The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Following consultations with the Executive Board of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Secretary‑General is announcing the appointment of Henrietta H. Fore of the United States as the Fund’s new Executive Director.
Ms. Fore will be succeeding Anthony Lake, to whom the Secretary‑General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization. Mr. Lake brought a renewed focus on equity throughout UNICEF’s programmes and services for children. In achieving results for every child, his leadership has strengthened UNICEF’s reputation and credibility as an organization, and as a valued, expert partner for governments, civil society groups and businesses around the world, working together to achieve results for children.
Ms. Fore has worked to champion economic development, education and health, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief for the most vulnerable in the international and developing world in a public service, private sector and non‑profit leadership career that spans more than four decades. She was the first woman to be appointed Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Director of United States Foreign Assistance in the U.S. Department of State. A longer bio is available in my office.
I have a statement on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon: The Secretary‑General has extended the mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon from 1 March 2018 for a period of three years, or upon the completion of the cases before the Special Tribunal if sooner. The extension is in accordance with Security Council resolution 1797 (2005). The mandate of the Special Tribunal, which is based near The Hague in the Netherlands, is to hold trials for those accused of carrying out the attack of 15 February 2005 in Beirut, which killed 22 people, including the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafiq Hariri, and injured many others. The trial in absentia of four individuals indicted over the killing began in January 2014 and is currently ongoing.
The Special Tribunal also has jurisdiction over attacks carried out in Lebanon between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005 if they are connected to the attack of 14 February 2005 and are of a similar nature and gravity. The Secretary‑General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to support the work of the Special Tribunal in the fight against impunity for such major crimes, in order to bring those responsible to justice. The United Nations looks forward to the completion of the mandate of the Special Tribunal in a timely manner. The UN also looks forward to the continued support and cooperation of the Government of Lebanon.
Speaking of The Hague, the Secretary‑General is concluding his two‑day official visit to the Netherlands in The Hague. Earlier this morning, he officially opened the Humanitarian Data Centre. The Centre is established and managed by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is supported by the Government of the Netherlands and is part of The Hague Humanity Hub. The Centre aims to significantly increase the use and impact of data in humanitarian crises.
In his remarks, the Secretary‑General said that the challenge is to connect innovation and harness it to help these millions of vulnerable people. This Centre, he said, will help get people the support they need more quickly and efficiently by harnessing the power of data.
In The Hague, the Secretary‑General also delivered a key note address at a seminar entitled: “Security Central: the United Nations and the Current Threats to International Peace and Security.” He told the audience at the seminar, which was being held at the Peace Palace in The Hague, that the magnitude and complexity of global challenges are too immense for any country or organization to tackle alone. We need to do more to devise joint strategies and draw on our comparative advantages. He added that, together, we must spread a common message of tolerance, and present an alternative vision to the xenophobic agendas that fuel conflict and the animosity in the region and around the world.
During his visit to the Peace Palace, he also met with the President and members of the International Court of Justice. Before departing The Hague, he visited the Oumnia community centre, which works with families on preventing radicalization and violent extremism of young people.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) confirmed today that a 15th Tanzanian peacekeeper has died — he passed away in Kampala as a result of injuries sustained during the 7 December attack on a MONUSCO base in Semuliki in Eastern DRC. We of course offer our condolences to his family and the people and the Government of Tanzania, as well as our colleagues in the UN Mission.
Also from the Congo, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), says it is witnessing a sharp rise in the number of people [from] the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] seeking safety in Uganda. More than [2,650] refugees have crossed the border this week, fleeing fresh violence in the Ituri Province — five times the usual number of arrivals. The majority of refugees cross Lake Albert on rickety fishing vessels.
Inside Uganda, UNHCR is stepping up its capacity to meet the refugees’ needs. Refugees are registered, medically screened and provided with hot meals and basic relief items. However, the operation in Uganda is funded only by 39 per cent. More resources are urgently needed to upgrade the reception capacity and assist the new arrivals. This is particularly important, given that Uganda already hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa — some 1.4 million refugees are currently being hosted in Uganda.
In total, the number of Congolese refugees in neighboring countries has increased by almost 100,000 people in the space of one year, reaching 623,000 by the end of last month. They add to some 4.1 million internally displaced Congolese, rendering DRC the country with the highest number of displaced people on the African continent.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) today welcomed the signing of a cessation of hostilities agreement by the parties attending the High‑level Revitalization Forum in Addis Ababa. The Mission said that the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities, Protection of Civilians and Humanitarian Access is an important first step in the revitalization of the peace process. It urges all parties to follow the Agreement and end the ongoing violence so that durable peace can be achieved.
On Yemen, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, since 6 November, there have been 16 humanitarian vessel movements, including two vessels that transported Somali migrants out of Yemen, and 36 Humanitarian Air Service flights. The UN also delivered 240,000 metric tons of humanitarian assistance into Yemen, including 18,000 metric tons delivered on airplanes. Separately, commercial food is entering Yemen. The Coalition has cleared fuel tankers to come in, but commercial fuel tankers have yet to make it into Hudaydah port.
The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, attended today the Astana meeting, in Kazakhstan, organized under the auspices of the three guarantors of the December 2016 ceasefire — namely Iran, Russia and Turkey. The Special Envoy reiterated his belief that maintaining and enhancing the de‑escalation of violence remains an essential contribution to the shaping of an environment conducive to political progress in Syria. He called for unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country — particularly to eastern Ghouta.
The Special Envoy also recalled his intention to convene a ninth round of intra‑Syrian talks under the auspices of the UN in January. He said he was looking forward to making substantive progress with the Syrian delegations in this context, as the round will be an important opportunity to assess the readiness and ability of the parties, with the support of the international community, to advance a political solution to the Syrian crisis.
In Australia, UNHCR is calling again on the Government to urgently find humane solutions for the refugees and asylum seekers that were abandoned on Manus Island. The agency said that since the closure of this “offshore processing” facility on 31 October this year, about 800 people have remained in a precarious situation. Seven‑hundred of them are now accommodated in three sites, but over the past month at least five security incidents have been reported in these locations. More online.
As a reminder, at 4:30 pm this afternoon, the Ambassador of Japan, President of the Security Council for the month of December, Ambassador [Koro] Bessho, will be here to brief you on the work that has taken place in the Council.
**Questions and Answers
Spokesman: Mr. Klein.
Question: Okay. This will be an end of the year softball question. Could you comment on what the Secretary‑General believes to be his most significant concrete achievement in 2017, and the most significant disappointment that he also has, in terms of not getting certain things accomplished?
Spokesman: I don't think the Secretary‑General is one to look for an accounting and a check off of achievements. I think he has been extremely focused on pushing the UN reform through. That's an ongoing process. He's been focused on doing what he's been able to do within his own right, his own authority within the UN, on making the operations more transparent, more… more efficient. I think, outgoing, he has laid the groundwork for greater effort in preventive diplomacy in terms of his… the naming of his mediation… his mediation board.
I think he would be also… he would tell you that he would be proud of the number of senior women he has appointed in senior leadership… the number of women he's appointed in senior leadership posts at the UN. But this is a long game, and I think he will continue to work hard during his mandate. I think if he were here he would tell you of his… I think his anxiety at the continued tensions we're seeing over the nuclear… nuclear threats, and I think he would raise the alarm at the continuation of conflicts that we're seeing around the world and he would call for much greater unity and unity of purpose, especially around the Security Council.
Question: What you recounted were mostly process‑oriented attempts at reform or managerial improvements. He did try his hand at mediating a crisis, the Cyprus conflict. That didn't get anywhere. Can he point to any specific, tangible results of his stated initiative of preventive diplomacy, in terms of actual result or improvements?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General threw himself into the… made himself available to the parties on the Cyprus issue. It did not have the outcome that we had… that he had wanted. Obviously, the absence of conflicts in many places is not something that is to be… that can be shown as… as actually when there is conflict. I think the Secretary‑General has and will continue to work for increased preventive… increased preventive diplomacy, for the implementation of the sustainable development goals which are really the baseline and the guideline for preventing conflict and displacement. But, as I said, he's not one for accounting and this is a long game. Edie.
Question: One follow‑up on Uganda, on the DRC first. You said a 15th Tanzanian passed away in Uganda, where I assume he was undergoing medical treatment?
Question: There was another peacekeeper that was missing. Is that peacekeeper still missing?
Question: Secondly, on the follow‑up to Geneva talks on Syria. You said that Staffan de Mistura was going to convene a new round of talks in January. I wonder: what does Secretary‑General's reaction is to the announcement today that Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed also to hold Syrian peace talks in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in January? Is this a… is this a conflict?
Spokesman: No, it's not a conflict. I think it’s… we want to see those efforts, efforts in Sochi and Astana, as complementary and as sort of stronger onramps to what will happen in Geneva. Mr. Lee.
Question: Some… some DRC questions, but I just wanted to… on this, you had said that the Secretary‑General is not one to, you know, tick off accomplishments. I'm sure you've seen his letter to staff, which seems to do just that. It's a pretty lengthy letter, and I had wanted to ask you about… now that you say that about this… He says… you know, he runs through various accomplishments, and then he says… he talks about the reform agenda and he says, "we are reinforcing our efforts to prevent and end conflicts" without giving examples.
So I wanted to… I have two questions. One, in terms of reform. It's now more than a month after a widely publicized indictment was announced involving bribery inside the United Nations by a group that's still… or to benefit an organization still part of the UN Global Compact. Did he… did he… did he announce any audit on this? Is there… what action has taken place?
Spokesman: As I said, if I have something to announce… and we obviously, as with all issues having to do with corruption, we cooperate fully and happily with local… with the local authorities.
Correspondent: But right, but in terms of knowing what the UN…
Spokesman: I… I understand.
Question: And the other one. I'm just… as one example of conflicts, you were saying how… I mean, it's true there may be conflicts that… that we've never heard of that were avoided… averted by work that we never learned of. But one thing I've been asking about this year is Cameroon. I wanted to ask you whether he believes… you know, as you may know, there's now fighting… it's now kind of a hot war in a place called Mamfe. There's refugee flows. Does he believe that this… his approach this year of sending Mr. Fall, who apparently never went to the Anglophone areas, has been one that… that… that reduced or… or at least ran parallel to it, an upsurge in the conflict?
Spokesman: I don't think it ran… I mean… I'll leave your analysis to you. As we've often said with the situation in Cameroon, we remain available, and we also encouraged open dialogue between the… between the government and the other parties in order to lower the tensions. Yes, sir.
Question: Yeah. Any comment from the Secretary‑General on Ambassador Haley's funding cut warning yesterday?
Spokesman: No, I think I addressed that yesterday. We continue to look forward to a very constructive relationship and engagement with the United States and with all other member states. Mr. Varma.
Correspondent: Wait, hang on.
Spokesman: Okay. One more. Okay. It's Christmas.
Question: Thank you. Thank you so much. I wanted to ask you about the DRC. I got sidetracked on this staff… letter to staff.
There are reports that… that following the announcement by Mr. [Jean‑Pierre] Lacroix that the [Allied Democratic Forces] ADF would be targeted, that the Ugandan army has in fact flown some air sorties and fired some missiles into the DRC to… to… to get them, and what I'm wondering is, given MONUSCO is a major military participant, was MONUSCO informed of that? Do they have any… any I guess assessment of what the… what the impact of the strikes have been?
Spokesman: We've talked to the mission. They're trying to gather more information. I'm not aware of any coordination or involvement on their part.
Question: And I wanted to ask you, just in terms of a transparency question. Yesterday, I noticed I was… as being at the Security Council stakeout, the Deputy Secretary‑General and her entourage moving down the hall, and then I saw the PGA, this is your colleague here, tweeting out a picture… it seemed like it was on his schedule, that he met the Deputy Secretary‑General to discuss the… the work of the organization, but then I looked at the DSG's schedule and it said there was nothing there. So is there some difference between your two offices? What's the purpose of a public schedule if it doesn't list meetings that were scheduled in advance?
Spokesman: I don't know if it was… it may not have been scheduled in advance from our end.
Question: Well, we'll find out.
Spokesman: You will find out. Thank you. Have a great end of the year.