The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General is today, as we had told you, in Saint Petersburg, participating in the International Economic Forum. During a panel discussion with other leaders, he stressed that globalization and technological progress have brought a lot of wealth and improved the situation of many, but that they also have increased inequalities among people, and left people and certain countries behind.
The Secretary-General said that these inequalities are a threat to our global security, as are terrorism and climate change. In that context, he reiterated his determination to reform the United Nations in order to improve its capacities in preventing and resolving conflicts. He also stressed the need to mobilize the business sector and civil society, along with States, in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The panel discussion should be available on our UN WebTV site fairly soon.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Geneva, to participate in meetings with Principals of Europe-based UN entities, as well as Member States. This engagement is part of the ongoing consultations concerning the repositioning of the UN development system, in support to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and mandated by the 2016 Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review. The Deputy Secretary-General will be back in New York Friday afternoon, tomorrow, Friday evening.
Today, the report of the Secretary-General entitled, “Reinvigorating the AIDS Response to Catalyse Sustainable Development and United Nations Reform” was presented at the General Assembly. The report notes that bold global commitments, shared financial responsibility and a people-centred approach have yielded shared success in the response to AIDS. However, it also warns that there is a danger of optimism devolving into complacency. The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, in presenting the report, said that “the AIDS pandemic is far from over” and stressed that countries “need to do a better job of reaching young women and adolescent girls”, as they are the ones who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Her remarks and the report are available online.
**Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
On a related note, our colleagues at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have signed an agreement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to improve health services for refugees and other displaced communities. The agreement will strengthen UNHCR’s humanitarian response to ensure refugees have access to treatments for HIV/AIDS, [tuberculosis] and malaria. The two partners are already working together in Rwanda, where UNHCR is implementing a grant of $2.09 million from the Global Fund to address health needs for Burundian refugees in Rwanda. Further discussions are also under way to expand the activities to the Middle East and other parts of East Africa.
I have a senior appointment to announce: The Secretary-General has appointed Jan Beagle of New Zealand as the next Under-Secretary-General for Management. She is succeeding Yukio Takasu of Japan, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization. Ms. Beagle brings to the position more than 35 years of experience in the political, development and inter-agency work of the United Nations, and she has made important contributions in leading and advancing change management initiatives in the Secretariat and at the level of the United Nations system.
She is currently Deputy Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). Prior to this position, she was Deputy Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva (2008-2009) and Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management (2005-2007). We have her bio available, and we congratulate her on her appointment.
Our colleagues at the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) report that, yesterday, a peacekeeper from Nigeria was killed by an unidentified group in a carjacking incident in Nyala, South Darfur State. The Mission strongly condemns this attack, which constitutes a violation of international law. It calls on the Government of Sudan to swiftly apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. We join the Mission in extending our deepest condolences to the family of the peacekeeper, his colleagues, and the Government of Nigeria.
**Central African Republic
The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, Najat Rochdi, today urged the international community to urgently rally behind humanitarians striving to assist thousands of civilians. Speaking at a briefing to Member States in Geneva, Ms. Rochdi said that the frequency and brutality of attacks in Bangassou, Bria, Alindao and other localities have reached levels not seen since August 2014. There are deeply worrying signs of manipulation of religion as a driver behind the latest wave of attacks, she said, adding that the window of opportunity to prevent the crisis from further escalation risks being shut down very soon.
Ms. Rochdi warned that communities displaced by the renewed violence have sought safety in areas we can hardly reach. Aid workers are facing logistical and security challenges compounded by funding shortfalls. Unless humanitarians are given sufficient means, tens of thousands of the most vulnerable people will be cut off from aid, many of them will be killed, and entire areas of the country may be abandoned, she warned.
From Somalia, the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), Michael Keating, welcomed the discussions that took place earlier this week between Presidents Abdiweli Mohamed Ali “Gaas” of Puntland and Ahmed Ducaale Geelle “Xaaf” of the Galmudug State to build peace in the central regions. The two state presidents agreed to end their dispute and promote constructive dialogue between their administrations. They also are committed to the opening of roads to allow free movement of people and goods. Mr. Keating reiterated the UN’s readiness to support both Presidents, as well as Somalia’s peace and State-building process.
We issued a statement yesterday, as you will have seen, announcing that the Secretary-General has invited the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, and the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, to New York for a joint meeting to discuss the Cyprus talks and the way forward. Both leaders have accepted the invitation. The Secretary-General looks forward to welcoming the leaders, together with his Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide, on the evening of 4 June. We will keep you posted on the logistical and media arrangements surrounding that dinner.
I also want to flag the first meeting today in Oslo of the Parties to the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. This international treaty, brokered by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), aims at stopping rogue fishing practices by restricting port access to fishing vessels that fail to comply with a set of rules. It represents the capstone of years of diplomatic effort to combat the scourge of illegal fishing, which amounts to up to 26 million tons and represents a huge threat to all efforts to bolster sustainable fishing in the world's oceans. More information from FAO.
Today is —a day that is dear to my heart in my house — it is the Global Day of Parents. The day honours parents throughout the world, providing an opportunity to appreciate all parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship. I will get my children to hear this briefing.
At 12:30 p.m., here, the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, along with the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, to brief you ahead of the Ocean Conference. And then at 1 p.m., the President of the Security Council for the month of June, Ambassador Sacha [Sergio] Llorentty [Solíz] of Bolivia, will brief you on the programme for June. And at 2:30 p.m., there will be a briefing sponsored by the African Union Commission on the launch of the African Women Leaders’ Network — a platform to enhance the leadership of women in the transformation of Africa with a focus on governance, peace and stability.
Tomorrow, the 2017 UN Security Council elections will be held at 10 a.m., in the General Assembly Hall. Following the elections, we expect some of the ambassadors to address press and the stakeout will be set up outside of the GA Hall. And at 4 p.m., there will be another briefing on the Ocean Conference with Alvaro Mendonça e Moura, Permanent Representative of Portugal to the UN, and Burhan Gafoor, Permanent Representative of Singapore to these United Nations. This awkward silence means you get to ask questions. Yes, Nizar?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Okay. The town of Al‑Awamiyah, in Saudi Arabia, has been under constant bombardment and attacks by the security forces for the past 21 days at least. The United Nations, it seems, has not been following this. No statement I've heard about that so far. Why is this silence about such attacks?
Spokesman: I will check. I had not seen those reports, but I will check.
Correspondent: This proves my point, of course. In Yemen, as well…
Spokesman: Why does it prove your point? Yeah?
Correspondent: In Yemen, as well, a lady and her two daughters committed suicide today because…
Spokesman: Say again?
Question: A lady in Yemen and her two daughters committed suicide today because of starvation. Does that, I mean, merit any statement from the United Nations on…?
Spokesman: I think I would urge you to read or reread the very powerful words delivered by Stephen O'Brien just two days ago in the Security Council, which clearly highlights our continued plea for a halt to the fighting and our continued concern with all the civilians in Yemen who are suffering from near starvation, cholera, diseases, lack of access to medicine, all because of a man‑made crisis. This is not a natural disaster that has hit Yemen. This is a man‑made crisis. And our efforts to find a political solution are continuing unabated, and our growing plea for the international community to support the people of Yemen has been consistent, and it has been loud. I'll come back to you. Masood?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On this… today's recent Indian Government… Indians shelling inside Pakistan, killing civilians and also this is an ongoing situation which… between the two nuclear… nuclear-armed-weapon States… is the Secretary‑General at any point in time trying to take time out to assess the situation and talk to the leaders of the subcontinent?
Spokesman: I think the situation that we've seen in that area continues to be of concern to us and, as I've said before, the Secretary‑General is following the situation very closely.
Correspondent: What about… I mean, but… now, you know, again, the killings are taking place of civilians by the Indian army.
Spokesman: I've heard you, and, as I said, we're watching the situation. Rami and then Matthew.
Question: Thanks, Steph. Just follow… in a follow‑up to a question I asked yesterday during the briefing regarding the Egyptian airstrikes in Libya, does the SG have a position on them? The UN‑backed Presidency Council there denounced them and called them a violation of their sovereignty.
Spokesman: We don't have a specific comment on those… on that incident. Matthew?
Question: Sure. Wanted to ask you about Myanmar again. I'd asked you yesterday about video that it was published in The New York Times of the army beating up a… unarmed civilians, but, also, now, the party, not just the Government, but the party of Aung San Suu Kyi has reiterated that they have no intention of allowing the UN three‑person panel in. So, I'm wondering, on either of these two, do you have any comment? Is it something that…?
Spokesman: On the video, we understand… we're aware of it. We understand that the Government has announced an investigation into the incident. On the panel, I think we… as a matter of principle, we call on all countries to cooperate with the UN's human rights mechanism.
Question: Can I ask a rule…? I wanted to ask you this, and you might… I… I… so, as you know, Kyung‑wha Kang is… is… is seeking confirmation as Foreign Minister of South Korea. And the reason I'm asking this question is that one of the issues that's come up is it's reported, not just by the media, but by those questioning her, that two people that worked for her at the… in the UN system allegedly invested in her daughter's businesses. So, what I wanted to know, without knowing whether this is, in fact, true, but it is being alleged in a formal confirmation hearing, is there any UN rule against a supervisor having an underling invest in a… in a child's business venture?
Spokesman: I have no comment on these allegations. As for the staff rules, they're public, and the ethics rules are public, and you're free to consult them.
Correspondent: Right, but they're very vague. That’s why I’m asking.
Spokesman: I'm just saying I have no comment on these allegations. You can look at the rules. Abdelhamid?
Question: Yes, sir. On Thursday, a young Palestinian… a 23‑year‑old was shot and killed by the settlers. And today, a 16‑year‑old girl was critically shot by the soldiers. These crimes, if they pass unnoticed, would it send the wrong message to the Israeli occupation forces?
Spokesman: Well, we would call on any incident of violence, especially one where there's a death of a human being, of a civilian, to be fully investigated.
Question: The second question, during the UN history, which is over 71 years, had been… one sSate had been in violation of UN resolution and a breach of the UN Charter had been rewarded except one singular State, which is Israel. I just want you to give me one single example when a country is found guilty of violating UN resolutions and UN Charter and yet is rewarded.
Spokesman: Abdelhamid, the… I'm not going to comment on your… on the premise of your question. The history of the UN is an open book, and everyone is free to consult it. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Yeah, this is… it's interesting to compare the way… what happens with regard to Israel and Palestine and what's going on with regard to the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] and the Security Council…?
Spokesman: The compare‑and‑contrast exercises are for you to do, not me. Yes?
Question: Okay. But, my question is different. My question is, on 28 April, the Secretary‑General said to the Security Council that it was very dangerous not to have a… channels of communication with the DPRK. The DPRK has asked different times to come to the Security Council, and the Charter says, when something comes up that involves them, they should be invited. None of this happens. They're not invited. And so, I'm wondering if the Secretary‑General has pursued this statement of his, which seems very in line with the Charter?
Spokesman: I think, first of all, that's a question… it's a good question for the next… the briefer at 1 p.m., the President of the Security Council for the month of June, as… I don't have the information as to why the representatives of the DPRK have not been present at some of these Security Council briefings. So, that's all I have to say on that.
Question: Okay. Second… a part of that is the Pope has said that the UN should be doing something to reduce the tension. Has the Pope been in touch with the Secretary‑General or the Secretary‑General in touch with the Pope about this?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware and not that I'm aware directly. Ali, Iftikhar?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Any comments on President [Donald] Trump's decision not to move the American embassy to Jerusalem for the time being?
Spokesman: No, I think we think the signing of the waiver and the decision taken today was a wise decision. Of course, the status of Jerusalem is a core issue that can only be resolved through a negotiated political settlement of the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict. The Secretary‑General hopes the decision can contribute to facilitating the resumption of a genuine peace process. Masood‑ji?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On this situation in Libya, with Egypt attacking inside Libya for whatever reason it has and with all the things that are happening, does the… does the United Nations feel that it is time for Libya to… that Libya is becoming a failed State?
Spokesman: I think we take a more positive outlook, and I think the UN, through its Special Envoy, is working hard with the Libyan institutions to do whatever we can to help rebuild this country. Yes, sir? Yeah, you?
Question: Does the SG have any comment on the possibility of the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?
Spokesman: I think the… while I enjoy being the Spokesman for the Secretary‑General, I think the Secretary‑General is his own best Spokesman, and I would refer you to, I think, the very strong speech he delivered at New York University a couple of days ago. We're obviously waiting to see what the decision taken by the President that's announced for this afternoon. We have no more information about the nature of what the decision will be than you do, but I think the Secretary‑General's position on the importance of combating climate change, on the critical importance of the international community remaining united around the Paris agreement, I think, is clearly spelled out in his speech. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Two questions on Morocco. One is, there have been six days of protests in Al‑Rif region following the… the crushing of a fish… fishmonger, which obviously echoes what happened in Tunisia, and now the arrest of protest leader Nasser Zefzafi. So, I wanted to know… he's called for a three‑day strike. There are people… it's being reported all over the world. Is the UN or DPA [Department of Political Affairs] aware of it? And do they have any words of wisdom of how it should be addressed?
Spokesman: No, I don't have anything on Morocco for you today.
Question: Do you any… incl… on the envoy or the Special Adviser, I guess, personal envoy on Western Sahara, has there been any response in terms of confirming…?
Spokesman: I think we're… we may be nearing the end of a process. So, as soon as we have something to announce, we shall.
Question: And the reason I wanted to ask you about Cameroon is that the visit is now… we're now… May is finished. You'd said from this podium that Mr. [Francois Lonseny] Fall would be there in May and that this would be a follow‑up on the issues of the Anglophone regions. Now it's 1 June. What do you have to say about it?
Spokesman: I'm trying to get an update on his whereabouts. Nizar?
Question: Yeah. Today… yesterday, a tanker was attacked near Bab el‑Mandab in the Red Sea in an area totally controlled by the Coalition-led… the Saudi‑led Coalition. Is there any statement from them or explanation how this tanker came to be attacked by a boat?
Spokesman: No, we don't… I don't have any specific information or independent confirmation of the attack. What is clear is that we need to see a cessation of the violence.
Correspondent: It seems Bahrain is not heeding any of all the calls by Human Rights Council and by United Nations and cracking down on civil society closing more societies, and also still the… Mr. Qassim… Sheikh Qassim is still under siege by the Government forces.
Spokesman: I didn't hear a question mark.
Question: What… what… what do you have about Bahrain's… I mean, these violations…?
Spokesman: What we said last month about our concern for Bahrain remains the same. Masood?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Does the United Nations think the Egyptian attack inside Libya to… what do you call… to re… to either recover or whatever to bring the people to justice inside Libya. Is that legitimate?
Spokesman: Masood, with all due respect, Rami asked that question a few minutes ago. I answered. Yes, sir?
Question: Sure. I have a question… one… I'd asked you yesterday about Espen Barth Eide, and I did see your correct… your amplification that he's "when actually employed". So, I wanted to know, in these cases where there are envoys that are "when actually employed"… and this is… it's not… is it possible to know, just in the last… without getting into the specifics of his diplomacy, in… in the course of the last 365 days, how many days has he… has he… and I'm saying it because it's public money, so I… I know there's a balance. Can you get that number?
Spokesman: I… we can see. I don't know if it's tabulated at the end of the year or when they're tabulated if there's…
Correspondent: However it's tabulated.
Spokesman: Yeah. All right. I will get our guests. Thank you.