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

8 November 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.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

First, from our colleagues in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Congo (MONUSCO), we can confirm that an explosion in Goma this morning killed a girl and wounded 32 UN peacekeepers from India, five of whom are seriously wounded. According to preliminary reports, the explosion was caused by an Improvised Explosive Device.  All injured peacekeepers, in addition to Congolese civilians, are receiving medical treatment in Goma.

A MONUSCO Quick Reaction Force was immediately dispatched at the scene.  MONUSCO has also deployed an investigation team, which includes explosives experts.

The Special Representative of the Secretary‑General in the DRC is expected to travel to Goma to assess the situation on the ground.

And we expect to have more information for you or a statement a bit later on today.  And of course our thoughts are with the family of the victim and our colleagues who were injured.


From Iraq, our OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) colleagues tell us that a further 13,000 people have been displaced in Iraq since 4 November in the military operations around Mosul, bringing the total number of currently displaced people to 35,000.

Intensive fighting continues to drive steady displacement from inside the city towards the east. People are also moving south from other communities on the front lines.  The authorities are providing transport for families to four key emergency sites.  At present, more than 20,000 people are being supported at existing camps.  The remainder has found shelter in host communities and public facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, has delivered medical supplies for more than 90,000 beneficiaries at the hospital in Erbil.  Erbil hospital is also the main referral hospital in the area, about an hour away from Mosul, where injured people are being brought from treatment.  WHO’s mobile clinics will provide communities that have been newly accessible with urgently‑needed health care.  A total of 11 such mobile health clinics are currently operational in the Governorate of Nineveh, and in total, WHO has provided 41 mobile medical clinics and 19 ambulances to date.

Meanwhile, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continues to receive information about civilians being forcibly moved by Da’esh, as well as abductions and killings of civilians.  And the Office has information that at least 295 former Iraqi Security Forces have been abducted by Da’esh from around Tal Afar and around Mosul.  And more details in the briefing that was conducted in Geneva today.


Concerning Syria, the UN is following the military operation in Syria’s Raqqa district with great concern for the safety and security of more than 400,000 people in need, including 150,000 internally displaced people.

The majority of the population of Raqqa district is reportedly facing critical problems in meeting their immediate needs.  Access to Raqqa has been highly constrained due to insecurity and Da’esh’s restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The last UN inter‑agency convoy to Raqqa was in October 2013.

Depending on population movements, the UN and partners plan to respond to the needs of internally displaced people through whichever way is more appropriate, including cross‑line and cross‑border operations.

The UN reminds all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law.


Just to give you a brief update, the Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has concluded his visit to Yemen, where he met with members of Ansarallah and the General People’s Congress.  He is today in Riyadh, where he intends to discuss the details of the framework with the parties.


And today in Haiti marks the first day of a vaccination campaign against cholera in areas ravaged by Hurricane Matthew, with support from the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and others.

The target population is estimated at 820,000 people over one year of age.

Activities will focus on municipalities most vulnerable to cholera outbreaks in the two southern departments of Grand’Anse and Sud, where there have been significant destruction of water and other supply systems.  More information online and on the cholera vaccine from WHO.

**World Meteorological Organization

And the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today says that the period 2011 to 2015 was the hottest five years on record, with the long‑term warming trend having been caused by greenhouse gases.

The record temperatures were accompanied by rising sea levels and declines in the Arctic sea ice, continental glaciers and snow cover in the northern hemisphere.

This new report was submitted to the climate change conference currently underway in Marrakech.


And a senior appointment to announce for today:  The Secretary‑General is announcing the appointment of Maria do Valle Ribeiro of Ireland as his new Deputy Special Representative and Deputy Head of the UN Support Mission in [Libya].

She succeeds Ali Al‑Za’tari of Jordan, to whom the Secretary‑General is grateful for his dedicated service throughout the UN system. And as you know, he is now the Humanitarian Coordinator in Syria.

She brings to the job 30 years of development and humanitarian experience in progressively senior leadership positions with the UN and international non‑governmental organizations in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.  You can find more online.

**Honour Roll

And today we say “thank you” to the 135th country that has paid its due in full; and that country is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

**Questions and Answers

Voila.  Ms. Lederer?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Congo, the provincial governor said that one peacekeeper was killed.  And from what you said, there were no peacekeepers killed, just…

Spokesman:  That’s correct.  The information we received just a few minutes ago is one civilian… Congolese civilian was killed and 35… 32… excuse me… 32 peacekeepers in the Indian contingent were injured.  They were, in fact… they were out for a morning run when this attack happened…. this explosion took place, sorry, not an attack.  Luke?

Question:  On today’s election, there are stories from supporters of one of the candidates today that UN election monitors have fanned out all over the US and are watching the polls.  Can you just clear this up?

Spokesman:  No.  To make it very clear, there are no United Nations monitors in any polling station in the United States.  Full stop.

Question:  And because this question always comes up during elections, can you just go over the procedure?  Does the UN decide whether to send monitors, or is that something that comes from a host country…?

Spokesman:  First of all, any UN involvement on election is at the request of a government.  We would have to be invited.  And, increasingly, the UN, you know, unless certain circumstances, is not involved in observing elections.  We’re often involved in helping coordinate the observers and helping organise the logistical end of elections.  But, to make it clear, for all and sundry, there is no United Nations involvement in the presidential elections in the United States of America going on today.  Got that out of the way.  Luke?  Matthew.  Luke, Matthew.  All the apostles are here.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, just first, on… on this DRC incident, there are also… I mean, there are people saying that… that Radio Okapi but also Radio France Internationale (RFI) have been banned and their signals blocked since 5 November, the protest against an extension of term by Joseph Kabila.  And I’m wondering, is the UN… were you going to announce this… this form of censorship?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, we’re aware that Radio Okapi… its signal in Kinshasa has been jammed now since Saturday.  As far as I understand, the broadcast… the Radio Okapi broadcasts are going on normally throughout the country, including the eastern part of the country, so our… the jammings are just going on in Kinshasa.  We also understand that Radio France Internationale’s signal has been cut in Kinshasa since Saturday.  We are reaching out to the Government authorities to try to get more detail and, more importantly, resolve the situation.  Obviously, any sort of jamming or limiting of people’s access to information is a worrying development when it comes to freedom of the press, freedom of the media, especially in the current political context in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Question:  Sure.  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you… I wanted to ask you something about Burundi.  It was on the Council’s agenda this afternoon.  And Inner City Press has obtained a… a… an email from OCHA in… in Burundi say… using the word “famine” in connection with four of the prefectures there, including Kirundu and Ruyigi.  And I just… what I wondered is whether… this seems pretty serious, and it’s not something that we’re hearing either from this podium or actually in other places.  Is there some… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Obviously, whoever… it’s always best when people send emails to Matthew Russell Lee that they copy me so you and I are on the same playing field.  I don’t know.  We get…

Question:  Sure.  Does the UN believe that…

Spokesman:  We get regular updates from OCHA and WFP (World Food Programme).  This is not an issue that has… it’s not a word that we’ve used in conjunction with Burundi, but if we have updates from our humanitarian colleagues who are in the know, we will share that with you.

Question:  Although we redacted the name of the recipient in… for… to try to be… made… have them be safe, it was sent to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees).  So it seems like this is an intra…

Spokesman:  I… as I said, if… I will ask our humanitarian colleagues, and if there’s an update, we will share one with you.  Masoodji?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane, I asked you yesterday about this Kunduz investigation that UN is con… and you said you will find out and let us know whether…

Spokesman:  My understanding is that we’re obviously waiting to get some information from the US in Afghanistan.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  Yesterday, I’d asked you about this Pan‑African Parliamentarian who’d been… it’s said… has said that she was blocked from attending COP (Conference of Parties) 22, and… and you’d said you hadn’t heard of that.  Now, I just want… in the interim, the Ambassador of Morocco, Omar Hilale, said that she did not have any UN accreditation and that’s why she wasn’t allowed to proceed.  Can you explain what the process… I’ve been told that you can’t get one until you actually get to the grounds.  Is… the Pan‑African Parliamentarian… go ahead.  Did you look into it?

Spokesman:  I didn’t get any details about this particular case, but, clearly, when you attend any conference, whether you’re a journalist or whether you are an NGO or delegate, you apply for the accreditation ahead of time, and you usually get a receipt, an email or so on.  Obviously, the physical accreditation you pick up online, but again, I will try to get details.  I was not able to get any detail about the particulars of this case.

Question:  Right, because what they’re base… it seems pretty clear that what Morocco was saying is because this person comes from Western Sahara, even though they represent the AU (African Union), they don’t want to… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I will try to get you some particular details.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thanks.  Great.

Spokesman:  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Your answer was very clear about the US election, but this… does this include independent UN experts?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any independent UN expert being involved in these elections.  And I can tell you, as a fact, there are…

Correspondent:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Okay.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, the South Sudanese Government, the information minister, Michael Lueth, has said that they’ve asked Secretary‑General… the Government of South Sudan has asked the Secretary‑General to reinstate the Kenyan force commander.  Is that… is that a request that you’re aware of?  And you’d said that there’s no… there’s no provisions for reviewing it.  If a host country were to make such a request, would that be at least considered or rejected out of hand?

Spokesman:  The decision taken by the Secretary‑General is not going to be reversed.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.