12 May 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 Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Noon Briefing Guest Today

In a short while, I will be joined by Marc-André Blanchard, who is the Permanent Representative of Canada and also the Chair of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti.  He will be here to brief you on the Advisory Group’s very recent trip to Haiti.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way to China, where, over the weekend, he will speak at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.  He wrapped up his work at the London Somalia Conference yesterday with a press briefing, calling the conference “an unmitigated success”, and we have the transcript of his remarks available online.


I have a senior appointment to announce: The Secretary-General has made clear his intention to extend Stephen O’Brien of the United Kingdom in his capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and Emergency Relief Coordinator until the end of August 2017.  This extension will enable Mr. O’Brien to conclude a number of initiatives and reforms he has been leading at OCHA.

The Secretary-General is grateful to Mr. O’Brien for his excellent work, dedication and commitment to the United Nations and global humanitarian action.

After the end of August, Mr. O’Brien will be succeeded by Mark Lowcock of the United Kingdom. Mr. Lowcock brings to the position more than 30 years of experience leading and managing responses to humanitarian crises around the globe, and wider strategic leadership in the international development arena.  He is currently Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development (DFID), a role he assumed in 2011.  We have more details of his biography upstairs.

**South Sudan

On the margins of the London Conference on Somalia, the Secretary-General also discussed the situation in South Sudan with a number of international stakeholders.  In this respect, on 10 and 11 May 2017, he met with the Chairperson of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, otherwise known as IGAD, he met with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and the Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.

In the course of these consultations, the Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations deep concern at the prevailing security and humanitarian situation in South Sudan, highlighting the untold suffering being inflicted on the civilian population.  He underlined the imperative of renewed regional and international efforts to bring to an end the unfolding tragedy in that country, in particular through the immediate cessation of hostilities, unfettered humanitarian access to the millions of people in need of assistance, freedom of movement for the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the promotion of a credible and truly inclusive process involving all the opposition forces in line with the principles enshrined in the August 2015 Agreement for the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan.

The Secretary-General is encouraged by the commitment of all his interlocutors to further enhance their efforts towards ending the violence tearing South Sudan apart, bearing also in mind the need to prevent further negative repercussions on regional security and stability.  The United Nations looks forward to working closely with the IGAD and the African Union in the period ahead to identify practical steps that would help arrest the current downward trend towards greater fragmentation of South Sudan, escalating violence and deepening hardship and sustainably put the country put back on the track of peace and reconciliation.

**Central African Republic

I wanted to update you on the ongoing trip of the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix.  He’s expected to land in Bangui shortly, after which he will participate in a memorial ceremony to honour the five peacekeepers killed during the attack in Bangassou earlier this week.  The memorial will also be attended by senior officials of the Central African Republic, including the President of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet.  Mr. Lacroix will later head to the UN Mission’s (MINUSCA) level II hospital to visit the peacekeepers wounded in the attack.

Tomorrow, he will leave for Algiers, followed by Niamey, where he will meet with senior Government officials to discuss the Malian peace process.

And finally he will be visiting the actual mission in Mali, starting Monday. He is expected to convey to all parties the need to implement the peace agreement in full, without further delay, and to hold consultations ahead of the renewal of the Mission’s mandate at the end of June.  During the trip, he will hold a town hall meeting with staff and thank them for their continuing dedication and hard work in support of the people of Mali.


Our colleagues at UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) tell us that that more than 20,000 refugees have now arrived in Angola, fleeing insecurity and violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region since early April.  A steady stream of refugees continues to cross into Dundo in Lunda Norte Province and more than 3,000 have arrived in the last few days.  The recent arrivals included people with severe wounds and burn injuries, who have been transferred to a local hospital to receive urgent medical attention.

Refugee reception centres in Angola are already over-crowded and struggling to accommodate daily arrivals.  UNHCR is assisting the Angolan authorities to identify a suitable site for the relocation of refugees.  The agency also continues to provide food and relief items to new arrivals.  More information on UNHCR’s website.


A new camp in northern Iraq was opened this week.  It’s called the Hasansham U2 camp and that’s to shelter an increasing number of Iraqi families fleeing the fighting in western Mosul.  The camp is located around 60 kilometres west of Mosul along the highway to Erbil.  As of today, the new site shelters nearly 500 children, women and men.

This is the twelfth camp and the latest one to be built by UNHCR and its partners in response to the current emergency.  Less than four weeks ago, UNHCR had opened the Hammam al-Alil 2 camp, with a capacity for 30,000 people.  That camp is almost full.

Each displaced family arriving at Hasansham U2 receives a tent and other basic aid items, including blankets, mats, a cooker, jerry cans and plastic sheeting and a kitchen set.  As of today, more than 1,000 tents are ready, enough to shelter over 6,000 people.  The camp has the capacity to accommodate more than 9,000 people when fully occupied.

**El Salvador

And our colleagues at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human rights have urged the Government of El Salvador to take urgent measures to ensure the protection of LGBTI activists and individuals who are under threat.

At least seven transgender people have been murdered in the Central American nation since the beginning of 2017, and according to a recent survey, over half of trans women have received death threats.

The High Commissioner’s office has called on the Government to conduct prompt, thorough and effective investigations into these hate crimes and has said it will continue to monitor the situation closely.

**International Labour Organization

In Japan today, the ILO (International Labour Organization) announced a partnership with the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to advance decent work through socially responsible practices during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The agreement seeks to promote socially responsible labour practices within all delivery partners of the Games, taking guidance from the ILO, and will include seminars and symposiums on corporate responsibility practices.

**Press Briefings

At 2:30 p.m. on Monday in this very room, there will be a press conference on the Second Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs, and the forum itself will take place 15 to 16 May here at Headquarters.  Speakers will be Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Kenya to the United Nations and Co-Chair of the STI Forum; along with Dr. Vaughan Turekian, Science and Technology Adviser to the US Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the STI Forum; and Mary Snapp, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Philanthropy in Microsoft's Corporate, External, and Legal Affairs department.

**Honour Roll

We are getting close to the century with Slovakia bringing up the Honour Roll to 97, since they paid their dues in full.

***Questions and Answers

Ms. Lederer?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On South Sudan, you said that the Secretary‑General told all of these leaders and officials from the AU and IGAD that renewed regional action is imperative and that he was encouraged by their commitment.  What specific actions would the Secretary‑General like to see the regional actors take?

Spokesman:  Well, I think we would like them to work with those parties over which they have an influence to reduce the level of violence and we would like to see them ensure a reengagement in the political process.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Next week there will be an important election in Iran to choose the next President and I wanted to know — as far as I know, the UN doesn't have observers for those elections, but is there any other way the UN to know what such important elections entail, especially with the accusation from the opposition…?

Spokesman:  We have no role in these elections.  As you know, over the last few years, as a matter of practice, the UN does not employ observers itself in elections.  We sometimes do coordination of observers or technical assistance.  In this case, we have no involvement whatsoever, whether it's through the Electoral Assistance Division here or through UN agencies on the ground; we have not been asked in any way to involve ourselves in these elections and so we are not involved.  We will be following it through public information, as everybody else.

Question:  I guess about Iran, the special rapporteur, I know it's very independent from the UN, but there are updates from them, from human rights reports about the human rights situation in Iran, but we don't hear much from you, from other UN officials about what is going on inside the UN, especially after the nuclear deal.  Can you tell me, is there any particular reason behind that?

Spokesman:  You know, I think different parts of the UN human rights mechanism have spoken out.  If the Secretary‑General feels the need to speak out, he will.  Madam and then Matthew.

Question:  Saba Nidal Obaid was killed today by Israeli forces during a demonstration in support of the hunger strike.  Any comments on that?

Spokesman:  I will take a look.  I had not seen that report.  I will take a look.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, the Council had been set today to vote on UNISFA (United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei) and now it’s… the negotiation seems like there is a disagreement with the Secretary‑General's report on support provided by the mission to the Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.  So, some people are saying that it's a totally non‑func… it doesn't work.  No work is being done.  And so that the 500 troops are essentially a waste.  I wanted to know, other than just say it should continue to be paid for, can you articulate from this podium or sometime during this what is the rationale for continuing, without changes, the support? 

Spokesman:  I think the mission provides critical work in an area that has been a flashpoint of conflict in the past.  Obviously, the mission, as every other peacekeeping mission, operates under the mandate of the Security Council.  And we’ll obviously wait to see what Security Council members have to say and what the resolution looks like and will implement the resolution, as directed by the Security Council.

Question:  Right.  The question is not about the mission as a whole, it's specifically about this JBVMM (Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism).  Is it the Secretary‑General's position that this thing is actually functional, that there is something to be supported? 

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General's position has been articulated through his reports to the Council and briefings.  As it's under very close discussion by Council members now, I'm not going to add to what I've already said.  Ms. Landry? 

Question:  Stéphane, do you have anything on this Ebola outbreak?

Spokesman:  No.  I just saw the reports from the World Health Organization of possible outbreak in part of the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo], I mean, literally before I came in here, so we will be following up with the… with our colleagues.  Matthew?

Question:  Different DRC question.  There has been a number of lobbying disclosures made in Washington by the Joseph Kabila Government, at least $5.6 million of lobbying seeking to convince the US Congress that I guess that continued presidency makes sense.  What I wanted to know is what is the relationship between determinations made… let's say, by OCHA and others to issue aid appeals if, in fact, the Government is spending money lobbying the Government of another country so that a person could stay on past their term, is there any relation?  Do you look at those?

Spokesman:  The humanitarian aid is focused on helping people and as long as people need help, we will do our utmost to help them.

Question:  Do you have any recommendation to Governments that if, in fact, there are, as people say the level of displacement at DRC is higher now than at any other stage, that maybe the $5.6 million should be spent on that rather than…?

Spokesman:  It's not for me to get into it.  As I said, if people need help, we will do whatever we can to help.

Question:  I wanted to ask about the World Tourism, WTO, Organization, now the Georgian candidate has been at least recommended by the Executive Board, I wanted to ask you again, maybe you saw it, at the time I raised it to you; you said you had seen it, Jeffrey Sachs issued an open letter supporting the South Korean candidate?

Spokesman:  I think I answered the question on it.

Question:  Other than your statement here from the podium that, as with WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organization], that I guess they are listening here, but was anything actually conveyed to Jeffrey Sachs or to the head of WIPO these activities were inappropriate?

Spokesman:  As far as Jeffrey Sachs is concerned, whatever conversations he and the Secretary‑General had, I'm not privy to.  Olga?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Do you have anything to say on the referendum that Kurds are planning to have in organizing in Iraq later this year and to follow‑up of the previous question, some parties requested to ask and they want UN to observe this referendum.  Will it be possible?

Spokesman:  I have no comment on it.  As a matter of course, requests for any sort of elections that take place in a country have to come through the national authorities.  Evelyn?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Why are the refugees going to Angola from the Congo full of burns and serious wounds?

Spokesman:  Obviously, I think it's clear that they have been the victims of violence, most likely by local militias, as we've seen in the past.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted to ask you, and maybe I wasn't listening closely enough, when you said the Secretary‑General had met with the President of Uganda, Museveni, did the issue of Burundi come up at all, given that he is ultimately the mediator in charge of that process?

Spokesman:  The conversation the Secretary‑General had in London focused on Somalia and then some on South Sudan.  Rosalind? 

Question:  Do you happen to have an update on the Secretary‑General's appeal for money to counteract the famine or near-famine in Somalia, Yemen, Northeast Nigeria and South Sudan? 

Spokesman:  The last I looked, about two days ago, and I will get you the hard figures, but my recollection is that the humanitarian appeals for each of those sites were about funded from 19 to 30 per cent, but I will look on the website as soon as we are done here.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Stéphane, these refugees going from Congo into Angola, is this an area where the UN has peacekeepers or that…?

Spokesman:  In Angola?

Question:  No.

Spokesman:  In the Kasais?

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesman:  Well, you know, we've had some deployment of troops there, but I'll have to look at the deployment map to see how many troops are actually permanently stationed in that area.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted first… I'd asked you about Côte d’Ivoire before, about Bouake being subject to rebel or not rebel, excuse me, mutineering soldiers firing in the air.  Now they say Abidjan has been the subject of a rebellion that was supposedly negotiated away and now is back on.  What is the mission doing?  What does the UN think?

Spokesman:  My understanding is I would say that obviously Côte d’Ivoire has made a lot of progress on the path to stability and national reconciliation and social cohesion, which is one of the reasons that, as you know, the UN peacekeeping mission is closing at the end of June of this year.  The UN and the mission encourages the warring people to favour dialogue and general interests to consolidate the gains achieved so far and pursue institutional reforms, particularly in the security sector.  The substantive mandate of the mission ended 30 April and the mission is clearly in liquidation phase and therefore does not any longer have the capacity to monitor.  So, as you recall, over the years, we obviously, we had troops there that were able to be deployed and doing monitoring.  Given the state of the mission now, as we get to the drawdown, we know most of the peacekeeping troops, if not all, have left and we no longer have the capacity to monitor.  Yes?

Question:  Stéphane, the operation to take control of Raqqa has started.  Can you ask for specific information of the flow of refugees from this area because of the intensification of the fight?

Spokesman:  Will do.  Matthew and then we will get our guest.

Question:  Thanks for that if-asked.  I wanted to nail down this.  You said for two days in a row, the video of the speech in London was going to go on the UN's website.  I have seen the UNA-UK [United Nations Association of the United Kingdom] has finally put it up. 

Spokesman:  It's on there.  It's on the UNA-UK website and a technical reason we are trying to get the hard files and having a little trouble.

Question:  It's not a right issue?

Spokesman:  No, it's not a rights issue.  We will get it as soon as we get it.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.