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

15 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.

**Announcement from Secretary-General designate

I have an announcement to make that I have been asked to make by the Secretary-General designate, António Guterres, and I will read it out to you in his name.  Again, this is in the name of the Secretary-General-designate:  I am pleased to announce that I will be appointing Ms. Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria as my Deputy Secretary-General, and Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil as my Chef de Cabinet.  I also intend to create the position of Special Advisor on Policy, and to appoint Ms. Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea to this new role.

I am happy to count on the efforts of these three highly competent women, whom I have chosen for their strong backgrounds in global affairs, development, diplomacy, human rights and humanitarian action.  These appointments are the foundations of my team, which I will continue to build, respecting my pledges on gender parity and geographical diversity.  The biographies of all these three appointees are available in the Spokesman’s Office.  And we will be emailing out this statement very briefly.


Back to the situation in Syria:  as you know, Jan Egeland, the Special Adviser on Syria, spoke to reporters in Geneva today and he acknowledged that the United Nations has been invited to monitor and assist in the evacuation that is taking place from the remaining enclave in Aleppo that is controlled by armed opposition groups.  It is a three-pronged evacuation:  a medical evacuation of the wounded and sick, as well as an evacuation of vulnerable civilians and fighters.  Mr. Egeland clarified that this is not an agreement mediated by the United Nations; rather, it is an agreement that has been made in direct talks between the parties to this war, which the United Nations was only invited this morning to monitor.

But I can tell you in a little more detail that World Health Organization (WHO) teams were at the Ramouseh crossing on the south-western edge of the city to monitor the evacuation of sick and wounded people by ambulance, followed by buses and other ambulances, with people from east Aleppo who were heading westwards.  Further evacuations, according to our colleagues, are ongoing.  As a matter of priority, wounded, sick, children and other vulnerable people should be evacuated to a safe place of their choice, and should receive the care they need.  It is critical that all parties enable the safe evacuation of thousands of people.  The UN teams and our partners on the ground in Aleppo and Idlib are ready to provide assistance to people in need or urgent care.  We are responding to the needs of the displaced where we have access:  in Jibreen, West Aleppo and Hanano.

The UN and its partners have delivered the following assistance to date:  70 tons of medical supplies in Aleppo, which can provide treatment for up to 500 trauma cases.  We also have activated eight mobile clinics to provide medical care to internally displaced people, and are distributing a variety of WASH (Water, Sanitation and Health) non-food items which will benefit almost 40,000 displaced families.  The UN and its partners are providing 20,000 internally displaced people with two hot meals a day.  We have provided 19,000 women and children with nutrition support through outpatient services and are screening more than 8,000 children under age five, as well as pregnant and lactating women for malnutrition.

**Security Council

Back here, the Security Council is holding an open meeting on non‑proliferation.  Both Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Kim Won-soo, spoke at the meeting.  They both expressed their support for the work of the Council in preventing non‑State actors from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.


This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, delivered remarks at the closing of a global migration film festival hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in recognition of International Migrants Day, which is this Sunday.  Also as part of that commemoration, IOM hosted a unique “port of Entry” event at JFK airport in Queens – that took place yesterday – in which a number of Permanent Representatives and high-level UN agency staff were at the airport to witness the arrival of about 50 Congolese, Eritrean, and Ukrainian refugees into the United States.

**South Sudan

On South Sudan, our colleagues at UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] said today that, three years after fighting erupted in the country, children continue to be recruited by armed forces and armed groups, with 1,300 children recruited in 2016.  This brings to more than 17,000 the total number of children used in the conflict since 2013.  UNICEF reports that as the fighting intensifies — and despite repeated pledges by all to end child recruitment — children are once again being targeted.


The Government of Malawi and UNICEF announced the establishment of an air corridor to test potential humanitarian use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) — also known as drones.  A first in Africa and one of the first globally with a focus on humanitarian and development use, the corridor will run for a maximum distance of 40 km and become fully operational by April of next year.  It is designed to provide a controlled platform for the private sector, universities, and other partners to explore how drones can be used to help deliver services that will benefit communities.  Testing will focus on three main areas:  imagery, connectivity and transport.  More information on this story on UNICEF.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow, just a reminder, at 11:30 a.m., the Secretary-General will hold his final press conference at the end the year and of his mandate.  Accordingly, we will not have the noon briefing, but will post a little later non‑SG updates online.  At 12:30 p.m., the Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee, Jean-Paul Laborde, will brief on terrorism financing.  Khalas.  Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about Burundi.  It’s been… yesterday, you’d said that the… the… under that note verbale, the… the UN is watching the country.  There are reports overnight of search… searches of the homes of diplomats and, at least in one account, it says UN functionaries.  So I wanted to know, is the UN aware of these searches by the Government?  Also of a statement in the Fifth Committee this morning by Burundi that they are opposed to the deployment of any the Special Adviser’s team to any provinces beyond the capital.  Does that fall into the cracks…?

Spokesman:  I have not seen personally the reports that you mention out of Burundi.  I will ask our colleagues on the ground.  And as I said yesterday, we’re obviously monitoring the actions of Burundi, and we’ll… a decision will be taken accordingly.

Question:  But so the flights that were listed on the memo that was leaked have already taken place, the actual…?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of the memo that was leaked.  I’m just trying to answer your question.

Question:  Okay.  The flights were… can you get an update on the actual…?

Spokesman:  I will try to get as much of an update as I can.  Great.  Why not?

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask you, there was… there was an “any other business” meeting of the Security Council this week at which… on Western Sahara.  And although there was no readout given by the Spanish presidency, I’d wanted to ask you, what is the status of the… getting the 83 ejected peacekeepers back?  Because one of the Permanent Representatives on the Council said that, in consultations, it emerged that’s there’s some visa problem with Morocco, that there’s some problem with getting them in.  And, one, can you confirm that?  And, two, why wouldn’t Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous or somebody else in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] speak about problems of getting into a country when [inaudible]…? 

Spokesman:  I think… you know, we update the Security Council as needed and as requested.  As you know, the mission is not up to full functionality, and we continue in the efforts in that direction.  One more.

Question:  Okay.  And I… okay.  I have a couple more, but I want to make sure to ask this one before… I wanted to ask you, I guess, the… the… whether the Ethics Office has signed off on the Secretary‑General appearing for talks for which $1,200 are charged.  And I’m asking… this is going to take place tomorrow, and I’m asking it not on my behalf, but I know journalists that want to or are required by their employers to cover it, and they were told they either have to pay that amount to cover it.  So I wanted to know… it seems like a strange practice.  I know he’s giving a free speech in Southern Illinois University next week.  But what are the ethics or… in terms of UN ethics, not moral ethics…?

Spokesman:  The UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] dinner is a longstanding tradition to which you participated at the highest levels on a number of occasions in the same format.  It’s a tradition and a tradition that will go on.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.