8 December 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, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

We have Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, Under‑Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, as well as Ian Sinclair, the Director of the UN Operations and Crisis Centre, who will give you a rundown of the events that took place last night.  And then Mr. Lacroix will give you the larger political overview.  So Ian, over to you.

[Press briefing by Jean‑Pierre Lacroix and Ian Sinclair followed.]

**Middle East

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council by video teleconference just now.  He noted that, two days ago, the US President had announced the recognition by the US of Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

The Special Envoy said that he is particularly concerned about the potential risk of a violent escalation and that his office continues to follow developments on the ground closely.

Mr. Mladenov urged all political, religious and community leaders to refrain from provocative action and rhetoric that could lead to escalation and he called on all to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.  He added that the UN remains strongly committed to supporting all efforts towards a negotiated two‑state solution.  This is the only way to achieve the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, he said.  And he once again echoed the Secretary‑General’s words: that there is no Plan B to the two‑state solution.


The Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, is in Paris today, where she attended the meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon [on] the Secretary‑General’s behalf.

In remarks, she said that today’s meeting shows that the international community remains united in support of the stability, security, sovereignty, and independence, as well as territorial integrity of Lebanon.  She acknowledged the calm and measured response of the Lebanese leadership over the past several weeks, which served to unify the people of Lebanon.  Over the weekend, she will travel onward to Quito in Ecuador.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

The Secretary‑General spoke this morning at the Annual High‑Level Pledging Conference for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), saying that, since the Fund was launched in 2005, humanitarian needs have increased from $5.2 billion to over $24 billion today.  Protracted conflict and the impact of natural disasters, compounded by structural fragility and chronic vulnerability, mean that more people now than ever survive on the brink of disaster.  To keep pace, he said, the General Assembly adopted a resolution exactly a year ago, calling for an expansion of the Central Emergency Response Fund’s annual funding target from $450 million to $1 billion.  He said that a $1 billion CERF will help to bolster contingency financing so that we are able to mitigate and respond to humanitarian suffering quickly in the future.

The Secretary‑General announced a CERF allocation of $100 million dollars to meet critical needs in nine underfunded emergencies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, Cameroon, Mali, the Philippines, Eritrea, Haiti and Pakistan.  And our humanitarian colleagues will issue a press release at the end of the Pledging Conference very shortly.


Also, turning to the situation of the Rohingya: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the number of Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh [from] Myanmar since 25 August has now risen to 646,000.  Although this a jump from the estimated number of 626,000 we had earlier this week, the rise is due to a better assessment, according to our colleagues.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that diphtheria is rapidly spreading in camps in Cox’s Bazar.  As of today, more than 110 people have contracted the disease, with six fatalities.  Most of the people affected are children.  The WHO says that, to limit the spread of diphtheria, people must be relocated immediately.  It is working with the Health Ministry and other partners to scale up prevention.  Routine immunizations targeting children up to the age of six will begin tomorrow.  Older age groups cannot be immunized currently, due to a shortage of vaccines.

And also on the same issue, our colleagues at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today they are arranging to have talks with Bangladeshi authorities over an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh, which was signed last month, on the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees.  As UNHCR has previously said, all refugees have a right to return, but this should happen voluntarily and only when people feel the time and circumstances are right.  And as you recall, the UN was not a party to that agreement.


Meanwhile, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Michael Keating, has welcomed the signing of a power‑sharing agreement between the Galmudug State President, Ahmed Duale Ghelle, and the leader of the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a group, Sheikh Shakir.

Mr. Keating said the agreement is a significant step towards forming a unified administration in Galmudug and encouraged all stakeholders to maintain momentum to implement the decision.


And the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that 95 million children have not had their births registered across Sub‑Saharan Africa, and they warned that if decisive action is not taken, these numbers will soar to 115 million by 2030.

UNICEF called on African countries to prioritize birth registration as a first and critical step to a functional national civil registration and vital statistics system.  Leila Pakkala, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, warned that, with no proof of identity, of age, or of nationality, an unregistered child is vulnerable to violations such as child marriage, child labour and recruitment into armed forces.

**International Days

And I also want to flag that tomorrow is the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary‑General said that genocide is often the culmination of years of exclusion, denial of human rights and other wrongs.  Since genocide can take place in times of war and in times of peace, we must be ever‑vigilant.

And tomorrow is also International Anti‑Corruption Day.  This year’s theme focuses on how corruption is one of the biggest impediments to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  More information is available online.

***Questions and Answers 

Khalas, for me; not Khalas for you.  Let’s go.  Yes?

Question: Question about Yemen after the President gets killed and then the Houthi group is starting going crazy and bomb the houses with the people inside.  What does the Secretary‑General said about that in the UN?

Spokesman: We are obviously extremely concerned at the increased level of violence that we have seen since the death of the former President.  It’s incumbent on all the parties to respect not only civilians but respect civilian infrastructure.  The people of Yemen for so long now have had to suffer under continued violence in what… and the humanitarian disaster that we are facing is clearly, it’s manmade.  It’s not an act of God.  It’s an act of men and we want to see the violence stop.  Madam?

Question: Regarding Jerusalem, to which extent do you think the decision of the US is going to influence their credibility as an honest peace broker?

Spokesman: Well, that is an analysis, I think, best left for you and for analysts.  Our concern, as Mr. Mladenov said, is the threat of increased disruption and violence; they need to stop.  We don’t want to see any further unilateral decisions being taken by either side.  And I think the Secretary‑General’s message as expressed from Mr. Mladenov is one for calm and restraint and ensuring that there is no escalation and inflammation of this already volatile situation.

Question: Sorry, a follow‑up.  But I mean, the processes is going under your umbrella, so you must have also… 

Spokesman: This process is…?  Sorry.

Question: It’s going, among others, under your umbrella, so you must have a position if a party is seen as not being an honest peace broker?

Spokesman: The two parties involved here are the Israelis and the Palestinians, and the Secretary‑General’s message is that there is no Plan B for a two‑state solution and the two parties need to come together to solve and agree on a number of issues, including final status issues like Jerusalem.  Luke?

Question: Thanks.  Are you aware, on the DRC, are you aware if any of these drone or UAF systems that MONUSCO (United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) possesses were mobilised at any point during this attack and I guess, more broadly, given as the two gentlemen explained sort of the jungle area with pretty low visibility, if there is any thinking that, amid all these threats against peacekeepers, those aerial systems might be turned on the peacekeepers as a means of protection, in addition to local populations?

Spokesman: What do you mean, turned?

Question: Used to monitor the area around.

Spokesman: Well, obviously, you know, the use of unarmed aerial vehicles is something that we are pursuing in a number of missions.  But as you said the terrain is such that in some parts of the areas in which we operate, it’s not that as effective, as you would say, in a desert or in a desert‑like environment.  I’m not aware that any of these things were deployed during the attack.  I think there was an issue of communications between the base and headquarters during the attack.  Mr. Lee?

Question: Some other DRC comments and questions I wanted to ask.  One is you said earlier on another attack on UN personnel that the UN is trying to, I guess, co‑operate in investigating the killing of the experts [Michael] Sharp and [Zaida] Catalan.  It was said that an UN team is going there to work with them?

Spokesman: Yes.

Question: Have they gone yet?

Spokesman: Yes.  We confirmed it, I think.  There is Judge [Robert] Petit, a Canadian judge who was dispatched, I’m not sure if he is still there but he went there about a week ago, and we’ve also dispatched a number of technical experts to support the investigation being done, the criminal investigation being done by the DRC authorities.

Question: And relatedly, there was… in September there was an attack by the Congolese military forces themselves on Burundian refugees, 36 Burundian refugees were killed in I think it’s Kamandola and I’m wondering, it was said at the time that the UN was going to follow‑up?

Spokesman: Yeah, I think we announced an inquiry.  I’ll have to check what the status is of that investigation.

Question: This is something I’m hoping maybe there is some update on it.  I asked yesterday Farhan [Haq] about the Cameroonian Government’s detention of a US based writer and activist, Patrice Nganang, and now it’s become… giving that he sort of disappeared off a plane, many groups including PEN and various press freedom groups are speaking about it.  I’m wondering if the UN is using any of its access for the Cameroonian Government to ask where this writer may have been taken?

Spokesman: I will check.

Question: Can I ask one other thing?

Spokesman: It’s Friday.

Question: I wanted to… I just wanted to get to the explanation of it.  In the past, events in which the Secretary‑General, including the previous one and even this one, has sworn in officials, to swear in their allegiance to the global public have always been open press.  Now they are not.  So I wanted to know, I came in earlier for the one with Alison [Smale] and two others and was told it’s closed; but I just wanted to know, given particularly the purpose of the ceremonies, not just a handshake it’s actually a… what is the reasoning behind it?

Spokesman: I think we are making some adjustments, and obviously there was the UN photographers there, UN TV, so that material is available to everybody.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.