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

15 September 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.

After we are done here, we will have Brenden [Varma], who will brief for the PGA [President of the General Assembly], and then we will have our guest, Mr. [Santiago] Villalpando, who will brief on the treaty event going on.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

As you saw this morning, we issued a statement in which the Secretary‑General condemned the launch of yet another ballistic missile by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] earlier today.  This manifest violation of Security Council resolutions comes just days after the DPRK [conducted] its sixth nuclear test.

The Secretary-General called on the DPRK leadership to cease further testing, comply with the relevant Security Council resolutions, and allow space to explore the resumption of sincere dialogue on denuclearization.  The Secretary‑General will be discussing the situation on the Korean Peninsula with all concerned parties in the margins of the upcoming high-level week of the General Assembly.

And I think you are aware, there are consultations scheduled for the Security Council on the DPRK at 3 p.m. this afternoon.


Turning to Myanmar, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled across the border from Bangladesh to Myanmar has climbed to 391,000.  Aid workers continue to supply food, plastic sheets, water and other supplies.  The first 15 of 35 scheduled trucks of aid provided by the UN refugee agency [UNHCR] arrived in Cox’s Bazar today, while other agencies are airlifting their supplies into Bangladesh.

The World Health Organization [WHO] is working with the Government and other organizations to provide health care.  Tomorrow, a WHO‑backed vaccination campaign against measles and polio will be launched to reach 150,000 children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years who have newly arrived in Bangladesh.  WHO is also helping the Government send in medical teams to the new refugee settlements and will distribute emergency medical kits, water purification tablets and cholera kits in the coming days.


Ali al‑Za’tari, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, confirmed that UN supplies arrived in Deir Ezzour city yesterday, where 93,500 people are in urgent need of assistance.  The UN supplies, delivered by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent by road, consisted of lifesaving items such as hygiene kits, solar lamps, plastic sheeting, and kitchen sets for about 15,000 families.  At the same time, fighting and military operations in Deir Ezzour Governorate in recent days have continued to put civilians in the line of fire and has reportedly resulted in civilian deaths and damage to civilian infrastructure.

The UN is particularly concerned about reports from yesterday that airstrikes on an informal settlement hosting internally displaced people in Jdid Ekeidat town — 20 kilometers south of Deir Ezzour — resulted in the death of 120 people, including 100 children.  In order to support the massive needs of people in the city, Mr. al‑Za’tari and heads of UN agencies want to visit Deir Ezzour immediately to meet the Governor and local departments to review the needs as soon as the situation on the ground permits it.


Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that flooding across Niger has affected almost 200,000 people and killed 54.  Causing damage in all regions of Niger, the floods have destroyed over 11,000 houses and 12,000 hectares of crops, and killed 16,000 heads of cattle.

Relief efforts are underway and humanitarian partners continue to mobilize resources.  UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and the International Organization for Migration [IOM] have supported at least 22,000 people with non‑food items and shelters.


In Nigeria, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF today welcomed the signing by the Civilian Joint Task Force of an action plan to end the recruitment and use of children.

The Civilian Joint Task Force was formed in 2013 to support the Nigerian security forces in the fight against Boko Haram in the north‑east of the country.  It was listed last year in the annexes of the Secretary‑General’s Annual Report for Children and Armed Conflict for the recruitment and use of children.

With the signature of this action plan, the Civilian Joint Task Force commits to put in place a number of measures to end and prevent child recruitment and use, including identifying and releasing all children within the group’s ranks and instructing its members not to recruit or use children in the future.


Today, the annual State of Food Insecurity in the World report was released in Rome.  After years of progress, the report finds that the number of hungry people around the world is on the rise.  This signals a reversal of trends and could undermine efforts to reaching zero hunger by 2030.

In 2016, the number of chronically undernourished people is estimated to have increased up to 815 million people, up from 777 million in 2015.  There are 155 million children under the age of 5 who suffer from stunted growth and are too small for their age.  These worsening figures are directly linked to the increase in conflicts around the world, and to places where there is conflict, floods and droughts.  Food insecurity has worsened especially in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South‑Eastern Asia and Western Asia.

The report, prepared by the World Food Programme [WFP], the Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO], the International Fund for Agricultural Development [IFAD], UNICEF and WHO, is available online.


As an example of what we just talked about, UNICEF says today that an additional 37,000 children across Kenya are below the threshold of acute malnutrition following the failure of the March–June rains.  Almost 370,000 children across the country now require treatment for acute malnutrition.

**Ozone Depletion

Our colleagues at the UN Environment Programme [UNEP] are launching a campaign to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Montreal Protocol and its success in protecting the Earth against ozone depletion and mitigating climate change.

The campaign “Ozone Heroes” was created in partnership with Marvel Comics and seeks to raise awareness of how people can work together to tackle climate change and the depletion of the ozone layer.  The campaign includes an online quiz with characters from Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy where users can discover their superpower and learn about these issues.

The quiz is available at www.ozoneheroes.org.  If you are bored during this briefing, you can go online and take the quiz.

**Press Briefings

In addition to Brenden and Mr. Villalpando from the Treaty Section, at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference by Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

**Questions and Answers

Mr. Klein?

Question:  Yes. On Wednesday, the Secretary-General emphasized the importance of beefing up and supporting the Lebanese army in helping to stabilize the country, but he didn't address the question at the time about the role of Hizbullah, given their influence in the Government and so forth.  So I would like to know whether you could comment on whether the Secretary‑General believes that Hizbullah is playing a constructive role or a destructive role in Lebanon.

Spokesman:  I think issues related to armed groups in southern Lebanon are reported by the UN on a regular basis through its reports to the Security Council. There are also… Hizbullah is also a member of the Lebanese Government.  The Secretary‑General believes that it is important for Lebanon to have strong institutions and a strong national army that can be present throughout the country.

Question:  But given the reported buildup of rockets in southern Lebanon by Hizbullah and its destabilizing activities in Lebanon and Syria, and you're aware of what Ambassador Nikki Haley has said specifically about Hizbullah, I want to try to get some clarity on where the Secretary-General stands in relation to Hizbullah's activities.

Spokesman:  I think… as I said, I would refer you to the various reports that we've issued on the situation in Lebanon, specifically in southern Lebanon and for the Secretary-General, as I said, he believes in a strong… that Lebanon needs strong State institutions, and that all those political parties who are part of the Government should support those institutions, including the national army.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Too slow.

Question:  The Israeli daily Ha’aretz published, on the 13th of this month, the full text of the platform of the National Union Party in Israel, adopting the transfer as an official policy.  The party received the congratulations letter from the Prime Minister, congratulating them for this clarity and for this policy.  Is there any comment on this dangerous development?

Spokesman:  We're not going to… I haven't seen the report.  I'm not going to comment on the platforms of various parties in various Governments.  For the Secretary‑General, the goal is clear.  It's a two-State solution that needs to be agreed upon, achieved through direct negotiations between the parties.  I mean, I think his position is clear and his position is in answer to any question.  And, of course, we would stand against any forced transfer of people, wherever they are throughout the world.  Mr. Avni?

Question:  On Hizbullah, the question that was asked:  The Security Council resolutions say that there should be no armed militias other than the Lebanese army.  Hizbullah is not dividing itself between the political and the military, so isn't there a self-contradictory [sic] in what you're saying, that, on the one hand, there needs to be… or the Security Council saying that there needs to be disarming of all militias, except for the army, and on the other hand, the same organization that is… that has a militia being a member of the Government and you want them to cooperate?

Spokesman:  I stand by what I said.  I don't think I'm capable of self-contradicting myself.  Matthew?

Question:  I don't understand the answer.

Spokesman:  The answer is we report on a regular basis on the situation in Southern Lebanon and what UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] observes.  The Secretary-General in his letter to the Security Council said he was looking at strengthening the reporting and the way UNIFIL does its work.  Our position is that Lebanon needs a strong national institution, including a strong national army, that is… has the ability to project itself throughout the country.

Question:  But the army answers to a Government that has a majority of the same party that has the militia, that is supposed to be…

Spokesman:  That is a valid observation.  Oleg?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have a question on the UN reform meeting, but before that, do you have anything to say on the attack in London today?

Spokesman:  Yes. Sorry.  So on the… what was the question on the reform?

Question:  Since the Secretary-General is going to be one of the only speakers at the event, what will be his message to the people attending it?  And since he's taking part in it, does it mean he fully supports all the ideas the US has about the UN reform, which is in the declaration?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  I think the reform process of the United Nations is ultimately in the hands of the Member States.  The Secretary-General has presented his various reform streams, whether it's on… to various levels, whether it's on peacekeeping, political issues, development, management.  It is critical for the Secretary‑General to engage in a dialogue and address all those Member States who are also interested in reform.  Ultimately, the reforms that he's putting forward will have to be approved by the 193 Member States.  The United States, given the size of its financial contributions, is obviously a critical partner in that reform.  All Member States are important partners and it's important that the Secretary‑General engage with the United States, and he looks forward to attending the meeting.  He is not… the Secretary-General himself is not a Member State.  He doesn't have to sign on to whatever declaration.  This is a political declaration.  You would have to obviously ask the United States for more information on this, as they are running the meeting, but the Secretary‑General is very happy to be in attendance at the meeting and will be delighted to outline his… further outline his views on reform.  Matthew?  Oh, sorry, on London.  We're obviously following and tracking the developments in London this morning, the attack, which left many people injured.  We condemn the attack and we wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured.  The UN stands in solidarity with the people and Government of the United Kingdom, and we hope the perpetrators or perpetrator will be quickly brought to justice.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  I asked you a couple of days ago about Burundi, about the abduction of a major opposition leader and… and also whether Mr. [Michel] Kafando would be here.  I guess…

Spokesman:  Mr. Kafando will be here.  Mr. Kafando will be here.

Question:  Okay.  And can you say what he'll be doing?  And also whether he or you have become aware of this… this very high-profile abduction?

Spokesman:  I haven't gotten any more updates on that abduction.  I have no doubt that he's aware, and I assume he will be having a number of bilateral meetings with delegations here, as most of the envoys will do.  They… it's only natural for them to come here and use this opportunity to meet with various stakeholders.

Question:  But I guess… I mean, overall, what can… can you explain if you look at the list… or what seems to be the emerging list of country‑specific meetings that the Secretary-General is organizing and those that he's not? For example, Yemen, which is one of the four listed famines, why wasn't that meeting organized?

Spokesman:  The meetings, most of the country-specific meetings if, and I will be struck down if I'm wrong, are not organized by the Secretary‑General himself.  A lot of them are groups of countries that come together and want to discuss specific issues.  The fact that there is no meeting on a specific country doesn't take away from the importance of dealing with the situation in that country, whether it's a humanitarian crisis, a political crisis or complex crisis involving both.  There will be many issues being dealt with in bilateral meetings with the Secretary-General.  Other senior UN officials will have those meetings.  So I don't think the list of country-specific meetings is a tell‑all barometer of what crisis is more important than another.

Question:  But I guess, just on these two countries.  If… if… if, in terms of the Secretary‑General sort of either like… either showing leadership or hitting them where they ain't, if in the case of Burundi and Yemen, the penholders in the Council… let's take Yemen, where the UK is selling weapons to one of the sides in the conflict.  The fact that the "countries concerned", quote-unquote, don't want to organize a meeting may not really serve the people of Yemen very well, so…

Spokesman:  I think the efforts of the envoys who will… I think most of them will be here, will continue in that aim.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  What is the order of the speakers in the US reform meeting on Monday, do you know?  And also, if you have the number of attendants of all countries of the UNGA [United Nations General Assembly], the number of representatives?

Spokesman:  For… we have the… the speakers list for the General Assembly… the General Assembly session, which is available…

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  In general, we can give you those… the last… I have… I don't have the numbers of Heads of State with me, but we have those statistics available, and maybe Brendan even has them in his head.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  The speakers… I think… my understanding is that Ambassador Haley will open the meeting, and then the Secretary‑General will speak, the President of the United States will speak, and then Ambassador Haley will close the meeting.  That's my understanding, but again, you should check with the US Mission as they are the sponsors of this meeting.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I think it will be… my understanding is it will be webcast, yes, ma'am.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  I wanted to ask you… there's a couple of things that I'd asked you that I didn't hear you get back on.  One was Togo, where you said you were going to check the quotes of Mr. [Mohamed Ibn] Chambas, whether he, in fact, gave his blessing.  Now, that there's a big pro… actually, the parliamentary thing that you referred to, the opposition has said that it's much less than what was promised.  The protests are getting larger.  Did Mr. Chambas say the things that Reuters quoted him as saying?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that he said what he was quoted as saying.

Question:  Okay.  So is it the Secretary-General's view that it's legitimate for a family, whose father and son have now been in power for 50 years, to remain in power through 2030?  Is that the 2030…

Spokesman:  I don't think that's… the Secretary-General's view is that people should be able to choose their leaders.

Question:  And on Ethiopia.  You had said…

Spokesman:  I didn't get anything on Ethiopia.  Why don't we have Brenden come up, and then we'll go to our guest.

Question:  Are you doing briefings next week?

Spokesman:  I'm doing briefings Monday.  We'll suspend Tuesday and Wednesday because there's a lot of stuff going on, and then we'll resume [Thursday] and I think Gordon Brown will also be here.

Question:  If questions are submitted to you?

Spokesman:  We will do our best.

For information media. Not an official record.