12 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Climate Change

The Secretary-General arrived in Paris a bit earlier this morning, where he spoke at the One Planet Climate summit and delivered a blunt assessment:  “We are not yet winning the war on climate change.”  He underscored the benefits of investing in a green economy.  Investments are already paying off, he said, as new industries, new markets and more jobs are being created by renewable agencies.  The Secretary-General appealed for greater investments by governments in the Green Climate Fund and called on wealthy countries to honour the pledge made in Paris two years ago to provide $100 billion a year to developing countries to meet the needs of climate mitigation and adaptation.  He also stressed the role of private capital investments, as governments cannot do this alone.  It is a simple matter of climate justice that developed countries support developing countries to address a problem that they had no role in creating, he told the attendees.  The Secretary-General also addressed sessions on resilience and adaptation.  We’ll provide those transcripts as soon as we can.

Continuing with climate-related news, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that three investment companies have joined the UN Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition, bringing it to a total of 31 investors overseeing the gradual decarbonization of $800 billion dollars in assets.  The Coalition, which was launched at the UN Climate Summit in 2014, had an original target of $100 billion by 2015, which has now been massively surpassed.  More information is available on UNEP’s website.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

You’d been asking when you can hear from Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman about his visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Mr. Feltman will brief the Security Council in its closed consultations this afternoon about his trip, under other business.  Once that has concluded, he will speak to reporters at the Council stakeout.  Before that happens, Mr. Feltman will brief the Council members in an open meeting followed by consultations at 3 p.m. about the situation in Myanmar.


A UN report published today warns that armed hostilities are on the rise again in Ukraine.  The report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine says that the return to increased fighting has resulted in more deaths and new damages to critical water infrastructure storing dangerous chemicals which pose a grave threat to human life and the environment.  It adds that daily ceasefire violations coupled with falling temperatures further aggravated a dire human rights and humanitarian situation on both sides of the contact line.  The Mission recorded 15 conflict-related civilian deaths and 72 injuries from 16 August to 15 November.  The report provides details of 20 individual cases of killings, deprivation of liberty, enforced disappearances, torture and conflict-related sexual violence committed on both sides of the contact line.


Today in Geneva, the 2018-2019 Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan concerning Syria was launched — an interagency, $4.4 billion plan designed to support over five million refugees from Syria and the vulnerable communities hosting them in the neighbouring countries of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey.


A team from the human rights office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) conducted a mission to Tuz Khurmatu in Salah al‑Din Governorate on 7 December to investigate reports of punitive destruction of property of residents who have been displaced by the clashes in the area in October and reports of intimidation to prevent the safe return of the displaced to their homes.  The UN Mission expresses its concern about the recent repeated indiscriminate mortar attacks which have inflicted losses, including civilian casualties from among the Turkmen community in the town, that were followed by a retaliatory action.  It calls for an immediate end to acts that threaten the security and the safety of the Kurdish and Turkmen communities and their civilian residents.  It also calls upon the Government of Iraq to deploy all necessary measures that will put an end to any violence and violations of human rights, ensure law and order and establish calm and stability in Tuz Khurmatu.


The World Food Programme (WFP) calls upon the coalition forces to honour their commitments to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance in Yemen.  This includes urgent clearance for the WFP-chartered vessel, MV VOS Apollo, which runs between Djibouti and the Yemeni ports of Hodeidah and Aden carrying humanitarian aid workers and cargo.  The last voyage of the MV VOS Apollo was on 7 December, when it carried 13 UN and non-governmental organization (NGO) workers who were being relocated from the port of Hodeidah in Yemen to Djibouti.  This was a temporary relocation that involved only humanitarian staff, and their arrival and disembarkation in Djibouti was independently verified by local authorities.  Apart from the crew members of the ship, no other individuals accompanied the UN and NGO aid workers on this journey.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) welcomed today the coming into force of new refugee laws in Djibouti that streamline refugee status determination procedures and grants more opportunities for their socio-economic integration.  The new developments are part of the pledges made at last year’s Leaders’ Summit, following the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants in September 2016.  Djibouti currently hosts over 27,000 people, mostly from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and most recently from Yemen.


In Somalia, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) today said that the food security situation in the country remains precarious for millions of Somalis, following the fifth consecutive year of drought.  According to the agency, an estimated 6.2 million people need humanitarian assistance, and the number of people living in pre-famine emergency conditions has increased from 80,000 people in January to 800,000 in December.  And this year alone, an additional 1 million people have been displaced due to drought and conflict, thereby doubling the number of internally displaced people.  The impact of the current drought is estimated at more than $3 billion, and UNDP estimates that $1.7 billion are required over the next three to five years to boost infrastructure, management of water resources, efforts to increase agricultural production and the expansion of urban services.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that at least 400,000 severely malnourished children are at risk of dying in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  This dire situation has largely been caused by violence, mass displacement and reduced agricultural production over the past 18 months.  While the security situation has stabilized in parts of the region and some displaced populations have begun to return to their homes and communities, humanitarian conditions remain critical.  And they are not expected to improve before June 2018, because the planting seasons in 2017 were lost.  Families have little to harvest from their own land and nothing to sell at the markets.  Health facilities have also been devastated:  approximately 220 health centres were destroyed, looted or damaged.


Today is Universal Health Coverage Day, the anniversary of the first unanimous United Nations resolution calling for countries to provide affordable, quality health care to every person, everywhere.  On this occasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) is releasing a series of regional health financing reports highlighting key policy issues facing countries.  Each report focuses on a specific theme relevant to the countries in their region, for example the current situation in terms of financial protection in South-East Asia, and the transition to greater domestic financing for public health services in the Western Pacific region.  And as you know, on Thursday, the Secretary-General will address the Universal Health Coverage Forum organized in Tokyo to galvanize collective action.


And I have a personnel appointment to tell you about:  The Secretary-General is announcing today the appointment of Gunilla Carlsson of Sweden as Deputy Executive Director of Management and Governance, of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, or UNAIDS.  Ms. Carlsson is currently Senior Adviser to the Africa Development Bank and serves on the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance as Vice Chair.  She served as an elected member of the Swedish Parliament from 2002-2013 and as Minister for International Development Cooperation from 2006-2013.  Previously she was a member of the European Parliament.  She succeeds Jan Beagle, who was appointed Under-Secretary-General for Management in June.  The Secretary-General wishes to extend his appreciation to Ms. Beagle, as well as Joel Rehnstrom, who served as Acting Deputy Executive Director, since her departure.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow, my guest will be Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education.  He will be here to brief you on urgent funding needs for children trapped in humanitarian crises, as well as the results of the Education Cannot Wait Fund.  And after I am done, you will hear from Brenden Varma, the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.  Are there any questions for me?  Yeah?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  I have a question on the $4.4 billion for the Syrian refugees.  Did, like, they have breakdown of numbers, how many, like, Jordan will get, and how… how are you going to provide — to refugees or to the governments or to NGOs or to the UN office there?

Deputy Spokesman:  This is… this is actually an appeal that was worked out along with a number of NGO partners, in fact, so, in addition to the UN refugee agency and the UN Development Programme, who are the main UN agencies dealing with this, there are also 270 partners acting across the UN and NGO communities who will deploy the funds that are going to these countries.  In terms of details by country, you can get more off the information on the UNDP and UNHCR websites.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  For… I wanted to ask you about Haiti, but I just want to ask you, on this stakeout by Mr. Feltman, if the… do you have any… I mean, there are a lot of questions.  So, I know that when Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe and Kim Won‑soo went, they had like a sit‑down press conference, both of them, and answered a lot of questions.  Do you have any sense… I don't really care if he's standing up or sitting down, but… is… is it… is this meant to be similar to what was done by his predecessor upon return from a trip such as this?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's meant to be a press stakeout, and it's handled the same way as those work.  I imagine he will make some remarks and take some questions.

Question:  Right.  I guess I'm just saying, is there… is there a re… that he wants to do it today so it has to be a stakeout, or is it possible to maybe at a later date to get him to sit down and answer… I don't know… 10 questions… 10 journalists' questions…?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's his decision to evaluate whether he thinks more is needed after this.  He was trying, to his credit, to brief the Member States and the press as soon as possible, and so he's doing both of them back to back this afternoon.

Question:  Sure.  And on Haiti, I'd want… I'd sent you this yesterday so maybe you have a response to it.  Ten… 10 women in Haiti that say that they've had fathers’ children… children fathered by UN peacekeepers have sue… made paternity claims, and they say also have served something on the UN asking for the UN to take steps to… to… to… to assist in their case or at least not to block their case.  And they say that these peacekeepers have returned from Haiti to Uruguay, Argentina, Nigeria and Sri Lanka, so they need the UN's help, I guess, to… to pursue their case.  What is the UN's response to this action?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, we did receive information from a representative of the law firm Bureau des Avocats Internationaux.  And, as per our usual procedure, the representative of that law firm was informed that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), may acknowledge receipt and review in accordance with its own procedures claim letters but cannot accept summons, as they violate its immunity of jurisdiction.  He was directed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for further clarification.  Regarding the work that we do, as with any such situation regarding… in the case of paternity, responsibility for child support rests with individuals who have been established to have fathered children.  The United Nations will assist to the extent that it can in such processes, including by assisting in the collection of DNA samples from mothers and children for eventual testing against samples from alleged fathers, for use in national legal processes.  The United Nations will also liaise with the states of nationality of alleged fathers, requesting that paternity and child support claims be addressed and matters followed up with claimants, as Member States have engaged themselves to do.  However, the United Nations itself cannot legally establish paternity or child support entitlements, and as indicated in the existing policy as adopted by the General Assembly, compensation is a matter of personal accountability to be determined under national legal processes.

Question:  I guess I… I wanted… I mean, generally, it seems like… is this the same policy… has Jane Connors… naming victims, is she aware of this case?  Is she going to act on it?  And, two, one of the mothers… one of the claimants was 17 when she gave birth, which makes… and, if true, a crime under Haitian law.  So, I'm just wondering, is the UN… I under… I guess I understand the UN wants to assert immunity in a certain way or… or not… or… or…?

Deputy Spokesman:  There's rather more than I said than that.  I told you what we're doing.

Question:  Right.  I guess I'm saying, what would you say to those who say it seems like… given… given the issues that are public right now, it seems like a kind of a strangely legalistic approach.  In the case of the mother that was 17 when she gave birth, is there a concern on the UN's part that a peacekeeper may have engaged in statutory rape?  And what will actually the UN do about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  The questions that arise regarding our zero‑tolerance policy are things that we would engage in other ways.  The cases raised by this law firm have already been investigated by the UN Mission, MINUSTAH.  They all concern military and police personnel, and the results of the DNA tests were communicated to the victims or their representatives.  For positive DNA tests, MINUSTAH and the UN facilitated contacts between the victims and representatives of the relevant troop-contributing or police-contributing country.

Correspondent:  Right, but they obviously weren't satisfied with that response.  That's why they served headquarters with papers but… I'll… I'll go over your answer.  I agree; it's quite extensive.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  Yes, you.

Question:  Thank you.  As you may have seen, Amnesty International released a report saying that EU members… Member States are somehow contributing to the sufferings of migrants in… trapped in Libya.  Do you share this view, or do you have any comment on it given that the UN is pretty much involved in solving the migration problem in Libya?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we don't speak for Amnesty International, but certainly, we've raised our own concerns about the situation and particularly the human rights of migrants in Libya.  As you know, different organizations within the UN system, including the UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), have also been working with the authorities to see what they can do to resolve the plight of the migrants who have been in Libya.  And we again reiterate the need to make sure that all the people who had been migrants can be resettled to other places where their rights and their dignity are respected.  Yes, Luke?

Question:  Thanks.  There's some reports of China building refugee camps along the border with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].  Broadly speaking, is the UN involved in any discussions or contingency planning, not just there but more broadly, about possible North Korean refugees?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that's, at this stage, a hypothetical circumstance.  But, obviously, anything that involves movements of refugees is something that we would try to deal with the respected… respective governments about.  Regarding the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, I think, in general, the person who handled this most recently will be briefing the Security Council this afternoon, and he'll talk to the press after that.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  I have a question on Jerusalem.  Has the SG office received any letter from any Arab state, namely Jordan, Palestine, the Arab League or Egypt, like, opposing the decision made by Mr. [Donald] Trump lately?

Deputy Spokesman:  There have been communications from different Member States, some of which are likely to be documents for the Security Council or the General Assembly.  I believe the Palestinians have themselves put out a document on this, but I'll see whether there [are] any other states.  As they come out, you will get to see their letters as documents outside.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to… I'm… I guess I'm going to ask you again about Cameroon and this… the writer that still is in jail.  One charge was dropped.  He remains in.  It was said… you said yesterday you were waiting to hear back from DPA [Department of Political Affairs].  Do you have something?

Deputy Spokesman:  I am, and, in fact, while we've been talking over this briefing, I have the answer that I'd wanted, which is the following:  We call on national authorities to follow due process when dealing with all detainees and to abide by international human rights conventions to which Cameroon is a party.  We have consistently affirmed that the best way to address the situation in the Anglophone regions is through a genuine and inclusive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders.  We reiterate our readiness to assist national appeasement efforts in the search for a lasting peaceful solution to the crisis.  Special Representative François Louncény Fall will brief the Security Council on the situation in the Central Africa subregion, including in Cameroon, on 13 December, which I believe is tomorrow.

Question:  Sure.  No, thanks a lot.  And I just… I guess I just want… I want to understand the first line of that.  The writer, Mr. Patrice Nganang, was basically arrested after he wrote in Jeune Afrique about this topic.  Is it… by due process, they… they claim it's due process to lock somebody up for insulting or… or… the President.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I said, "to follow due process and to abide by international human rights conventions to which Cameroon is a party".

Question:  And, just finally, do you know if… is the Secretary‑General going to meet with Paul Biya in Paris?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, he's not scheduled to.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Sorry.  Could you… I'm a little confused of when Feltman is seeing… is appearing.  He's going to speak in the Council on Myanmar?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  The order of it is, first, there will be an open meeting on Myanmar with a briefing by Mr. Feltman.  Then that will continue into consultations, also on Myanmar.  Then they will go to other business, where he's expected to brief on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  And once he's done, he will speak to reporters at the stakeout.  So it will be a long afternoon.  Yes?

Question:  Will he talk at 5 p.m., 6 p.m.?

Deputy Spokesman:  Who knows?

Question:  So, Farhan, following on that, I may have missed it at the top, did Mr. Feltman already brief the Secretary‑General?  And, if so, did he say anything about the possibilities of, you know, establishing kind of proper diplomatic communication channels?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, he has spoken to the Secretary‑General, and regarding what he's conveyed, to the extent that he can share that with the press, I expect he'll do that when he talks to you this afternoon.  Come on up, Brenden.

For information media. Not an official record.