The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General is on his way back from Strasbourg, France, where earlier today he addressed the plenary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He told the Assembly about the immense suffering taking place in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan and elsewhere. He said the United Nations is doing all it can to save lives and help bring peace where possible, while insisting that the crimes that shock our conscience do not go unpunished. He added that globally, democracy is on the rise, but in some countries around the world, democratic progress is going backwards. He said that we must raise our voices against those who block non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders.
The Secretary-General also met today with Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. They discussed the plight of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean and noted the need to create a political environment that sustainably addresses discrimination and intolerance faced by migrants and their families.
The Secretary-General also spoke to the press after meeting with Anne Brasseur, the President of the Parliamentary Assembly, and said that he and the President discussed how to continue to work closely together to promote sustainable development, counter violent extremism, and address the grave humanitarian situation of migrants travelling through the Mediterranean and elsewhere in South-East Asia and the Andaman Sea. Before leaving Strasbourg, he also met with Igor Crnadak, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia-Herzegovina and President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. All the remarks and readouts of his meetings are online.
As you would recall, the Secretary-General received the report of the High-level Implementation Panel on Peace Operations last week. He will be studying the Panel's work closely as he prepares his own recommendations to the General Assembly and the Security Council. To that end, he has asked Louise Fréchette of Canada to advise him in the drafting of his report, which is expected to be ready for the seventieth session. In this capacity, Ms. Fréchette will work with Member States, and the UN system as well other interested parties. As you'll recall, Ms. Fréchette served as the UN's first Deputy Secretary-General. She is also an expert on peace operations and has served as the Deputy Minister of Defense in Canada.
In an interactive dialogue in Geneva this morning, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, told the Human Rights Council that the war in Syria had mutated into a multi-sided and highly fluid war of attrition. The surges and setbacks in that war have fuelled the illusion that a military victory remains possible. Mr. Pinheiro said that the Syrian Government, with the superior firepower and control of the skies, inflicted the most damage in its indiscriminate attacks on civilians. He added that non-State armed groups continued to cause civilian deaths and injuries as well. The prolonged fighting in Syria has now resulted in more than 220,000 killed, 7.6 million people internally displaced persons and 4 million refugees. There are more details on the website of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
And from Yemen, our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that health kits, IV fluids and other essential medicines have been delivered to health facilities in four governorates in Yemen in the past week, for the treatment of more than 438,000 people, including treatment of patients with dengue fever. A new analysis released by OCHA shows that in the first three weeks of June, only 11 per cent of the estimated total monthly fuel requirements for Yemen have been delivered. This compares to 18 per cent for May, 1 per cent for April, and 23 per cent for March.
Commercial shipping is slowly increasing, but remains constrained by port congestion, uncertainty over coalition searches, and high fees related to the time spent by ships waiting to dock. This is contributing to massive food insecurity. The UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) is flying regularly from Djibouti to Sana'a every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. And I think it was you, Nizar, who had asked a question yesterday about the food that the Iranians had sent over, and I can tell you that following its arrival from Djibouti for onward distribution: our humanitarian colleagues inform us that some of the food contributed by Iran is in Djibouti and is being packaged in preparation for shipping to Yemen. Humanitarian partners are distributing some of the food that has already arrived in Yemen.
**Republic of Korea
And as we told you yesterday, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, is in the Republic of Korea. Today, he opened a new field office in Seoul to work on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. In his remarks at the opening ceremony, Mr. Zeid said that the new office will operate with full independence, integrity and in accordance with UN principles. It will monitor and document human rights issues in the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], building on the landmark work done by the Commission of Inquiry and the Special Rapporteur. He added that its work will help lay the basis for future accountability.
An update from Libya, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Bernardino León, yesterday met with the representatives of armed groups from various parts of the country. The meeting, which took place in Misrata, is a part of the UN Mission’s (UNSMIL) efforts to meet with the security and military actors involved in the Libyan dialogue. This is complementary to the ongoing political discussions. Other meetings are being planned, including one in Cairo with representatives of the Libyan Army and armed groups from regions in the east, and that is expected to take place in the coming days.
At the meeting, Mr. León underscored the importance of the support of the armed groups for the successful implementation of the agreement, specifically on security arrangements including withdrawal from cities and towns, and the positive role the armed groups can play in support of the Government of National Accord. More information is available online.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali, Mongi Hamdi, briefed the Security Council this morning. He said that in spite of notable progress on the political front, the security situation in the country remains fragile. He added that recent clashes remain a stark reminder of the complexity and unpredictability of the security environment in the northern regions. Mr. Hamdi said that security provisions in the Peace Accord, if implemented in a timely, inclusive and consensual fashion by the parties, could positively impact efforts to stabilise the northern regions. His full remarks are available in my office. And he will be speaking at the stakeout after the Security Council is done with him.
**Central African Republic
A note from the Central African Republic — the UN [Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization] Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that it received allegations of sexual abuse perpetrated against street children in Bangui by members of one of its contingents. The troop-contributing Member State was immediately notified and an investigation procedure was initiated. Medical care and assistance is being provided to the alleged victims. If the allegations are substantiated, this would constitute a grave violation of UN principles and code of conduct for UN Peacekeepers. The Member State would be requested to take swift and appropriate punitive action.
Speaking at the second Annual Session of the Peacebuilding Commission, the Deputy Secretary-General [Jan Eliasson] said that peacebuilding remains at the core of UN activities in conflict-affected countries, helping countries transition from war to peace. Mr. Eliasson warned that the lack of sufficient and predictable funding for critical peacebuilding priorities continues to hold back the UN’s efforts, urging the international community to do more to be effective in preventing the relapse into violence. He added that building institutions that form the backbone of sustainable peace can take a generation. Next week, the Advisory Group of Experts of the Peacebuilding Architecture review will present its report to the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Deputy Secretary-General’s full remarks are online and in my office.
**United Nations Children’s Fund
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the global community will fail millions of children if it does not focus on the most disadvantaged. Launching its latest Progress for Children report, the agency today said that despite significant achievements, unequal opportunities have left millions of children living in poverty, dying before they turn five, without schooling and suffering chronic malnutrition. It warned that at current rates, and given the projected population growth, 68 million more children under five could die from mostly preventable causes by 2030, and 119 million children could be chronically malnourished by 2030. That report is online.
Our friends at the Global Compact wanted you to know that today kicks off a three-day series of events marking the fifteenth anniversary of the UN Global Compact — the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative. The event, “Global Compact+15: Business as a Force for Good”, will bring together 1,000 participants to assess the impact of corporate sustainability over the past 15 years, the role of the UN Global Compact in growing a global corporate sustainability movement, and pathways for the future on issues from climate to human rights to anti-corruption.
The series of events will culminate in a session at the UN General Assembly [Hall] on Thursday, bringing together business, Government [and] civil society leaders to demonstrate the private sector's role in advancing global priorities. At a related Business for Peace event this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General reminded the participants that while the primary responsibility for peace lies with governments and the UN Security Council, business has a critical role to play.
A company’s decisions — on investment and employment, on relations with local communities, on protection of the environment, and on inclusive recruitment and training — can help a country overcome conflict, reduce tensions and build peaceful societies, said the Deputy Secretary-General. More information the Global Compact’s website which is unglobalcompact.org.
In his message for International Widows Day, the Secretary-General calls on everyone to help end discriminatory attitudes and take action to ensure that widows of all ages enjoy equal human rights, including the right to shape their own future and to participate fully in society. He says that we must erase the social stigmatization and economic deprivation that confronts widows; eliminate their high risk of sexual abuse and exploitation; and remove the barriers to resources and economic opportunities that constrain their future.
And today is also Public Service Day. And in his message for the day, the Secretary-General highlights the dedication of public servants everywhere, saluting their tireless efforts to provide efficient and inclusive services that are available to all.
And I do have a statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Secretary-General welcomes the decision of the General Assembly to establish 19 June as the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
The Secretary-General commends Member States and particularly the Government of Argentina, as the sponsor of the resolution, for the increasing priority given to conflict related sexual violence. This resolution is the achievement also of the continued work by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Zainab Hawa Bangura, and his Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, whose efforts have helped to galvanize political support resulting in concrete results at the national and regional levels to address conflict related sexual violence.
Women’s security and empowerment remain priorities for the Secretary-General. The international community must not rest until all violence against women and girls is eliminated, and women’s full political and economic participation worldwide is ensured. These are critical for upholding human rights, as well as achieving sustainable development and peace. Edie then Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. First, a follow‑up on the allegations of sexual abuse against children in the Central African Republic. Do you have any details on how these allegations were discovered, and could you tell us who exactly is doing the investigation? And then I actually had a question that was raised by Mali's Foreign Minister in the Security Council, which is why the word "terrorism" was not mentioned in the Secretary‑General's report on Mali. He was very concerned that the word "terrorism" has… was not in the report, since he says that there is a great deal of terrorism going on in the country.
Spokesman: Sure. On your second question, you know, the Secretary‑General bases his report on his own observations. Some words are used. Some words are not used. I don't really have a good answer to give the Foreign Minister here. You may also want to ask the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] at the stakeout. On your first question, according to the information we have received at moment, the allegations, as we said, came to us… to the Mission on 19 June. We're obviously looking into it. We're providing support to the victims. The Member State has also been notified, was notified on 20 June, and we expect their investigative procedures to go on and to report back to us as quickly as possible. What we know is that the crimes could go as far back as 2014 and then most recently occurred already… this past year. Matthew?
Question: Sure. On that same topic, I thought it had been said in here that henceforth, the UN would be naming the name of the country of the… of the peacekeepers alleged with this, so why isn't that happening in this case?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General said in his report that it would be his intention to do that in his next report. So…
Question: So, it’s all going to get kind of accumulated or is it going to be mission-specific?
Spokesman: At this point, I think we look to the next [Secretary-General] report.
Question: Also on the panel that you announced yesterday, I had two questions. One has to do… you said… it's called an independent panel and even though Mr. [Hassan Bubacar] Jallow is on the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda]. It's still independent. So, I wanted to know, who's staffing it? What’s going to be the staffing level? How many people…?
Spokesman: Okay. Mr. Jallow will step aside from the ICTR during his service. There will be an officer-in-charge named, though he'll obviously remain available to the ICTR and to the mechanisms which he heads should that be needed. I think, as I said yesterday, Mr. Jallow is an outstanding legal scholar and I think will take his responsibilities very seriously. It will be up to the panel to staff… to staff itself. I expect most of the staffers to come from outside of the UN, but the decision as to who to hire will be made by the panel members themselves. The only support… you know, the only… the UN will provide, I think, one or two administrative assistants to help them navigate the UN system, as they need to travel and reach out to people. But, the panel will be staffed by the people that the panellists themselves choose.
Correspondent: Right. But, it's an independent panel. So, even those UN staff are not going to be reporting back to the UN. This is a path that's entirely separate.
Question: Where will they be housed?
Spokesman: We will give them office space wherever they would like to have office space.
Question: And looking at the terms of reference, is… it wasn't clear to me… I know that you were asked yesterday, about the whistle-blowing aspect, but what really is the purpose of the ongoing OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] process regarding Mr. [Anders] Kompass? I guess that's my question. It seems like, given that you're now looking into the way the whole thing played out, is OIOS still proceeding to try to find misconduct by Mr. Kompass?
Spokesman: As I said yesterday, the information that OIOS gathers will also be folded… will be taken into account by the panel, but as far as I know, OIOS is continuing its work.
Question: What's the timeline? Is it in the same 10‑week timeline?
Spokesman: The OIOS has its own timeline. It's not for me to comment. Anna?
Question: Thank you. I have two questions, actually. Stéphane, you promised to get back to us on the issue of Sudan and UN endeavours to prevent another genocide from happening. Do we have any new updates for us on that?
Spokesman: In what… in terms of Darfur?
Correspondent: No, in terms of students being arrested in Khartoum and in terms of students being burned alive, executed and persecuted, Darfuri students.
Spokesman: I have not gotten anything on the events you're talking about in Khartoum. But I will see what I can get.
Correspondent: Okay. And the second question is about Europe closing down. Secretary‑General himself said on Tuesday in Strasbourg that this is one mistake that Europe cannot afford to make. But, the documents were available in the media that state that Europe is… instead of deciding on quotas, they are reinforcing the borders and they are giving Frontex, which is the border military agency, police agency, liberties to deal with migrants as they please.
Spokesman: Sure. What is the question?
Question: The question is: is UN going to go further than friendly recommendations on this very important human rights global issue?
Spokesman: I think the United Nations in… as embodied by the Secretary-General, as embodied by the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Secretary‑General's Special Representative for International Migration or Mr. [William] Swing, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have been very, very focused on discussions with European leaders on how to handle the migration issue in the Mediterranean, that the focus should be obviously first on saving lives, on treating migrants with dignity and ensuring they are fully protected by all relevant laws. And also the message that has been stressed at all levels is the need for safe, regular and orderly channels for migration and mobility, and for increased efforts to address the root causes. I think that this is a struggle that needs to be dealt with at many different levels. Obviously, the European Union decides on its policies and on its laws, but the message from the UN has been very clear.
Question: Another just clarifying question. If, God forbid, the quotas are not reached in the future and people keep dying on the sea, what would be the UN's next steps?
Spokesman: I think, again, the High Commissioner for Refugees on a more practical level has been working with Member States and the European Union to see how we can help in dealing with the continued influx of migrants. And again, the focus of any operations in the Mediterranean needs to be on saving lives. So, obviously, the Secretary‑General took note of the decision taken in Luxembourg yesterday. He welcomes the operationalization of the next phase of the naval force which will enhance the ability for surveillance and patrolling to monitor human smuggling. Yes, yes?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. First, happy Public Service Day to you and your colleagues. Yesterday, European diplomats, EU [European Union] diplomats announced plans to go after migrant smugglers with military force. On the other side, the Libya Tobruk-based Government warned European countries that unauthorized ships in Libyan waters will be targeted by the country’s air force. Any comments?
Spokesman: Well, I think partly my answer to what I just told Anna, my understanding of what was agreed to in Luxembourg… and I hope my understanding is true… the operationalization of the military phase would really depend on a Security Council resolution. So, I think we can't jump to conclusions. Again, we welcome an increased naval presence in the Mediterranean that would focus on saving lives and on fighting against human trafficking and smuggling. It's obviously critical that countries' borders, whether they be maritime or other borders, be respected. But, we want the work to focus on the saving lives, on treating migrants and refugees with dignity and also at the same time addressing the root causes. Nizar?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane, for coming back on the ship, and I don't understand why it took so many weeks for them to start packaging such assistance.
Spokesman: Well, I think… if I… if I understand the answer I gave you, some of the material has already been sent and distributed in Yemen.
Correspondent: Okay. Another thing, people from Hajjah and Sa’ada have been complaining that, five times after their names were taken as refugees, those who are fleeing even cluster bomb falling on them, five times they haven't received any aid yet, and they're complaining that the United Nations is just taking numbers and not giving any aid.
Spokesman: I… obviously, I'm not aware of the particular case you mentioned, but I think our colleagues at UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and other humanitarian agencies are doing more than just taking numbers. They're providing active humanitarian aid and support, either directly or through local partners, to the huge influx of refugees we're seeing throughout the region.
Question: Can we get any information on when was the last time they distributed any aid in Sa’ada and Hajjah?
Spokesman: We can ask. Yes?
Question: Thank you. Stéphane, there is some reports that China has banned testing for reporters. Is the Secretary‑General aware of that?
Spokesman: No, I have not seen those reports. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. This is something that the Malian Foreign Minister said to ask you. So, I want to say that in advance before asking you. And it has to do with whether… I asked him whether the UN is in fact going to pay monetary compensation to civilians that were killed by peacekeepers in Gao in that report that was issued some time ago. And he said: You should ask the UN. So, I'm asking you. Is the…
Spokesman: Okay. I will… let me check on what we'd announced at the time, and I'll get back to you. [He later added that a compensation fund had been set up by the Department of Field Support.]
Question: And also the Security Council in Mali was moved to [Conference Room 2]. Different people said different things for the reason. Do you have some explanation of what happened?
Spokesman: I was not aware of it. [He later said that the Security Council meeting had been briefly moved because of faulty air conditioning.]
Question: And finally, this may surprise you, but I've… I've been told that the top floor… a top floor, not all, a top floor of the UN has been found to have bed bugs and people have been told not to be working there currently. And I thought I should ask you if that's the case.
Spokesman: Listen, I guess being a public servant means to be able to talk about just about anything. I'm not…
Correspondent: It's happened before. That's why I'm asking you.
Spokesman: We've had… you know, I don't know, Matthew. I can check.
Question: Can you find out?
Spokesman: We do live in a… in an urban environment. These things happen in every city.
Correspondent: Definitely. But, they're telling the people on this particular floor…
Spokesman: I understand. I will check. [The following announcement was issued later in the afternoon: The Department of Management wishes to inform staff that bedbugs have been detected in an isolated area (two cubicles on the northern end of the 34th Floor) of the Secretariat building. The Office of Central Support Services responded promptly, and the area is being treated by professional exterminators. In order to ensure that the infestation has been contained completely, a further canine inspection will be carried out tonight, including on surrounding floors. Affected staff will be briefed in an information session with the exterminator.] Yes, sir, and then Linda.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Does the Secretary‑General support Mr. [Ben] Emmerson, who has proposed that it is the obligation of the Security Council to take action under Chapter VII against Islamic State militants?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General has supported military and security actions against the Islamic state, but it is always… that sort of action be conducted within the parameters of international law and to ensure that one set of abuses doesn't lead to another. Linda?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Regarding the Iran P5+1 nuclear talks, there's about a week left if an agreement is to be reached by 30 June. And I was wondering that at this stage, what kind of role, if any, is the Secretary‑General playing? Is he in touch with the players individually, as a group…?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General has no direct role in the negotiations of P5+1. He's obviously being kept informed of what is being discussed, but there is no formal role for the UN… for the Secretary‑General within the negotiations themselves. We obviously support this framework very much and very much hope that an agreement will be reached.
Question: Just to follow up. Does he do this by telephone or look into individual players or…?
Spokesman: He sometimes gets updates from some of the people who are participating in the talks, but it's really informative as opposed to being asked to play an active role in the negotiations. Evelyn, then Nizar?
Question: Getting back to the [Central African Republic], can you tell us how many soldiers and how many children were involved? Were there details…?
Spokesman: No, not at this time. More than one child.
Question: And why is the [Secretary-General] waiting for the next report? I mean…
Spokesman: You know, I think the whole issue of naming the contingents is one that is being discussed with troop‑contributing countries. I think the important thing is that we are reacting as quickly as possible when allegations come forward, providing support for the victims, and ensuring that the Member States who are responsible for the control of their troops investigate and, if proven true, prosecute.
Correspondent: It would seem, though, that the first step would be to send the troops out of the country.
Spokesman: Well, obviously, I think one has to determine first if it is the case of an individual or if it is a more systematic issue. Nizar?
Question: UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] has been outspoken by Palmyra and the risk that Da’esh may destroy the whole historic city. Does Secretary‑General add his voice and calls for any military action…?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General is fully supportive of Ms. [Irina] Bokova, Director‑General of UNESCO's calls and efforts to protect what is truly a global heritage. Matthew and then we'll go…
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. Just very fast questions. One is Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous is listed as meeting with Sheba Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State of the US, today at 2:30 p.m.. Can we… do you know or can you find out what the topic is?
Spokesman: I do not know.
Question: Can you find out?
Spokesman: I can always ask.
Correspondent: Okay. The other one is I saw that you put out the Secretary‑General's comment in a remark to the press or in a press encounter, but I saw there was no Q&A.
Spokesman: I don't believe there was a Q&A.
Question: So, it’s remarks to the press?
Spokesman: To the press. It sometimes happens, when the Secretary‑General visits different places, there are remarks, but there isn't always Q&A.
Question: I see Mr. [Oscar Fernánadez] Taranco is speaking on the topic of Burundi today across the street at IPI [International Peace Institute], and I wanted it know who arrange… who… since he hasn't spoken inside this building, who kind of controls who can go and ask questions on topics by Assistant Secretaries‑General like Mr. Taranco? I got an e-mail back saying I've been taken off the list, that I can't attend. I want to know if it's a policy of the UN…?
Spokesman: No, that's an issue that you have to take up with IPI.
Question: Regarding the Iranian Majeed Gly of Rudaw; regarding the Iranian nuclear talk, the head of IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] mentioned that Iran actually agreed to open its military site for inspectors, but Iran denied that and announced that it never agreed to such things. Does the Secretary‑General calls on Iran to support the IAEA's position?
Spokesman: I'm not going get into a back and forth between the Iranian authorities and the IAEA, which I haven't seen. But, obviously, countries have obligations to the IAEA; they need to honour them.
Question: Inhabitants of Al-Hadr, a town in the occupied Syrian Golan, and those in Majd el-Shams have been accusing the Israeli military of supporting terrorist Al‑Nusra in attacking Hadr, which is under constant attack for few days now. How does… did you receive reports from UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] on the subject?
Spokesman: I have not, but I can check.
Correspondent: And the situation there is very dire being encircled from four fronts by Al‑Nusra and the Israeli military.
Spokesman: Okay. I will check. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. With regard to rights… human rights report about enforced disappearances in Egypt, it was reported that in the period between April and end of May, there was 163 cases of enforced disappearances, in which 63 of them lasted for over 24 hours, but less than 100 have been continued disappearance and two killings. Did the Secretary‑General address this issue with the Egyptian Government? Was any communication with them…?
Spokesman: I think… the Secretary‑General, in his meetings with Egyptian officials over the past year or so, has often raised human rights issues. Thank you, all. Have a good Public Service Day.