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

2 December 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.

**Trip Announcement for Austria

I want to flag an upcoming trip by the Secretary-General.  He will be leaving for Vienna on Tuesday, 6 December, to bid farewell to the staff of the UN agencies based in the Austrian capital and underscore the importance of their work in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  And he will also thank the Austrian authorities for their support to the UN family in Vienna.

During his stay, the Secretary-General will hold a number of bilateral meetings with Austrian officials, including the Chancellor of the Republic, Christian Kern, and Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.

In Vienna, the Secretary-General will also visit the Habibi & Hawara Restaurant, where refugees work together with locals to serve fusion cuisine.  The visit will provide an opportunity to showcase “Together:  Respect, Safety and Dignity for All”, the UN system-wide initiative to counter xenophobia.

Before heading back to New York on 9 December, the Secretary-General will deliver remarks at the Anti-Corruption Award Ceremony which will be attended by His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Amir of the State of Qatar. 

The ceremony is an important part of the global activities to mark International Anti-Corruption Day and to underscore that, unless tackled, corruption has a corrosive effect on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.

And on the sidelines of that event, the Secretary-General will have a bilateral meeting with the Amir.  And as I mentioned, he will be back in New York on Friday evening.


Turning to Syria, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate in Aleppo City, where an estimated 31,500 people are displaced from areas in eastern Aleppo retaken by the Government of Syria.  This includes around 26,500 people displaced to Government-held areas or Sheikh Maqsoud, as well as some 5,000 people who are displaced within eastern Aleppo.

The UN and partners are scaling up their humanitarian response in Aleppo and responding to the needs of the newly displaced in all areas they can access with shelter, food, and health assistance.  Today, three UN inter-agency teams are being dispatched to assess the needs of the newly displaced who have arrived from eastern Aleppo.

The protection situation for civilians remains precarious.  Reports have emerged of the detention of people crossing into Government-held areas, while 45 civilians were reportedly killed by shelling on 30 November as they attempted to cross into west Aleppo.

With the onset of winter and the possibility of thousands more people fleeing the eastern part of the city in the coming days, insufficient and inadequate shelter space is a major concern.  Some sites hosting internally‑displaced people are already filled to capacity and other sites are not properly winterized and are only suitable shelter for a few days.  Meanwhile, conditions of those remaining in besieged parts of eastern Aleppo remain extremely dire.

The UN remains ready to provide immediate assistance to, and medical evacuations for, civilians inside eastern Aleppo.  In addition, truckloads of humanitarian supplies stand ready to deliver humanitarian assistance in eastern Aleppo from Turkey and west Aleppo.


And from Iraq, our colleagues at the UN Refugee Agency, in coordination with its partner, Muslim Aid, have been stepping up assistance to displaced Iraqis and residents in the newly retaken towns and villages east of Mosul.  The agency has begun distributing thousands of blankets and quilts as temperatures plummet in northern Iraq.

More than 76,000 people have now been displaced since the start of the military offensive to retake Mosul.  Currently UNHCR has six camps ready to receive people displaced from Mosul and surrounding towns and villages.  


And from Libya, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya, Martin Kobler, says he is extremely alarmed by the ongoing clashes in Tripoli which have reportedly led to several deaths.  He calls on the forces engaged in the violence to immediately stop fighting.

Mr. Kobler stressed that it is completely unacceptable for armed groups to fight to assert their interest and control, particularly in residential areas, terrorizing the population.  The UN Mission is in contact with the parties on the ground to urge for an immediate end to the fighting.

Mr. Kobler reiterated the need to implement the security arrangements of the Libyan Political [Agreement] to rid the cities of armed groups and restore order and security for the people of Libya.


And our colleagues at the UN Mission in Colombia have sent us the following update, saying that following the ratification of the peace agreement by the Colombian Congress, the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) announced that D-Day — the start of the calendar for the bilateral ceasefire and the laying down of arms by the FARC-EP — was December 1st.

Within days, and depending on adequate logistical conditions, the FARC-EP members will begin their movement towards the areas where ceasefire and the laying down of arms will take place.  Simultaneously, priority measures are being taken for the pardon of FARC-EP prisoners, yet reinsertion of members and security guarantees for them and communities in conflict-affected areas.

And as you will have seen, last night we did issue a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General welcoming the ratification by the Colombian parliament of the peace accord, saying he was greatly encouraged by the move.  


And turning to Cyprus, the Greek Cypriot leader and the Turkish Cypriot leader met yesterday under the auspices of the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide.

The two leaders assessed the situation of play and the negotiations and exchanged views on the way forward.

The leaders have decided to immediately re-engage in their negotiations and have instructed their negotiators to continue meeting in order to achieve [further] progress on all outstanding issues interdependently.

In line with their joint resolve to reach a comprehensive settlement as soon as possible, they further decided to meet back in Geneva on 9 January 2017.

On the 11th, they will present their respective maps.  From the 12th of January, a Conference on Cyprus will be convened with the added participation of the guarantor powers.  Other relevant parties shall be invited as needed.


And back here, the head of the Peacekeeping Department, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council on the work of the UN Mission in Liberia, saying that the political environment in the country is dominated by preparations for presidential and legislative elections scheduled for October of next year.  He said that the inauguration of the next president in January 2018 will mark a historic milestone for Liberia's democracy.

He added that in a recent report, the Secretary-General outlined three possible options for the future of the UN Mission in Liberia – UNMIL - including withdrawing the peacekeeping force and establishing a successor mission; maintaining the status quo; or continuing the drawdown.

**OCHA — Global Humanitarian Overview launch

And on Monday, in Geneva, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, will launch the 2017 Global Humanitarian [Overview], which provides an analysis of the world’s humanitarian crises at year’s end, and presents needs for new and existing crises, and presents the challenges and trends and achievements to date.

The funding requested for 2017 will support vital humanitarian operations in 33 countries.


Speaking of humanitarian appeals, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Peter de Clercq, today made an urgent appeal for humanitarian assistance amid worsening drought conditions in Somalia that have left hundreds of thousands of people facing severe food and water shortages.

At a briefing in Nairobi, the Humanitarian Coordinator said, “We are running against time. Humanitarian organizations are stretched and require additional resources”.

With only four weeks before the end of the year, de Clercq noted that the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan seeking US$885 million is only [47] per cent funded.


And regarding Nigeria, our humanitarian colleagues in that country are seeking more than US$1 billion for the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan that would allow them to address the needs of almost 7 million people in crisis in the three most impacted states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.

During the course of 2016, as the Nigerian Armed Forces pushed back Boko Haram-held areas, the scale of human suffering became more apparent and the humanitarian community scaled up the response.

Peter Lundberg, the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, said that while this is the largest crisis in the African continent, with the support of the international community and the private sector, we can bring hope to the people of the north-east of Nigeria.


And I just want to flag that our colleagues at UNHCR issued today new guidelines on how States should deal with people fleeing their countries because of war.  This comes as we see record displacement from conflict.

The guidelines aim to ensure that States consider those trying to escape armed conflict and other violent crises as refugees.  Discrepancies still exist today when determining future eligibility, with some countries not recognizing such a claim by victims of violence.


And last night the Secretary-General was awarded the ZAKA Shield of Humanitarian Award at an event hosted by the International Rescue Unit here in New York.  

In his remarks, he said that from earthquakes to typhoons to tsunamis, ZAKA provides effective disaster support around the world.  

He went on to say that the organization’s commitment to treating all victims, regardless of religion, race or ethnicity, sends a powerful message.

Khalas.  It's Friday.  Sato‑san.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Uh…

Spokesman:  Hold on.  Sato's going first.  Sorry.  Go ahead.

Question:  I have two questions.  One is about Myanmar.  It is said that the ex‑Secretary‑General Kofi Annan now visiting in the… the region, the conflict region in Myanmar as a mediator.  How do you expect that the… his mediation between the… the… the Myanmar Government and the insurgent? 

And the next question is, the meeting… Secretary‑General meeting with Japanese minister in [inaudible] issue in the morning.  Do you have any readout on this meeting?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  No, unfortunately, I do not yet have a readout of the meeting, but I hope to have one… to have one soon. 

On the mission by the former Secretary‑General, yes, of course, we very much welcome the mission, which is independent of the United Nations and we hope it will be an important step in trying to bring some stability and peace to the people of Rakhine State as well as… and help increase our access and humanitarian support.

Sorry.  Then we'll go… then we'll go to the back.

Question:  I have a question about Yemen, if you have any up… [inaudible].  And also I know it's Friday.  In the Middle East, it's a holiday.  Do you have any also update on the work of the Special Envoy, Mr. Ould Cheikh [Ahmed]?

Spokesman:  Sure, he was in Aden where he met with President Hadi, and he is now back in… he's now in Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, where he is expected to have more talks.  The discussions continue.  I think we put out a pretty lengthy statement on his behalf earlier in the week, but obviously his effort to get the parties back around the table is continuing at full speed.

Question:  Yeah.  I read the statement, but since he met yesterday with President Hadi of Yemen, we didn't know what actually happened there.  He said he get… he get the answer about his plan and the rule of… I mean, he supported that… the new government in Sana'a, which was declared by the other party was not acceptable, but we did not have any information about his…

Spokesman:  No…

Question:  … meeting…

Spokesman:  … and I think we're in a very, as we have been quite a few times in the Yemen process, a very delicate phase.  We're trying to keep you updated on what the envoy's doing, where he is.  Obviously, I think a lot of what is being discussed and what may be achieved in a meeting needs to be kept slightly below the water line until he feels he has all the elements in place to come out.

Mr. Ignatiou. 

Correspondent:  [Off mic, inaudible]

Spokesman:  Your microphone, please.

Question:  [Off mic, inaudible] going to come to New York to brief the Council in the next two days?  Any idea?

Spokesman:  I will check.  I have not been…

Question:  [Inaudible]

Spokesman:  We'll check.  We'll see if it's on the schedule, but I will check.

Question:  The next question is your…

Spokesman:  The microphone, either on your left or on your right.  I can hear you, but we want our viewers to hear you.

Question:  The other question I have is the new talks are going to take place in Geneva under the new Secretary‑General.  Correct?

Spokesman:  That is correct.  We will have a new Secretary‑General starting January 1st.

Question:  How will you find out for us is he going to participate in these talks?  That's one thing. 

The other thing, did Mr. Eide brief him on the… on the Cyprus issue?  Is Mr. Eide going to continue to be part of the negotiations?  Do you have answers…

Spokesman:  Sure.  Let me try to unpack those a little bit.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  As for the… who will remain in the next administration, that's really a question to ask the incoming, the incoming team.  It's probably a little too early to tell whether the next Secretary‑General will go.  I think all of that is part of the transition planning.  What I can tell you is that from the current Secretary‑General's side, his team, there have been extensive briefings on all issues, especially, obviously, those political issues which are at a critical, delicate point as the Cyprus issue is. 

The Secretary‑General, Ban Ki‑moon, is determined to ensure that no ball is dropped from the… during the transition.  And, obviously, I think we very much… he very much welcomes this very positive news we're hearing out of Cyprus, that the two leaders have agreed to come back in Geneva.  It's an issue that the Secretary‑General Ban has been following closely, as you know, has been involved.  He went to Mont Pèlerin, so I think we're happy to see this latest development.

I'm sorry.  Matthew and then Abdelhamid, who came in a little after the start.  That's okay.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask…

Correspondent:  [Inaudible].


Question:  I wanted to ask you about yesterday's… what Philip Alston called a half apology by the Secretary‑General.  I want to ask you, I guess, given that he was the Special Rapporteur on the case, he told The Miami Herald the following:  He said, "He apologizes that the UN has not done more to eradicate cholera but not for causing the disease in the first place.  As a result, there remains a good chance that little to no money will be raised and that the grand new approach will remain a breakthrough on paper but one that brings little to the victims and people of Haiti." 

I guess I just wanted to ask you, given that this is the phrase that he used, we didn't do enough, when, in fact, some people are saying the UN maybe did too much in terms of bringing it, does this… Philip Alston is a longtime human rights expert.  What's the response to this critique?

Spokesman:  I think yesterday's statement by the Secretary‑General and, I think, what we heard from the deputy and Dr. Nabarro, I think, was a very important step forward.  We clearly understand that some people may not be pleased or may not have heard what they wanted, what they wanted to hear. 

What we hope they heard is the Secretary‑General's words, the apology, and also his sincere determination, determination of the UN system, to move forward on this two‑track approach.  And I think, if you heard from… if you listened to the reaction from the Member States that spoke yesterday after the Secretary‑General delivered his remarks, I think they were very positive.  They were very encouraging. 

Dr. Nabarro is being tasked to follow up with potential donors to ensure that we have the funding, the funding that we need.

Question:  I guess… I mean, I was just on conference call of actual Haitians, and the… the reaction was decidedly more mixed, particularly on this issue of no actual… it seems like Mr. … Mr. Ross Mountain seemed to indicate off‑microphone that it's still an open question. 

But is… has a decision been made to go the community route, that this would somehow… Mr. … Jan Eliasson seemed to be saying it's very difficult to find out who was killed, who… you know, so it's easier to do community projects.  So people seem to say, like, in most other instances where there's a mass tort by… by… of a kind of negligence or not, the people that were actually injured… you can think of 9/11; you can think of any number of things, where people that were injured were compensated rather than building a playground.

Spokesman:  Listen, I think… listen, I hope both the Deputy Secretary‑General and the Secretary‑General were very clear.  On track two, there are two sub‑tracks, right?  The community approach and individual approach.  It is clear from what we've said, from what the deputy said, that initially we will move forward on the community, the community approach.

The individual approach requires a lot more steps, including the identification of deceased, of people who have been, who've been impacted, further consideration, further consultations with the victims' groups and the communities.  So no one is saying no to the individual approach.  What we're saying is, in the immediate, we're focussing on the community approach, and from there, we will move forward.

Question:  And if Dr. Nabarro becomes the head of WHO, as he's running to become, is there… I mean, you were saying, like, he's the point man to raise money.  Is that…

Spokesman:  I can only speak to the situation up until December 31st at midnight.  Again, as to my answer to [inaudible], there is a determination from the Secretary‑General to ensure the transition goes smoothly. The incoming team has been fully briefed on all these files, including and especially the Haiti file.

Yes, sir.

Question:  Thank you.  I have two questions, and I apologise if you covered them in your notes. 

First question about the GA possible meeting under uniting for… United for Peace Resolution called by Canada and if you have any update.  They said 73 countries already accepted the invitation.  So have you…

Spokesman:  No… 

Question:  … covered…

Spokesman:  … I don't have an update.  I think we talked about this quite a bit yesterday.  Obviously, the Secretary‑General feels there is an important role for the General Assembly to play.  He has briefed them over the years as have his envoys whenever asked to do so, but I would ask our colleagues in the PGA's [President of the General Assembly] office to see if they know anything more about timing.

Question:  My second question, the High Commissioner of UNRWA had issued a very strong statement about the situation… humanitarian situation in Gaza.  He said that, with the silence of the international community on the deteriorating situation in Gaza, things will only get worse.  I mean, as we speak, he… it was… he was quoted as, like, 90 per cent of the… of the people there don't have clean water and… let alone electricity.  So he warned that, unless something is done, then the humanitarian situation is going disastrous.  Have you mentioned it… did you read the…?

Spokesman:  You know…

[Cross talk]

… I think the… from the UN's standpoint, we have not been silent.  Mr. O'Brien, very recently as last month, briefed the Security Council extensively on the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  Whether it's him, whether it's Mr. Mladenov when he goes there, whether it's the High Commissioner for UNRWA, I think we have been flagging and highlighting the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza quite extensively.  Okay.  Matthew.

Question:  I wanted to ask you, on… on… Bangladesh is saying that they have been asked for and are… for 850 troops to serve in UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] in Wau.  And I just wanted to… I guess this would be to replace the Kenyans that are leaving due to the firing of the general.

Are these… is this in any way coming from… from… from… is this… in addition to all… all of their other various peacekeeping commitments… you know, engagements in other missions and what would you say… again, I think they've done this before in South Sudan.  There was a time where the Secretary‑General was… was following closely sort of political disputes in Bangladesh, and then that seemed to stop in exchange or in connection with, or at the same time as these immediate peacekeeping deployments.  How soon can the Ban Ki‑moon…?

[Cross talk]

[Inaudible] and what safeguards are in place?

Spokesman:  I think you're… you're free to make…

Question:  Sure.

Spokesman:  … the link, but I don't agree with the link.  Our human rights concerns, our political concerns are independent of our needs for peacekeeping.  As with all troops, they would go through the humanitarian… the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy. 

I do expect to have a bit more information from our colleagues in DPKO on the… on the situation regarding these troops, because we are trying to find replacements for the Kenyan troops.

Question:  I ask… I ask it because of the link because it seems that the Secretary‑General himself in the case of funding was definitely… there definitely seemed to be a linkage between human rights criticisms or children and armed conflict criticisms of Saudi Arabia and funding offered or not offered to UNRWA or other agencies.  So how would it be different…

[Cross talk]

Spokesman:  I mean, I think if…

Question:  … in terms of [inaudible] for peacekeepers?  Is it less supportive?

Spokesman:  Maybe you and I were at different press encounters.

Question:  Right.

Spokesman:  But I think I heard the Secretary‑General be very clear in dealing with Saudi Arabia and then threat of… the threats that were received at the time of the report.  So there is… human rights concerns remain.  The issues of funding or of troop contributors are separate.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  I want to ask about Ali Al-Za’tari.  Where is he?  I think you mentioned yesterday…

Spokesman:  He is in Aleppo. 

Question:  Can you arrange for…

Spokesman:  In fact, for once we were a step ahead of you.  We were in touch with his office trying to get him to either speak by phone from Aleppo.  We're trying to set sometime next week so he can brief you, even if he's back in Damascus, to kind of give us a first-hand, a first-hand account of…

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  I wanted to ask… yest… or December 1st, so I guess that is yesterday, the White House sent out an announcement announcing nominations for, quote, key administrations positions.  And one of the people named is Jane Holl Lute.  And so I wanted to know, is it possible to be a UN Special Adviser employee and also be a key administration official of a government?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the announcement.  Let me take a look before I comment. 

And I did want to raise something which I was asked on the way into the briefing about the Gambia, and I can say that, following the announcement of the presidential election results by the Independent Electoral Commission in the Gambia, the Secretary‑General commends the Gambian people who turned out in large numbers to participate in the elections on December 1st for their commitment to a peaceful political expression. 

The Secretary‑General urges all political actors to continue to work together for a peaceful conclusion of the process and reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to supporting this process in close collaboration with all concerned regional and international players.

Question:  I wanted to ask you one more time about the… the… last Friday, so a week ago, I sent in five questions.  I haven't actually received an answer to any of them, but one of them was a very simple one, whether an official received approval to get an award in a personal capacity and… and spent UN funds to go and get it.

Spokesman:  Everything that this official’s done was done in accordance to the rules.

Question:  So…

Spokesman:  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.