Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters

SG/SM/18580
20 June 2017

Press Conference by Secretary-General António Guterres at United Nations Headquarters

Following is a transcript of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ press conference, held in New York today:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your presence.

Today, World Refugee Day, is, as you can imagine, a day full of emotions for me.  It is impossible to be ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, doing my best to try to help the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, without changing your life.  And, indeed, not only witnessing the suffering of people but also learning [about] the extraordinary courage, resilience and capacity to permanently generate hope of refugees is something that has changed my perspective of the world and, to a large extent, changed my life.  And this was the reason why I became candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever.  But it is important to say that refugee protection is not a matter of solidarity or generosity, refugee protection is an obligation under international law — the ‘51 Convention and many regional instruments of binding nature.  And, as a matter of fact, during the ten years in which I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I have to say that, by large, international law was respected.  Borders were, in general, open, very few situations where refugees were rejected or sent back to their countries of origin, where they might face persecution — what is technically called refoulement.  The number of resettlement opportunities offered by developed countries for refugees living in camps and other dramatic situations in the developing world has doubled during those ten years and there was, in general, a strong acceptance by Member States that refugee protection was something that was needed and had to be granted.

The situation has considerably changed now.  It’s true that we are still witnessing a very large number of countries doing an enormous effort to provide protection to refugees in very dramatic circumstances.  I’ll be flying tonight to Uganda.  Uganda has been receiving, very generously, refugees from the neighbouring countries — it has now more than 1.3 million refugees, 950,000 from South Sudan alone — and providing them not only with protection, but even with plots of land and the capacity to live not in camps, but in the society, in a way that is much more humane but, of course, that requires a much stronger solidarity from the country itself.

We are still witnessing many remarkable examples of solidarity in today’s world.  But at the same time, we are seeing more and more borders being closed, we are seeing more and more refugees being rejected and, namely in countries of the developed world, we are seeing the opportunities for resettlement in richer countries of refugees coming from the global South being decreased in number at the present moment.  And this is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism, in which refugees become a target, many times being accused of being part of the terror threat when refugees are not terrorists — they are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees.  And this is the reason why I believe it is important to make today five very strong appeals to the international community.  Five very strong appeals that I believe are absolutely necessary for the right of refugees to be again fully respected.

First, I call Member States that are not doing it to re-establish the integrity of the international protection for refugees regime, which means to have the right, obviously, to manage their borders in a responsible way, but managing them also in a protection-sensitive way, and not refusing entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection, which means asking countries not to send back people to where they might face persecution, which means asking countries to increase their resettlement quotas and to grant protection to a larger number of refugees that are living in very dramatic circumstances in crowded camps or in the slums of cities in abject poverty.

Second, recognizing that there is no humanitarian solution for the refugee plight, the solution is political and it is related to the solution of the conflict that generate refugees in larger numbers; to ask all parties to different conflicts in the world and all countries that have an influence on the parties to each conflict to come together and understand that all those conflicts are now conflicts that are causing tremendous suffering in which nobody is winning, everybody is losing, that are becoming a threat not only to the refugees themselves but a threat to the whole world, as those conflicts are becoming also more and more interlinked to problems of global terrorism.

Third, humanitarian support for refugees is still largely underfunded.  I believe that, grosso modo, appeals made are funded at about 50 per cent.  That means that the majority of the refugees live below the poverty line — that many cannot bring their children to school, that many cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to their children, that many have not adequate health support, that most of them have no jobs and no hopes or perspective to have a dignified life.  It is absolutely crucial that humanitarian appeals are fully funded and that international solidarity is expressed in relation to refugees, not forgetting that 80 per cent of the world’s refugees live in the developing world.

Fourth, I appeal to countries in the developed world to be able to express a much stronger solidarity to countries of first asylum in the global South; those that host, as I mentioned, 80 per cent of the world’s refugees, and sometimes with a dramatic impact on their economy, on their society, not to mention the impact on their security with the conflict next door.

If one looks at countries like Lebanon, where one third of the population is refugees, if one looks at countries like Uganda or Kenya or Ethiopia — they have now more than 1 million refugees — in societies that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems; it is absolutely crucial not only to support refugees but to support those communities.  And that requires effective development cooperation with these countries. I must praise the World Bank that was able to create new financial instruments, namely for middle-income countries that are hosting a large number of refugees, in the cases of Lebanon and Jordan innovating financially, to allow these countries to have a little bit more support than the one that they were receiving from the international community.

But the truth is that at the same time, countries are asking those in the developing world that host the largest number of refugees to keep them but are not providing the necessary support for that to be possible.  Stronger solidarity with refugee-hosting countries in the global South is absolutely a must.

And finally:  I ask countries in the developed world to increase their resettlement quotas at least to the levels that we had two or three years ago, to be able to offer an effective responsibility-sharing with those that are hosting millions of refugees in the deep South.

Just to give you an idea about the differences between the global North and the global South, I’m going to Uganda, as I mentioned.  Uganda, last year, received three times more refugees from South Sudan than those crossing the central Mediterranean, and you all know the enormous impact in public opinion and in political debates that the movement through the central Mediterranean caused last year.  Well, Uganda received three times more, and Uganda is a tiny country with a relatively small economy and with an enormous generosity in the hearts of the people and the decisions of the Government.

I’d also like to remind you that beyond those that are able to cross the border to seek protection outside their country, we have an even larger number, probably about double, of people that are displaced within the borders of their own country, internally displaced people.  And those are under the authority either of their Governments or of different non-State actors that occupy parts of the territory.  And they have been systematically, in many parts of the world, victims of dramatic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law.  And so I also would like to make a very strong appeal to all actors in all the conflicts to respect international humanitarian law and to respect human rights law and for the international community to be able to implement those methods of accountability to make sure that those that are responsible for the worst atrocities to be effectively accountable and to be punished for what they are doing, because that’s probably the only way to stop the kind of tragic impact we are having in the life and dignity of now more than 65 million people around the world.

I also think it’s important to underline that the difficulties faced by refugees are also linked to the fact that the migration debate has become quite irrational in today’s world.  We are talking about two different situations: refugees crossing borders, fleeing conflict or prosecution, [and] economic migrants who aspire legitimately to have a better life and move from one country to another, aiming at a better future for them and their children.  They do not have the same rights as refugees, countries are not forced to grant them protection, but they also have human rights that also need to be respected and their dignity needs to be respected.  Now, the truth is that the debate about the migration became largely an irrational debate.  Migration has been present in the world since [forever], and as a matter of fact, if one looks at demographic and economic projections of different parts of the world, migration is a necessary element of establishing different forms of equilibrium in the global society and the global economy.  In my country, my mother is assisted by some people, she is 93 years old, and those that are assisting her — they are not Portuguese.  They are from different countries, they are migrants in my country, and Portugal is a relatively poor country in the context of the European Union.  And so migration is necessary.  If something is necessary, it’s better to control it and to do it regularly than to let smugglers and traffickers be in charge of these movements.

And so my strong appeal in relation to migration is that a rational debate become possible about migration, that of course countries have the right to apply their own migration policies, but that they do that in full respect of human rights, that at the same time, development cooperation policies are able to address the problems of human mobility, to create opportunities in countries of origin for migration to be out of choice, not out of necessity, and much stronger cooperation of States among themselves to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, but also a much big offer of opportunities of legal, regular migration.  I think if migration can be discussed in a rational way, that will create a much better environment in our societies that are all multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-religious, and at the same time that will also help refugees benefit more easily from the protection rights they are entitled to receive.

We will have two very important debates in the General Assembly next year for two compacts: on migration and refugees.  And my appeal to all Member States is to engage positively in those debates and to allow for the international community to be able to define, both in [terms of] refugees and in migration, adequate policies that are assumed by the whole of the international community, respecting human rights, taking into account the legitimate interests of States, but also the opportunities that are generated by human mobility in our world.

I am naturally at your disposal for whatever questions you might pose.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Thank you.  First question, Sherwin Bryce-Pease, South African Broadcasting.

Question:  Thanks very much, Stéph.  And on behalf of the UN Correspondents Association, Mr. Secretary-General, good to see you.  And, Ms. [Ninette] Kelley, welcome back.  Thank you for the briefing yesterday.  It also falls to me, Secretary-General, unfortunately to address the elephant in the room.  I think it's an open secret that there's been a great deal of unhappiness with the levels of press access we've had to you since you've assumed the helm of the United Nations over the last six months.  In your first address to the General Assembly after your swearing, you said the following: “The UN must be nimble, efficient and effective.  We must be able to communicate better about what we do in ways that everybody understands.”  You are often, sir, seen holding joint press conferences on your travels abroad but hardly ever in New York.  You have engaged students at New York University but haven't afforded the same levels of opportunity to the people in this room.  We appreciate the necessity of quiet diplomacy, but it's beginning to sound like silent diplomacy.  And I think your messaging has been lost in the geopolitical noise we are confronted with today.  So, my question then is, is this press conference the beginning of a new approach, or is this an exception, perhaps, to the general avoidance you have embraced since you've taken over?

Secretary-General:  As I said a few weeks ago when I met several of you, it's my intention to have a more active engagement with the journalists in New York, but that's not the only way to communicate, as you mentioned.  And I believe you were invited to the New York University conference.  It is important to communicate in different ways, in different sorts, in different places of the world.  But I recognise that I need to do more here in New York with this group that is very important in relation to the United Nations activities.

Correspondent:  Thanks, sir.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Rosiland, Al Jazeera.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph, and thank you, Mr Secretary-General.  Good to see you.  I have two questions.  First, the situation…

Spokesman:  If you could please limit yourself to one so we can spread the love around.

Question:  Sure.  Okay.  Okay.  Well, I have to ask about the ongoing political diplomatic crisis between Qatar and other members of the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council].  And, of course, as you know, the dispute has started to include other countries that are not a part of the GCC.  Given the number of conflicts happening in the Middle East right now, given that all of the countries engaged have been involved in some way in those conflicts, given their prior unity on trying to fight Da’esh, is there a reason why we have not heard from you to talk about your efforts to try to get the countries to resolve their political and diplomatic concerns?  There are some who are saying that Qatar is under a blockade.  Others will say this is a necessary part of resolving the problem.  Where is your voice, Mr Secretary-General?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, I've expressed several times concern with the situation.  I've also expressed that I believe that there should be a regional solution, and I have followed particularly the efforts of mediation by Kuwait.  And I've expressed my support to the Kuwait mediation initiative, and I think that that is probably the most useful way for the UN to cooperate in trying to address the situation that is complex and in which, as I mentioned, I think the leadership should be a regional leadership.

Spokesman:  Fathi.

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr Secretary-General.  My question is about preventive diplomacy.  It was one of the… it was one of the points you stressed when you assumed your position as Secretary-General.  How do you see now the situation with a rogue state like North Korea?  And I'll also follow up on my colleague regarding Qatar.  Is there a need to engage more rather than observe this situation?  Especially with North Korea, there have not been really much initiative, just trying to implement Security Council resolutions with no real breakthrough.  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, I've been involved in a large number of situations quite actively, and sometimes directly with UN, sometimes in association with the African Union or with some regional organisations.  But [especially in] relation to South Sudan, in relation to the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], in relation to the Central African Republic, in relation to Syria, more recently in relation to Afghanistan, I've been quite engaged talking with the leaders of the countries, talking with the different factions within the country, talking with the neighbours of the countries, talking with the regional organisations to try to create the conditions to allow for effective mediation to take place.  It's not easy… Libya, another example.  It's not easy.  We are all aware of the difficulties that exist.  But I intend to go on very actively engaged in this kind of contacts.  We have not assumed any initiative in relation to North Korea mediation at the present moment because we felt that it was important to let the Security Council move in its own way, and let's see the result of the recent decisions.  And we know that there are important talks taking place by different countries that have leverage and influence in relation to the countries of the region.  We are following that, but until now, we haven't seen an opportunity or a useful opportunity for the UN to assume leadership in this regard.  And so, indeed, in relation to North Korea, we have been in close contact with the six countries but not directly involved in the mediation with North Korea.

Spokesman:  Edie Lederer.

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary-General.  The world is facing famine or the threat of famine in at least four countries, a record number of 65.6 million people forced to flee their homes, as you put in the spotlight, major conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Africa, and a growing nuclear threat from North Korea.  I get asked all the time:  Why isn't the UN doing anything?  We all know that Member States have their own agendas, but what are you doing?  How would you answer that question?

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, in relation to famine, there is a huge mobilization of the whole of the UN system, and, as you know, we were here appealing for support of international community.  And I have been quite engaged personally in different countries that are threatened or in which famine is happening, namely, more recently in Somalia, now to be with South Sudanese in Uganda.  And I believe that the UN is doing a remarkable job in humanitarian response in relation to the famine, potential situations.  And if you compare with what's happened in the crisis of Somalia in 2011, I think that it was possible to act much earlier and that has resulted in a considerable reduction in the levels of suffering that could happen.  Now, in relation to several of the conflicts that you mentioned, we are very actively engaged.  For instance, Syria is probably the most dramatic of all the conflicts.  And I think we need to recognize that the UN has been extremely active in trying to create the conditions for the parties to the conflict to meet, to discuss, and to try to overcome its difficulties and its problems.  The Astana process has been closely followed by the UN.  The Geneva process has been led by the UN, and several initiatives of the same sort are being taken by special representatives in different parts of the world.  I myself have been quite active in some of them, the most recent initiative in relation to Cyprus.  So, I think that both in humanitarian response and in addressing the different crises in the world, the UN has been quite active.  That doesn't mean that problems are easy to be solved.  In a world where power relations are unclear and where impunity and unpredictability tend to prevail, what we see is that the capacity of prevention and conflict resolution of the international community as a whole but also of the UN in particular are today severely limited.

Spokesman:  Ali.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  My name is Ali Barada from France 24 and An-Nahar Newspaper in Lebanon.  In fact, my question is that we've witnessed you accepting pressure from different countries in this world, nowadays full of bullies and, in fact, inviting more pressures on you, remarkably, when any issue related to Israel or to the United States.  And it seems it didn't work, that you didn't want to clash with the United States regarding the financial issues.  What are you trying to do in order to live up with the UN standards and principles?  Are you going to sacrifice even your own integrity in the face of these pressures?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, I think you are referring to one specific incident, [laughter] because, obviously, that's when that was mentioned, and that was the famous so-called report of the UN, so-called report of the UN issued by ESCWA [Economic and Social Commission for West Asia].  And, as I had the opportunity to say in relation to that, that had nothing to do with pressure from Israel or from the United States.  It had to do with something that nobody can abdicate.  It's the exercise of authority within an organization.  There was a request for a study made by Member States.  There was a study done by independent elements that produced that study.  And without any information to Headquarters, my representative, because the Executive Secretary of a Commission is the representative of the Secretary-General, transformed that study into a UN report and assumed the UN responsibility about it.  And…

Question:  Are you going to accept pressure regarding UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees]?

Secretary-General:  Just a moment.  And for the second time, in the same situation, but the first time was not about Israel; it was about several Arab States.  For the second time, I said that I couldn't accept this kind of violation of our internal discipline and that the UN could not assume as UN, and especially could not assume on my behalf, something that was not produced as a UN report and adequately presented and vetted in this regard.  And anybody in any organization will do the same, because, if not, we transform the UN into a chaotic entity in which everyone says whatever everyone wants.  So I must tell you that I'm not worried with any pressure.  I will act in any case to guarantee that the authority of the Secretary-General is not put into question, because, if not, the UN will be completely ineffective, and that is something I will not accept.  But I must tell you, very clearly, that the proof that I'm not worried in relation to the need to exert pressure when necessary, when pressure is necessary from my side, recently, you know the position of the United States in relation to climate change, and you probably have heard my own intervention in relation to that.  I do not abdicate from the principles I believe in and from the policies I support and from expressing the opinions related to the situations as I observe them and as I believe in them.

Spokesman:  Maggie.

Question:  Secretary-General, Margaret Besheer with the Voice of America.  This week, we've seen the skies over Syria become more complicated.  The United States shot down a Syrian jet, I believe also an Iranian drone.  The Russians have responded strongly, saying that they won't tolerate this.  Sir, are you concerned that we may be seeing a new phase in the Syrian war where there could be direct confrontation between two super-Powers over Syria?

Secretary-General:  I am concerned, even if there were some declarations more recently that gave as the idea that there should be, that there would be a de-escalation of this situation, and I strongly hope that there will be a de-escalation of the situation, because these kind of incidents can be very dangerous in a conflict situation in which there are so many actors and in which the situation is so complex on the ground.  So, indeed, I am concerned, and I hope that this will not lead to any escalation of the conflict that is already as dramatic as it is.

Spokesman:  Herman, BBC Afrique.

Question:  Oui, une question en français.  Monsieur le Secrétaire général, vous allez en Ouganda, ce petit pays qui accueille assez de réfugiés.  Est-ce en soutien juste aux autorités du pays, ou il y a un message particulier à l’encontre de ces réfugiés qui sont dans le pays ?  Récemment, les attaques au Mali donnent la preuve de l’insécurité grandissante sur le continent. Vous avez marqué votre soutien indéfectible aux autorités africaines.  Est-ce que l’ONU envisage une stratégie assez spéciale pour accompagner déjà les efforts qui se font sur le terrain en dehors des opérations de maintien de la paix pour garantir la sécurité, notamment au Soudan du Sud, au Mali, en Centrafrique et en RDC, qui risque de faire parler d’elle-même très prochainement?

Secretary-General:  Comme vous le savez, avec ma présence au sommet de l’Union africaine et après avec le sommet entre l’Union africaine et les Nations Unies ici, on a établi un accord, une plateforme de coopération entre l’Union africaine et les Nations Unies en matière de paix et de sécurité dans tous les domaines, de la prévention, aux opérations de [maintien] de la paix, et aux opérations d’imposition de la paix.  J’ai récemment appuyé fortement l’initiative du G-5 Sahel, d’une force du G-5 Sahel, dans le contexte du Mali et des pays environnants, en complémentarité avec la force onusienne de [maintien] de la paix, parce que c’est une situation où il y a un nombre d’acteurs, y compris les organisations terroristes, qui doivent être gérés en complémentarité entre ce qui est [le maintien] de la paix et la protection des civils, et ce qui est le combat des groupes terroristes, qui doit être fait par ceux qui peuvent avoir un mandat de ce type.  Alors, on coopère activement avec les organisations régionales africaines et on comprend qu’il y a une division de travail importante à établir, et une coopération importante à garantir pour qu’il y ait une plus grande efficacité sur le terrain.  Le peacekeeping traditionnel — de garantir la stabilité dans le contexte d’un accord de paix pour que le pays puisse poursuivre un processus de stabilité — ce peacekeeping traditionnel est aujourd’hui menacé par des situations où il y a un grand nombre d’acteurs qui poursuivent le conflit et qui rendent les activités de [maintien] de la paix et de protection des civils de plus en plus difficiles, et il nous faut trouver des formules à géométrie variable avec des partenariats avec les organisations régionales, notamment l’Union africaine et les organisations sous-régionales africaines.

Spokesman:  Pam.

Question:  Thank you, Mr Secretary-General, for the briefing.

Question:  …le voyage en Ouganda?

Secretary-General:  C’est un message de solidarité face à la générosité extrême du peuple ougandais et du gouvernement ougandais face au nombre de réfugiés que le pays a accueillis — plus de 1.3 millions en général, presque 950,000 réfugiés du Soudan du Sud — avec les frontières ouvertes, les portes ouvertes, les cœurs ouverts, avec le partage des ressources, notamment de la terre, d’une façon qui est exemplaire, dans un monde où malheureusement un si grand nombre de frontières et de portes sont fermées.

Spokesman:  Pam.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General, for the briefing.  Pamela Falk from CBS News.  Follow-up with a very specific question about Qatar and the Gulf rift:  You have weighed in, as you did today, on mediation and the benefits of mediation, but the mission of Qatar has given you a hand-delivered, they said, a letter that talks about the closing of borders, airspace and seaports as an unjustified embargo constituting a violation of international humanitarian and human rights law.  You have weighed in on international law in other contexts.  What is your response to that argument?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  No, as a matter of fact, the Human Rights High Commissioner has been pronouncing himself when he considers it as a human rights aspect that need to be addressed, namely, in that situation.  As I said, my main concern has been to try to push for a regional solution, and what I have considered as the most, I'd say, effective probable mediator has been Kuwait that has my full support.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Raghida.

Question:  Yeah, on the same… Raghida Dergham.  On the same subject, Qatar and neighbouring… some of the Gulf States, why is… Mr. Secretary-General, do you keep saying that it has to be a regional mediation?  There… some of the players there are speaking of welcoming, for example, an American mediation; and they think it would be most effective, including people that are close to the Amir of Kuwait.  He would like to get some help.  Why would you… why are you strictly adhering to regional?  Would you welcome an American mediation?  Would you be willing to go ahead and help out, if called upon by the Amir of Kuwait?  And, finally, Iran has sent missiles into Syria.  Some are saying it was a message to Saudi Arabia that, be… be careful; we have enough missiles to reach you if things get very bad in that part of the world.  What's your message to Iran on that… on the missiles to Syria?

Secretary-General:  My message to all countries is that any form of confrontation is unnecessary and that there should be a de-escalation of all the potential conflicts.  I did not say that there can only be a regional mediation.  I said that the most likely successful mediation should be regional, and that is what normally happens.  But, of course, if countries or entities that have leverage over the parties to a conflict can help, that, obviously, will always be welcome.  I don't think that United Nations has a leverage over the parties to the conflict that make our direct intervention more effective than the support to, namely, a mediation like the Kuwaiti one, or, if the United States get engaged in that mediation, that, of course, will be welcome if they are able to do so in an effective way.

Spokesman:  Mr. Sato, NHK.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  It's good to see you, Mr. Secretary-General.  My name is Fumitaka Sato from NHK, Japanese Public Broadcaster.  My question is about the nuclear disarmament.  Now the Convention of prevention of nuclear weapons is ongoing without participating of nuclear holders and some countries under the nuclear umbrella, including Japan.  What's your view on the current situation of nuclear disarmament in the world?  And what achievement do you expect in this Convention?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, I think it is clear that there has not been progress in relation to nuclear disarmament in the recent past.  It was not the case decades ago when there was a very important agreement in this regard.  I am a believer that we need to be able to combine two factors in order to move positively in our world.  One is non-proliferation, and the other is progressive disarmament.  If the two factors can be combined in an effective way, it will be safer for all of us.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Carole.

Question:  Mr Secretary-General, my question is about relations with the Trump Administration.  So, six months in, we've seen the Trump Administration walk away from the Paris Agreement on climate, walk away from refugees, walk away from funding commitments to the UN.  So, looking at all this, what's your assessment of dealings with the Trump Administration?  And how would you advise other world Governments who, perhaps, are looking for some enlightenment on this new world order and who the reliable partners are in the world?

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, it is clear our, this agreement in relation to the decision to leave the Paris Agreement, and we have been quite actively engaged in trying to make sure that all countries, all other countries, stay the course.  And also I'll say, noting with a lot of interest, the mobilization of the US society, the cities, the businesses, the civil society in this regard that I think are a signal of hope that we very much encourage.  It is also clear that the proposal of budget that was presented to the Congress would create an unsolvable problem to the management of the UN, but the process is still in the Congress.  And I will be soon going to Washington also to have contacts with members of Congress in this regard, and I've been also having contacts and I think we always must engage positively and constructively with any Administration in the world but… so the financial question is still to be seen.  In relation to other questions that you raised, it is clear for me that, contrary to the, to physics — in physics, there was an idea during many centuries that nature would not tolerate the void, the vacuum.  No?  But that idea proved wrong.  Indeed, it's possible to have vacuum in nature but not in international relations.  When someone is absent or when someone doesn't engage in a situation or when someone leaves space, that space is always occupied by others.  And so I believe that, if the United States disengage in relation to many aspects of foreign policy and many aspects of international relations, it will be unavoidable that other actors will occupy that space.  And I don't think this is good for the United States, and I don't think this is good for the world.

Spokesman:  Somini.

Question:  To follow up on that, Secretary-General, when you say it's unavoidable that other countries will step into that void…

Spokesman:  Your microphone.

Question:  Sorry.  When you say other countries will step into that void, can you expand on that?  What are your concerns?  And, specifically, on your next visit to Washington, do you plan on meeting with the President or his Secretary of State?  And, specifically, do you plan on discussing this very strong appeal that you've just made for refugee resettlement?  Your appeal flies in the face of the Trump Administration's proposals.

Secretary-General:  Well, this visit is, as I said, to the Congress, so I have no other plans.  In relation to the questions of resettlement, I've pronounced myself several times when those measures were announced, and I have conveyed that very clearly to the US Administration.  It's… the US has a very important role in resettlement.  It's by far the largest resettlement country in the world, and so… that has been always very generous on positive policy, I strongly encourage the United States Government to come back to the levels of resettlement that we witnessed until two or three years ago.  So, this is an area of great interest to me, as I had the occasion to mention today.  In relation to the occupation of space, it's very simple.  If you look at any crisis in the world, there are today a number of actors, either other global powers or regional powers, that, when the United States is not present, will naturally occupy the ground.  This is true from Syria to Libya, from South Sudan to any other crisis in the world.

Spokesman:  Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  Matthew Lee, Inner City Press.  On behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for the briefing.  Glad to have it.  Stakeouts would also be useful when you speak to the Council.  But I wanted to ask you about cholera in Haiti.  As you may know, while you were away, your deputy gave… gave the speech, and many people in Haiti interpreted it as a… as a pulling back from the idea of compensating victims of the cholera that was brought.  Maybe they misunderstand it, but they put out a press release.  There's a protest planned there on Thursday during the Council's visit.  So I wanted to ask you, I know that Member States haven't come forward with what they might have, but are you going to put more time in?  Do you think that the idea of actually compensating the people whose family members were killed by cholera is still alive?  And, also, I'd understood that there was going to be an announcement about the Congo Brazzaville contingent being repatriated… being repatriated from Central African Republic.  Is it going to happen?  And, if so, what's the standard?  Because the Burundians were found to have 25 soldiers accused by OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] of sexual abuse.  Is there some… is there a number or what determines when people are repatriated?  Thanks a lot.  I appreciate it.

Secretary-General:  First of all, in relation to Haiti, the policy that was announced by my predecessor had two dimensions.  One is fighting cholera, and the other is the possibility to support, namely, to support communities impacted.  It was devised not as individual support but community support for the communities impacted.  As you mentioned, there has been little voluntary funding for these projects.  So we have presented a proposal for the amounts that were not spent in the previous mission in Haiti and that should be given back to countries, for countries to be ready to accept not to receive those amounts back in order to be able to fund the cholera programme.  And, at the same time, we have just appointed Ms. Josette Sheeran as my Special Envoy for Haiti, centred, of course, in the fundraising for cholera.  She was, as you know, the World Food Programme leader a few years ago.  She is now President of the Asia Society, and she accepted, with a salary of $1 per year, she accepted to be fully engaged in fundraising for a programme that, indeed, until now, has received very little support but that is very important from the point of view of the people and from the point of view of the credibility of the UN.  In relation to what you mentioned, there is a procedure that is now being adopted systematically.  That procedure involves an evaluation.  That evaluation was concluded in relation to the Republic of Congo.  There is a necessary contact with the authorities of the country before a public announcement of the measure.  So I will ask for a little bit of patience, because you'll soon have the public announcement of what we have decided to do.  But it will be, I mean, impolite and unacceptable in the context of our bilateral relations before a number of contacts that need to be established with the country to announce it.  This procedure will now be applied across the board, and it's an evaluation that is done by a group of experts on the situation.  It depends on the capacity of countries to… even if something happened to correct what has happened or if we feel that there are more systemic failures that cannot be addressed and that require the withdrawal of the force we are discussing.

Spokesman:  Olga.

Question:  Thank you… thank you very much.  Secretary-General, Olga Denisova with RIA Novosti Russian News Agency.  Last week, General Assembly approved your idea to establish a new office of counter-terrorism.  Do you expect that, when the office starts its work, the fight against terrorism will be more efficient?  And, secondly, who will you nominate to lead the office?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  I do believe that we have a problem of coordination of the 38 entities that within the UN deal with counter-terrorism, so it makes full sense to have a dedicated office with a responsible [person], and that responsible [person] will be appointed this week.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Right here, young lady… no, no… go ahead.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  I'm from China Central Television.  My question is also about Syria war.  As we know…

Secretary-General:  About?

Spokesman:  Syria.

Question:  Syria war. As we know, Syria war is the main cause for the current refugee issue, and the Syria war has lasted for six years.  So I'm wondering, as a Secretary-General of the United Nations, do you have any further and specific ideas on how to realize the ceasefire in Syria?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  As I said, we are following very closely the Astana process.  There will be a new meeting, I believe, the 4th of July, where Staffan de Mistura will again be present.  And the idea is exactly, in Astana, to consolidate the ceasefire and to try to use the so-called de-escalation zones as a system of stabilizing the conflict, I mean, if this expression is correct.  At the same time, we are convening the next round of Geneva talks.  There was recently very important meeting of Staffan de Mistura with the whole… the several groups of the opposition, the [inaudible], the Cairo group, the Moscow group, trying to unify positions.  So we are very strongly engaged to do our best, but we also recognize the complexity of the situation.  And so we, I don't want to create false expectations about immediate results.

Spokesman:  Iftikhar Ali.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  Since your appointment as Secretary-General, you have met the Prime Minister of Pakistan three times.  You have also now met Prime Minister of India.  This is… these meetings took place amid heightening tensions in Indian-occupied Kashmir, where there has been lot of killing and attempts to crush the popular uprising.  There had been a number of ceasefire violations.  Are you engaged in bringing about a dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir dispute?

Secretary-General:  Why do you think I met three times the Prime Minister of Pakistan and two times the Prime Minister of India?  For someone accused of doing nothing, it's quite a number of meetings.

Spokesman:  Sylviane.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General.  My name is Sylviane Zehil from L'Orient Le Jour, Beirut.  This is World Refugee Day today.  It's World Refugee, ajourd’hui.  It's time to reflect on the… on the Syrian refugee in Lebanon.  You spoke about the plight of the Syrian refugee in Lebanon with the presence of third of the population in… with… and Lebanon became like very poor.  There is hospitality fatigue, and there is also donors’ fatigue.  1.6 billion are not enough.  It's not enough for this refugee.  And you spoke about the new financial instrument put in place by the World Bank.  You talk about it.  And can you also… is there any new… new approach to implement or to send the refugees back to Syria in safe zone under the international protection?  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Well, first of all, it's very important that any return of refugees to the country of origin be voluntary. This is a central principle of international law.  Whether or not it will be possible to have in Syria in the near future areas where refugees will be willing to go back, it's something I cannot answer.  I think we are still far from having it at that level, because the situation still remains very fragile, as you know, and the conflict is going on in a very dramatic way.  So our main concern at the present moment is, of course, to mobilize a much stronger support to the international community to countries like Lebanon and Jordan and Turkey and, at the same time, to ask for a larger number of refugees to be resettled from these countries.

Spokesman:  Linda.

Question:  [inaudible] support from the financial community for Lebanon?

Secretary-General:  These financial… it's a very simple question.  Middle-income countries could not benefit from concessional loans of the World Bank.  And it was possible to convince the board of the World Bank at a certain moment to allow combining a commercial loan with a grant to transform that commercial loan into a concessional loan, for instance, a loan without interest rates for a larger period.  And this allowed World Bank to have meaningful supports for Jordan and Lebanon even if at the scale that again I repeat is not comparable with the needs of these countries that would require a much stronger international solidarity.

Spokesman:  Linda.  And that will be the last question.

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  My question… my question returns to the issue of migration, economic migration.  You said earlier, I believe, that migrants don't have the same rights as refugees but that the debate about migra… migration is irrational and that countries have the right to determine their own policies.  Given that, I was wondering what your point of view is regarding Washington's handling of illegal immigration and if you believe in open borders.

Secretary-General:  No.  First, migrants have not the same rights of refugees, but migrants have rights.  Migrants benefit from the whole range of human rights.  But refugees have one right that migrants do not have. If a refugee comes to a country, that country has the obligation to receive him.  If a migrant comes to a country, the country has not the obligation to receive him.  No?  So there is this difference.  But migrants have rights, and I think it's important to recognize those rights.  And, more, I believe that all countries in the developed world today need migration, and what I said is that, if migration is needed, better then to make it regular, to make it legal, because if you make it legal, you have a much stronger possibility to have migrants seeing their rights respected and, at the same time, to have the security of the country better ensured.  So our advocacy is an advocacy for opportunities of legal migration. That doesn't mean borders to be opened to everybody in all circumstances.  Countries have the right to manage their borders in a responsible way, but they have the obligation to do it also in a protection-sensitive way.

Question:  May I ask a quick follow-up on that question?  Can I ask a quick follow-up on that question?  One quick follow-up.  Thank you.  Joseph Klein, Canada Free Press.  In relation to the rights of refugees and migrants and the obligations of the international community to them that you mentioned, what do you think should be the responsibilities of refugees and migrants to integrate into their host countries and to respect the laws and norms of their host countries?  We've heard about rights.  I'm going to ask you about responsibilities.

Correspondent:  Can you take my question and he can answer both, please?

Secretary-General:  Rights and obligations, refugees or migrants have the obligation to respect the laws of the countries in which they are.  This is absolutely crucial, and they need also to make an effort to integrate harmoniously in the society and the societies to make an effort to create conditions for that integration to be harmonious.

Spokesman:  Great.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Secretary-General:  Okay. Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.