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

21 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.


The Secretary‑General is in The Hague today, where, alongside King Willem‑Alexander, he attended the closing ceremony for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  The Secretary-General called the Tribunal’s creation in 1993 a groundbreaking moment, and he saluted the courage of all those who came to the Tribunal to guarantee that justice would be served.  The Tribunal, the Secretary‑General said, has pushed international expectations of accountability beyond what was anticipated in 1993, transforming how we speak about and address situations in which serious international crimes are committed.  He argued that accountability has taken root in our collective consciousness. 

He added that just as the whole international community, including the United Nations, had to acknowledge their share of responsibility for the massacre, so must the various communities of the former Yugoslavia build on the legacy of the Tribunal and deepen their efforts towards trust and full reconciliation.  Accepting the undeniable truth and facts of past tragedies is crucial for building a better and common future, the Secretary‑General said.  His full remarks are online.  The Secretary‑General also had a tête-à-tête meeting with Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Minister for Foreign Affairs Halbe Zijlstra and other senior Government officials, followed by a lunch meeting with the Prime Minister.  This evening, the Secretary‑General will also have a dinner hosted by King Willem‑Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.


This morning here, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, briefed the Security Council on the situation in that country.  He told Council Members that there’s much work to be done to implement the Kabul peace process to end forty years of conflict, and stressed that the [Kabul] process meeting on 1 February is crucial to establish a strategy to reach a political settlement with the armed opposition and seek the support of the international community.  He added that it is essential that parliamentary elections are held next year, followed by presidential elections in 2019.  The full text is online.


An update from Yemen: a World Health Organization (WHO) chartered aircraft carrying more than 70 tons of essential medicines and surgical supplies landed in Sana’a Airport today, the largest planeload delivered by WHO to Yemen this year.  The shipment contains trauma kits sufficient to meet the needs of 2,000 patients requiring surgical care, as well as various types of rapid diagnostic [tests] and laboratory reagents to cover the urgent needs of central labs and blood banks.  Earlier this week, two other planes delivered 26 tons of emergency inter‑agency health kits.  This year, WHO has provided nearly 1,500 metric tons of essential medicines and medical supplies to 96 health facilities that are struggling to keep their doors open.  According to the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 16.4 million people in Yemen lack adequate access to health care — 9.3 million of whom are in acute need.


Our colleagues at UNICEF today warned that eastern Ukraine is now one of the most mine‑contaminated places on earth, endangering the lives of 220,000 children.  More online.

**Sexual Harassment

Just an update on an internal management issue: the recent wave of reports detailing sexual harassment in the workplace from many organizations and institutions worldwide show how pervasive this form of violence and discrimination is.  At the November session of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), the Secretary‑General stressed that addressing sexual harassment is a growing concern of the international community, and reiterated his zero‑tolerance policy and commitment to ensure maximum attention and strengthened action across the United Nations system.  In line with this, the Secretary‑General has established a CEB Task Force on addressing sexual harassment in the UN system, under the leadership of Jan Beagle, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Management.  The Task Force will review policies to address and prevent sexual harassment; capacities to investigate allegations; and support and protection offered to victims.  It aims to formulate a common and consistent approach to sexual harassment across the UN.  The Task Force has held its first meeting and will submit a report to the Secretary‑General and to the CEB [members] at their next session in spring 2018.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 3 p.m., there will be a press briefing here by the President of the Security Council for the month of December, Ambassador Koro Bessho of Japan.  Welcome to the briefing.  Well, you know, we waited till after the vote.  Yes, sir.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Steph, wonderful jacket.  The tie is even better, the colour I mean.  Make it straight, yes, good.  Does the Secretary‑General has anything… have anything to say on the just adopted resolution of the GA?

Spokesman:  No, for the… this is an action by Member States.  The Secretary‑General's stance on the issue of Jerusalem has been made clear, made clear to the Member States, made clear to you, and that is it is a final status issue that needs to be negotiated between both parties.  And the Secretary‑General has repeatedly stood against what he calls unilateral measures.

Question:  Does he also have anything to say on the US account of taking note who voted how?

Spokesman:  No.  He would, the Secretary‑General would hope that every Member State, as with every vote, voted with its conscience.

Question:  Let me take a different run at it, something a little… a little smaller but a little more concrete.  It may be that your colleague has an answer to it but, in the speech by Danny Danon, he said, you know, look at an envelope in front of you; it has a replica coin in it; it shows our long history in Jerusalem.  And at least I had heard there were some… some issues around the placing of these coins, and I didn't see any envelopes.  I don't want to disbelieve Danny Danon, but I do want to ask you…

Spokesman:  Excuse me.  I got to listen to the question.

Question:  Yeah.  As a matter of the Secretariat, in terms of DGACM [Department for General Assembly and Conference Management], what are the rule… what are the… what are the rules? Are you aware of any back‑and‑forth about the placement of these coins… can you get an answer?

Spokesman:  I'll check.  You could ask Brenden, but I will check on my end, as well.

Question:  And, also, in Nikki Haley's speech, I think… some of the reporting before today's meeting was that… just that the idea was taking names of states that… that… that… that, you know, voted for the resolution, and definitely there are two states that dropped their sponsorship, Mali and Afghanistan, but her actual speech seemed to talk about the UN itself, saying that the… that the American people's view of the UN in holding this vote would differ and that… that contributions might be decreased.  So, rather than the response that there's up to Member States and Member States should vote their conscience, what does the Secretariat or the Secretary‑General, to the degree that you know what he thinks on this, think about what was said this morning?

Spokesman:  Look, we're not going to delve into every statement that was made.  This was a meeting of Member States, a General Assembly.  I think, as a matter of principle, we would hope that people can see the differences between the different components of the UN.  The UN is a large organization.  The UN is its Member States.  It's the Secretariat.  It's the Secretary‑General.  It's its amazing humanitarian agencies.  It's the normative side of the UN, and I think it's important that the general public understand the difference between the different parts.

Question:  But… so… and I've seen you quoted, but I didn't hear you say it yesterday.  Maybe you can say it now.  What are the thoughts of the Secretary‑General, not only on the announcement by Prince Zeid [bin Ra'ad] that he's not going to run for another term, but the… the… the sense that he may have had… had some disagreements with the Secretary‑General over the past year in terms of how prominent human rights should be in… in… in the UN's messaging?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has been very supportive of the High Commissioner and his work.  Everybody have different… everybody in the system have different parts to play.  The High Commissioner is one to advocate for human rights.  And, as I said, the Secretary‑General's been very supportive of him.  For his part, I think the Secretary‑General has been very vocal in his defence of human rights.  I would refer you to his speech he delivered in London a few weeks ago on the need to ensure the full protection of human rights in the fight against terrorism.  He has spoken out in different fora, in different places, to different audiences, about the importance of human rights, the importance of free speech, the importance of an active and vibrant civil society.  I will leave it at that.  I don't… you know, obviously, you and your colleagues are free to analyse and dissect the relationships, but that's where we stand on it.

Question:  One last just very specific on that.  In the sense that you're saying very… very, you know, active on human rights, can you say a number… how many people… whether it's the Secretariat or, to your knowledge, the… the… the High Commissioner, how many people do they think have been actually… civilians have been killed in the Anglophone areas of Cameroon? The last number I heard out of the UN was ten, and media put the number… much higher than that.

Spokesman:  I don't have… I don't have… I don't have… I don't have an updated number.  Erol.

Question:  Steph, just to… to follow up a little bit on that, although it was a humorous speech at the… at the… kind of speech for laughing, I would say, to make us all in… in… in great spirit at the UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] dinner, Secretary‑General sounded pretty disappointed, first man of the United Nations when it comes to the promoting the agenda that he was for very much in his running for the highest office here.  I mean, he mentioned that he was crying together with Jesus Christ.  I…

Spokesman:  It was metaphorical, just to make sure that people understand.

Question:  Of course, of course, but is the Secretary‑General… here's the question.  Is the Secretary‑General really disappointed that not too much can be moved forward when it comes to his first year in the office here?

Spokesman:  Look, I think it's a pretty broad question.  I think, in terms of his reform agenda, which is what he was referring to, it's an ongoing process.  You know, the latest report of the development system agenda was released to Member States yesterday.  It's… it's an ongoing process in which he's involving the Member States very closely, briefing them regularly and often.  And he very much hopes that all that his efforts will come to fruition to really construct what will be a… a UN that is a bit more fit for purpose, that is able to deliver the services and to serve the people it needs to serve.  I think the Secretary‑General will be the first one to tell you that the world today is in a mess.  And I think none of us can… can look around the world as it is today with the threats that we're seeing, whether it's on nuclear war, on terrorism, and on conflict, can be happy about the state of the world.

Question:  Does he think… does he think that the reforms [inaudible] and what reforms can be done and some of them finished in his first term?

Spokesman:  He pushed through the reforms on three stands: management reform, peace and security architecture and development system.

Question:  He believes that…?

Spokesman:  Well, if he didn't believe it, he wouldn't push for it and wouldn't spend as much time on it as he has.

Correspondent:  I have a follow‑up question.

Spokesman:  I'm sure you do.

Question:  Okay.  And it actually has… it's the first I hear of these… these remarks, the Jesus Christ remarks.  And I remember, I think, on that Friday…

Spokesman:  Maybe we should not refer to them as "Jesus Christ remarks".  Let me pre‑empt your question, if I may…

Question:  Can we get the speech… can we get the speech released? You said there was no reason not to…

Spokesman:  No, the speech… the remarks were, in fact he wound up not using notes.  He spoke off the cuff.  He talked about the need to defend and protect journalists.  And he delivered what I thought was a humorous joke about the… the challenges, not insurmountable, but the challenges of reforming the UN and that it will take close to a miracle, but he believes in it.

Question:  Let's cut forward a couple of further days.  He gave a speech, and it was definitely from remarks.  It was a very well‑thought‑out speech at UNICEF on… on the occasion of the International Day of Migration.  And I didn't see it released, but I did hear him say that he's… he opposed media that are, quote, building up market share based on… I guess he was saying anti‑immigrant sentiment or xenophobia.  But what I'm just wondering is, it seems like in the past, those type of speeches…

Spokesman:  You know, I think we've moved to a thing where, when he speaks off the cuff, which he was speaking off the cuff, we don't always transcribe it, and I think the remarks are available on video.

Question:  And, also relatedly, I've seen it said that he's given his last interview of the year, but I heard that he's giving an interview in the Netherlands to state television.  Can you confirm that? And is there any way we can get a transcript or video or something?

Spokesman:  No, we don't… I think, as a matter of journalistic ethics, we don't talk about the interviews he's given before… beforehand as a matter of… as a matter of courtesy.  And, obviously, when he does an interview, it will be… it will be shown.

Correspondent:  But it just seems… given that he didn't do an end‑of‑the‑year… I think… I've heard you say that in the past…

Spokesman:  He's giving a press conference at the beginning of the year.  Which… which I'm sure also will cover what's happened in 2017 and what he looks forward to 2018.  Thank you.  Brenden, all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.