14 October 2016

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way to Washington, D.C., where he will be speaking at the University of Maryland this afternoon and speaking to a number of students.  And as we said, he will then go on to Haiti tomorrow.


And from Haiti, I can report that our humanitarian colleagues continue to appeal to the international community for $120 million in emergency funding to provide life-saving relief to 750,000 Haitians impacted by Hurricane Matthew.  The Appeal is currently funded at 13 per cent.  The request for funding is vital to support the response of the Haitian authorities and civil society to cover the critical needs of those affected populations for such things as safe water, food, shelter, and sanitation to prevent water-borne infectious diseases.

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that they are supporting the Government of Haiti in providing emergency food assistance to 750,000 people in the areas battered by Matthew.  WFP’s food distributions began on 8 October in Jérémie.  So far, around 30,000 people, mostly living in shelters, have received rations.  WFP says they are using trucks and helicopters to transport food as quickly as possible in order to save lives.

UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] is also working to vaccinate about 500,000 people against cholera in the areas impacted by the hurricane.  And a water treatment unit has arrived in Haiti and was transported to Jérémie.  It is expected to be fully operational to respond to the needs of up to 16,000 people daily starting Saturday, which is tomorrow.  

Meanwhile, our colleagues in the Peacekeeping Mission (MINUSTAH) report that UN Police and Haitian National Police have conducted a total of 159 joint patrols throughout Haiti yesterday.  The Mission is providing security for food and water distribution efforts undertaken by UN agencies in Jérémie, as well as to humanitarian agency warehouses in Les Cayes and Jérémie.  Peacekeepers also continue to provide security to relief and aid convoys in various parts of the country.

And this afternoon, as we mentioned, there will be a briefing for Member States on the UN system’s new approach on cholera.  There will be interventions by the Deputy Secretary-General, the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] for Haiti, Sandra Honoré, as well as Dr. David Nabarro, and that will be up on Web TV.

**Central African Republic

And from the Central African Republic, our colleagues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today urged all armed groups in the country to exercise restraint in the wake of an escalation of violence in Kaga Bandoro.  The Office stressed the need for accountability for those responsible for the violence over the past months.  They called on all armed groups to participate fully in the disarmament, demobilization, reintegration and rehabilitation process; that is a crucial step towards a lasting peace in the country.  And the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Central African Republic, Fabrizio Hochschild, also condemned the attacks against displaced persons and acts of retaliation against civilians in the area of Kaga Bandoro.


And from Nigeria, our colleagues at UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) today welcomed the release of 21 of the so-called Chibok schoolgirls who were captured by Boko Haram.  UNFPA has prepositioned counsellors to provide emergency psychosocial support to the girls and reproductive health care for those who need it.  I do expect a statement from the Secretary-General on the same issue shortly.

The Boko Haram crisis continues to pose a major human security challenge in Nigeria.  UNFPA is providing reproductive health kits that contain live-saving supplies so that affected women and girls continue to have access to reproductive health services.  But beyond their physical health is the trauma and violence they endure in emergencies.  UNFPA calls for and anticipates the release of more abducted girls, boys and women and is ready to continue working with partners immediately to meet their reproductive health needs, including psychosocial support and counselling.  And as promised, here is the statement:  The Secretary-General welcomes the reported release of 21 Chibok schoolgirls, following more than two years of captivity.  He remains deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of the remaining schoolgirls and other victims of abduction by Boko Haram who are still in captivity.

The Secretary-General urges the international community to continue supporting the Government of Nigeria in its efforts to [secure] their release, rehabilitation and reintegration.  He calls for increased efforts to ensure additional humanitarian access to north-east of Nigeria and reiterates the continued commitment of the United Nations in this regard.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, in his capacity as High Representative for Nigeria, continues to engage with the Nigerian authorities and international partners on this matter.


And I wanted to flag a report just released out of Liberia that details the high incidence of rape in the country, as well as the widespread impunity for perpetrators.  The report comes from the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  More than 800 cases of rape were reported in 2015 alone, across all 15 counties in Liberia — making rape the second most commonly reported serious crime in the country.  Only 2 per cent of rapes and sexual- and gender-based violence cases reported last year in Liberia resulted in court convictions.


And Mr. [Stephen] O’Brien wrapped up his three-day visit to Myanmar today.  The Emergency Relief Coordinator expressed his deep concern over the recent violence in the northern part of Rakhine State, where today he visited displaced people living in camps, as well as recently resettled communities.  Mr. O’Brien said the immediate priority must be to prevent further violence and to ensure the protection of all civilians.  While in Myanmar, Mr. O’Brien also visited Kachin and Shan States, where nearly 100,000 people are still being displaced due to fighting.  In other meetings with State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other Government officials, he stressed that the UN stands ready to provide the required support to enable the Government to meet the needs of its people.


And Abdel Hamid, yesterday you had asked me about the visit to Gaza by Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov.  As you know, he visited Gaza yesterday to check the ongoing overall reconstruction efforts, including the flow of construction material into the Strip.  He visited a vendor responsible for the distribution of construction material and met directly with beneficiaries and businesspeople who expressed their deep concern and frustration over the shortage of construction material flowing into the Strip, particularly cement.  He also met with the Minister of Public Works and Housing in Gaza to discuss the concerns and how the UN can best address this matter.

The Special Coordinator concluded his visit with a press conference, where he shared the UN's concern over the shortages of construction material and highlighted the importance of ensuring a continued predictable flow of material into the Strip for its vital impact on the Gaza economy and stability.

**Viet Nam

And I also wanted to flag that the High Commissioner for Human Rights today voiced concern over a growing crackdown by the Government of Viet Nam on human rights defenders.  They include a popular blogger and Government critic known online as Mother Mushroom, who was arrested this week.  The High Commissioner said the country’s Penal Code effectively makes it a crime for any Vietnamese citizen to enjoy the fundamental freedom to express an opinion, to discuss or question the Government and its policies.  He urged the Government to abide by its obligations under human rights law to drop the charges against the blogger and to release her immediately.  You can read more about it online.


And just lastly an appointment: The Secretary-General has appointed François Louncény Fall of Guinea as his Acting Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA).  He succeeds Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal, who will conclude his appointment on 31 October.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Bathily’s dedication and excellent leadership of UNOCA during a critical period.  Khalas.  Exactly.  Yeah?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I heard the statement you read by OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) UN relief chief, but that's nothing compared to what has happened.  There is a massive Myanmar army assault on the Rohingya Muslims, and 14 people have been killed.  And I would like to know what the Secretary‑General has to say about it.

Spokesman:  I think on the issues in… the latest violence we've seen in Rakhine State, there was a statement issued, I think, less than a day or so ago by Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, his Special Adviser, and I would refer you to that.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  I was wondering, Stéphane, why the Arria Formula taking place now in settlement has not been mentioned in MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit) list of activities today.  It wasn't in the Journal.  It was not announced, as if it's something secret.  Why?  

Spokesman:  As to why it wasn't in the journal, I think you'd have to ask the organizers how they wanted to make it… how to make it public.  My understanding is that I think it was broadcast on WebTV…

Correspondent:  No [inaudible].

Spokesman:  Then I would refer you to the organizers who are the sole people responsible to choose how a meeting is publicized or broadcast.  Mr. Lee and then Masood.

Question:  Sure.  I mean, I guess, as the Secretary‑General goes to Haiti, I wanted to get your… your response to the… to the allegation there that the MINUSTAH truck ran over the motorcyclist, Jean‑Claude, in Saint‑Jean‑du‑Sud and… and a little more detail on the use of firing weapons in the air to disperse protesters, but mostly about the motorcyclist.  Does the UN acknowledge that this happened, and if so, what's the recompense?

Spokesman:  Let me tell you what I received from the Mission, which is:  MINUSTAH reports that yesterday morning an accident occurred involving a motorcycle carrying two individuals and a MINUSTAH military convoy.  According to initial reports, the incident, which took place about 20 kilometres west of Les Cayes, resulted in injuries to one rider and the death of another.  MINUSTAH has launched an investigation into the incident, and, of course, the Mission conveys its heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those affected by the accident and wishes a speedy recovery to the person that was injured.

Question:  What's the legal… I guess, legal repercussions?  Like, normally, if a driver hits and kills somebody, they might pay compensation.  Does the UN, in such cases, if they think they have a responsible…

Spokesman:  There has to be an investigation, and there are mechanisms for compensation.

Question:  Right, but it's a self‑investigation.

Spokesman:  There've been other cases in other peacekeeping missions, and obviously, there'll be an investigation.

Question:  How long do these investigations take…? 

Spokesman:  I don't know, but it should not take that long.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  About Gaza, on Gaza, did I hear you say that Israel has lifted the blockade to Gaza for allow reconstruction material to go through?  Is that right?

Spokesman:  No, you did not hear me say that.  There is a mechanism in place with Israel, in which construction goes…

Question:  So the blockade is in place, then.

Spokesman:  I did not mention the blockade.

Question:  So all I'm asking, is the blockade in place?  Israel…

Spokesman:  Obviously, there are a number of factors which impact the availability of goods into Gaza, which involve both Israel and also the contending security situation within Gaza and the role of the Palestinian leadership in Gaza, as well.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Yeah, I don't know if you are aware that UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] executive board adopted a decision saying that East Jerusalem is part of the Islamic heritage only, and there was a protest by Israel.  Israel decided to suspend its relations with UNESCO.  Any comment on that?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, obviously, I think you'd have to ask UNESCO exactly what the situation is concerning their relations between Israel and UNESCO, which is a specialized agency.  From our point of view, from the Secretary‑General's point of view, we are obviously aware of the vote that was taken in UNESCO.  And for his part, the Secretary‑General reaffirms the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls for the three monotheistic religions and stresses the importance of the religious and historical link of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian peoples to the holy site.  The Al Aqsa Mosque/Al‑Haram al‑Sharif, the sacred shrine of Muslims, is also the Har HaBayit — or Temple Mount — whose Western Wall is the holiest place in Judaism, a few steps away from the Saint Sepulchre church and the Mount of Olives, which is revered by Christians.  The Secretary‑General reiterates that any perceived undertaking to repudiate the undeniable common reverence for these sites does not serve the interests of peace and will only feed violence and radicalism.  He also calls on all sides to uphold the status quo in relation to the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask… this is something I had hoped to ask Mr… do you have a follow‑up?  Go ahead.

Question:  That means this statement is almost taking a different side from the Security Council resolutions.  Secretary‑General is by… by the mere fact that he heads this Organization, he's supposed to follow strictly resolution 476 and 478 and resolution 271, which Israel has no right to change the demographic, geographic or cultural nature of East Jerusalem.  Is then…

Spokesman:  I think we may be talking past each other on different levels.  The Secretary‑General has always reaffirmed the need for respect to Security Council resolutions, the relevant ones you just mentioned.  What happened at… what I've just read out to you was a reaction to what happened at UNESCO, which I think puts in questions the point that the Secretary‑General is making, which… that the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls have an undeniable link to three religions:  Christian, Jewish, Muslim.  It includes holy sites that are revered by the followers of these three religions.  Anything that is perceived as an undertaking to repudiate that fact does not serve the cause of peace.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Something I'd wanted to ask the… the… Mr. [Yukio] Takasu yesterday, but time didn't permit, but… it has to do with the case that I'd asked you about and, I guess, other cases in the UN Dispute Tribunal, Hassanin vs. the Secretary‑General.  The award was for either to pay three years' net base salary, which is the time the person's been out, $20,000 compensation for emotional distress.  Some are saying… is there a budget line?  Because there are a number of damages awards racking up in the UN Dispute Tribunal, and some are saying that it's not in the budget.  So they use the term "slush fund".  Maybe that's loose.  How does this money get paid out?  And how does it get accounted for, so people can know what these decisions are making?  And are the individuals who made the decisions that are complained of and ruled against somehow held accountable for what happened, or does just… the global taxpayer just pay for it?  

Spokesman:  Well, I think there is… we'll find out exactly where it comes out of the budget.  The rulings are, obviously, public, and those people who have rulings against them remains public and, obviously, remains as part of their history.

Question:  Right.  But can you find out where they get paid from?

Spokesman:  I can find out.

Question:  Also… I mean… and you may… I guess I want to ask this because the Secretary‑General… you know, climate change, he's closely associated with it.  So I wanted to ask, there's an announcement by an Italian energy, basically oil and gas, firm, no, you know, clean energy, solar or wind, called Saipem.  It's a part of Eni.  And they put out a press release this week, bragging that they've joined the Global Compact.  And a cursory search finds them showing up in the Panama Papers scandals as having… as well as having been charged with paying bribes and having actually paid a fine for paying bribes in Nigeria for their oil contracts.  So I'm just wondering, as he leaves, does the Secretary‑General… I understand the Global Compact seems to only require people to file reports, but what about old energy companies accused of corruption joining the UN Global Compact and announcing that this makes them green…?

Spokesman:  You'd have to, A, check with the Global Compact on exactly what that company… whether it did join and what it was required to do.  We would obviously expect any company that joins the Global Compact to follow the ethical standards.

Question:  Was there any connection to the climate change expressed goals of the Secretary‑General?  Does he believe that the Global Compact… what exactly is the purpose… do they have to find that a company is moving towards clean energy or can an old‑school…

Spokesman:  It's companies that, in a holistic manner, follow and support the goals of the United Nations.  Masood, and then Mr. Iftikhar.

Question:  Yes, just… this is like the holistic question.  Is the Secretary‑General in his… I mean, while he's here in office, make any last‑ditch effort to salvage the Middle East peace process at all?  Is there… is that on his agenda?  Is he going to make some…

Spokesman:  I think all of these things remain on the agenda.  They're not on the person… they're on the agenda of the Secretary‑General.  They're on the agenda of the United Nations.  He will continue to try to push things forward until he leaves office.

Question:  But he's not been able to succeed in pushing forward, especially asking Israel to hold some sort of talks…

Spokesman:  That could be a fact, and I don't think he's the only one who's not been able to do that.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I just wanted… I think… I don't know.  Maybe… I think you were away when I asked this question.  It was right after the Security Council had fastened on António Guterres, and Farhan [Haq] seemed to say that there would… he didn't envision that there would be any other big jobs given out in the interim since that decision until the end of the year.  And so I just… yesterday, I was thinking about it.  I guess there's this ASG (Assistant Secretary-General] of the Office of human… for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Ms. [Kyung-wha] Kang's previous job.  Is that job going to be given out before the end of the year?

Spokesman:  I don't know what the status is of that post.

Question:  And I wanted to ask you about the other ASG post that was given out relatively recently, which is the ASG for human rights here in New York, Andrew Gilmour.  Just factually, can you confirm either now or later today that a letter from the D-2s of the Office of human… of High Commissioner for Human Rights has been received, protesting that appointment as not having followed any type of recruitment practice and… and can you respond to… to their allegation that the other assistant of Mr. Zeid is Australian but also UK, making for two UK deputies in one department?

Spokesman:  Well, she's… my understanding, while the other Assistant Secretary‑General shares a name that is similar, at least in pronunciation, to Mr. Gilmour's, is Australian so that makes her…

Question:  Is she a joint citizen?  Does she have a UK passport?

Spokesman:  As far as my understanding, she's Australian.  I haven't checked what's in her bag.  As far as the process goes, it was a Secretary‑General appointment of an Assistant Secretary‑General level.  The Secretary‑General followed the proper procedure to appoint a highly qualified candidate.

Question:  No, I'm not saying that he's not.  I guess I'm just saying, I see on… in iSeek that the ASG of OCHA, they put out a notice.  They tell States you can apply.  And was this ever done for the human rights position?  That's what seems to be what the D-2s are protesting.

Spokesman:  I don't know about the letter.  What I'm telling you is that the appointment was made in accordance with the rules and the authority given to the Secretary‑General to make such appointments.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.