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

21 September 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.

**General Assembly

The Secretary‑General and the Deputy Secretary‑General are continuing their activities pegged to the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, attending a large number of high-level events and bilateral meetings, and we’ll keep flooding your email boxes with readouts and other statements.

This morning, the Secretary‑General had a working breakfast with the five permanent members of the Security Council at the Foreign Minister level and spoke at a ministerial-level event on youth, peace and security, and a meeting of the High-level Panel on Water.

There will be other events this afternoon, including on South Sudan, Somalia and famine response and prevention.  We’ll provide details as those go on.

**Lake Chad Basin

This morning, the Deputy Secretary‑General participated in a high-level event on the humanitarian situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region.  She said that the widespread violence has left more than 10 million people across the region in need of emergency assistance and called on partners to step up their efforts and help fund the $1.5 billion humanitarian appeal.  Her statement has been made available to you.

**Nepal

I have a statement on Nepal:  The Secretary‑General welcomes the holding of the third phase of the local elections on 18 September and congratulates the people of Nepal for the peaceful conduct of the polls.  This marks a crucial step in the transition towards federalism as enshrined in the 2015 Constitution, and will be followed by elections to State Assemblies and the Federal Parliament.

The Secretary‑General encourages the Government of Nepal and political parties to continue their efforts towards ensuring peaceful and inclusive upcoming elections.  He also encourages all stakeholders to continue the implementation of the Constitution in line with its principles of inclusion and representative governance.  The United Nations stands ready to support such efforts.

**Security Council

Back here, the Security Council this morning unanimously passed a resolution on Da’esh.

The Council requested that the Secretary‑General set up an investigative team to support Iraq’s efforts to hold Da’esh accountable for violations and abuses of international law by collecting, preserving and storing evidence in the country of acts that could amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and possibly genocide.  This new investigative team should be headed by a Special Adviser.  The resolution should be online shortly, if it’s not already.

**Myanmar-Bangladesh

Turning to the ongoing relief efforts in Myanmar and Bangladesh, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] says that the number of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh has reached 429,000 people.

Heavy rains have caused the majority of shelters in low-lying areas to flood, hampering the delivery of aid.

OCHA stresses that funding is urgently needed to scale up aid distribution.

Meanwhile, the UN migration agency [IOM] is airlifting 100 tons of supplies, including food and tents, donated by Saudi Arabia to help Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh.

The supplies are scheduled to arrive early tomorrow morning, and IOM will be organizing a convoy of some 20 trucks to deliver it to Cox’s Bazar.

More than half of the people who have arrived in Bangladesh from Myanmar are still living in makeshift camps with little access to shelter, food, clean water and sanitation, according to IOM.

**Mexico

Turning to Mexico, you will have seen that we issued a statement expressing the Secretary‑General’s sadness at the loss of life and the solidarity with the people and Government of Mexico.  That was two days ago, I believe.

Meanwhile, OCHA tells us that a six-member Disaster Assessment and Coordination [UNDAC] team was deployed to Mexico yesterday in support of the Resident Coordinator and with the agreement of the Government.

The team will assist with assessments, information management and the coordination of the various search and rescue teams in the country.

**Hurricane Maria

As for Hurricane Maria, UN teams are ready to deploy to islands should they be impacted and request assistance.

We have deployed teams to assist regional and national authorities in assessing the storm’s impact, identifying immediate humanitarian needs, and coordinating the distribution of pre-positioned UN stocks.

And of course, humanitarian partners continue to work and coordinate with regional organizations and local governments throughout the countries impacted by Irma, the hurricane that hit previously.

A new website has been created with more details at unocha.org.

**Environment

Our colleagues at UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] have announced a partnership with Discovery Communications to raise awareness about the planet’s most pressing environmental challenges and to highlight innovative solutions to address them.

Together, both partners will develop original content about nature with a strong conservation angle, empowering individuals and communities to make a difference.  The content will be distributed through broadcast and online channels of both Discovery Communications and the United Nations.

**Children

I also want to flag a new report by UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] entitled Early Moments Matter for Every Child.  It finds that only 15 countries worldwide have three essential national policies that support families with young children.

These policies include offering families two years of [free] pre-primary education; paying breastfeeding breaks for new mothers for the first six months; and adequately paying parental leave.

The report notes that Cuba, France, Portugal, Russia and Sweden are among the countries that guarantee all three policies.

However, 85 million children under 5 are growing up in 32 countries without any of the three critical policies in place.  40 per cent of those 85 million children live in just two countries — Bangladesh and the United States.  More information online.

**Agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] issued its quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report today.

It says that robust harvests in Latin America and rebounding agricultural conditions in Southern Africa are on course to improve the global food supply situation.

However, ongoing civil conflicts and climate-related shocks are affecting progress towards hunger reduction.

Some 37 countries require external assistance for food.

**Peace Day

Today is the International Day of Peace.  The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

In his message for the Day, the Secretary‑General said that “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights, let us build bridges, let us transform fear into hope.”

**Honour Roll

Today, we welcome Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the Honour Roll as they have both paid their regular budget dues in full, bringing us up to 131 Member States.

**Press Briefings

As I mentioned, Brenden [Varma] will brief us right after this.

At 2:30 p.m., in this room, there will be a press conference by the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

3 p.m., at the General Assembly Stakeout on the third floor, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico.

And then at 3:15 p.m., back here in this room, there will be a press conference by the UN Industrial Development Organization [UNIDO] on the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa.

We will be sending an updated list of tomorrow’s press conferences as we get them.

**Questions and Answers

Khalas.  Oleg?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  On the resolution adopted by the Security Council, is the Secretary‑General concerned that it covers only ISIS crimes and does not cover the crimes… possible crimes committed by the Iraqi forces, security forces, Kurdish forces, and International Coalition?

Spokesman:  You know, I think, for… when you’re dealing with possible… with incidents that involve possible crimes, international crimes by Governments or the coalition, there are mechanisms and responsibilities that are in place to ensure… or to at least work towards accountability.  I think, when you’re dealing with organisations like Da’esh, it’s a different framework.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Follow-up.  Would you welcome adopting such resolution, for example, in Syria?

Spokesman:  I think we would welcome any effort… and, first of all, if I’m not mistaken, in Syria, there already is an accountability mechanism in place that’s been…

Question:  I mean by the Security Council, which is…

Spokesman:  I think we would welcome any efforts that would strengthen the accountability and help bring justice to those civilians who have suffered through years and years of war.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure. I don’t know if you have anything on this yet, but President [Donald] Trump has just announced additional sanctions on financial institutions that facilitate trade with North Korea, and I wanted to know whether the… the Secretary‑General… and he’s spoken a lot on the topic.  Does he believe that this is a… a positive step towards resolving…

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen personally the report.  I think the Secretary‑General’s position on North Korea was made fairly explicit by him in his speech to the General Assembly.

Question:  Speaking of speeches to the General Assembly, the President of Haiti, Mr. [Jovenel] Moise, said in his speech… devoted a quite a bit of it to the UN following through on what the Secretary‑General announced about the new approach, and he named specifically the two tracks and said the money should begin to come. I wanted to know, can you give any update on money that actually has been devoted thus far?  And, number two, has Josette Sheeran been operating during this General Assembly week to try to…

Spokesman:  Yes, very much so.  I mean, she’s been having… I know she’s been having meetings.  She, I think, will participate in the meeting of the Secretary‑General with the Haitian leader.  I don’t think I have an updated figure for you on the money.  What is clear is that the money… we’re continually trying to raise money, but already the country team has spent quite a lot of… and deployed quite a lot of resources on the issue, even before this new approach has been announced.

Question:  Can she do some kind of a… Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé, to his credit, did a stakeout.  Could she do some sort of a press availability?

Spokesman:  I think she’ll probably do some sort of a press availability in the weeks ahead.  Okay.  Yes, sir?

Question:  [inaudible] from Quartz.  On Myanmar, you’d mentioned that your humanitarian colleagues were trying to figure out a financial number of how much money would be required.  Do you have a number…?

Spokesman:  I do not have that number as of yet.

Question:  Okay.  And a second question on Myanmar: the Indian Government has told the Supreme Court that it’s not going to adhere to the policy of non-refoulement with regard to Rohingya refugees and has again raised concerns about the terror threat that Rohingya refugees face.  As the crisis in Myanmar mounts, are you disappointed by the approach that the Indian Government’s taken?

Spokesman:  We believe that every Government, whether or not they’re a signatory to the Refugee Convention, should treat people fleeing conflict, who are fleeing because their lives are at risk, with the utmost respect.  And people should not be sent out… sent back facing risks and… and putting their lives… when they have their lives at risk.  Now, obviously, this is not to say that countries [don’t] have a responsibility to ensure that their populations remain safe, but there are overarching… we believe there are overarching principles that need to be held up.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Ask you about… about Burundi.  There’s been… two things.  The… the Secretary-General of the ruling party, CNDD‑FDD [National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy] has been quoted saying that… that if the UN deploys the 228 police officers that were mandated by the Security Council, quote, we will fight and annihilate them in two hours.  This is, again… it’s… it’s a ruling party.  It’s not an NGO [non-governmental organization] or a gang.  So, I wanted to know, what’s the response… I’ve been trying to find Mr. [Michel] Kafando.  What’s the response of the UN system to a direct threat to annihilate them?

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen the exact quote.  We, unfortunately, know where the issue of the deployment stands despite a unanimous resolution of the Security Council.

Question:  And I pre… I’d asked you about Vivian van de Perre previously.  She was supposed to be the head of the office in Bujumbura.  I’ve now heard that the UN has basically taken her name off the table and given in to the Government not wanting to give her a visa.  Is it… can you find out if that’s true?  And, if so, how does the UN decide when to kind of go public on the restrictions on the… the… on its staff being deployed as has… as, for example, in Sudan, and in this case…

Spokesman:  It would be on a case-by-case basis.  I’ll try to find the situation.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  Can you elaborate further?  I know that you had said the Secretary‑General asked again for the release of the former UN official to President [Hassan] Rouhani.  Are you… can you elaborate in what the response was or…

Spokesman:  No, I mean, I speak for one side.  I can tell you that this is an issue the Secretary‑General brought up on a humanitarian basis asking for Mr. Baquer [Namazi]’s release.  We now have to wait and see.  We very much hope that he will be released.

Question:  Are you updated at all on his condition?  I know he recently received a pacemaker.

Spokesman:  I think, on that, you should speak to our colleagues at UNICEF.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I have some other, but I want to be sure to ask this one during this week of… of these bilats.  I’d wanted… you’d said previously that you’re not… the media centre c’est ne pas vous.  Okay.  But I do want to know, is there a UN role in these bilaterals?  Some of them have been taking place in [room] GA200.  And so, you know, they say it’s pooled.  It’s too small.  It has to go cover the one about Egypt.  I wasn’t allowed to.  But what I want to ask is, who does decide that?  Because my understanding is actually an Egyptian State media went to it without a camera or anything else.  And so it’s not specific to that so much as to say whether it’s you or the Secretariat, given that these are meetings of the Secretary‑General, if he meets with a Government, who decides who gets to cover it?  I understand there may be limitations, but even within those limitations…

Spokesman:  When there are space limitations, a pool is organized, and I think there’s an agreement with UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] to provide a non-… one non-visual reporter to do colour for each meeting.

Question:  But do you think it’s appropriate that that be a media that’s controlled by the very Government…

Spokesman:  I think what’s appropriate is that it’s a decision taken by the Correspondents Association.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.