Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

7 July 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.

**Nuclear Weapons

At 1:15 p.m., here, Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gómez of Costa Rica will be here to brief you on the conclusion of the UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading [towards] Their Total Elimination.  And I do expect to have a statement from the Secretary-General on that topic a bit later on.


Speaking of the Secretary-General, he arrived this morning from Switzerland to Hamburg, Germany, where is attending the G20 Summit.  Earlier today, he took part in a working luncheon on global growth and trade, as well as a working session on sustainable development, climate and energy.  Upon arrival, he said that he calls on the G20 leaders to join the UN's efforts to combat climate change, violent extremism and other unprecedented challenges.

The Secretary-General also had a bilateral meeting with the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and he will take part in the G20 sessions tomorrow before traveling on to Ukraine in the evening.  Last night, as you will have seen, the Secretary-General spoke to the media at the end of the Conference on Cyprus that was being held in Crans-Montana, in Switzerland.  He said he was deeply sorry that despite the very strong commitment and the engagement of all the delegations and the different parties, the Conference on Cyprus closed without an agreement being reached.


Also from Hamburg, a couple of things to flag:  the World Food Programme (WFP) and MasterCard will announce, at the Global Citizen Festival that will take place in Hamburg, a new commitment in their continued vision to reverse the cycle of hunger and poverty.  Connecting MasterCard’s expertise in technology and digital innovation with WFP’s work, 100 Million Meals is a truly global initiative designed to raise significant funds and meals for those in need around the world.  WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley, said that over the years of the partnership, MasterCard has helped the organization change the way it does business, reaching more people with a more efficient and agile approach.  More information on WFP’s website.


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) — also out of Hamburg — UNICEF warned today that funding shortfalls are threatening education for millions of children caught up in conflicts or disasters.  Of the $932 million needed this year for its education programmes in emergency countries, UNICEF has so far received recorded voluntary contributions of less than $115 million.  The funds are necessary to give 9.2 million children affected by humanitarian crises access to formal and non-formal basic education.

**Human Security

This morning at a high-level event on human security, the Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed stressed the link between human security and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  She said the human security approach is “instrumental to sustainable development, inclusive peace, justice and the well-being and dignity of all people”.  And she added that it can help to find solutions that address the root causes of crises.  Her full remarks are online.

**Deputy Secretary-General Travels

This Sunday, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for London where she will attend the Family Planning Summit 2020.  She will also deliver the first lecture named in honour of the late Head of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr. Babatunde [Osotimehin] — that will take place on 10 July.  She will also attend high-level meetings with top United Kingdom and Canadian Government officials.  On 11 July, she will deliver the opening remarks at the Family Planning Summit.  Thereafter, she will have more high-level meetings on the She Decides initiative, and also on the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin that will focus on empowering women and youth.  Finally, she will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury.  She is expected to return back to New York on 12 July.


The Chiefs of Defense Conference started this morning and will wrap up around 4:30 p.m. this afternoon.  In a video message welcoming the participants, the Secretary-General said Chiefs of Defense are critical to ensuring that peacekeeping remains modern and efficient.  He also urged actions to deploy more women — and to help integrate gender-sensitive perspectives in fostering peace.  When we have greater gender balance in our forces, we boost our protection outreach — and we reduce the chances of sexual exploitation and abuse, he stressed.

In his own remarks, the Head of the Peacekeeping Department, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said we are now working towards realizing the Secretary-General’s vision of peacekeeping as a tailored, agile, and adaptable tool – one which blends the right skills and capabilities in response to the specific needs on the ground, taking into account the context of a reduction in its budget.


From Iraq, in Mosul, our colleagues from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have temporarily suspended certain activities in the Qayara’s air strip emergency site and the Haj Ali camp, due to security concerns.  The decision was taken yesterday following a temporary decline in the security environment in the Qayara District, due to sporadic violence, including exchanges of gunfire.  Both emergency sites host over 79,000 people — displaced Iraqis.  IOM said the situation will be reviewed on Sunday.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

A study on the Cost of Hunger in Africa published today reveals that the economic toll of malnutrition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reaches $1 billion a year, equivalent to as much as 4.5 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The study shows that the losses are incurred each year through increased health-care costs, additional burdens to the education system and reduced workforce productivity.  The Cost of Hunger in Africa study has so far been conducted in 11 countries, with an estimated annual loss associated with child undernutrition equivalent to between 1.9 per cent and 16.5 per cent of GDP.

Results of recently undertaken studies are due to be released soon in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.  Similar studies are being planned for Mali and Mauritania.  This is being done by our friends at the World Food Programme.  Still on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our humanitarian colleagues warn that, despite a dramatic increase in humanitarian needs in 2017, the Humanitarian Response Plan, which requires $748 million, remains 25 per cent funded.  For its part, the emergency appeal which was launched in April [for] the Kasaï crisis to date is only 11 per cent.  More information from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.


IOM also reports that migrant arrivals to Europe by sea have now surpassed the 100,000 figure this year.  Of the estimated 101,000 migrants and refugees that have entered the continent, 85 per cent arrived in Italy and the remainder arrived in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.  Some 2,300 people have died making the journey towards Europe this year, a decrease from the 2,963 fatalities in 2016.  However, IOM noted that this is the fourth consecutive year that migrant deaths on the Mediterranean have exceeded 2,000.

**El Salvador

A note on El Salvador:  the El Salvador dialogue process facilitated by the United Nations enters a new, technical phase today.  This new phase is founded on the consultations conducted by Special Envoy of the Secretary-General Benito Andión, whose mandate has now concluded.  We want to express our gratitude to Mr. Andión for all his efforts and dedication during his tenure.  The UN will continue to support this process through the deployment of a technical team and the Secretary-General’s good offices will remain available and could resume once conditions for a political dialogue are ripe.


Juts to note that the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has concluded his first visit to Myanmar, which included a visit to Rakhine State.  More information on UNHCR’s website.


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) informs us today that, over the past two months, high temperatures have continued as part of an extended spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid‑2015.  Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016.  In Iran, Iraq and Kuwait, for example, a heatwave has driven temperatures in excess of 50°C.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many different parts of the world in June and July.  Australia had its second driest June on record, China experienced torrential rainfall which caused considerable economic losses and transport disruption, and parts of Russia and Siberia have [experienced] an unusually cold June.  More information from WMO.

**Human Rights

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today issued a number of statements, one regarding Turkey, another on China and the third on Cambodia.  Those are on their website.


Also from the World Health Organization:  data from 77 countries show that antibiotic resistance is making gonorrhoea — a common sexually transmitted infection — much harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat.  The World Health Organization reports wide-spread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics.  Some countries — particularly high-income ones, where surveillance is best — are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics.  Each year, an estimated 78 million people are infected with gonorrhoea, whose complications disproportionally impact women.  WHO also expresses concern that the Research and Development pipeline for gonorrhoea is relatively empty, with only 3 new candidate drugs in various stages of clinical development.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

We have a senior appointment to announce:  Martha Helena Lopez of Colombia as the new Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management.  She will succeed Carole Wainaina of Kenya, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.  Ms. Lopez brings a wealth of senior-level international experience in human resources management.  Since 2015, she has served as Human Resources Director at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  More information in her bio note in my office.

**Press Conference on Monday

On Monday, I will be joined by Wu Hongbo, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.  He will discuss the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

**Honour Roll

Finally, we welcome Bolivia to the Honour Roll, as it has paid its regular budget dues in full.  We now stand at a total of 111 countries.  We would like to see more countries on that Honour Roll.  On that note, I would take your questions should you have any.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have two questions about Iraq.  You mentioned Qayara and that UN operations have been suspended.  Can you elaborate more on the reason?  What was the security issue there that made the…?

Spokesman:  From what I understand there was sporadic gunfire in the… in the area and the International Organisation for Migration decided to suspend its activities and it will review the situation on Sunday.

Question:  And my second question is about UNAMI's [United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq] statement about two weeks ago, that they will not be engaged in any forum… in the referendum in September of the Kurds, whether to remain part of Iraq.  I just want to understand the reasoning behind it.  Does this mean the UN mission in Iraq is against the… the referendum?  Why they decided that?

Spokesman:  I think the statement is fairly clear.  It means they will not participate in the… in the organization.  I think their position on… the UN's position on… on the need for dialogue regarding the issues… outstanding issues between the Kurdish… Kurdistan and the central Government have been made over and over again.  As a matter of principle… as a matter of principle, the UN needs a request from a national Government to participate and to help, whether it's technical and otherwise, in any balloting that takes place.  The UN works with national Governments, and that's how we operate throughout the world.  And that's just a standing principle.

Question:  And just to be clear.  That doesn't mean… so UN is against the referendum?  Because there's some talk about concerns…

Spokesman:  I think it's… I think… as I said the UN's position on the need for dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad has been often stated.  Apostolos.

Question:  A few questions from Cyprus with your permission.  First one, the Secretary-General on 4 June, he said the conference on Cyprus is open ended.  Why he decided to end it last night?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the Secretary-General, along with the other participants, I think worked literally through the night.  They ended at 2 a.m.  There was a shared understanding among the participants that it was best to close it.  And I think the Secretary-General expressed his… his… his regret that the conference was closed without… without an agreement being reached.

Question:  So, that means that he's returning also his mandate?  That means the negotiations that started in 2008, if you remember, are ended now?  There are no more…

Spokesman:  No, it just means the Conference on Cyprus is closed.  Mr. Eide will be joined by Ms. Spehar, the SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General].  They will be in New York the week of 17 July.  They will be briefing the Security Council.  I think the Secretary-General… for the Secretary-General, the UN's role is clear.  It's one of a facilitator.  We remain… we remain available.  I think he made that point himself very clearly in his press remarks yesterday.  Any decision on the future will be taken by the Secretary-General in consultations with all concerned.  I think what happened yesterday has to be absorbed.  Mr. Eide and Ms. Spehar will be here.  They will be briefing the Council.  The Secretary-General will obviously have a round of consultations before taking any next steps.

Question:  There's a report coming on 10 July, on UNFICYP [United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus], is he going to use the results of Geneva in this report.  And finally, if you have a readout on Erdogan, SG's meeting?

Spokesman:  I think there will be, in due course, a full report by the Secretary-General on his good offices to the Security Council.  I think right now, as I said, we're absorbing what happened.  It's time for all the parties to reflect also on what happened.  The Secretary-General did meet President Erdoğan, they exchanged views on a number of… a broad number of… of regional issues.  The Secretary-General again expressed his regret, his disappointment, that no agreement was reached on the Conference on Cyprus.  But, he told the President that he greatly appreciated the Turkish Government's strong commitment to the process.  And on Syria, the Secretary-General commended Turkey for its support for the Astana and Geneva processes, and I think as you will remember, taking note in yesterday's remarks to the press, the Secretary-General I think thanked and expressed his appreciation to all the parties involved, including the guarantor powers.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Follow-up on Cyprus.  But, I just… obviously, it seems like you did have a readout of that meeting.  Is it possible to ask in advance, particularly when we don't have briefings and aren't able to ask you directly, that those readouts be just issued?

Spokesman:  Sure.  We'll… some readouts are issued, some are if-asked.  It kind of… it depends on the circumstance.  So when we're…

Question:  Can you consider if asked?

Spokesman:  I don't know if he'll have any more bilaterals, but we'll share what we can.

Question:  I want to ask you.  There's a quote by the Turkish Foreign Minister saying that the outcome or failure of the talks shows "the impossibility of the solution within the parameters of the UN good offices' mission." I heard what you're saying that you'll, you know, figure it out by 17 July, but is that… at least currently, does the Secretary-General disagree with that?  Does he still see a role… a possibility within the parameters?

Spokesman:  I think… I think the Secretary-General is very clear.  He was asked a question yesterday.  He says the UN's role is a facilitator.  We're not negotiating on behalf of parties, we're here to facilitate the talks between the parties and we remain available to the parties, should… should they come to us with… with a request, with… new negotiations.  I think he said it much more clearly than I yesterday in answer to your question.

Question:  Okay and then I wanted to… could you… on Jeffrey Feltman's diplomacy, when you… when you listed the countries he's been to, there was… has he been to more countries since then than the ones you said?  I'm specifically asking about Saudi Arabia.

Spokesman:  I don't have a full itinerary.  Mr. Feltman is back… he is in Germany when he's currently briefing the Secretary-General on his… on his trip.

Question:  Could I… I've heard that he asked to go to Saudi Arabia and was not for some reason permitted.  Is there some…

Spokesman:  I'm not aware.  I'm not aware.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  Khalida Jarrar, a 54-year-old Palestinian member of the Legislative Council, was re-arrested on the night of 3 July.  She has been in jail 14 months and she was released on June 30.  Again, she was arrested, bringing the number of Palestinian members of the Legislative Council who are currently in jail to 13.  And yet, there is no statement from the Special Coordinator on the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Why is that?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Mladenov and the UN has reported… reports monthly to the Security Council on the overall situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I think those points, to my mind, are covered in the briefings.

Correspondent:  But, an event of this magnitude, I think it deserved to be highlighted for the world to see that the UN is not happy when Israel arrests somebody who has been an elected official.

Spokesman:  I don't think I heard a question mark there, so I appreciate your statement.  Again, I think on a monthly basis and periodically in between, whether it's a Special Coordinator or the Secretary-General, we express ourselves on issues that I think reflect the gravity of the situation.  Matthew.  Oh, and then…

Question:  You may have… you may have… I've asked you before about the… the continuing situation in the Rif region in Morocco, and you may have seen that The Economist… I know your DPA's [Department of Political Affairs] work is not driven by publications, but it's a pretty respected one, and their analysis is that things are getting significantly worse and that it threatens, you know, the… the situations elsewhere in the country, and the Government has recently said that they have at least 176 people under "preventative detention", based on what's basically a non-violent protest, including on a beach where they were banned from going into the water.  So, I just wanted to know, has DPA done anything on this?  Have they reached out to the country?  Do they have any expression of concern as, you know, respected observers say the situation is getting worse?

Spokesman:  I don't have anything specific.  I mean as a matter of principle, we stand for the people's right to demonstrate peacefully.  Ben?

Question:  Apologies if I missed the beginning of the briefing.  Just wanted to see where the Secretary-General stood on the policy of the draft resolution on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.

Spokesman:  We… we expect a statement very shortly on this.  I think yesterday, we expressed our support for efforts by Member States to create a world free of nuclear weapons, but I expect a formal statement shortly.  Ann.

Question:  Ann Charles, Baltic Review.  Do you have any more details available on the Secretary-General's trip to Kyiv, Ukraine, and his meeting with Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, on 9 July?  Who else will he meet with when he's in Ukraine?  And do you expect any progress on the illegal occupation of Crimea?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, as you said, will be meeting President Poroshenko.  I expect him to meet other senior officials, including the Foreign Minister and other Government officials.  The programme is still being finalized.  We will report back on it on… on Monday at the briefing.  And obviously, the situation in Ukraine and the situation between Ukraine and Russia will be discussed.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  I want to ask about Ghassan Salamé and where is he physically now?  Did he take his position in Tunisia or in Tripoli?  Do you have any update on his activities?

Spokesman:  It's a very valid question, which I should be able to answer, which I'm not able to answer.  But, let me check and get an update.  Yes, Mr. Lee.  Telescope, whatever.

Question:  In South Sudan, the Government itself has expressed concern about threats to residents of Jonglei Province saying that people from Equatoria should leave or face, I guess, death.  So, I'm wondering what is… is UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] aware of this and what are they doing to protect Equatorians in Jonglei, given this public threat.

Spokesman:  Let me check with the Mission.  But, what I mean… we have said repeatedly and expressed our concern at the continued threats of violence against civilians and the actual violence against civilians based on people's ethnicity.

Question:  Okay and just on the JPO [Junior Professional Officer], I asked a couple of days ago about whether the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has reported a memorandum for Junior Professional Officers programme with the UN.  Do they, and are they sending anyone?

Spokesman:  I think I have something, which is basically that based on the… first of all, that the JPO programme is open to every Member State, all right.  Based on expression of interest of [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] as a Member State of the UN, and in accordance with relevant resolutions from [Economic and Social Council] from March, the Permanent Mission of the DPRK and the UN reached a memorandum of understanding, the provision of JPOs without prejudice.  While the memorandum of understanding is concluded, the provision of a JPO to the UN is subject to the identification by the organization of programmatic needs and suitable candidates who meet the qualifications, competencies, ability to perform duties and other requirements, set by the receiving Department.  The selected candidate is subject to UN staff rules and resolutions, including the obligation not to seek or accept instruction in regard to performance of duties from any Government or any other source external to the UN, as per Article 100 of the Charter.

Question:  At least one published report identified or described an individual — they said — is already in the pipeline, mentioned the Department of Political Affairs as the target and said that a Permanent Representative has spoken to António Guterres in opposition to this.  Is it… you say it's open to all, but is it also open to… are there considerations of not, for example, placing a national of a country, for example, under a sanctions system to work in the DPA or SCAD Sanctions Office about that country?

Spokesman:  I think, obviously, first of all, it's up to the UN and to the Department to identify the programmatic needs and where that person would be best… best used.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.