The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, everyone.
The following statement is being issued by the Secretary-General. It’s in the first person, so I am reading the following in his name. And it concerns the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos.
“Ms. Valerie Amos has informed me of her intention to step down as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. I would like to express my utmost gratitude for her outstanding service to the United Nations, and the humanitarian community and people in need.
“Ms. Amos has led the humanitarian response of the United Nations and partners including non-governmental organizations, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, national authorities, civil society, the private sector and many others to devastating natural disasters and conflicts. Her extensive experience, leadership and work in partnership with principals from the humanitarian community, has helped find solutions for people who are facing the worst experiences in their lives.
“Ms. Amos has tirelessly advocated for people around the world affected by disaster and conflict. For her, people have always come first. She also worked closely with humanitarian workers who often risk their own lives to serve people most in need.
“At a time when the humanitarian system is particularly stretched, Ms. Amos also led the preparations for my World Humanitarian Summit, to be held in 2016, which will identify new ways to tackle humanitarian needs in our fast-changing world and set a new agenda for global humanitarian action.”
And that statement by the Secretary-General concerning Valerie Amos will be issued in our office and online shortly.
Speaking of Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos: Ms. Amos briefed the Security Council yesterday afternoon on efforts to obtain humanitarian access in Syria since the passage earlier this year of Security Council resolution 2139 (2014). She added that the progress that has been made is still not enough. She added that humanitarian workers have faced considerable challenges in implementing resolutions 2139 (2014) and 2165 (2014), and continue to fall short of meeting the humanitarian needs of all the people they need to reach in Syria.
Ms. Amos said that no more than two besieged locations have been reached in any month since the adoption of resolution 2165 (2014) and only one location has been reached in each of the past two months.
She noted that, when resolution 2139 (2014) was passed in February, there were 220,000 people besieged by either Government or opposition forces, while 212,000 people remain besieged today.
The Security Council this morning is holding a wrap-up session for the month of November, for the last scheduled meeting under Australia’s Council Presidency.
Yesterday we issued a statement, in which the Secretary-General expressed deep concern over the recent escalation of violence in Libya, including the air strikes in Tripoli, Benghazi and the Nafousa Mountains.
He called on all parties to end the attacks and prevent a further escalation of the violence. He also reminded them of their moral and legal obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. The Security Council has also just issued a statement, condemning the ongoing human rights violations and abuses in Libya, and the use of violence against civilians and civilian institutions, including United Nations personnel.
Council members join the Secretary-General and his Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, in reiterating the need for dialogue to resolve Libya’s political crisis.
Mr. León continues with his mediation efforts on the ground. Yesterday, he discussed with Prime Minister and Head of Libya’s interim Government, Abdullah al-Thinni, possible options for ending the armed hostilities, including a cessation of aerial attacks against Mitiga Airport in Tripoli, and other areas in western Libya.
Mr. León also informed the Prime Minister of his intention to convene a new round of talks in Ghadames at the earliest opportunity. And more information is available online.
Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, marked the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence by drawing attention to the hundreds of abducted women and girls who are suffering unspeakable abuses and atrocities by terrorist groups. He said that they are Iraq’s bleeding wound and pledged that the United Nations would continue to push to obtain their release and to support the Government of Iraq in its efforts to bring them back home.
Mr. Mladenov also urged the relevant authorities to create safe shelters for survivors of violence, ensure that justice is served and that the perpetrators of violence against women come before the law.
The Secretary-General has announced the appointment of Abdou Dieng of Senegal as the Ebola Crisis Manager for Guinea, as part of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), succeeding Marcel Rudasingwa. In this role Mr. Dieng will continue the Mission’s work with the Government of Guinea, along with key stakeholders, in ensuring a rapid and effective international response to the Ebola crisis in the country.
Mr. Dieng brings to the position significant international experience with the World Food Programme, and we have his biodata available.
Also today, the World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Mali, Ibrahima Soce Fall, formally started work as the head of the UNMEER office in Mali.
**Central African Republic
On 24 November, in accordance with its Urgent Temporary Measures mandate and its support to the national authorities in their fight against impunity, the UN Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, arrested the well-known anti-Balaka leader “Chocolat” also known as “Choco” in Bangui. Chocolat, who had been based in Bangui area known as “Combatant”, is accused of a series of serious human rights violations.
As you will have seen in a readout we issued last night, the Secretary-General spoke yesterday over the telephone with Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine.
The Secretary-General thanked the President for his tireless efforts to find a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict in south-east Ukraine. They discussed the severe challenges surrounding the delivery of funds and essential supplies to parts of eastern Ukraine, and the President’s efforts to find an adequate solution.
The Secretary-General and the President agreed that the Minsk agreements provided a clear path towards peace and their implementation was essential. The Secretary-General informed the President that in continuation of his good offices he had asked Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman to return to Kyiv in mid-December for further consultations with the Government and key stakeholders.
The Secretary-General today announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the organizational and operational aspects of the proposed Technology Bank and Science, Technology and Innovation Supporting Mechanism dedicated to the least developed countries (LDCs).
The Secretary-General has appointed Romain Murenzi, Executive Director of the World Academy of Sciences in Trieste, Italy, and former Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Scientific Research of the Republic of Rwanda, as the chair of the Panel. The full list of Panel members, which includes five women and five men from least developed countries and their development partners from the North and the South, is in a press release.
The Secretary-General has asked the High-level Panel to prepare practical recommendations on this important matter, which can provide a strong impetus to accelerating structural transformation and sustainable development of the least developed countries.
The High-level Panel is constituted in response to a request to the Secretary-General by the UN General Assembly, during its sixty-eighth session, to establish a panel to examine the scope and functions of the proposed Technology Bank, its organizational aspects and its institutional linkages with the United Nations.
The Panel will hold its first meeting in February 2015. It is expected to submit its report to the Secretary-General during summer next year, for transmission to the General Assembly during its seventieth session.
Nizar, you asked in recent days about the situation in Bahrain. As we have said here, the Secretary-General is following the situation in Bahrain closely. He notes that the first round of parliamentary elections passed off peacefully. He hopes the conclusion of the process with the runoff on 29 November will be equally peaceful. The Secretary-General believes a successful electoral process could help open the way for a genuine dialogue between the Government and the opposition, aiming at national reconciliation based on respect for the concerns and interests of all Bahrainis.
And finally, it’s with deep sadness that we learned today of the death of our colleague, Michel Bonnardeaux, the Spokesperson and Chief of the Public Information Office in UNFICYP, the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus, and the Good Offices Mission in Cyprus.
Many of you knew him from his time here in New York but Michel had also worked with the UN in several countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and Haiti.
Michel was a wonderful colleague and friend to many of us. He was a professional who knew the UN inside and out and got along with pretty much everyone. He was known for being caring and easy-going, for his great and sometimes irreverent sense of humour and his contagious laugh.
Michel had a gift for languages and many of you might have interviewed him in French, English or Spanish. But he also managed to routinely amaze us by speaking in just about any language we could think of — even if just a few sentences.
He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.
Beyond that, I can also tell you that tomorrow will be the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, so we will be closed. And also, on Friday, we will be open, but there will be no noon briefing. We will, however, update our web-page that day. Noon briefings will resume on Monday.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I missed the beginning of the announcement of the departure of Miss Amos. Did you announce anybody to take her place, or who will be an acting humanitarian relief coordinator? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, she does not leave immediately. She will be here for a few months more, and we’ll let you know of her exact departure date as it gets closer to that point. But she continues to serve in her capacity as Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator right now and at this time we’re also looking for a potential replacement. We don’t have anything to announce on that just yet.
Deputy Spokesman: Hold on one sec. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. The Syrian Government conducted its air strike on ISIL stronghold. What’s the UN’s position on this?
Deputy Spokesman: We have made clear our views of the position of the United Nations against the activities of the Daesh, or as you call it, ISIL. At the same time, of course, we have — we continue to be concerned about the military activities by the Government of Syria, and we continue to look for a political solution. As you know, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has visited the region and has visited Syria itself, trying to see what can happen for the idea of potential freeze in combat in different areas including Aleppo, and he’s continuing to take forward efforts to see what can be done to halt combat and to resume negotiations on a political solution. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask on the Under‑Secretary‑General position for OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), if you could describe what the process for recruitment will be in the context that many people say that these — at least the top three jobs are pretty much assigned by country, for Humanitarian Affairs that was John Holmes and then Amos; the US had [B. Lynn] Pascoe, now Mr. Feltman; that France has had peacekeeping four times in a row. Is this job going to be put in The Economist? Are you seeking candidates from any Member State that chooses to step forward, or is it essentially designated for the United Kingdom?
Deputy Spokesman: The idea that there are spots that are designated is more a popular myth than reality. As you know, many of the positions that have been said to be earmarked for this or that country have not over time proven to be that way. There was an idea that Political Affairs was reserved for someone from the United Kingdom. It hasn’t been that way for quite some time. There’s been talk of how different agencies are headed by Americans or other nationalities, for example, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), and over time you see that hasn’t held true. That’s the case with this position, as well. We’re seeking applicants from every area.
Question: Will it be like in The Economist? Is there going to be some public process to seek candidates?
Deputy Spokesman: We are seeking candidates. We don’t talk so much about the appointment process as it’s in procedure, but certainly it’s open to people from any region. Yes?
Question: Did Miss Amos indicate why she wants to leave and also what she plans on doing after she leaves this position?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah. I don’t have anything specific to say about that, but I can get back to you. [The Deputy Spokesman later added that she had said that she will stay until the end of March.] Yes, Nizar?
Question: Regarding the situation behind, of course, this — Bahrain, of course, this election was conducted without Al Wefaq participating in it. Seventy per cent of the society boycotted it. How do you — the Secretary‑General looks forward to the next process? Does he expect any change in the situation? Also, there are so many women have been kidnapped from their houses, put in jail in Bahrain, they are under torture. There were appeals yesterday and picketing all over the area, demanding the release of these women. And attacks against Ulama of Bahrain, mainly Ayatollah [Isa] Qassim, who is the most senior cleric in Bahrain, also has been attacked in his home. How does the Secretary‑General view that?
Deputy Spokesman: As you heard me say, we want all the passages, all the rounds of elections to be held peacefully, and we continue to have that hope — that, as the elections go into the runoff, that they will continue to be peaceful. And the other thing the Secretary‑General did stress, as I pointed out, was the need for genuine dialogue between the Government and the opposition aimed at national reconciliation based on respect for the concerns and interests of all Bahrainis.
Question: Does he call for the release of those abducted women?
Deputy Spokesman: Certainly, we have expressed our various concerns in different channels. But I don’t have anything specific to say on their case. Yes?
Question: I was wondering if you can go into a little more detail on the 16 days of activism. What sort things will be taking place in Iraq during those 16 days?
Deputy Spokesman: Not just in Iraq, but in many countries around the world. In Iraq, the website for the UN Assistance Mission, UNAMI, has some details about what they’re doing, but if you look or talk with my colleagues, for example, at UN-Women, they are planning activities around the world, which basically started yesterday, 25 November, and, as you know, Miss Phumzile Mlambo‑Ngcuka was here to talk about the concerns having to do with the need to eliminate violence against women. And they’re taking it forward with separate activities throughout the world, basically. So I’d refer you to — more specifically to the UN-Women website for further information about all the various activities. Yes, Maria Carmen?
Question: Gracias. Given the demonstrations throughout the United States after the Ferguson non‑verdict, how does the Secretary‑General view this, please?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as Stéphane [Dujarric] made clear yesterday, the Secretary‑General’s thoughts were with the family of the young man, Michael Brown, and with the community of Ferguson. He has called for calm and restraint in the aftermath of the announcement of the decision by the grand jury. The Secretary‑General appeals to those in Ferguson and across the United States who feel disappointment at the grand jury’s decision to make their voices heard peacefully and to refrain from violence. And the Secretary‑General also calls on the US authorities and state law enforcement agencies to protect the rights of peaceful demonstration and freedom of expression. As you may have heard, in the media, Michael Brown’s parents actually talked about turning this difficult time into positive change, and the Secretary‑General shares that belief. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask — yesterday, I’d asked Steph about this letter from groups, Darfuri groups about the rapes in Thabit. And the Security Council confirmed the President has received it and circulated it to the members. Has the Secretariat gotten either, the same as Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous or the Secretary‑General? And also, I wondered if you could comment on this. The Sudanese Government has said two things. They’ve said that they’ve asked UNAMID (African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur) to close down its human rights office in Khartoum. Is that true? And is UNAMID going to do it? And they’re now alleging there’s a history of rapes in Sudan by UNAMID personnel. They have said this publicly and they are using this as a rationale to ask the mission to begin a departure plan. What’s the UN’s response?
Deputy Spokesman: Okay. Well, regarding the human rights office, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, has had, since its start, a liaison office in Khartoum, which includes a small number of officers who liaise with the Government on Darfur human rights issues. UNAMID is engaging with the Sudanese Government to provide clarifications on the role of its human rights officers based in its liaison office in Khartoum. And regarding the charges, the allegations of misconduct, the United Nations addresses all forms of misconduct by all categories of UN peacekeeping personnel and is committed to a zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse, as you’re aware. The UN takes action in terms of prevention, awareness raising with host populations, training, investigation, disciplinary action and assistance to the victims. Ultimate responsibility for good conduct, order and discipline of uniformed units serving with UN peacekeeping operations rests with individual troop- and police-contributing countries. But, in that regard, of course, we’ll follow up on any and all allegations, as we do in all of our peacekeeping missions.
Question: Can we — consistent with the zero tolerance policy, is it possible to know how many, if any, peacekeepers have been repatriated from UNAMID over the last two years, three years, whatever time frame you keep that data under?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, aggregated data about peacekeepers and problems with conduct and discipline are available online, and that’s on the UN Conduct and Discipline website. So you can find it there.
Question: By mission?
Deputy Spokesman: It’s not by nationality. I think it may be by mission. Yes, Oleg?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Russian Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov today said that the Secretariat of the UN is not active enough in the investigation of the illegal petroleum and gas exports from the territories in Syria and Iraq controlled by terrorists. I wanted to ask what exactly is the Secretariat doing to check this information, to fight this phenomenon? And also the Russian Minister called for Ban Ki‑moon to present a report with facts and proposals, positions on concrete measures to fight this illicit activity.
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, the Security Council itself has called in a resolution just a few weeks ago for Member States not to conduct illicit activity commercially with the Daesh, with ISIL. And of course, if the Security Council wants any further reporting from the Secretary‑General in follow‑up to that resolution, they can request it, and of course, we’d be ready to provide that.
Question: They did not yet?
Deputy Spokesman: There’s the text of the resolution, so I just refer you to the text of the resolution itself. I believe it does include some language for feedback from the Secretary‑General down the line. So, consistent with the resolution, we’d abide by the request of the Security Council. Carla and then Nizar?
Question: Backtracking to the Ferguson case, you said the Secretary‑General supported using this time for positive change. Could you be more specific about what actual changes he’s referring to?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I’d refer you to the very lengthy press release that was also issued by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, where he talked about the various problems that he saw that need to be addressed, including the disproportionate treatment faced by African Americans in the legal system, in US jails, on death row, and in violent incidents involving the police. So I’d refer to you what the High Commissioner said just a day or so ago.
Question: Follow‑up: The Security Council very often has reports to them on human rights — so‑called human rights abuses in Syria, North Korea and so on and so forth. Would it be thinkable, possible that there would be a report on human rights abuses actually within the United States? Because this is a very serious issue. I mean, it’s —
Deputy Spokesman: Well, it’s normally the Human Rights Council that asks for those, not the Security Council. So we’d have to see what the Member States of the Human Rights Council request.
Question: Yesterday, the Syrian representative, Permanent Representative, at the General Assembly said that DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) ignored his warnings and all the letters he sent about collaboration between the terrorist groups, the Israelis, in the Golan, in the occupied Golan, also with the Qatari side. And he labelled that as immoral, that DPKO did not follow on and did not investigate these things. Is the DPKO, are they going to investigate these further? Are they going to come back with some results about their investigations, whether there was collaboration between Qatar, Jabhat al-Nusra and some UNDOF (United Nations Disengagement Observer Force) members, maybe? This is a very serious matter — to be labelled as immoral.
Deputy Spokesman: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has taken very seriously the attacks and harassment of the UN Disengagement Observer Force in Golan, and with respect to that, it looks into whatever activities by terrorist groups that have endangered or potentially endangered its personnel. So it will continue to follow up, and follow up on information wherever it leads, in terms of finding ways to ensure that our peacekeepers and their area of operations can be kept secure from threat against these terrorist groups.
Question: India has raised this question also in a statement, and they said this is a big test for the United Nations, if they don’t bring these people who are in an area controlled by the United Nations to justice, made accountable. Also about ransom payment, about ignoring, I mean, protection of the peacekeepers themselves. They were ordered to abandon their weapons, to surrender them. There were so many accusations in the debate about the Golan. I think there is a lot the DPKO should answer to that.
Deputy Spokesman: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is following up on its activities in Golan and it is reviewing it. It’s doing what it can. But it will also, of course, continue its liaison activities with all the sides to make sure that the area of operations can be kept safe, which is of course what it is mandated to do.
Question: I have another question regarding Daesh. Yesterday, the conference was concluded in Qom, with the participation of 80 countries and Olama from 80 countries. How does the United Nations view that conference, which called for dialogue, Sunnis and Shia are participating in it, because of course stemming out Daesh cannot be achieved by military means and has to be addressed on the ideological level. Do you view this conference as part of that effort to address Daesh phenomenon?
Deputy Spokesman: Anything that can undercut support for extremist groups is welcome in that regard. We don’t want such groups to thrive. Of course, I don’t have anything specific to say about this particular conference, but in general, what we hope for is greater efforts throughout the region and throughout the world to foster better understanding among Sunni and Shia. And on that note, I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving.