13 April 2017

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.


Today, in fact just a short while ago, the Security Council adopted unanimously a resolution establishing a new Mission in Haiti — called Mission for Justice Support in Haiti or, in a new acronym born today, MINUJUSTH.

This smaller peacekeeping operation will have a concentrated focus on the rule of law and police development.

It will be composed of up to seven formed police units — about 980 people — and 295 individual police officers, plus civilian staff.

MINUSTAH is to close in six months, the current Mission that is, with a gradual military drawdown to be completed by 15 October 2017.

The Council also discussed […] sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea.

**Great Lakes

Yesterday afternoon, Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, also briefed the Security Council, highlighting some progress in the implementation of the Peace and Security Framework in the region, and that was following the vote on the Syria resolution.

Mr. Djinnit also encouraged the leaders of the region to remain committed in assisting Burundi, the Central African Republic, the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and South Sudan to address the persisting crises in these countries.


I have an update on Cameroon.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa, Louncény Fall, just concluded a three-day visit to Cameroon.  It was his fourth since November of last year, and the second focused on the situation in the north-west and the south-west regions of the country.  During his visit, he met with Government officials, civil society, opposition leaders, detained representatives from the Anglophone movement and their lawyers, representatives of the international community and the UN system.

Mr. Fall reiterated the UN’s call to all parties to address the current situation through peaceful and legal means.  He welcomed the Government’s announced intention to restore internet services in Bamenda for hospitals, universities and banks, as part of a package of measures announced on 30 March by the Minister of Justice.  He encouraged the Government to consider additional confidence-building measures to appease tensions, including the release of the Anglophone leaders, and the full restoration of internet services in the two regions.

Mr. Fall also called on the leaders of the Anglophone movement to engage with the Government in a constructive manner to find a consensual and lasting solution to the situation in the south-west and north-west regions.  Mr. Louncény Fall reaffirmed the willingness of the UN to continue to accompany the two parties in their dialogue efforts.

Mr. Fall will return to Cameroon on the occasion of the 44th ministerial meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa and that’s at the end of May, beginning of June of this year.


Meanwhile, from Iraq, the UN Human Settlements Programme, otherwise known as UN-Habitat, says that extensive damage has occurred in western Mosul, with some more than 1,000 homes having been destroyed.

The Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in Iraq, Lise Grande, says the level of damage in western Mosul is already far greater than in the east, even before the battle to retake the Old City begins.

With nearly 300,000 civilians having fled western Mosul, Ms. Grande warned that hundreds of thousands more may flee in the days and weeks ahead.

With homes being destroyed, schools and health centres sustaining damage, and electricity and water stations in ruins, Ms. Grande stressed that under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and limit damage to civilian infrastructure.


Countries are not increasing spending fast enough to meet the water and sanitation targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); that’s according to a new report published by the World Health Organization.

Universal access to safe drinking-water and sanitation will not be achieved unless steps are taken to use financial resources more efficiently and increase efforts to identify new sources of funding.

Eighty per cent of countries report that water, sanitation and hygiene financing is still insufficient to meet nationally-defined goals.

More information online.


I wanted to flag the adoption today of a new and interesting global standard to ensure safer international trade in plants and seeds.

In this globalized world, food and agricultural products are continuously on the move, with ships ferrying every year more than 500 million large steel containers filled with all kinds of cargo.

The standard adopted today in the Republic of Korea by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures aims to ensure that all shipments — big and small — are free from bugs and diseases, and to address the threat of pest transmission posed by seeds.

More information on the website of our colleagues at FAO.


And I just want to flag a couple of answers to questions we’ve been asked offline.

One is further questions on the execution last week of three men in Gaza.

I can say that we condemn the execution of three men by Hamas in Gaza.

We reiterate the Secretariat’s opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances.

Furthermore, the death penalty carried out in the absence of a fair trial and the required approval of the Palestinian President are in violation of Palestinian and international law.

We urge the authorities in Gaza to immediately cease the practice of capital punishment and to uphold their obligations under international and national law.


Also, I was asked about Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Boundary Commission anniversary.  We are aware that today marks 15 years since the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission reached its ruling on the […] delimitation of the border between the two countries.  We regret that the ruling, made in line with the Algiers Peace Agreement signed in 2000, has yet to be implemented and that relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea have yet to normalize.

We would underscore the importance of finding peaceful solutions to conflicts affecting the Horn of Africa and of fully implementing agreements to that end.

We also call on both Eritrea and Ethiopia to implement the ruling of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Claims Commission, reached in 2009, and work towards laying the foundation of a comprehensive and lasting peace with the support and assistance of the UN and other international partners.


And just a couple of notes for the week ahead.

We told you yesterday about the visit of UN’s inter-agency Emergency Directors to South Sudan and Somalia.  We are now told that they will be here to brief you on Tuesday, 18 April, and not on Monday.

**Press Conferences

And, as you know, the UN  Headquarters will be closed tomorrow in commemoration of Good Friday. We will not have a briefing and the office will be closed.  We will be back here on Monday.  I wish all of you who celebrate Easter, a happy Easter, and if you don’t, enjoy the day off.

**Honour Roll

Also, I just want to say thank you to Brunei Darussalam, Germany and Montenegro, who join the Honour Roll.  And that brings us up to?

Correspondent:  [inaudible].

Spokesman:  Luke, if you have a question…

Correspondent:  I cede the floor.

Spokesman:  You cede the floor. 

**Questions and Answers

Nizar and then Matthew.

Question:  Yeah.  I think you heard probably these reports about hundreds of civilians killed near Deir ez‑Zor in an airstrike to a Da’esh chemical depot.  Do you have any comment on that or any suggestion of investigating this incident…?

Spokesman:  No, I don't have anything on that.  We're obviously looking into it.  If I have something, I will share it with you.

Question:  Staying on chemical, Dr. Theodore Postol from MIT said that what happened in Khan Shaykhun is totally fabrication.  Dr. Postol said that the, in… it cannot be, it cannot have happened by aerial bombardment.  Also, do you have… he's from MIT, and he was on television on, about that.

Spokesman:  I don't know who this gentleman is.  What I can tell you and, and what is important is that there is an investigation.  As we've said here, our colleagues at the OPCW through their fact‑finding mechanism have done, have started to do, have started to do their work.  It's important that the facts be found out.  I think the pictures that we've seen on, on TV, I think, were, were heartbreaking to say, to say the least.

And I will leave it at that.  And I think we've…

Question:  How about allegations by Swedish doctor organization saying that the White Helmets were killing children by injecting them with adrenaline in the heart when, in such cases, when there is sarin, they should not even touch them?  What… what…

Spokesman:  There are a lot of things being said.  What, I have no comment on, I haven't seen those particular comments.  I think we've seen, and I'm not going to start commenting on certain medical procedures that may or may not have taken.  What I do know is that the people who need to be honoured are the Syrian humanitarian workers who, across the country, have put their lives on the line to try to save as many civilians as possible.

Question:  When will…

Spokesman:  I… I'll…

Question:  On the same subject, when will the investigators go to Khan Shaykhun?

Spokesman:  The fact‑finding mechanism is run by the OPCW.  They will try to gather as much as information as they can, and I would urge you to be in touch with them with the OPCW in the Hague.  I can give you their contact.

Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about this, what you came back with on Cameroon.  I have a couple of questions.  One is, can you confirm that the Secretary‑General sought to speak with Paul Biya while he was on an extended stay in Geneva, as has been reported?  And I also…

Spokesman:  I…

Question:  Go ahead.  You will or won't you?

Spokesman:  No, I have no confirmation of a call having taken place.

Question:  I mean, I'm not asking [inaudible]…

Spokesman:  I have no information.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to know, people there saying, even in the wake of the visit of Louncény Fall, that, for example, a Supreme Court Justice, Paul Ayah remains, was only today, you know, remanded to remain in prison.  So they're not seeing much changes.  And I'm wondering, is this something that… that Mr. Louncény Fall looked into while he was there, the continued detention of barristers and those who have advocated for fair treatment of [inaudible]?

Spokesman:  What I just said is, in fact, that, in his contacts with the Government, Mr Louncény Fall advocated for the release of a number of Anglophone leaders and others.  So I think that's clear that's one of the things he was advocating for.

Question:  And, finally, I wanted to ask you about the Resident Coordinator position.  Given that the previous Resident Coordinator didn't raise any of the issues that you've just mentioned while she was there, is there any progress on naming a new one…

Spokesman:  I don't know that, and I don't know if you know that, but okay.  Anyway, next… what's your question?

Question:  The people that are there say it, and she also blocked the press…

Spokesman:  I think she blocks you, but…

Question:  Yeah, she does.

Spokesman:  …that's her right.

Question:  In what capacity does she block it?

Spokesman:  Well, I think anyone who has seen your tweets, I think, sometimes they do cross the line, I think, into harassment, and people block you from time to time.

Question:  Interesting.

Spokesman:  Indeed.

Question:  Excellent.  I have another question.  Sexual abuse.

Spokesman:  Go ahead.

Question:  I wanted to ask you, today, in the Security Council, yesterday, you'd said that, of sexual abuse in Haiti, this might be harassment too, so please get ready.

Spokesman:  I'm paid to be harassed.

Question:  A child sex ring run by the UN in Haiti by Haitian peacekeepers, you said, well… you didn't say bygones.  You said it was long time ago.  So I wanted to ask you…

Spokesman:  It's not, it's not at all what I said, Matthew… 

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  So…

Question:  I have the trans…

Spokesman:  You have the transcript.  You can interpret the transcript…

Correspondent:  Here's my question.

Spokesman:  It's not at all what I said.

Question:  And I would like you today, at end of the day, on your holiday, I would like you to get an answer, of the more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers known by the UN to have bought children for sex with cookies and snacks, were any of them ever prosecuted?  And, if they weren't, why is it that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] has continued to deploy Sri Lankan soldiers to the three missions you mentioned yesterday, and I believe they're on tap for Mali?

Spokesman:  I don't think they continue to deploy.  As you know, there was no deployment of Sri Lankan peacekeepers for a long time.  The issue of impunity of peacekeepers who committed horrendous crimes, who violated the trust given to them and were not persecuted is one of the reasons, and one of the many reasons, this Secretary‑General and his predecessor have pushed for greater accountability and have pushed for greater partnership for Member States.  And Member States have not always given us the information we needed.  So I would urge you to check with, with the Sri Lankans.


Question:  But I'm… there… I guess I'm asking you, as the UN that continue, that deploys this troop-contributing country, of the 100… this was in the AP story yesterday, child sex ring.  So it seems like it's important to say…

Spokesman:  Of course.  Everyone is, is vetted, and the troop contributors have a responsibility to certify that none of the soldiers that are being deployed from wherever they come from have ever been implicated in any sexual abuse, and we would expect Sri Lanka and all other troop contributors to do the same.

Correspondent:  But they don't accept the charge…

Spokesman:  Benny.

Correspondent:  So they don't accept they're implicated.

Question:  I want to ask you about the future of your namesake, de Mistura.  Last week, I asked you about this, and you said that, for the longest time or for a long time, for quite a long time, he said that he was, I'm paraphrasing here, I don't remember the exact word, but he said that he was, you know, he wanted to move on maybe, something to that effect. 

Yesterday, I asked him about it, and he indicated that he wants to stay.  Since the decision is not up to him but up to the 38th…

Spokesman:  And the Secretary‑General would agree with his decision.  The Secretary‑General is very happy for Mr. de Mistura to stay.


Question:  I'm curious how the UN is involved with the situation in Venezuela now.  I think the fifth or sixth protest death has now been reported.  Is that something Mr. Nylander is looking into?

Spokesman:  No…

Mr. Nylander's mandate is very much focused on the border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, and that's his lane, so to speak.  We're obviously watching the situation in Venezuela with, with concern.


Question:  Yep.  Now, on Hudaydah, three ships or three merchant vessels have been turned back.  Is there any update about how the mechanism is working, about whether this, the Hudaydah seaport is still receiving any commercial goods?

Spokesman:  I haven't had an update from Hudaydah in a while.  I will see what I can get you.

Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  First, I just, since you used the word "harassment," I just want to say for the record I never even mentioned the name Najat Rochdi before I found that she blocked me.  So I believe that she blocked me because she's a Moroccan official that doesn't like the coverage of Western Sahara.  I just want to…

Spokesman:  That's your interpretation.

Question:  Well, I never mentioned her.  I'd never even heard of her by the way.  So you can say what you will.

Spokesman:  Whatever.  I can.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about this gender policy that the memo was obtained and published yesterday by Inner City Press.  Maybe that's harassment as well.  What's the status of Mr. Guterres' proposal?  Many in the staff union looking at the document labelled "confidential" say it violates the UN Charter in that it takes merit and takes an entire part of the UN and precludes them from promotion or even lateral movement. 

So I wanted to… I heard there was a management meeting yesterday about it.  What is the status of the proposal and can you say why the state, the proposal as printed, written, and now published doesn't violate the UN Charter?

Spokesman:  First of all, you know, I don't know what you got your hands on or what, what the veracity of the document, the document is.  The Secretary‑General has made it extremely clear from day one of his wish for greater gender parity and for a commitment to gender parity, whether it's in senior posts or throughout the system. 

There are discussions under way to ensure that that goes ahead, discussions within the system between various parts of the system and in a way, that obviously honours, honours the Charter, honours the need to recognize people for the work that they do and recognize the need for greater gender parity.

Question:  Okay.  So just, the document is called "Systemwide Strategy in Gender Parity," Produced by the Gender Parity Task Force…

Spokesman:  It's not a final… I mean…

It's a…

Question:  …and it's 31 pages long if so…

Spokesman:  Matthew, it's not a finalized document.  You've taken something out of the oven that's not completely baked.  I think everything, whether you eat it or read it, should be judged once it's completed.  I've just given you the context.

Question:  Okay.  My, because I guess my thing is, if it's his proposal and the people in the staff union are saying it violates the Charter, it seems… 

Spokesman:  People are eating a cake that's not fully baked.  And they're reading documents that are not fully done.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Consultations are being had throughout the system.

Question:  And on the Resident Coordinator proposal, the proposal, as I understand it, for the Resident Coordinator system to be moved from UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] to the Secretariat, I wanted to know, Farhan, I think, in one of your absences said, when it's decided and approved, we'll justify it.  It seems like, if it's… there are many even Member States concerned about it, but also, there's people impacted by UNDP that would like to know, what's the rationale for the proposal?  And has Achim Steiner, the nominee for UNDP, signed off on this loss of power by UNDP?

Spokesman:  First of all, again, I think I will refer you to the last analogy I gave you.  There is, as the Secretary‑General said he would do, a review of the UN Development System that is ongoing and that is being consulted, being led by the Deputy Secretary‑General.  Once we have something to announce, we will.  But, obviously, everyone who's needed to be consulted is being consulted.

As for who the next head of UNDP will be, that is something that will be announced in due course when all the "Ts" have been crossed and all the "Is" have been dotted.

Question:  If the commitment to gender is, as you said in answer to the question about the stated policy, how would that be consistent with the head of peacekeeping being a male and the head of UNDP being a male?  How would that be consistent?

Spokesman:  I think one has to look holistically at the system. 

Ben, welcome back.

Question:  Was the Secretary‑General disappointed about the eighth veto from Russia on the question of Syria yesterday?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, the Secretary‑General would have liked to have seen unity on the Security Council.  We have seen the Security Council, for too long, not being able to speak in one voice, especially when it comes to, to Syria.

The Council has expressed itself.  The resolution was not, was not adopted.  I think, on the issue of chemical weapons, it's important that all the parties to the conflict, regardless of the fact that the resolution was not adopted, fulfil their responsibilities in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions, which a number of them were, 2118 and 2335, and also that all relevant authorities cooperate with the OPCW.


Question:  Given that this incident of Deir ez‑Zor where hundreds of people have been killed happened eight, more than eight hours ago, do we expect any statement today from the Secretary-General…

Spokesman:  I think we'll, we'll continue to look at situation.

Question:  Another question.  Is the SG meeting Mr. Tillerson?  Are there any arrangements…

Spokesman:  Obviously, I know Mr. Tillerson will be here on, I think, from what we, what I heard from Ambassador Haley, I think, 28 April.  We'll see what the schedules are.  But, obviously, you know, the Secretary‑General would welcome a meeting with the Secretary of State.

Question:  Any meetings with Mr. Trump as well?

Spokesman:  When we have something to announce, we shall.

Mr. Avni.

Correspondent:  [inaudible].

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  I wanted to ask, on Zambia, yesterday, you'd said, you'd come back with the statement that the UN can't verify the facts but is concerned about due process.  So I wanted to ask you, now, the lawyers for the opposition leader, in particular his lawyer, Jack Mwiimbu, has said publicly that he's being blocked from seeing his client.  Was this, since there seemed to be some issues with the UN…

Spokesman:  I would reiterate what I said yesterday.

For information media. Not an official record.