The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
All right. Good afternoon.
The Security Council has received an update in closed consultations this morning from the Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, on the Yemen peace talks that are taking place in Kuwait. He briefed the Council by video conference from Kuwait. And at 4 p.m. this afternoon, Security Council members will hold closed consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, concerning the latest missile tests.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
I have been asked repeatedly this morning by a number of you for a reaction to the test. I can say that we are once again deeply troubled by the latest firing of missiles by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, one of which reportedly landed in Japan's exclusive economic zone. Such actions seriously undermine regional peace and stability. We reiterate the call on the DPRK to heed the united call of the international community to reverse its course and return to the process of sincere dialogue.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien, concluded his three-day mission to South Sudan today, calling for all parties to uphold their responsibilities to protect civilians, amidst fresh fighting that has displaced tens of thousands of people in multiple locations across the country. He said that he was outraged by the acts of violence that have been committed against civilians, including by members of the armed forces, and he called for swift and decisive action to halt these abuses and bring the perpetrators to account.
He also condemned all attacks against aid workers and assets and called on all those in leadership positions to step up and take action against these wholly unacceptable incidents. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan is catastrophic, he said. More than half of the population — some 6.1 million people — are in need of humanitarian assistance. And an estimated 4.8 million people are severely food insecure across the country, with a quarter of a million children facing severe acute malnutrition.
Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), today condemned what he said was the apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users in the Philippines. He called such killings illegal and a breach of fundamental rights and freedoms. Mr. Fedotov said that such actions contravene international drug control conventions and do not serve the cause of justice.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General met with a group representing Team Refugees in his office, as he prepares to head off to Brazil to attend the opening of the Olympic Games. Team Refugees shows support for the refugee Olympic team, and it is a project supported jointly by UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].
**United Nations Children’s Fund
Also today, UNICEF said that there is way you can get fit and support children worldwide. In Brazil and New York, the Fund has launched an initiative called “Team UNICEF, Get Active for Children” in which you log your running time, and other exercises, and gain points. The points can be converted into donations to UNICEF, from sponsors including Save the Dream and the Development Bank of Latin America. More information on UNICEF’s website. And maybe we can all sign up and do a little exercise while we attend these press briefings.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, called on all parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine to prioritize the protection of civilians and to take urgent steps to de-escalate the increasingly tense situation. He said a dramatic increase in civilian casualties in the past two months suggests that “neither Ukrainian forces nor the armed groups are taking the necessary precautions to protect civilians.” He added that “the price of the ceasefire violations is too high for the women, men and children [in] eastern Ukraine”. He urged all sides to respect the ceasefire provisions, to remove combatants and weapons from civilian areas. The full statement is available in my office and online.
And yesterday, as you will have seen, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan [Erlan Idrissov] and he congratulated Kazakhstan on the signing of the Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) today launched a project to promote fair recruitment practices globally. The Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment was developed in partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and launched today in the Philippines. It aims to reduce cases of deceptive practices in recruiting and to create fair recruitment options for all migrant workers. The agency says the Philippines will contribute to a global knowledge system on what works and does not work with respect to fair recruitment practices. More information on the ILO’s website.
Starting today, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) ShareTheMeal app will fundraise to support emergency food relief in Malawi, following one of the strongest El Niño weather events on record. The goal is to provide school meals for an entire year for 58,000 school children in Zomba, the district in southern Malawi severely impacted by drought and experiencing high levels of food insecurity. The children, aged 6 to 13 years, will receive specially fortified porridge, through WFP’s school meals programme that supports the Government of Malawi’s National Social Protection Programme. A daily hot meal at school has been shown to boost attendance and improve children’s ability to learn.
And UNHCR today confirmed the death of a staff member, Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, who was killed in the bomb attack last Tuesday in Mogadishu in Somalia. He lost his life when one of two vehicle-borne explosive devices was detonated close to Mogadishu Airport. At least 13 people are now confirmed to have been killed. Other UNHCR staff members sustained injuries caused by the blasts.
A minute of silence was observed in Ahmed’s memory at UNHCR’s headquarters in Geneva yesterday. Filippo Grandi, the agency’s head, said that his loss highlights the risks taken by colleagues working in the world’s most complex and insecure field locations to bring life-saving protection and support to those in need, and shows their deep commitment and courage.
And we have been asked by our colleagues at the oOfice of the President of the General Assembly to say that a press release was just issued with two new appointments by the President-elect of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Peter Thomson of Fiji. The press release says the current Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Tomas Anker Christensen, will continue for a second term to serve as Chef de Cabinet for the new President’s Office. And meanwhile, Ambassador Dessima Williams, Grenada’s former Permanent Representative to the UN has been appointed as Special Adviser in charge of the Office’s team for implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.
And as we would say in cricket, we have batted a century, because both Morocco and Nepal have now paid their dues, which brings us up to — thank you, I gave you that one — exactly 100. I'm all ears. Carole?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, you probably saw that the Government of Burundi has said no to 228 UN police forces. So, I'm wondering, where do you take matters from here? They've even come down from the 50 they had agreed to lower to 30 or so.
Spokesman: Sure. I mean, we… you know, we've seen the statement from the Government of Burundi, which clearly comes as a reaction to the decision taken by the Security Council. And I think the response to that statement should come from the Security Council. They are reacting to their decision. For our part, obviously, the planning continues, as requested by the Security Council, but it's in… this is, as I said, a response to the Security Council's decision. The Council needs to respond to what the Burundians have said and have decided. I think, you know, there are issues of sovereignty, which the Government has also raised. From our part, we respect the sovereignty of all Member States. We do not challenge or try to undermine it. And our engagement with Burundi is based on cooperation, primarily through the work of the Secretary‑General's Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, and we're trying to help the country address the challenges it faces. At the end of the day, this crisis will only be resolved through a genuine and inclusive dialogue, and this must remain, for our part, an absolute priority. And, in this regard, we urge the… the Secretary‑General urges all stakeholders to commit to the East African communities‑led dialogue. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, I was going to ask South Sudan, but on Yemen, just now before this briefing, Ambassador [Vitaly] Churkin said that… that the Secretary‑General's envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has a… may have a political proposal that what he unveiled in Kuwait was only a military proposal for the Houthis to leave cities and that's what they rejected, which he seemed to say was understandable. Is there, in fact, a political proposal by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed? And when is he going to present it?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, obviously, the Special Envoy has a number… has proposals and ideas. Those will be first unveiled and announced in Kuwait to the parties, and I think we just have to be a little patient.
Question: But do you… I mean, if… if it was a process of sequencing, of going public with the military proposals before the political ones and it almost resulted in the breakdown of the talks, what do you think of that? Does it make more sense…?
Spokesman: What I think is I'm not going to, if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor, Monday‑morning quarterback and nitpick the work of the Special Envoy. He is working in an extremely challenging diplomatic atmosphere, to say the least. He is in the lead, and I will… we will support his ideas and his working methods.
Question: Sure. And on South Sudan, I wanted to know, I've seen a memo from DSS [Department of Safety and Security] in South Sudan, saying they're aware of these attacks on Leer by the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army]. It seems from the memo that the UN acknowledges that it's the Salva Kiir forces attacking this Riek Machar area. So, I wanted to know, when is the UN… what's the process for the UN reporting on this type of fighting that it sees? The memo also talks about a woman IDP [internally displaced person] being harassed on the way to giving birth based on her ethnicity. So, I’m just wondering, what is the protocol for UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] or other UN forces in South Sudan to actually say what's taking place?
Spokesman: Well, I think, you know, it's always… it would be helpful for your friends at DSS to share whatever they share with you with me before the briefing so I can give you a better update. But, what is clear is that we have regularly reported from here on fighting, on incidents, when they occur. And the Secretary‑General reports regularly to the Security Council, whether in its… in the periodic reports on the mission or periodic briefings, verbal briefings by DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].
Question: But, just as an example, for example, it's reported that many UN staff have now been unable to get back into the country under this travel restriction. So, when… it seems like this is a violation of the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement]. Is the UN complaining publicly about…?
Spokesman: I think we have raised this publicly. We're obviously raising it privately. It is critical that the Government of South Sudan allow the UN staff to go in and do its work and implement the resolutions of the Security Council and the mandate given to us by the Security Council.
Question: Aside the fact that the Security Council responded to the Burundian authority, what might be the next Security Council action in order to protect civilians as the situation is getting worse…?
Spokesman: It is… as I said, it is up to the Security Council to respond, I think, to the latest statement made by the Burundian authorities. They are reacting to a decision of the Security Council. For our part, we will continue to push on the political process. We also have human rights component in the mission. But, it is clear that the situation in Burundi is not improving. And I think we all need to work together, whether it's the Security Council, the UN and the Government of Burundi and all the other political parties in Burundi to try to improve the situation through a political dialogue. Signore and then Mr. Abbadi. Sorry? Yes.
Question: Yes, about Libya, the bombing of US on ISIS, how the UN is evaluating those attacks since Monday? I mean, are they hitting only ISIS, ISIS terrorist, or there is a chance that civilians are involved and… and how is the reaction of…?
Spokesman: We have no… at this point, we have no independent information on the targeting or any casualties that are not extremist targets. Obviously, as in any operation, whether it's against extremists in Libya, in Syria, or in Iraq, it's incumbent on those who are conducting these strikes to ensure that there are no civilian casualties, that nothing… no civilian infrastructure is hit, and that civilians are protected. We have no particular information on these airstrikes that you're talking about. They were, as far as we understand it, done at the request of the Prime Minister, and you know, asked for by the Government of National Accord.
Question: Yeah. And a follow‑up. Is… I asked this question before. How the UN… I mean, the information the UN gets, right, in a situation like this, does it… does the information comes from the Libyan Government? I mean, what are the sources that tell you if those… let's say, those attacks involved…?
Spokesman: You know, it comes from obviously the Libyan Government. Our official partners, our humanitarian and human rights colleagues also have other sources on the ground whether it's NGOs [non-governmental organizations] or others. The information is then evaluated, and its veracity is examined. But, we have a multitude of different sources in this theatre or other theatre of operations. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Some reports indicate this morning that the South African Government has uncovered documents linking the death of Dag Hammarskjöld to some elements in South Africa and that the Secretary‑General has reopened the file of the case. Do you have any information on this?
Spokesman: We've seen those reports. As far as I understand it, we have been informed by the Government of South Africa and others that they are looking for documents, as the Secretary‑General requested Member States to do following the conclusion of the work of the panel that was looking into the circumstances surrounding death of the former Secretary‑General. As of now and as far as I'm aware, we have not received any information from the Government of South Africa that new information, new documents have been found. If that is the case, hopefully, we will be able to let you know. The Secretary‑General, as requested by the General Assembly, will report back to the General Assembly before the end of August on the status of any new documents that may have come through or the actions of Governments who said they are looking for new documents. Seana?
Question: Thank you for the statement you read on the DPRK launch. But, can you speak a little bit more about the new fact, the latest launch has gone into Japan's EE… EEZ [exclusive economic zone]? And when you speak about a return to sincere dialogue, does that mean six‑party talks or other formats? Could you clarify that a little bit? Thank you.
Spokesman: You know, I think, obviously, the Secretary‑General is very much supportive of the six‑party talks and that format. I think the fact that it reportedly hit into the economic… exclusive economic zone of Japan is, indeed, deeply troubling. And again, I think the Secretary‑General, as I've just said, would reiterate and renew his call to the DPRK to halt any such activities, which are clearly not conducive to reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Ms. Landry?
Question: Stéphane, some human rights groups have reacted to the outcome document for the refugee summit that was agreed last night. They're highlighting the fact that the Secretary‑General's proposal for… to resettle 10 per cent of refugees, the world refugees, annually is not in there, and they see it greatly disappointing. I'm wondering if you have a reaction, given that it was the Secretary‑General who put that forward.
Spokesman: I'll be honest with you, I don't have a reaction to it at this time, but hopefully, I'll get something a bit later on it today. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I want to ask you, I guess it was while you were away, but the strike is ongoing in UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur]. The national staff have gone on strike. And then I've seen now they published a memo where they say… basically, they were written to by Headquarters saying that, although UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], which handles their payroll, had decided that funds and payroll staff will be paid in dollars during a certain period of time, that this will not apply to UNAMID national staff, and they regret that UNDP told them that it would. And so is the UN not living up to its commitment? Why would some part of the UN staff be treated differently than the others?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of the detail of the ongoing negotiations. I know we're… our colleagues in UNAMID are continuing to engage constructively with the national staff association, I think, in order to promote a rapid solution to this and put whatever mitigating measures in place to ensure the continuity of the operations. We very much value the work that the national staff do. Obviously, that mission or any other mission can't operate without the work of dedicated national staff. And, again, we appreciate their work, and I know our mission leadership is trying to resolve the issue. I think they have grievances. Management is trying to address them in as positive way as possible.
Question: Sure. Maybe you can get their comment on this because the memo says, in this regard, the funds and programmes acted unilaterally without consultation of UN Secretariat. So, is there some… I've heard a lot about this “One UN”. How can it be that in a mission that large…?
Spokesman: I don't know. Again, you're in possession of a memo that I am not.
Question: I know. But, can you get an answer from them…?
Spokesman: We can see what we can do. Okay. Madame?
Question: Hi, Stéphane. My question revolves around Ukraine. There have been some reports that there's concern about a very high level of corruption in the country, sort of across Government agencies. And I was wondering how concerned the UN is about this alleged corruption, and for example, the impact it may have on humanitarian aid?
Spokesman: I haven't seen any particular reports from our sources on corruption in Ukraine. Obviously, corruption across the board is something that impacts everything: humanitarian work, people's access to services and education. But, I haven't seen anything specifically on Ukraine. But, I can ask. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Okay. I want… I'm going to go at this a different way. On this… the issue that there is a rule saying that the UN… I mean, I can quote from it, but saying you should receive permission for outside engagements. Rather than ask about the one you've refused to answer on, I want to ask you this. Jane Holl Lute apparently was hired in February 2016 for this post or put into the post of sexual abuse, bring it under control. In April of 2016, she was named to the board of directors of Union Pacific, which seems to pay $250,000 a year. So, on this… in this case, can you say whether this outside engagement was approved by the Secretary‑General?
Spokesman: I can check if that outside engagement exists and see what I can say.
Correspondent: There was a press release by…
Spokesman: I understand. I have not seen the press release.
Question: Do you acknowledge it's a fair question to ask whether…?
Spokesman: I'm not saying it's not a fair question.
Correspondent: When you answer that one, maybe you can answer the other one.
Spokesman: Thank you.