The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
I wanted to say that we welcome the release of an additional 82 of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram insurgent group in April 2014.
We remain deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of the schoolgirls and other victims still in captivity.
We appeal to all Nigerians, including the families and local communities of the liberated girls, to fully embrace them and provide all necessary support to ensure their reintegration into society. We also urge the international community to continue supporting the Government of Nigeria in its efforts to ensure the release, rehabilitation and reintegration of all of Boko Haram’s victims.
We also call [for] the provision of urgent financial support to prevent the worsening of the food security situation in the north-east of Nigeria and other parts of the Lake Chad Basin, and reiterate the continued commitment of the United Nations in this regard.
The Executive Director of UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] also welcomed the release and said that UNFPA is fully prepared to provide the released girls with emergency reproductive health care, psychosocial counselling and other critical support. UNFPA already deployed an emergency team of psychosocial counsellors and health professionals to help meet the freed girls’ critical needs. UNFPA is already providing care and rehabilitation support to 21 girls released in October. The Fund stands ready to extend such vital support to these 82 girls, as well as any others who may be released in the future.
We also have a statement from the UNICEF Country Director in Nigeria on the same issue.
UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] said today that more than 1 million children have now fled South Sudan. UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Pakkala, said that the horrifying fact that nearly 1 in 5 children in South Sudan has been forced to flee their home illustrates how devastating this conflict has been for the country’s most vulnerable. Valentin Tapsoba, UNHCR’s Africa Bureau Director, calls for urgent, committed and sustainable support to be able to save lives.
And the UN Mission on the ground reported yesterday that peacekeeping troops have been urgently deployed to Aburoc in the Upper Nile region to help enable the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance. The Head of the Mission, David Shearer, said the aim is to provide humanitarian groups with the confidence they need to resume the provision of urgent assistance to tens of thousands of people who are fleeing the ongoing violence.
On Saturday, a UN/International Red Cross/Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency convoy delivered health, nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene, education and other emergency supplies for 30,000 people in need in the Wadi Barada area in Rural Damascus.
Surgical materials, some medicine and medical equipment were not permitted to be loaded or were reduced in quantity.
While we welcome the convoy to Wadi Barada, there remain many other besieged and hard-to-reach areas where assistance has not yet reached over the past weeks due to insecurity and restrictions by the parties.
The UN continues to make preparations for these convoys to deploy immediately and urges the parties to provide access.
From Iraq, almost 435,000 people have now been displaced from western Mosul since the start of the military operations on the western part of the city in late February. Over 403,000 are currently displaced from western Mosul city, while some 31,000 people have been able to return to retaken parts of the city.
Meanwhile, people who remain in Da’esh-controlled parts of west Mosul are facing serious shortages of almost all commodities, as commercial supplies to these areas have been cut since last November.
Some cases of acute malnutrition are now being seen in infants arriving with their families from western Mosul. Families who remain in the retaken parts of west Mosul and those who have returned to these areas also rely on humanitarian assistance, as basic public services and market activity have yet to be restored.
Over 95,000 people have received ready-to-eat food rations in all accessible neighbourhoods in the western part of the city; over 70,000 have received 30-day dry food rations in at least 11 neighbourhoods. This assistance complements assistance provided through the Iraqi Public Distribution System, which is re-establishing food distributions in the area.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, called on all Member States to urgently fund the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.
He said all commitments made during the pledging conference in Geneva need to materialize at once, as humanitarian action is saving lives every day across the entire country.
All ports and roads must be available to humanitarians to properly address the current threat of famine and the resurging cholera outbreak and to facilitate the timely delivery of life-saving assistance to vulnerable people throughout Yemen.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health in Sana’a said that more than 1,680 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in 13 governorates, and it appealed for support to contain the outbreak. The [Cholera National] Taskforce, which includes UN partners, is strengthening surveillance and developing an integrated response plan and WHO is already procuring IV fluids, medicines and supplies.
And as we had announced, the Secretary-General was in South Carolina on Saturday where he delivered a commencement address at the University.
He called for strong leadership and engagement of the United States in an effective multilateral system in order to face the many challenges the world faces today. Engagement, leadership and commitment can help creating the conditions for the prevention of conflicts, the mediation of conflicts, for sustaining peace and for helping countries regain the capacity to develop themselves and bring prosperity for their citizens and strength to their institutions, he added.
The Secretary-General thanked the generosity of the United States’ commitment towards development cooperation and humanitarian action, which meant that millions of lives have been rescued, it means millions of children were able to go to school, and that millions of jobs are created around the world.
He told the students the he counted on them to be able to express the values that this society can always be proud of: the values related to human rights, democracy, freedom, but also solidarity and generosity.
While in South Carolina, he had lunch with the Governor of South Carolina, Henry McMaster, and Senator Lindsey Graham was also present at the lunch.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
And I wanted to flag that the Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Yukio Takasu of Japan as Special Adviser on Human Security. That position is on a dollar a year.
Mr. Takasu was formerly appointed as Special Adviser on Human Security in 2010, a role he concurrently undertook during his tenure as Under-Secretary-General for Management.
He will lead the follow-up to the General Assembly resolution on human security and work closely with Member States, in partnership with the UN system and other stakeholders to advance the human security approach in the 2030 Agenda, the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and the Sustaining Peace Agenda.
The full announcement is online and in my office.
**Press Encounters Tomorrow
Tomorrow at noon, I will be joined by a number of representatives of the Elders: Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway; Lakhdar Brahimi, the former Joint Arab League-UN Special Representative for Syria; and Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and former High Commissioner for Human Rights. They will be here to brief you on their meeting with the Secretary-General which is taking place today and answer any questions you may have. We will have them brief at noon and then I will do the briefing right afterwards.
And then we also expect around lunch time Federica Mogherini, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs at the European Union, to speak to you at the stakeout following her briefing to the Council on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations.
And I will stop there.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I wonder how come you didn’t talk about… didn’t have any statement on the new President of France.
Spokesman: I wonder.
No. We obviously congratulate the people of France for the successful presidential election that concluded yesterday and President‑elect Emmanuel Macron on his victory. The Secretary‑General will be writing to the President‑elect very soon to congratulate him and looks forward to engaging with him in the very near future.
And, as you know, France is a founding member of the UN, a permanent member of the Security Council and a highly valued partner to this organization.
Question: Sure. I wanted to know whether… in… in Côte d’Ivoire, there’s been a blockage of the Bouake, the second city, by… by, once again, striking or rebelling soldiers. Has the US… UN Mission had any involvement? What’s the…
Spokesman: We’re waiting for an update from the mission on the situation on the ground. We saw that this morning.
Question: And I also wanted to ask you, on Friday, you’d confirmed this Michel Kafando story. What I wanted to ask you, since… since then…
Spokesman: I didn’t confirm it. I announced it.
Question: Well, okay, but you’d been asked about it for a couple of weeks. And I wanted you to respond directly to this. The ambassador of Burundi, Albert Shingiro, has pointed out online… he said Kafando has not been appointed as Chief Special Envoy on Burundi but Special Envoy in general, that the SG can dispatch to Burundi or elsewhere, meaning… is that the case, or what’s his job?
Spokesman: His title is Special Envoy. And, as we said specifically in the announcement, he will be following up on Burundi. So I think that the announcement that we put out, to my sense, speaks for itself.
Question: So does this contradict this? Because this has been said…
Spokesman: I’m not in the business of contradicting…
I’m not in the business of contradicting ambassadors or not. What I’m saying is, if you look at what we read out on Friday, it was clear that Mr. Kafando will focus on Burundi and take over the file that had been handled by Mr. Benomar.
Question: Has any other country or file been discussed between the Secretariat and Mr. Kafando for his Special Envoyship?
Spokesman: As this point, he will focus on Burundi. But I… again, the announcement, I think, speaks for itself.
Question: Stéphane, have you had more time to look at the de‑escalation zone agreement, whether or not you think you might have a role and what it… what your assessment of it…
Spokesman: We’ve had more time, but I would say the examination continues.
Question: Stéphane, do you have any information about Secretary‑General’s trip to China and who… who he’ll be meeting there?
Spokesman: No, we’re, as I said, he’ll be… as we announced, he’ll be going to attend the Belt and Road Forum. We expect him to have some high‑level bilaterals. As soon as any of those are firmed up, I will let you know.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I don’t know if you have any… if you hear anything about the statements by the President of Cyprus, but he express his regret over the fact that Mr. Eide appears to adopt positions expressed from one side in Cyprus without listening first. I quote: “Mr. Eide needs to realize that with these statements of such an intimidation, we achieve the opposite results.” Do you have any comment?
Spokesman: The role of any envoy mediating between two parties is a challenging one. Mr. Eide continues to do his job with the utmost confidence from the Secretary‑General.
Question: Is it a worry for the Secretary‑General that, after the Foreign Minister of Greece now the President of Cyprus accusing Mr. Eide that he is helping the Turks?
Spokesman: I will leave the analysis to you and those who have been following the issue for longer than I have. What is clear in this process, we’ve seen comments criticizing the work of the envoy from various parties on various sides. It comes with the work of being an envoy and mediating.
Fathi and then Evelyn.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On April 28th or 29th, after the Security Council meeting where it adopted the resolution on the Western Sahara, there was a stakeout where the Moroccan ambassador came, spoke to the journalists, then followed by the Algerian ambassador. And then Algerian ambassador brought the representative or… from the Polisario and just left him to us for 20 minutes, and he left right away.
At first, UN did not post the video from the Polisario. Later, over today or over the weekend, the complete video of the Algerian ambassador plus the Polisario.
My understanding that the stakeout is reserved for Member States and their Permanent Representatives. If the Permanent Representative choose to bring an affiliate or… of the Polisario which Algeria is their State sponsor here at the UN for their pass, it is up to the ambassador provided that they stay throughout the briefing with us.
What is the exact regulation and rules regarding the usage of the stakeout or just an open platform so Polisario can come; Independent Diplomat, which is a lobbying firm, can come; people from FARC or…
Spokesman: I think I get…
I think I get your point if there was a question… I think there was a question mark in there.
Question: What are… what are the rules and regulations exactly?
Spokesman: To answer the question that Matthew’s been asking for quite some time, the video of the representative of the Polisario was appended to the briefing of the Permanent Representative of Algeria, so it’s now… it’s now there.
We are not in the business of policing Permanent Representatives or delegates here. The Security Council is a Security Council stakeout. It is under their authority. I think, traditionally, in the past, we have seen the Permanent Representative of Algeria invite the representative of the Polisario to speak. This is what seems to have happened, and the video was merged. And that’s where we stand.
Question: Can you please clarify exactly; is the Permanent Representative supposed to stand next to his guest or his subordinate when they are speaking or they just can bring anybody and leave…
Spokesman: You know, when it comes…
Question: …the stakeout?
Spokesman: …to Permanent Representatives, it is not up to us to impose rules and regulations. Like anything at the UN, it’s all delicate and political.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I had noticed that it went up. And I guess, one, since it was done exactly the same way last year, can you… just a… I don’t know if you’ll answer this. What took 10 days this year? Was it somehow reconsidered?
And more… and more… since you’ve just said that, you… when… when, for example, the Turkish Cypriot representatives come, they organize their… and I’m not… I think the more stakeouts, the better. They organize their own stakeouts generally on the first floor. UNTV does it. There’s no State sponsor or anything else. So, what… there’s obviously some legal distinction in the UN’s mind between the Frente Polisario and the Turkish Cypriot community to just…
Spokesman: I don’t want…
Question: …need you to explain what it is.
Spokesman: …to go into a compare‑and‑contrast. I think we are… you know, we… to be somewhat self‑critical, I think one of our passions here at the UN is to reinvent, in terms of the Secretariat, is to reinvent the wheel. I think what happened in terms of the videos being merged, I think, will probably be the process moving forward.
The Turkish Cypriot — not to compare the two, I’m not in the comparing‑and‑contrasting business — asked for a stakeout, and a stakeout was on the first floor, and a stakeout was accommodated.
Question: So you anticipate no 10‑day delays in the future.
Spokesman: You know, I’m barely trying to antic… I’m sure we’ll try to reinvent the wheel in a year as well.
Yes. Madame Kent and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. A group of NGOs put out a release this morning — maybe you’ve seen it — raising concerns about a Uyghur activist by the name of Dolkun Isa who was expelled forcefully off UN premises during the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, was denied the renewal of his badge. And I’m wondering if you’ve seen the release from the NGOs, if you have any more details on…
Question: … what happened?
Spokesman: … I haven’t seen the release, but I will look into it as soon as we’re done here.
Question: And one of the questions which was raised also was whether there was any pressure by a particular Member State.
Spokesman: Let me take a look at the release.
Question: I have another question, unrelated issue. On Syria, I’m wondering if… this morning, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem said that, when it came to Geneva, the process wasn’t working and that the UN international groups would have no part in the de‑escalation zones. So I’m wondering if you have any comment on that.
Spokesman: Well, on the de‑escalation zone, as I told Carole, we’re obviously still studying it, what is required of us. I think Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura was pretty clear in his support of the Astana process and hoping that and underscoring the fact that it was linked to Geneva and there in support of Geneva.
When he is ready to start another round, I think he will, he will do so. I think no one more than us have been frustrated at the lack of political movement over the last six years in Syria and the continuing suffering of the Syrian people.
Evelyn. You’ve been very patient. Sorry.
Question: On Yemen, which ports are open? Which ports are not open? For… for humanitarian aid delivery…
Spokesman: I can get you the exact list. Obviously, different ports are under different de facto control.
Question: And what is a de‑escalation zone?
Spokesman: Well, there, I think you would have to look at it and we’re… this is something that came out of the Astana process, and we’re obviously looking at what these things imply.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. My question is regarding North Korea. We know that the Security Council is trying to work out its response to the latest developments there. And I believe the Secretary‑General had indicated that he would do whatever he could. And so the question is, are there any developments in terms of what he’s thinking or what… you know, what he may do next?
Spokesman: Nothing more to add to what he said himself in that meeting on Friday.
Question: Stéphane, just getting back to the statement on the Chibok girls, the call to fully embrace…
Question: … them, can you spell out what your concerns are about the…
Spokesman: I think what we’ve…
Spokesman: … seen not only in Nigeria but in other places where mostly women, obviously, a vast majority of women and girls, who have come out of areas where they have been subject to untold horrors, sexual abuse, torture, that sometimes they have not been re‑accepted in their communities and re‑embraced in their communities for various reasons as much as they should be and they deserve to be.
And so, for us, it’s a matter of not only working with the… with the young girls and the girls themselves but also working with the communities to ensure that they are re‑accepted. And we’ve seen that, unfortunately, throughout the world where often victims of rape are then shunned by their own… their own communities.
What UNFPA does in support of the women and girls who have been liberated is sort of create tailor‑made programmes that fit each girl’s needs in terms of counselling, overcoming trauma, and also access to… access to education and reproductive rights.
Yes, in the back.
Question: Thank you. Good afternoon. Follow‑up to the Chibok girls’ release. I want to ask, what is the position of the UN with the negotiation with terrorists? In this particular case, there are reports that there were negotiations with Boko Haram for these girls to be released. What is the position of the UN in terms of a negotiation with terrorists?
Spokesman: We were not party to any negotiations that may have happened between various parties and Boko Haram. I think what is… what is important for us is that these girls who are now free to receive the support they need.
Question: Hi. So do you know if the UNFPA is providing access to abortions for these girls who have been returned? Thanks.
Spokesman: All I can tell you is that they are providing specific needs in terms of reproductive health. I think for more details you need to contact UNFPA itself.
Matthew and then Carole.
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I just… couple of follow‑ups, just on… on… on NGOs, I know that you’d said you’d been asked previously about the election of… of Saudi Arabia to CEDAW [the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women], and you said it’s totally up to Member States. So now there’s this controversy around UNESCO holding its NGO forum in Riyadh. And a number of groups have said, given that it… there are all people in jail in Saudi Arabia for setting up NGOs, this seemed to be a misstep by the UN system. Do you… do you agree?
Spokesman: I think that’s… I don’t know the details of the who, what, when, where. If it’s an issue for UNESCO, I think you should ask for… itself. As you know, UNESCO is an independent, specialized agency. You should ask them about it. I don’t have enough details to comment.
Question: Okay. And I wanted to ask you… there’s this question on Yemen ports. There’s an emerging story, but a lot of the… it’s based on documents. A journalist there, Shuaib Almosawa, has come up with documents showing essentially that the UN system was bringing in medicine that was out of date into Yemen. I mean, in cases either… photographs of 9 out of 12 containers being ex… expired when they arrived.
So I wanted to know, is there… is… either now or as soon as you become… have some kind of a response for it, is it acceptable… is the UN aware that it was bringing in out‑of‑date medicine into Yemen? And, if so, how could this happen with that percentage of expiration?
Spokesman: I don’t know about the ports, but I know there were some issues about expired items having been found, and I know they were removed by the UN before departing for Taizz. So we never would willingly and knowingly send out expired medicine. Obviously, things are checked. Sometimes these convoys have to wait quite a long time. So things are checked and whatever was expired was removed.
Question: Just to… my understanding is that actually the UN person that…
Spokesman: Sorry. Wait for the background music to end.
Question: …is that the UN person that communicated with the port officials seem to acknowledge that there might be… that… they were trying to get a permit to get them in. It wasn’t that they were just discovered. It was a UN…
Spokesman: I don’t… I can find out.
Question: Can you find out? Okay.
Question: Stéphane, just on Macron, when you said the engagement in the very near future, would it be safe to assume that climate is on that list of topics…
Spokesman: I think there is a whole list of items that would be on any meeting between a French leader and the Secretary‑General of the UN: climate, issues relating to the fight against terrorism, peacekeeping, health. I think the list… the list is quite long, and we look forward to a rapid engagement.
Question: Given the way your announcement about this… the human security position is, does Mr. Takasu remain the Under‑Secretary‑General for Management as well as this other job?
Spokesman: No, he will leave his post as Under‑Secretary for Management on the 15th of May. He will then continue on the post of human security, which is on a dollar a year.
Question: And do you have an officer-in-charge for the Department of Management, or do you anticipate making an announcement?
Spokesman: There will… I never anticipate anything. I assume there will either be an announcement or an officer-in-charge.
Question: And the other thing is, the Secretary‑General met with the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic on Friday. And, since then they’ve formally put out a readout, and they’ve said that they told… said that the UN system should do more concretely for Haiti, not just talk but give money. And… and so I guess I’m wondering, can you give some UN side readout or what…
Spokesman: I don’t have… I don’t have a readout, but I’ll see what I can get you.