it's his wish to go. As soon as we have a date, we will let you know.
I do… I was handed a statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC], which I will read out. The Secretary‑General condemns the killing of a Tanzanian peacekeeper serving with the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) on 17 September in Mamundioma in North Kivu Province. This happened following a clash with suspected members of armed groups, the Allied Democratic Forces. Another peacekeeper was also injured during the incident.
The Secretary‑General offers his condolences to the friends and families of the deceased and the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania. He wishes a speedy recovery to the injured and urges the authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to swiftly investigate the incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The Secretary‑General calls on all armed groups in the DRC to cease violence and avoid further deterioration of the security situation in the country.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. Follow‑up on Western Sahara. Then I want to ask about Burundi, Cameroon and the media centre. But, on Western Sahara, I wanted to ask you this. I'd heard that Mr. Köhler, when he got the post, there was, obviously, some delay in it being formalized but that he was able to put… well, able… that he placed two long—time staff members of his own as a P5 and a P3 staff member. And I want… I just wanted to know — maybe I'm wrong — is that how it works in the UN? If you're appointed as an envoy…
Spokesman: No, what has happened on this is that we're in the process of recruiting staff for his office, which have, however, not been selected yet. The selection process will take place on the basis of relevant professional experience, required educational background only in accordance with the established Secretariat recruitment procedures. All positions are publicly advertised through the UN website.
Question: Okay. I wanted to ask you about… when you said DRC, I thought you were going to speak on this, but there were 36 Burundian refugees that were killed in the DRC over the weekend. And it's… people are pretty upset about it, and they say they can't… it seems like… one, do you know… does you or MONUSCO have any idea whether it was, as reported, Congolese Government forces who killed the refugees, or was it, in fact, Burundian forces dressed as Congolese? And… and what… has Mr. [Michel] Kafando, if he is, in fact, here for the week, what's his view of this… it's a lot of people.
Spokesman: No, I know… I have some information for you on that from… from our colleagues on the ground. We'll share it with you by email. He later said that we are concerned by reports that at least 36 Burundian refugees were killed and 117 injured by the Congolese security forces during clashes in South Kivu. We condemn the violence and recall that the defence and security forces have an obligation to use force only as a last resort.
Question: Okay. And on Cameroon, I just wanted to ask you, there… I know there was a statement about the… the release of some Anglophone prisoners, but there's since been the… even the country's own National Commission on Human Rights was denied access to prisons. And there's a video circulating of 12 people in an underground prison, Anglophone, nonviolent secessionists, I… the Government calls them but… is… does… is the UN continuing to follow this, or do they feel that… that… that, with… with the release of some Anglophone prisoners, the issue is solved?
Spokesman: The issue is not solved, and we continue to follow it. Last question.
Question: And the final thing… yeah, absolutely. And this is a… this is a… for the media centre, I wanted to ask you because not… it's… this is UNGA [United Nations General Assembly] week. So, it was said that there are no assigned seats. It's not true. Obviously, companies come with big equipment. No problem. But I did want to ask about the appropriateness of a staff member of the French presidency taking over whole rows of the media centre for the travelling press corps of France. I know it's happened in this room, and you said it was… I think you said it was…
Spokesman: Matthew, as Louis XIV would not have said, the media centre c’est ne pas moi. Do that's… I'm not going to address those questions. Last question. Then we'll go to Brenden.
Question: Thank you. [inaudible] in Germany. I'd like to ask you something Trump said this morning about the staff members and the squeezing of money for the United Nations. He said, like, the budget has increased by 140 per cent, and the staff has more than doubled since 2000 and now, quote, we're not seeing the result in line with this investment, is what Mr. Trump said. Does the Secretary‑General agree with this statement? And…
Spokesman: I think we're…
Question: Second question is, is this issue about reforming United Nations the most important? Maybe Trump's… Trump sees it like this, maybe most important issue. Is that what Mr. General‑Secretary also agrees on?
Spokesman: I'm sorry, what's the last… I didn't understand the last part of the question.
Question: [inaudible] Does Secretary‑General agrees on this issue that maybe the reform agenda is most important? That…
Spokesman: Well, I think the reform agenda is a force multiplier. Right? For the Secretary‑General to get the reform agenda approved and blessed by the Member States is a way to ensure that the UN is more effective and is more cost-effective and delivers on what we need to do, whether in peacekeeping, in development, in humanitarian aid, in all the areas that we… so, it is the… it can be the catalyst for greater improvement. I think what… as I said, the Secretary‑General was very pleased at the meeting today, and I think he very much… we listened to President Trump and his, I think, oft remark that the UN has great potential. I think we saw it as a very positive speech. On the note of positive, I will leave you in the hands of my colleague, Mr. Varma, on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.