The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
As you know, the Secretary-General is in Norway today. Earlier in the day, he addressed the opening of the Oslo Summit on Education for Development. In his remarks, the Secretary-General noted that this Summit was organized just six days before the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa. These two meetings are not just linked on the calendar, he said — they are here to secure commitments to deliver on the promises of the sustainable development agenda.
The Secretary-General stressed the need to increase funding to achieve universal education, and at the same time, to improve the coordination of financing. In that regard, he welcomed the launch of a Global Commission on Financing Education, at a time when less than 2 percent of humanitarian aid goes to education.
His remarks are online, as well as the transcript of his joint press conference with the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, and readouts of his meetings with Julia Gillard, the former Australian Prime Minister and Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, and Gordon Brown, the UN Special Envoy for Global Education.
The Secretary-General is now on his way to the high Norwegian Arctic, to board a research vessel, RV Lance. In the run-up to the Paris Conference, the Secretary-General will be briefed by scientists and observe first-hand the effects of climate change on the region, which he previously visited in 2009. This visit will include an excursion to a Norwegian glacier [Blomstrandbreen] to see the dramatic changes to the ice, as well as briefings at the Kings Bay Marine Lab and the Svalbard Satellite Station. And we will update you on the Secretary-General’s travel as they happen.
Meanwhile, the Security Council is meeting at 3 p.m. this afternoon on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Deputy Secretary-Secretary-General will address the Council, as will the High Commissioner for Human Rights by video conference.
Following that meeting, it will receive a briefing from Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa. And he will speak to you at the stakeout after that meeting.
And on Yemen, our colleagues at the Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) say that they are deeply concerned about the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen, where civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. The Office says that the total number of civilians reportedly killed and injured since 27 March is 1,528 and 3,605, respectively.
Over the past few weeks, the Human Rights Office’s team on the ground has been able to document human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict. These include violations of the right to life, abduction, ill-treatment, restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, attacks against humanitarian workers, medical staff and facilities, as well as journalists and media organisations. Dozens of civilians have been abducted and subjected to arbitrary detention in Sana’a.
The Human Rights Office has also received worrying reports that local Popular Resistance committees affiliated with exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have summarily executed at least six people perceived to be loyal to the Houthi-Saleh coalition and committed acts of ill-treatment.
The High Commissioner’s Office once more urges all sides to the conflict to ensure that international human rights law and international humanitarian law are respected, and to ensure that all feasible measures are taken to ensure civilians are protected.
One year after the escalation of hostilities in Gaza, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Robert Piper, expressed continuing concern over the humanitarian situation and the slow pace of reconstruction.
The 51-day hostilities left $1.4 billion in direct and indirect damages and $1.7 billion in economic losses to Gaza. More than 1,400 civilians were killed and many thousands injured.
Aid agencies have supported close to 90,000 families in Gaza with temporary shelter, food assistance has been provided to over 1.4 million Palestinians and some 85,000 children have received psychosocial support. But despite these efforts, today some 100,000 people remain internally displaced; 120,000 people are still waiting to be reconnected to the city water supply. And the humanitarian appeal for Gaza remains 70 per cent under-funded. More information is available online from OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).
And as you have heard numerous times from this podium, we have been flagging the dire situation in South Sudan. And today as the country marks the fourth anniversary of its independence this week, the numbers of people in protection sites and who have been displaced by the conflict continue to rise.
The UN Mission in the country (UNMISS) says that the estimated number of civilians seeking safety in six of its protection sites has now topped 150,000. Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that more than 730,000 South Sudanese are refugees and [some] 1.5 million have become internally displaced.
UNHCR says that recent weeks have seen an escalation in violence in Unity and Upper Nile states, with heavy fighting forcing tens of thousands of people to flee to the bush and swamplands — areas that are difficult to reach.
The agency also says that assistance programmes across the region are severely underfunded — with an inter-agency appeal that is only funded at 13 per cent.
And also I want to flag that UNMISS has condemned a fatal shooting of an internally displaced person that took place in the Bentiu protection of civilian site on Sunday. According to eyewitnesses, two armed men in military uniforms were seen inside the site and fired the shot that killed the displaced person.
The UN Mission says that any attack on a protection-of-civilians site is a direct assault against the United Nations and may constitute a war crime. More information in the UNHCR’s briefing notes from Geneva and on the UNMISS website.
And from Geneva today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced his deep concern over the human rights implications of a new Law on National Security adopted in China on 1 July.
The High Commissioner said that the law is of concern due to its very broad scope coupled with the vagueness of its terminology and definitions. The High Commissioner also stressed that the law should clearly and narrowly define what constitutes a threat to national security and identify proper mechanisms to address such threats in a proportionate manner.
There is more information on the High Commissioner’s own website.
In a message to an international scientific conference hosted by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris today, the Secretary-General said that world leaders have an historic opportunity this year to adopt a new sustainable development agenda and to reach a global agreement on climate change. Both will have enormous consequences for this and future generations, he said.
The Secretary-General said that the world is at a crossroads and that all countries must be part of the solution. He noted that it is already clear that current Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by countries will not be sufficient to meet the target of a maximum temperature rise of 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
Clearly, strong action still needs to be taken, the Secretary-General emphasized. The full message is available online and in my office.
At the launch of its latest report on the global tobacco epidemic 2015, World Health Organization (WHO) stressed the need for appropriate levels of government tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products to curb the tobacco epidemic.
The report says that such action is a proven, low-cost measure to control demand for tobacco that saves lives and generate funds for stronger health services. More information from WHO.
And also from WHO — the organization today welcomed the report from the Ebola Interim Assessment Panel. The report focused on three areas — the International Health Regulations, WHO’s health emergency response capacity, and its role and cooperation with the wider health and humanitarian systems.
In August, the Director-General of WHO is expected to convene a Review Committee of the International Health Regulations, and is already moving ahead with some of the panel’s recommendations, including the development of the global health emergency workforce and a contingency fund to ensure that necessary resources are available to mount an initial response. WHO has more information online.
As you know, the Secretary-General will host the high-level International Ebola Recovery Conference in New York this Friday. Prior to that, on Thursday afternoon, there will be a press briefing by Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Ebola, and Sunil Saigal, Principal Coordinator of UNDP's response to the Ebola [outbreak]. That briefing will now take place in this room, either 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. on Thursday — we will let you know the exact time but it has now been moved to the briefing room.
And yesterday, I think, Matthew, you asked about UNAMID (United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur) staff and what I’ve been given is information that the Organization is committed to ensuring that any investigation into the conduct of a staff member is conducted fairly and thoroughly with all regard to the due process of all concerned, including the provision of staff members to seek review of managerial decisions. Due to the confidential nature of such matters and to protect the staff member, we do not confirm whether an individual is under investigation.
After you are done with me, Mr. Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will be here to brief you on the International Conference on Financing for Development, for which he is the Conference Secretary-General.
And tomorrow I’ll be joined by John Ging of OCHA. He will be here to brief you on his visit to Nepal. And at 1 p.m., a press conference by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.
**Questions and Answers
And that’s it. Nizar?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Regarding Yemen, is there any progress on raising funds for humanitarian aid since…
Spokesman: Well, we are continuing to appeal obviously for funds via our humanitarian appeal. We also continue to be in discussions with the Saudi Government, and various UN agencies with the Saudi Government, to release the funds that had been pledged.
Question: Why is it taking so long for them to release it?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, we would hope that these funds are released quickly, but we're going through the process.
Spokesman: Nizar, I'll come back to you. Evelyn, then Matthew?
Question: On Yemen also, you say dozens of civilians have been jailed in Sana’a. Who jailed them?
Spokesman: These are the details that I have. Let me read to you what I already said, which is… I'll see if I can get more details. I think some of the command and control of people is obviously difficult to investigate, but we do know people have been held against their will.
Matthew, then Benny?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you on Burundi, I know that Mr. [Abdoulaye] Bathily did go to the EAC (East African Community) meeting. They basically named Yoweri Museveni as the facilitator between the Government and the opposition in Burundi and asked the Government to delay the presidential election at least until the end of July. I wanted to know, one, does the UN play any role in this Museveni mediation? Two, does the UN, DPA (Department of Political Affairs) or other, Mr. Bathily, have… do they support this call to… to… to postpone the election, I guess the…
Spokesman: Sure. I think… yes, Mr. Bathily took part in the EAC meeting. He briefed on his role as part of the international facilitation. We've taken note of what has come out of the summit, of the East African Summit. And we very much welcome the appointment of Ugandan President Museveni as the facilitator of the dialogue in Burundi. Obviously, we will see how President Museveni intends to take this new format forward. But what is clear is that the UN will support this facilitation effort in a way that helps create the right atmosphere for elections in Burundi.
Question: Given that it's now the 7th and the election is… and President Nkurunziza is campaigning and the date is set for the 15th, can you imagine this facilitation somehow creating the conditions that… that the UN… the MENUB (United Nations Electoral Mission in Burundi) report said should be required by the 15th?
Spokesman: You know, obviously, I think it's… the situation in Burundi has been challenging, to say the least. We have a new facilitation format, I think, led by a regional President. We'll support that, and, obviously, it's up to Mr. Museveni to take it forward. But the UN very much will support his action. We hope they do get under way as quickly as possible.
Question: And last, has the Secretary‑General made any call since your last listing, where he spoke to President [Jakaya] Kikwete? Does he intend to speak with President Museveni or anyone else on this topic?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General and his aides remain in contact with regional leaders. Obviously, the Secretary‑General will be out of pocket, basically for the next 24 hours. But as soon as we can update you the phone list, we will.
Benny, then Olga, then Oleg, then Luke, then Stefano.
Question: Speaking of Gaza that you mentioned, there was last week an incident — a couple of incidents in which boats were trying to deliver aid, and you can see the air quote, because there was no aid found on those boats other than two boxes' worth, to Gaza and were intercepted by Israel. Rima Khalaf afterwards issued a statement in which she called desperate, piracy and crimes and so on and so forth, a bunch of epithets. In light of the findings last year after the flotilla, does the Secretary‑General stand behind such…
Spokesman: I haven't seen her statement. I will take a look at it.
Question: Well, it was in Arabic. And, by the way, is it okay to translate directly from Arabic to… I mean, to issue a statement in Arabic only? Is it procedure at the UN?
Spokesman: I think Arabic is one of the six official languages of the UN.
Question: Right. Fair enough.
Spokesman: And ESCWA (Economic and Social Commission for West Asia)… again, to stress I haven't seen those statements, but ESCWA being based in Lebanon, I think there's no… it is perfectly normal to issue a statement in Arabic.
Question: Fair enough. But that… just to follow up on that, there is a… in that report last year after the Mavi Marmara issue, there was a demand for all those who wished to deliver aid to Gaza to do so through established procedures. I remember in briefings afterwards that was explained as to do so through coordination with the UN with Israel, with the Palestinian Authority. Was the UN… was there coordination with those boats with…
Spokesman: I know… I don't believe… [cross talk] I don't believe… and I would be very surprised if there was any discussion between the participants of this aid that came by sea and the United Nations. I think in any situation where the UN has a humanitarian role to play, we would encourage all parties to work with established mechanisms to work with the UN whether in Gaza, whether in Yemen… Anywhere I think it is the most efficient way to deliver aid.
Question: And with Israeli authorities?
Spokesman: With estab… obviously, the UN works with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli authorities.
Question: One more follow‑up.
Spokesman: Benny, I'll come back to you. You and Nizar are my favourites. And I'll come back to you, I promise. [laughter] You're all my favourites.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. [laughter] Earlier, you said that Secretary‑General follows the negotiations on Iranian nuclear issue, and he received some updates from Vienna where talks are now, so what's his understanding or what stage the negotiations are now?
Spokesman: We're obviously following these discussions very closely. We're not going to try to interpret whatever reports come out of Vienna until the final negotiations are done. We very much welcome these efforts, and we very much hope all parties will come to an agreement.
Question: So no concerns that the negotiations are delayed?
Spokesman: I think all parties appear to be very hard at work on the negotiations, and we'll continue to support them.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On Yemen, are there any updates on the schedule of Mr. [Ismail] Ould Cheikh Ahmed? Where is he right now? Will he be visiting any more countries in the region?
Spokesman: My understanding is he is in the region. I'll try to get an exact location. [He later said that Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed is in Sana’a.]
Question: And any updates with the ceasefire? It has been…
Spokesman: I mean, obviously, we can all see that there is no humanitarian pause, and every hour that there is no humanitarian pause, civilians continue to pay the price. I think this is of great concern to the Secretary‑General. I mean, we've seen the figures just in the last 24-48 hours of civilians who have been killed. And we continue to be deeply, deeply concerned by the continued violence and continue to call on all sides to agree to a humanitarian pause.
Luke, then Stefano, then Joe, and then we'll go further down.
Question: Thanks, Steph. Commissioner Zeid's office has circulated his expected remarks to the Security Council meeting on Srebrenica later today, in which he's expected to say that he regrets the right corrective measures have not been taken to prevent such incidents from happening again. Would the SG consider designating this as a genocide to be a right corrective measure, and would he encourage the Security Council to do so?
Spokesman: I think… I would… before I would answer, I would wait for you to take a look yourselves at the Deputy Secretary‑General's own remarks on this.
Stefano, then Joe?
Question: Yes. About the situation in Europe after the Greek referendum, does the Secretary‑General, is he worried about the situation now, has any advice to resolve it? What are the wishes of the Secretary‑General for what's happening in Europe?
Spokesman: Well, he's, again, obviously following this situation closely, and he very much hopes that the Greek authorities and its creditors and the European Union will find a solution that is acceptable to all parties so that Greece will be able to undertake the important, complex task of rebuilding the economy.
So I think there… European leaders are meeting in Brussels today. We'll wait to see what the outcome is.
Question: Yes. Does the Secretary‑General have any comment or position on the proposal by Iran, at least reported proposal by Iran, that UN sanctions be lifted against Iran immediately or as part… you know, upon the signing of any final agreement, which would include the ban on the import or export of conventional arms, considering where those arms have reportedly shown up, for example, in Yemen…
Spokesman: Sure. I… Joe, I appreciate your question. The Secretary‑General is not directly involved in the talks in Vienna. They're obviously at a very critical stage. I will not opine on his behalf on reports that are coming out of Vienna on what the deal may look like, what it… how sanctions may or may not be impacted. So I think we have to wait for the deal to come out of…
Question: What about just in principle?
Spokesman: No, I…
Question: Apart from whatever may be specifically happening in Vienna, the idea of lifting an arms embargo which is part of the UN Security Council resolutions, in relation to what's been reported in terms of arms from Iran in Yemen…
Spokesman: No, I… I understand where we're trying to go here together. The Secretary‑General's principle on the proliferation of weapons is known. It's well stated. I will not say anything from here that may be interpreted even in principle as opining on the ongoing negotiations.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. In his speech to the education summit in Oslo, the Secretary‑General paid high tributes to Malala Yousafzai. I'm asking whether… and since he always calls her the daughter of the United Nations, will she have a role in the seventieth anniversary celebrations of the United Nations?
Spokesman: My understanding is that she will be present in New York in September. As to exactly what her role will be, if we have more details, we'll share that with you.
Question: And secondly, will the education summit in Oslo issue a declaration at the end of the conference?
Spokesman: I will check. I'll check. It's organized by the Norwegians, but I will check. [He later said that a chairman’s summary would be issued.] Yes?
Question: Thank you. Last week I asked Farhan [Haq] about the visit of director of IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to Iran, and he said the Secretary‑General has been updated about that visit. What is the result of that visit to Tehran? He went there and talked about the military dimension of the nuclear programme there.
And my second question about Syria, about the chlorine gas, the use of chlorine gas, it's basically left to the Security Council to… you know, to… the Security Council will never agree, like, to have an investigation and actually say who's using those kind of weapons. Will they UN finally have a role in this, have an independent, say who did this…
Spokesman: Well, obviously, on your first question… on your first question, I think it's a question to ask the IAEA to interpret the visit of their Director‑General.
On the second one, we very much hope that the Security Council will come together on the issue of chlorine gas and agree and move forward. I think the… we've seen what is possible when the Security Council agrees and comes together on the issues of Syria, and we've also seen the continuing effects of disagreement within the Security Council.
Sylviane? Then we'll go to round two.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Madame Sigrid Kaag is in New York right now. Tomorrow she will be briefing the Security Council on the report, 1701 report. She will be supposed to meet with the Secretary‑General this afternoon. As Secretary‑General is not here, who will be meeting with her?
Spokesman: I believe she will be meeting with the Deputy Secretary‑General at some point during her visit today. I will… her visit this week. I will check.
Question: Thank you.
Spokesman: Okay. Round two. Nizar.
Question: Okay. Back to Yemen. There were accusations in Yemen today that Ould Cheikh Ahmed is simply carrying messages from Riyadh; he's like a messenger, and he's not coming forward with any new ideas, and his mission is stagnating. Is there any update on if he's presenting…
Spokesman: No, I think… I would disagree with that assessment. I think the Special Envoy and his team are working tirelessly to try to bring the parties together to agree on a humanitarian pause, to agree on a political track. But we're continuing to make as much effort as we can on this, but it is also up to the parties to step up and make the efforts necessary to stop the violence and to halt the violence that we see every day.
Question: When you talk about the violence, I mean, the violence from both sides or from one side, because there is no war in Yemen. There is aerial attacks, aerial bombardment all the time from one side. The Yemenis… the retaliation from the Yemeni side is not substantial…
Spokesman: The violence is continuing. You're right — a lot from aerial bombardments but also from other sources. Regardless of the source, we need the violence to stop.
Question: On the humanitarian side, there are hundreds of thousands of people stranded at the Saudi border checkpoints. Is there anything done for these people to let them through? Because most of them are civilians; most of them are children, woman and elderly.
Spokesman: Let me check on those reports.
Question: Sure. Question on Central African Republic but I will… it seems like the DSG is meeting Ms. Kaag at 4:15 today. Just FYI.
Spokesman: As long as somebody pays attention, that's good.
Question: Yeah. It's now reported, French judicial sources have told AFP that the French judges are sending two magistrates to Bangui to belatedly speak with the child alleged victims of the Sangaris force there. And I guess I wanted to ask you, they're now saying that, as far back as August of last year, French… the French Ministry investigators went. This is now a year later that they're sending these investigators. Given what the UN has said about the difficulty of investigating, for example, the Thabit rapes in Darfur after less than a year, what does the UN think about this gap? It wasn't that the French didn't know. The French sent somebody in August of last year and did nothing. What's different now? What explains… and is the UN going to help with this new…
Spokesman: Obviously, we will cooperate in every way we can with the ongoing investigation. I'm not going to comment on what gaps there may be within the French investigation. I don't know what has been happening in the meantime. I think we're just basing ourselves on press reports. So I'm not going to comment on that.
Question: I only say because the UN has said so much about the…
Spokesman: No, no, I… [cross talk] I stand by what I said. What I'm saying to you is I don't know… we are not privy to all the details of what may be going on in the French investigation. So I'm not going to comment on that.
Question: And I notice that the Secretary‑General spoke about… with the President of Guyana and also apparently Ms. [Susana] Malcorra spoke with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister about this land dispute. And now Venezuela says… recalled its ambassador to Guyana has said things like… things are heating up. Is there… is in fact the Secretary‑General going to name a new good offices representative to that conflict? Why wasn't that done when the previous post holder, much respected, passed away, and where does it stand?
Spokesman: Let me see what I can get on that.
Oleg and then Evelyn?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Also on Yemen, there was a meeting between the representatives of the country and the Security Council members on Friday where the representatives of the Yemeni authorities said that they have agreed to a ceasefire and it will be announced in the coming days. Nothing has been announced, obviously. Was Secretary‑General also notified of this agreement… of this ceasefire?
Spokesman: We've been aware of all the discussions obviously that have been going on, including reports that we had been close to a humanitarian pause. Obviously, that has not come to fruition, which is extremely unfortunate.
Question: [off mic].
Spokesman: Hold on. Hold on. There's always time for follow‑ups.
Question: On the Central African Republic, I believe the French dispatched some gendarmes last summer to investigate this, but I have no idea whether UN cooperated with them or what happened to them. Did you follow that at all?
Spokesman: No, I… we're… you know, obviously, what has happened in the past and the level of our cooperation and what could have been done, what should have been done, what was done will be looked at by the Secretary‑General's independent external review panel. But we are cooperating in every way we can with the investigation.
Question: Yeah. On the same subject, did you get a promise from the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia? Did the Secretary‑General himself get a promise for ceasefire on Friday?
Question: I ask this question…
Spokesman: No, I understand. As I said, we were aware of discussions surrounding a possible humanitarian pause. We had been hopeful. But this, obviously, as we've seen over the last 24 hours, failed to come to fruition.
Question: What did Mr. Adel al-Jubeir say to the Secretary-General?
Spokesman: That's what I have to say to you on that.
Oleg, then Matthew?
Spokesman: And then we have to go to Mr. Wu Hongbo.
Question: Tomorrow, the joint summit of SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) and BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) starts in Ufa, Russia. I wanted to ask if the UN has anybody over there?
Spokesman: We're checking on that. I asked that question earlier. We'll get back to you. [He later said that Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman was representing the UN in Ufa.]
Question: They can hold their horses. Two very quick questions. One has to do with contingent on equipment and this new guidance that's put out by the Secretariat about vaccinations noted by PassBlue. They've noted that, and I'm looking at it now, that the UN now tells countries to vaccinate their peacekeepers if they come from a high‑risk area, and if they don't vaccinate, they… the UN will do it and charge them. Is this… can you say that this is clearly a… seems to be a response to what occurred in Haiti? And what would you say to those who say, if you're going to get into the kind of comp… the UN receiving compensation for vaccinating peacekeepers, what about compensation for people that were made sick by the previous failure to have this policy?
Spokesman: Well, I don't think we're getting compensation for vaccinating peacekeepers. I think what's important is that we keep improving our policies to keep people safe.
Question: Right, but the sentence says, "The UN will deduct any expenses for vaccinations"…
Spokesman: That's not compensation. That's just covering of costs.
Question: Right. It seems like a small amount of money, so…
Spokesman: Right, but… I… I… we agree to disagree.
Question: The other one's very fast. Yesterday I asked Farhan about this issue of Hun Sen of Cambodia writing to demand back the maps or request the maps…
Spokesman: We're looking…
Spokesman: We have the letter. We're looking into…
Question: You have the maps?
Spokesman: We're looking into this maps issue.
Spokesman: Thank you. Please wait for Mr. Wu Hongbo. He'll be right here.