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

31 January 2018

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.

**Holocaust Remembrance

The Secretary-General spoke at this year’s ceremony in remembrance of the Holocaust, saying that the annual day of commemoration is about the past, but also about the future; it is about Jews but also about others who find themselves scapegoated and vilified solely because of who they are.  Today, he said, we have two fundamental duties:  first, to remember the Holocaust and its victims; and second, to be vigilant about hatred today.  He said that since hatred and contempt of human lives are rampant in our times, we must stand guard against xenophobia every day and everywhere.  Decades after the Holocaust, the Secretary-General said that Nazi symbols and slogans remain chillingly present.  He said that we must stand together against the normalization of hate.  We must reject those who fail to understand that as societies become multi-ethnic, multireligious and multicultural, diversity must be seen as a source of richness and not a threat.   His remarks are online.

**Climate Change

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the opening of the 2018 Investor Summit on Climate Risk.  She told investors that climate change poses a systemic macroeconomic risk and a risk to the financial system itself.  She stressed that they must act with urgency, consistency and transparency to ensure that their portfolios are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and that momentum continues at a global level and climate action voices are heard by regulators, central bankers and finance ministers.  And at 1 p.m., the UN Office for Partnerships will be here to brief you on the Summit.

**Appointment

I have a senior personnel appointment to announce.  Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Mami Mizutori of Japan as Assistant Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction in the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.  She succeeds Robert Glasser of Australia, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedication and excellent leadership of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.  Ms. Mizutori brings to the position a combination of management and leadership expertise, as well as more than 25 years of experience in international affairs and security.  More information in my office.

**Yemen

Our humanitarian colleagues report a cautious calm in Aden, following three days of fighting during which the Southern Transitional Council seized control of most of the city from forces loyal to the Government of Yemen.  Some shops have re-opened in the city and civilians have been able to move out of their homes to stock up on essential supplies.  Schools are still closed except in Al Bureka districts.  Operations at Aden airport and sea port have yet to resume.  Essential humanitarian staff reported to work today.  UN humanitarian organisations hope to resume operations in the next few days, if the situation remains calm.  Meanwhile, there are six vessels currently offloading at Hodeidah, three carrying a combination of 61,700 metric tons of food and three carrying a combined 33,265 metric tons of fuel.  There are seven other vessels at the anchorage area that are waiting to dock and onload.

**Syria

Following the conclusion of the talks in Sochi yesterday, the Special Envoy on Syria, Staffan de Mistura, noted that the delegates in their final declaration embraced the 12 principles developed in the Geneva political process, which describe a vision for Syria that all Syrians should be able to share.  He also noted that the participants agreed on forming a constitutional committee.  Mr. de Mistura said he will consult widely on the formation of such a committee and will indicate as soon as possible how he intends to proceed on his mandated task, under resolution 2254 (2015), to set a schedule and process for constitution drafting.  We have a note to correspondents with his full statement that we issued yesterday.

**Kenya/South Sudan

Following his visit to Ethiopia and Somalia, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will join the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, on a visit to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, which hosts around 186,600 refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom are from South Sudan.  Mr. Lowcock and Mr. Grandi will then jointly launch the South Sudan Humanitarian Response Plan and the Regional Refugee Response Plan in Nairobi.  Humanitarian partners in South Sudan need $1.7 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to 6 million people across the country.  An anticipated 3.1 million South Sudanese will be refugees by the end of 2018 in six neighbouring countries.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and partners are requesting for $1.5 billion to address the refugees’ needs.

**Lake Chad Basin

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and its partners launched a funding appeal for $157 million to help a quarter of a million people impacted by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad Basin region.  The 47 UN agencies and humanitarian organizations will cater to the needs of some 208,000 Nigerian refugees and 75,000 of their hosts in Niger, Cameroon and Chad.  The Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, Kelly Clements, warned that the Boko Haram crisis is far from over and said the world should not forget the victims of this deadly conflict.  Since it started in 2013, the Boko Haram conflict has internally displaced another 2.4 million people in north-east Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

**Illiteracy

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a report today that shows that nearly 3 in 10 young people aged between 15 and 24 years old living in countries affected by conflict or disaster are illiterate — that is triple the global rate.  Niger, Chad, South Sudan and the Central African Republic — all countries with a long history of instability and high levels of poverty — are home to the highest illiteracy rates among young people.  It is as high as 76 per cent in Niger.  The new analysis also notes that girls and young women are at the biggest disadvantage when it comes to reading and writing, with 33 per cent of them in emergency countries failing to learn even the basics — that is compared to 24 per cent of the boys.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow, my guests will be Ion Jinga, the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission for 2018 and Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, along with Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.  They will brief you here on the priorities of the Peacebuilding Commission for this year.  And at 3 p.m., Ambassador Mansour Alotaibi, the Permanent Representative of Kuwait to the United Nations, will be briefing you as he is taking over the presidency from his Kazakh colleague — the Presidency of the Security Council, that is.

**Honour Roll

We say thank you to Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam and Monaco, who have paid their dues in full.  [Thirty-two.]  Edie.  Yeah, I know, but I didn't ask yet.  Go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  The Secretary‑General's speech on the Holocaust was very powerful, and he gave some striking examples of neo‑Nazism, but I'm wondering why, in all of those examples, he did not name the countries involved.  So, you had a long list of awful things that were happening, but nobody knew where they were happening.  Why?

Spokesman:  I think it's about the events themselves.  It's about making it clear that the hate that we saw at the height in… the hate that we saw during the Holocaust remains very much with us in different parts of the world and that the need for vigilance remains as high as ever.  I think he was referring to incidents and not to countries in particular.  Sir, since you did… even if I didn't ask, you did guess.

Correspondent:  Sure, sure.  I just wanted to… to… to… to ask you this.  The… the Foreign Minister of Sudan, since… since you were answering yesterday, has… has… has spoken.  And he said, of the meeting that Omar al‑Bashir held with António Guterres “it is the most important meeting held by the President”.  He said, it's the first between a Sudanese President and a top‑ranked international official since Mr. Bashir's accusation by the ICC [International Criminal Court] for war crimes and genocide.  He said, the Secretary‑General praised the peace process in Sudan and various other things.  The thing was this.  You said it's not a formal meeting, and I guess people are free to disagree.  He said it's the most important meeting that Omar al‑Bashir had.  But I… I still… given this, it seems like it should be possible for you to say whether António Guterres or his office told the Office of Legal Affairs prior to the meeting.

Spokesman:  Yes, the Legal Counsel informed the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court that the meeting was taking place.  The receipt of the information… the ICC confirmed receipt of the information.  So, the procedures that are in place to allow for operational meetings was followed.

Question:  When you… when you say "was taking place"… so this was done in advance of the meeting?

Spokesman:  The point is that the ICC was informed.  They accepted the information, and they said they were fine with the notification as it was given.

Question:  Right.  So… because if it was done before, then I don't know why it's not a formal thing, like if you knew it was taking place…?

Spokesman:  I'm just saying the rules of the procedures were followed.  Nizar?

Question:  Yeah, today, the Israeli security minister, Avigdor Lieberman, raised the stakes of a possible conflict on the Lebanon economic… exclusive economic zone by claiming that block number 9 of oil concessions is Israeli, and this has brought about a reaction from President [Michel] Aoun of Lebanon, which may augur badly for possible conflict in the region.  How does United Nations view that, especially that Lebanon has presented many maps and UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] is active in the area?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the particular comments.  What is important is that nothing be done to raise tensions in the area.

Question:  I have another question regarding the defeat of ISIS in Iraq.  Can the UNAMI [United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq] bring us a list of those who were involved in the… the liberation of Iraq from ISIS?  Can you tell us…?

Spokesman:  Can UNAMI what?  Sorry?

Correspondent:  A list of those who were involved, like the Iraqi army, other… other groups, who really managed to clean up large areas of Iraq from ISIS. 

Spokesman:  You know, UNAMI reports regularly to the Council the information they have and they're able to share.  Mr. Abbadi?

Correspondent:  Thank you.  You answered my question.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Mr. Frank Ucciardo?

Correspondent:  Hi, Stéphane.  I just wanted to see if I could get a reaction to the announcement by Russia's ambassador to North Korea today, announced that, basically, oil products to North Korea should not be reduced, which kind of goes against the grain and the spirit of the UN Security Council resolution [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  You know, I've seen the press reports.  I don't know about the veracity of the quotes.  What is clear for the Secretary‑General is that it's important that all countries, especially those countries in the region, abide by Security Council resolutions.  That's just a matter of principle.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask, I'm sure you've seen, in… in The Guardian, in the sort of the follow‑up to the ongoing "Me Too" coverage of sexual harassment and retaliation.  In the UN, there's a letter by Ian… Ian Richards, but there's also one by Emma Reilly, who I've asked you about before, who was directly informed that she could not speak as a staff member to the press.  So, she… so, one of the things she raises to The Guardian as published is that, despite the Secretary‑General's policy on fast turnaround, she's actually had her complaint… her… her situation has been pending for a year and half at OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] and required a medical evacuation from one her posts.  So, the question is, why are the policies enunciated from here that the Secretary‑General has against retaliation so obviously not actually being implemented in these cases?

Spokesman:  First of all, I think we… you know, we feel for Ms. Reilly, and I think no one would want to… she deserves all the support she can get.  And, if we haven't… if, at some point in the procedures, which I have no details of, the… she did not get the support she deserved, then I do feel… I express our sorrow for that.  I think OIOS has made a great effort in speeding up investigations.  Unfortunately, sometimes investigations take time.  For the Secretary‑General, it's really about having a system that is more efficient and that is more… in creating an atmosphere in which people feel free to come forward without fear of retaliation and where their cases are addressed in the most efficient manner.

Question:  Right.  But, she… according to her… and this is now… since she's free to speak, I guess I will quote from her.  She's written to Inner City Press, and she says that, after compute… complaining of abuse of authority by the High Commissioner, Prince Zeid, she was retaliated against.  And since then, nothing has been done.  She believes that Department of Management… Jan Beagle, is the one delaying it and that the purpose is delay it until Prince Zeid leaves in September.  So, what's your response to that?

Spokesman:  I don't think there's… listen, I don't have the details of the case.  I… what I'm sure of is that the head of the Department of Management is not actively delaying any case.  Quite on the contrary.  Nizar?

Question:  On Yemen, today, there are reports that, in Amran, an air raid has killed more than nine civilians, destroying a whole neighbourhood, and these are happening with very… very frequently these days, although, of course, due care to protect civilians has not been observed on all over… all over Yemen.  Did you receive any reports about that?  And what's your… what's your position on this recent…?

Spokesman:  Well, I will take a look before expressing anything.  Brenden.  Sure, go ahead.

Question:  Sure.  Very fast.  I wanted to ask you, on Kenya.  Yesterday, you'd said, you know, sort of generally that the UN is concerned about… the TV stations are still closed there.  The blogger I named has actually since been arrested.  There's been grenade attacks on an MP [military policeman], and another one has been arrested.  So, I know that you expressed concern.  What exactly is the UN… I mean, I know that Mr. [Olusegun] Obasanjo was sent and then left.  Is the UN doing anything about this…?

Spokesman:  You know, I think contacts continue to be had, and we would want to see an atmosphere in which media is able to operate freely.  Thank you.

Correspondent:  On Cameroon and Nigeria, you'd said to wait for the press release.  There is none.

Spokesman:  I don't have anything.  We can check with UNHCR.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.