The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stephane Dujarric, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Good afternoon. To start with a programming note, the President of the Security Council for the month of August, Ambassador Amr Abdellatif Aboulatta of Egypt, was scheduled to brief you this afternoon but that has been moved to 9 a.m. tomorrow morning in this room, will be the start of the presidency press briefing.
**Noon Briefing Guest Today
In a short while, I will be joined via video link by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director for Yemen, Auke Lootsma, who will brief you on the situation in Yemen.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, arrived in South Sudan today. In Juba, he met with senior Government officials, including the First Vice-President, Taban Deng. They discussed issues related to security and the peace process, including the importance of the initiative of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on the revitalization of the implementation of the peace agreement to advance efforts to bring peace and stability in South Sudan. He stressed that fighting should end for this peace process to have a better chance and that the credibility of the National Dialogue rests on its inclusiveness and transparency.
Mr. Lacroix also called for the expeditious deployment of the Regional Protection Force and noted that he was looking forward to further support from the Government to facilitate the deployment. Tomorrow, he is expected to meet with President Salva Kiir and to visit the UN base in Malakal, where the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) protects over 30,500 internally displaced people in Protection of Civilian sites.
Turning to Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says there has been an alarming increase in the number of suspected measles cases. 13,428 cases have been reported so far this year — compared to the 5,000 to 10,000 total cases per year since 2014. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the displacement caused by the ongoing drought is worsening the situation and exacerbating the spread of the disease. The agency is planning a nationwide emergency mass measles campaign targeting children under 10 years of age, and said that some $14 million will be required to support the campaign.
**Syria — Raqqa
And yesterday, I was asked about Raqqa, I think it was you, Oleg, and our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) tell us that, in July, they reached nearly 200,000 people affected by the violence in Raqqa, as well as people in the neighboring governorates of Deir ez-Zor and Hasakeh. WFP also reached 200,000 people in June, when land access became possible. In June and July, more than 140 trucks carrying UN and Red Crescent items via a newly opened road between Aleppo and Hasakeh. Regarding land access, WFP negotiates with the authorities to ensure food and other humanitarian assistance reach the people who need it most. WFP has two local partners who carry out the distribution of our food assistance in these areas.
**Sustainable Development Goals
And here in New York, the Intergenerational Dialogues on the Sustainable Development Goals got under way this morning. In a video message, the Secretary-General told participants that youth and older persons are key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, and encouraged them to help break cycles of poverty that have lasted for generations — and trigger transformational change that endures for generations to come. The event is co-hosted by the Department of Public Information and the DPI-NGO Executive Committee and seeks to raise awareness on the value that youth and older persons can bring to the Sustainable Development Goals.
A new report by our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) says no country in the world fully meets the recommended standards for breastfeeding. The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which [evaluated] 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively, and only 23 [countries] have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent. Evidence shows that breastfeeding is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. In addition, mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer. More information online, and I will stop here until we turn to our colleague in Yemen, who has been very patient. Ms. Nichols.
***Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Stéph. Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the latest developments in Venezuela, please?
Spokesman: Yes, of course. The Secretary‑General has been following very closely the recent developments in Venezuela. He has taken note of the decision by the judicial system to revoke the house arrests of the opposition leaders who were detained yesterday, Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma. The Secretary‑General is concerned that an escalation of political tensions will distance the country from a path conducive to finding peaceful solution to the country's challenges and in this critical moment for the future of the country the Secretary‑General urges all Venezuelans, particularly those representing powers of the State, to make all possible efforts to lower tensions, prevent further violence and loss of life, as well as find avenues for political dialogue. The Secretary‑General reiterates his firm belief that a political negotiation is urgently needed between the Government and the opposition. He is convinced that the only way forward is a political solution. The Secretary‑General acknowledges the efforts of the international facilitators and regional leaders who have supported the Venezuelan Government and the opposition [in] trying to reach an agreement. The Secretary‑General reiterates his full support for these efforts. Edie, go ahead.
Question: Thanks, Stéph. That statement actually didn't address the decision to take these two opposition leaders back to prison from house arrest. What is the Secretary‑General's response to that?
Spokesman: I think, as I said, the Secretary‑General has taken note of that of that decision. I think his overall message is one of concern for the increase of political tensions and the country moving away from a path to finding a peaceful solution. I would also refer you to the statements made earlier by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in which he expressed his deep concern at the detention of these two. Luke?
Question: Following the same line of questioning, there was no mention in the statement you just read, nor the one yesterday about the elections themselves, just about the violence that surrounded them. What is the UN's thinking on that?
Spokesman: I would leave it at that for the time being. Yes, ma'am.
Question: Follow‑up, the US sanctioned the Venezuelan President, Mr. Maduro, calling him a dictator. Does the Secretary‑General share the US's view of Nicolas Maduro?
Spokesman: It's not for the Secretary‑General to comment on what was said out of the US Government yesterday. I think for the Secretary‑General, his focus is on working with the mediators and those who are working towards bringing the opposition in the Government back towards a political solution. Nizar.
Question: Is the Secretary‑General considering sending a mediator from the United Nations to settle the issue?
Spokesman: I think right now the Secretary‑General is supporting the efforts of the international facilitators, as well as the regional efforts.
Question: My question is on Saudi Arabia. There are very severe clashes, very, very harsh clashes in Eastern Province in Awamiya and other neighbouring towns and villages. The army is burning whole areas as we have seen some videos. How does the United Nations deal with that?
Spokesman: I don't have anything on that situation. I will look into it. Masood-ji.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Stéphane, do you have any… does the Secretary‑General have anything to say about the recent upsurge and unrest in Kashmir which happened, especially today?
Spokesman: I think we will, I would refer you to what we said in the past on the situation in Kashmir. Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you, in the run up to the elections in Kenya, the head of the electronic voting, Chris Msando, has been murdered and I wanted to know, what is the UN… various countries have expressed concern, offered to send investigators, has the resident coordinator or anyone in the UN system, what do they think of this murder?
Spokesman: Obviously, I think it’s, the fact that a member of the electoral commission was murdered, in what appears to be such a gruesome way, is shocking and can only be condemned. We hope that the perpetrators are found and brought to justice. I think Kenya is entering a very, obviously a very delicate period with the upcoming elections, and we would not want to see any increase or violence or disturbance.
Question: Can you say what the UN's role, does it have any role? I know that there was somebody who used to work at DPA [Department of Political Affairs] who is now working on the elections as a Kenyan national, but is there a UN role?
Spokesman: I can check. I'm not aware of any role, but I'm happy to check. Yup.
Question: On Venezuela again, does the SG [Secretary-General] think that this situation could be, could merit to be treated by the Security Council…?
Spokesman: I think that is up to Security Council members.
Question: He is not planning to bring…?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware of. Yup.
Question: Do you have any reaction to the Chinese initiative, Middle East peace?
Spokesman: No reaction in detail. I think the Secretary‑General's own position has been outlined very publicly on the way forward for the peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Klein.
Question: Yes, the Secretary‑General has spoken out in the past about fostering a more stable funding base for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East], finding innovative ways to stabilize and have more continuity, et cetera. Does he favour the proposal in the General Assembly, which I believe has been postponed, but still is being considered, to increase the amount of the assessments in the UN regular budget that would be allocated to UNRWA funding as opposed to voluntary contributions?
Spokesman: That is a… that is a decision by the Member States. I'm not going to comment on the particular resolution. As a matter of principle, I think we would like to see more predictable funding for the UN's humanitarian work. I mean, I think we see how we have to appeal on a regular basis. We would like to see more regular funding on… as a matter of principle, predictable funding.
Question: What does that mean in real terms, because if it's voluntary contributions it's always going to be based on budget priorities of the donors?
Spokesman: It's a, it’s a delicate balance and I think we trust the wisdom of the Member States to find that balance.
Question: Could you give us more detail on the expert report on DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo]? More detail on the…?
Spokesman: Yeah, no, hopefully we should have some more information to share with you on that in the coming days. That is my hope and my wish. Luke.
Question: Just to follow up on my last question, why is there no UN statement on the elections in Venezuela? Everything else you talked about seems rather peripheral…
Spokesman: I think, the concern of the increase in political tension, I don't think, is peripheral. There is an ongoing effort by international mediators, I think. The Secretary‑General has been in touch with them on a regular basis and he supports their efforts.
Correspondent: You know, I just tallied up, in the past 90 days statements on elections in Liberia, Afghanistan, DRC, the conduct of Algerian elections, South Sudan, Kosovo. The UN weighs in on how elections are conducted.
Spokesman: I think the compare-and-contrast exercises are your purview. We see these situations independently. Mr. Lee.
Question: Sure, I don't know if this is compare and contrast, but now more than 100 people were arrested in the DRC in the protests of the passing of the time, so yesterday you said you didn't have it?
Spokesman: No. We, obviously the Mission is aware of it. We understand a number of people have been released and the human rights component of the [UN] Mission is monitoring the situation.
Question: Okay, and I wanted to ask something on Cameroon. Last week, I'd asked Farhan about a meeting that was held by southern Cameroonians with, it was supposed to be with Mr. Adama Dieng, but it turned out to be with somebody called Mr. Castro. I would still like to ask for a readout on that and the reason is now the Paul Biya Government has announced they are sending a delegation of three to the UN between, and I guess to Washington, so I wanted to know, I guess, in advance, since given that this issue and what you have said from the podium here, is it possible to know with whom… I mean I can give you the names of the people that are coming, who they are going to meet with and what the…?
Spokesman: I can find out but obviously, hopefully they will tell you who they are going to meet with because there a lot of people they can meet here, but I will check the usual suspects. Masood.
Question: One, do you have any update on the situation in Yemen, where the cholera had taken so many lives?
Spokesman: Well, Masood, I would indulge your patience. As I said, we will have the UNDP Country Director live by video as soon as I'm done answering your questions who will be in a much better place to answer those questions.
Question: Can I ask another question?
Spokesman: You can ask another question and I'll try to answer it, but if you want to answer the other question, that’s fine, as well. Go ahead.
Correspondent: I just want to find out about the situation as far as the Palestinian children in the Israeli jail is concerned. I've been asking this question for a long time and you have not had any updates since January of this year.
Spokesman: I think I have shared updates since then. I will see if I have anything else to give you. Nizar.
Question: What role is the United Nation playing in the evacuation of eastern mountains of Lebanon where Al‑Nusra front is due to be evacuated?
Spokesman: None that I'm aware of, none that I'm aware of. Okay, yes, Linda.
Question: Thank you, Stéph. Regarding North Korea, since tensions have been rising in North Korea, apparently has increased its nuclear capabilities and it looks like the Security Council is deadlocked with the US saying they were not going to call a Security Council meeting because they didn't think anything of consequence would result from it. Given that sort of deadlock, do you think, at this point, there is some kind of role for the Secretary‑General?
Spokesman: You know, I think the Security Council is having discussions on this, I mean is seized of the matter. The Secretary‑General has expressed his condemnation of the acts by the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]. He remains in touch with the various members of the Council and I think we will leave it at that for the time being. Yes, sir, and then…
Question: Two. One is just, in the answers you were giving about the Secretary‑General believes this on Venezuela, thinks this, can… given what you have said yesterday about his schedule, is this based on, is this a DPA statement, is it actually something they run by him, how does it work?
Spokesman: It works that it comes out of my mouth. That’s how it works. Next question. Next question.
Correspondent: Okay. The next question is something that I had emailed you, but I will ask you now. There was a meeting on Friday between the Secretary‑General before he left and Ivanka Trump. And it wasn't on the Media Alert, but apparently UN Photo was there, but then some people noticed that AP was selling the photos…
Spokesman: I'm aware of the situation with the AP, which is not normal, and we are in touch with them.
Question: Can you, are you going to answer like how it happened? Was money charged?
Spokesman: I said it's not normal and we are in touch with them. Obviously, no one is allowed to sell or distribute photos taken by UN photographers without giving proper credit, and no one is allowed to sell those photos. As I said, we are in touch with them.
Question: Why was it…?
Spokesman: It was a private lunch. We will go to our guest now.