The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Central African Republic
I just wanted to give you some updates on the attacks that occurred on the Central African Republic yesterday. Our colleagues at the UN Mission (MINUSCA) report that the search for the missing peacekeeper continues in collaboration with local actors in Mbomou and Bangassou. Further to what we said yesterday, there are now 10 wounded soldiers, including 9 Moroccans and 1 Cambodian. Seven of the wounded are in Bangui at the UN Mission’s level II hospital (five of them have minor injuries; and two of them have more severe injuries, that are not life threatening).
Three of the wounded are at the UN Mission’s level I hospital in Bangassou and are being treated for light injuries. This is regrettably the biggest attack [against peacekeepers] in the CAR so far.
Earlier in the day, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, arrived in Bangui on a pre-scheduled trip, and visited the wounded peacekeepers at the UN Mission’s military hospital. He was accompanied by senior officials of the Central African Republic, including the president of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, along with Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Head of the UN Mission.
The President of the General Assembly paid homage to the fallen peacekeepers and saluted the bravery and dedication of peacekeepers, who often serve in dangerous and very difficult conditions around the world in the name of peace.
You will have seen the statement we issued last night on the attack in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned it, and also added that the attacks against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime. The Secretary-General also called on all parties to heed the call of President Faustin Archange Touadéra to cease violence and work together towards the stability of the country.
And I was asked by one of your colleagues yesterday about compensation for fallen peacekeepers. I can tell you that as a rule, when a peacekeeper is killed in the line of duty, the families or legal beneficiaries receive compensation of $70,000. The compensation is paid to the Government of the peacekeeper’s country, which is then expected to certify to the UN that the funds will be transferred to the family.
The Secretary-General arrived this morning in London ahead of the London Somalia Conference — which, as you know, is taking place tomorrow.
Today, he addressed a crowd of close to 2,000 people, NGO (non-governmental organization) members, academics, and the general public and others, at the invitation of the UN Association for the United Kingdom. He told participants that the world is facing three main challenges today: the changing nature of conflict; the fragility of political, economic and ecological environments in many parts of the world; and mistrust and anger among those that globalization has left behind. To rescue multilateralism, he said, we need to have a strong commitment to reform multilateral organizations.
On climate [change], he reiterated that green business is good business and highlighted the necessity for the UN to make this case and continue to mobilize the whole international community.
Finally, the Secretary-General stressed the need to combat the fact that the human rights agenda is losing ground to the national sovereignty agenda. His full remarks are available on the webcast, or should be shortly.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
This afternoon, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Vienna.
Tomorrow and Friday, she will participate in the Vienna Energy Forum, themed “Sustainable energy for the implementation of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and the Paris Agreement,” and meet with senior Austrian Government officials, as well as the heads and staff of UN system entities based in Vienna. She will also attend a High-Level meeting on the implementation of the SDGs, hosted by the President of the Austrian National Council at the Parliament.
And on 12 and 13 May, she will participate in the UN Climate Change conference going on in Bonn, which is the meeting of the UNFCCC. She will meet there with the President of COP22, and also the Presidency of the upcoming COP23 who is from Fiji. The Deputy Secretary-General will also meet the Mayor of Bonn, as well as heads and staff of UN offices in Germany.
The Deputy Secretary-General from there will travel to Doha on 13 May, where she will attend the 17th Annual Doha Forum as Special Guest representing the Secretary-General. The theme of this year’s forum will be Development, Stability and Refugee Crisis. She will return to New York on 15 May.
The Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, starts a new regional tour today. He arrived in Riyadh a bit earlier to attend a World Bank meeting on Yemen and meet with Yemeni officials and regional authorities. He will then attend the Doha forum on 14-15 May.
He also is expected to brief the Security Council by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Health, 14 cases of cholera have now been confirmed in several governorates, including Amanat al Asimah, Al Mahwit, Amran, Al Dhale and Sana’a, and that’s since 27 April.
The UN and partners are taking immediate steps to assist the Ministry of Health contain the outbreak of cholera. This includes re-opening 26 diarrhoeal treatment centres across 15 governorates and establishing six more of those centres in the most affected areas, as well as sending medicines and supplies and strengthening the surveillance system.
It is vital that pledges made by donors in last month’s pledging conference are distributed immediately so that the UN and partners can continue essential and life-saving operations and respond to the urgent needs of the Yemeni people.
Regarding Iraq, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the Nimrud bridge, which is about 30 km south of Mosul, is scheduled to re-open to vehicles today and it was opened to foot traffic yesterday. The bridge had been closed since 2 May as a result of high waters following massive rains. Closure of the bridge had added further complexity to the Mosul response operation, forcing humanitarians to pre-position supplies on the western bank of the Tigris and find alternative channels for medical evacuations.
Since the beginning of the Mosul operation, the military operations in October 2016, some 622,000 people have been displaced from the area.
From Libya, our humanitarian colleagues inform us that a scoping mission to Benghazi was sent yesterday to strengthen coordination on humanitarian issues in the area and work on establishing more systematic humanitarian access to Benghazi.
Humanitarian priorities identified during the mission are: support to life-saving medical care, demining, psychosocial support needs, and comprehensive assistance to the internally displaced population in the area. This was the first [such] visit to Benghazi in three years, due to the challenging security environment. Planning is under way for a follow-up mission in the coming weeks.
**World Meteorological Organization
Today in Geneva the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) opened its annual session with a focus on strengthening weather and climate services to protect lives, property and the economy from increasingly extreme and unusual weather.
The Organization said that with extreme weather and climate conditions on the rise, it is essential to advance the global agenda on disaster risk reduction, sustainable development and climate. The meeting closes on 17 May. More information online.
Today millions of people around the world are celebrating the Day of Vesak. The Day acknowledges the contribution that Buddhism, has made for over two and a half millennia to the spirituality of humanity. The Secretary-General’s message is available online.
**World Migratory Bird Day
Today is also… it’s a fly-by day. It’s World Migratory Bird Day, an important day which highlights the need for international cooperation to conserve these creatures and their habitats.
According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), millions of birds migrate every year along global flyways between continents, but many of them are facing steep declines in their population due loss of habitat caused by land-reclamation and changes in global agricultural practices, as well as poaching.
The theme this year is “Their Future Is Our Future — A Healthy Planet for Migratory Birds and People”, which is closely linked to the SDGs. More information via UNEP.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
I was asked yesterday, I think it was you Matthew, about the formation on 9 May of a new Government in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I can tell you that the UN continues to encourage all Congolese stakeholders to implement the 31 December political agreement, including the establishment of transitional institutions envisaged under the agreement.
And I just wanted to pass on a sad note that long-time UN staff member James Sutterlin died peacefully on 8 May. During his career at the UN, Mr. Sutterlin worked as a speechwriter for Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, as Director of the Office of Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, and was instrumental in preparing Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s influential report, “An Agenda for Peace.”
After retiring, he continued to work for the ideals of the United Nations, working at Yale to resuscitate the UN Oral History Project, which ultimately encompassed more than 200 interviews.
We send our condolences to Mr. Sutterlin’s family.
Tomorrow at approximately 9:45 a.m., we expect Ambassador Danny Danon, the Permanent Representative of Israel, to brief you at the Security Council Stakeout.
At 2 p.m., right here in this room, there will be a press conference by senior officials from Argentina and the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) on new initiatives to empower micro-, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as engines of job creation, innovation and sustainable growth. The event is co-sponsored by the Mission of Argentina and the UN Office for Partnerships.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, does the UN have a view on whether the US plan to arm Kurds in Syria is going to help or hinder the situation?
Spokesman: I don’t have a detailed reaction, but just to say that our focus remains on finding a political solution to the current crisis, and we encourage all to focus on a political, rather than… to encourage, to focus people on a political solution and support the ongoing Geneva process. Edie?
Question: Steph, does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to the election of the new President in South Korea and his new approach, including raising the possibility of travelling to Pyongyang, among other places, to try and revive the old Sunshine Policy?
Spokesman: We… sorry. First of all, we want to congratulate President Moon [Jae-in] on his victory and the people of Korea on this election. The Secretary‑General will be writing to the President and, I think, hopes to be in touch with him as soon as possible. I think it’s day one of the administration. We will obviously… the Secretary‑General said… continues his concern on… about the current situation on the Korean Peninsula. But I will leave it at that for the time being. Yep?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you about the Secretary‑General, his London speech. Maybe I misunderstood. Just first, when… did you say it’s gonna be put on the webcast?
Spokesman: Yeah, we’re getting the video, and it’s going to be placed… if it’s not already placed on the UN webcast, it should be there very soon.
Question: Okay. I wanted to ask you… and maybe both… I mean, I’ll see it when comes out. There’ve been various summaries of… he was asked a question about Myanmar and one… at least one written… since there was not any livestream of it, I’m going off what people have tweeted about it. They said it’s a complex decision when to speak out, says [António] Guterres, citing need to work with Government of Myanmar and criticize rights violations of Rohingya. So I wanted to know, what… just can you unpack it a little bit? What is this balance… does this balance apply to all countries that he’s dealing with? Has he reached out to Aung San Suu Kyi to try to do quiet diplomacy about getting the UN team in and the Rohingya… [inaudible]
Spokesman: Yes, there have been contacts with Aung San Suu Kyi, and I think, you know, the balance is in everything we do; we need to stand by our principles, and we also need to work with Governments. I’ll admit to you I was preparing for the briefing while the speech was going on, so I haven’t had a chance to look at it. And I think whether you asking about it or me answering about it, I think both of us need to listen to the whole thing.
Question: But were you able to… okay.
Question: Is the Secretary‑General encouraged by the work of Mr. [Martin] Kobler in Libya?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General continues to support Mr. Kobler and the work that he’s doing. I think Mr. Kobler was in Algiers not long ago and continuing his work to gather support for Libya. Linda?
Question: Thank you, Steph. This is following up on the Syria question. What is the… does the SG have a point of view regarding the participation in the London talks, you know, the… the participation of the opposition and [Bashar al] Assad while ISIS and al‑Qaeda‑linked fighters, obviously who are relevant in Syria, are not participating?
Spokesman: Well, I… you… I think it’s important that we continue to focus on the political solution. There is also, obviously, a needed security response to fighting terrorists, as we’ve seen around the world. It’s important that that response be fully respectful of international law and… International Humanitarian Law in order to avoid civilian casualties. The people who are represented at the Syria talks have all, I think, are committed and we hope are committed to finding a political solution. And those who are committed are welcome at the talks. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, yesterday, I’d asked you, on South Sudan, if UNMISS (United Nations Mission in South Sudan) was aware of an attack on the convoy of the Vice-President, Taban Deng. Now there’s been a pretty high‑profile firing of the Defence Chief, Paul Malong, who’s been discussed in the Security Council as… as… in terms of human rights violations. So I wanted to know, is UNMISS aware of these things? Does the Government communicate to UNMISS, given the potential for… for violence caused by the… the… [inaudible]?
Spokesman: No, I mean… we’re, obviously, aware of the firing of the Chief of Staff. As far as what has been reported to us here, the situation in Juba remains unchanged from the observation that we’re able to gather, remains calm. Schools and markets are open, and the international airport is operating as usual, but we’re obviously continuing to monitor the security situation in Juba very closely.
Question: And also, in Darfur, it’s… the IDP (internally displaced people) Association has said that thousands of people have recently been forced out of their homes in Jebel Marra by Government bombing. Since we don’t hear that much about Darfur anymore over here, is UNAMID (United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur) aware of it? Are they responding…? [inaudible]
Spokesman: I’ll check. I have not been… nothing’s been reported to me.
Question: And I have a WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization) question.
Spokesman: Yeah, go ahead and then… go ahead. Go ahead.
Question: All right. I wanted to ask you this. I’d asked you before about Francis Gurry bringing criminal defamation charges against a radio station in Geneva. Now the Government Accountability Project has put out a white paper on it, basically pointing out that the CEB (Chief Executives Board), of which he’s a part and the Secretary‑General’s a part, have talked about… against this idea of using criminal defamation or even high civil penalties for journalistic work. Given that it was the… the… the general counsel or legal counsel of WIPO that made the criminal complaint, it seems like basically you have a member of the CEB operating totally against what the CEB says the UN should do. So what… at what point does the Secretary‑General… what’s the purpose of the CEB, if they’re not complied with…? [inaudible]
Spokesman: The purpose of the CEB is for coordinating the programmes, the implementations of programmes across the board to ensure that funds and resources are used in a coordinated manner. As you know, [WIPO] is an independent, specialized agency with its own governing board. The head of the CEB [sic]… of WIPO reports to that Governing Council. On the methods used, I think I’ve answered it, and it’s not… it was not something… it’s not a responsive choice. Carole?
Question: Stéphane, can I ask the question again about the Astana agreement? I mean, it’s been almost a week. Have you had a chance to look at it and specifically to formulate a view on monitoring? [inaudible]
Spokesman: We are continuing to read through the agreements and especially…
Correspondent: It’s not that long.
Spokesman: Doesn’t have to be long to be complicated. Thank you. [laughter]