The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
At 1 p.m., you will hear from the President of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajčák, who will be here to give you a press conference in this very room.
I have a senior appointment to announce: Following consultations with the Chairpersons of the regional groups, the Secretary‑General today informed the General Assembly of his intention to appoint Dato’ Maimunah Mohd Sharif of Malaysia as the next Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, otherwise known as UN‑Habitat. Ms. Sharif is currently Mayor of the City Council of Penang Island in Malaysia. Prior to her appointment as a Mayor, she was the first woman to be appointed as Seberang Perai Municipal Council President.
This morning, here, the Secretary‑General spoke during the Security Council debate on maintenance of international peace and security. He told the Council that conflicts today are more complex, longer and intractable, and that given their changing nature it’s necessary to “rethink our approach to how we work and how we work with others”. He emphasized that prevention is key to avoid human suffering and is also a sound investment that will save money for countries, and stressed that working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals can [help] build peace around the world. In particular, he pointed to the importance of respecting human rights, empowering women, and using diplomacy to prevent conflict. He called on the Council to act with unity. Without it, the drivers of conflict will push situations to the point of no return, again and again, he said. His remarks are available in our office and online.
Our colleagues from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) tell us that the first protection of civilians site has been successfully closed in the country after internally displaced families expressed the desire and confidence to return to their former homes. The site, which is next to the UN base in Melut, in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan, had provided sanctuary to hundreds of families since the civil war broke out four years ago. Over the past week, these families have returned to their homes with the assistance of the UN Mission and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and in partnership with other humanitarian organizations. The Head of UNMISS, David Shearer, said the UN would look at every camp individually to see if the conditions allow people to return home voluntarily and safely. Where these conditions exist, we will try to assist people to go back, he added.
Turning to Iraq, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) says it is deeply concerned about the violence and the reported casualties during demonstrations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in the last two days, and calls for restraint and calm on all sides. The people have the right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protestors. Security forces are also urged to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with the demonstrators. The UN mission also calls on the demonstrators to avoid any act of violence, including the destruction of public and private properties. UNAMI calls on the authorities to respect and protect the media, after one local outlet, NRT Television, was ordered to suspend its broadcasts because of the content of its reporting on the demonstrations.
From Syria, our humanitarian colleagues say they remain very concerned about the situation inside besieged eastern Ghouta in Syria, where airstrikes are being reported daily and where citizens remain in desperate need of humanitarian aid and medical evacuation. On 18 December, two days ago, an infant girl reportedly died in eastern Ghouta due to a critical health condition and lack of appropriate medical treatment. The UN continues to call for the urgent medical evacuation of some 500 people in besieged eastern Ghouta. Civilians must be able to seek medical care. The UN calls on all parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate medical evacuation of the sick and wounded in a safe, timely and systematic manner, everywhere in Syria. The UN also continues to call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access for all — humanitarian aid, that is.
**Internet Governance Forum
Today, at the Internet Governance Forum in Geneva, initiatives offering opportunities in the technology field for women in Lebanon, Afghanistan and Costa Rica have been recognized at the UN EQUALS in Tech Awards. In her message to this year’s winners, the Deputy Secretary‑General said that “new tech needs to be available to all for the benefit of all, for our sustainable future depends on bridging the digital gender divide.” The Awards are given to initiatives that improve social, political and economic outcomes for women and girls, and recognize the value that they bring to the technology sectors. The full list of winners is on the International Telecommunications Union’s website.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
From the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our colleagues there at the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced today that they will step up efforts to alleviate hunger in Greater Kasai. A new WFP project will benefit some 18,000 households — displaced, returnee or host families. For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization will supply vegetable‑growing kits that will allow each family to eat for two months and sell what they don’t eat. There will also be training in raising guinea pigs as a source of protein and in processing and marketing bamboo.
**International Human Solidarity Day
Today is International Human Solidarity Day. This year the Day is focusing on how solidarity and global cooperation are the foundation to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The Day also serves as a reminder for government to respect their commitment to international agreements.
And today we want to welcome the newest staff member to our office. Our colleague Eri Kaneko had a healthy boy last night, named Yugo. So we congratulate her. Yugo. Khalas. Yugo. I will stop there before making inappropriate remarks. Sir?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. Just a quick follow‑up on appointments. Any news about UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] appointment?
Spokesman: No. It's in the pipeline, and when it emerges from the pipeline, it will be announced here.
Question: Is there an expected timeframe for that?
Spokesman: I've stopped predicting when things come out of the pipeline. Iftikhar?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As a representative of the UN Member States, how does the Secretary‑General feel about the threats issued by UN Ambassador to Member States on how to work on a resolution? And is it fair and democratic?
Spokesman: First of all, the Secretary‑General is not the representative of Member States. I will refrain from going about… from commenting on how Member States go about their business in trying to gather support or… for or against a resolution. Mr. Abbadi, then Mr. Lee.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Would the Secretary‑General address the assembly session tomorrow? What… what would he say?
Spokesman: No, he will not address…
Spokesman: Because he's travelling on a pre‑planned trip to The Hague to mark the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. The Secretary‑General's position on Jerusalem is clear, has been oft and often repeated, so I think it is well known to all Member States. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, as part of that… that… Myanmar is blocking the Yang… Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on human rights, and I'm wondering whether the Secretary‑General… what he thinks about it, whether anyone in the UN system is pushing back.
Spokesman: I think it's regrettable. We feel that all countries should cooperate with the human rights mechanisms. Special Rapporteurs, as you know, are independent of the Secretary‑General, but we do hope to see the decision reversed.
Question: And I wanted to ask you, on the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and the killing of the two experts, Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan, there's a report by RFI and others that… that one of the people that invited them to the town that they were visiting was, in fact, a Government official. So it calls into question whether the Government itself can or will honestly investigate a crime in which they may be involved. What's the status of the UN's participation in the Government's investigation?
Spokesman: Well, as you know, the Secretary‑General sent a Canadian senior judge, Mr. [Robert] Petit, who I believe may still be there, and along with other technical experts to support the work of the criminal investigation that is being done by the DRC authorities. And we do hope that the investigation is done fully and thoroughly and that justice is found for our two colleagues who were murdered.
Question: But what… if… if this report is true that a top AN… an ANR official was involved in bringing them to where they disappeared, does it call into question whether the UN can… can… whether this is the best the UN can do in terms of investigating the death of its experts?
Spokesman: Well, obviously, the UN has no mandate to conduct its own criminal investigation. That is clear. On… following discussions with the Security Council, the Secretary‑General has dispatched these staff to support the criminal investigation. We hope that it will be full and thorough and as transparent as possible. I think… and there's… we hope that they will… the investigation will lead wherever it needs to lead to, in order to find justice. Yes, sir?
Question: Just back to Jerusalem, how unusual and appropriate do you think the Secretary‑General feels the US tactics ahead of tomorrow's vote?
Spokesman: Again, we've seen these press reports. The way ambassadors go about their business in trying to work for or against resolutions is their own business. The Secretary‑General will not comment on it. Mr. Lee and then Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, there's now been, by a grand jury in the Southern District of New York, a formal indictment brought back against Patrick Ho, and I wanted to read you… they say in it the… the… the… now a grand jury has given its imprimatur on the claim that the bribes paid… allegedly paid were to obtain business for the energy company, the energy company being CEFC, China Energy [Fund Committee], which remains a U… a member of the UN Global Compact. I'm just wondering if there's any update… seems like the… it's not… maybe the distinction was between the NGO and the group, but if the bribes were paid specifically for the groups to get energy contracts…
Spokesman: I'm sure colleagues at Global Compact are following up.
Question: And is the Secretary‑General any closer to… to ordering what would seem to be a pretty easy call to have an audit of how… of… of the UN's involvement in this and what it can learn from this?
Spokesman: As I said, when I have something to announce, I will share it with you. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Is there any readout of the Secretary‑General's meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister of China yesterday?
Spokesman: No, no readout to share with you. Thank you.
Question: Where is the Secretary‑General when… after… after the Netherlands? Is he coming back…?
Spokesman: No, he will be on leave, and he'll be back on 2 January. The Deputy Secretary‑General will be here in the building throughout. Thank you.