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

5 April 2018

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.

**Sierra Leone

I have a statement on Sierra Leone:  the Secretary-General takes note of the announcement by the National Electoral Commission on 4 April of the final results of the presidential run-off elections in Sierra Leone.  He congratulates Mr. Julius Maada Bio on his election as the next President of the Republic of Sierra Leone and all the candidates for their contributions to the successful outcome of the electoral process.  He also applauds the people of Sierra Leone for the sense of responsibility that they have demonstrated in successfully completing the elections in a peaceful manner. 

The Secretary-General commends the efforts of the national, regional and international electoral observation teams, as well as those of his Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohammed Ibn Chambas.

The Secretary-General appeals for continued calm and stresses the need for all stakeholders to seek redress of any grievances that could arise through established legal means.

The Secretary-General reiterates the support of the United Nations to the new Government in consolidating peace and pursuing sustainable development. 

That statement is online.

**China

As we told you yesterday, the Secretary-General will leave tomorrow for China.  And I just want to correct something that I said yesterday: in Beijing, he will visit the China Peacekeeping Police Training Centre, and not the Peacekeeping Military Training Centre.

**Gaza

Today the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said he is following with concern the continuing preparations and rhetoric for this Friday’s “Great Return March” in Gaza.  Mr. Mladenov called on Israeli forces to exercise maximum restraint and for Palestinians to avoid friction at the Gaza fence.  He added that demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner.  Civilians, particularly children, must not be intentionally put in danger or targeted in any way.

And our humanitarian colleagues tell us that partners are alerting us of a low supply of essential drugs and medical disposables at health facilities in Gaza.  There are currently zero stock levels for nearly half of the list of essential drugs and for a quarter of the list of essential disposables in Gaza.

An estimated $1 million is urgently required to support the health system in Gaza for drugs, disposables, equipment, gases and lab materials in the coming 6 to 8 weeks.  Humanitarian partners are working to prioritize urgently required medical items and coordinating the disbursement of supplies in preparation for the expected medical increased needs.

Gaza hospitals, already operating at limited capacity as a result of the ongoing electricity crisis and a lack of supply of essential drugs and medical disposables. 

**Martin Luther King

As you saw yesterday afternoon, in a statement we issued on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the Secretary-General said that Dr King was one of the moral giants of the twentieth century, devoting his life to equality, justice, and non-violent social change.  Decades after his death, he continues to inspire all those around the world who are struggling for human rights and human dignity in the face of oppression, discrimination and injustice.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace.  And, at 11:15 a.m., the Permanent Missions of Monaco and Tunisia, together with senior UN officials, will be here to brief you on that topic.

**Food Prices

Also, I failed to mention that our colleagues at the Food and Agriculture Organization tell us that their Food Price Index rose for the second consecutive month, with wheat and maize prices leading the increase.

In March, the Index was 1.1 per cent higher than in February and 0.7 per cent above its value a year earlier.

Worldwide cereal production hit a record level in 2017, up 33 million tonnes from 2016, but FAO anticipates this year's world maize and wheat production to decline based on early forecasts.

More information if you are interested on FAO’s website.

**Michelle Bachelet

I also want to flag that tomorrow, at 4:30 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, Michelle Bachelet, who is as you know the former President of Chile as well as the former Head of UN Women, will be delivering the Rafael M. Salas Memorial Lecture.

The lecture is part of a series that started in 1989 as a tribute to the first Executive Director of the UN Population Fund.

Ms. Bachelet’s lecture will be titled “Investing in Socially Excluded Young Women in order to Achieve Sustainable Development by 2030”.

You are all invited and you are all invited to ask questions, should you have any.

**Questions and Answers

Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about…  for a couple of readouts, one of the…  of the two meetings that the Secretary‑General…  two of them that he had yesterday, one with…  with the Vice President of Guyana and also with the Foreign Minister of Morocco.  Particularly on the latter one, it seems like there are these quotes from the Foreign Minister of Morocco after the meeting saying that all options are on the table; Morocco is considering taking up its responsibility to act if the UN doesn't.  Is it true that the Moroccan Foreign Minister threatened military action in the meeting? And what was the Secretary‑General's response?

Spokesman:  Listen I'm challenged enough to speak for the Secretary‑General, so I will not speak for any other parties.  The Secretary‑General and the Foreign Minister discussed issues of mutual concern.  Including, obviously, the situation in the Western Sahara.

Question:  No, but, I mean, I guess if he's a conflict‑prevention guy and…  and…  and the person that he meets with comes out of the meeting saying, I threaten to take military action…

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General's focus continues to be on prevention of conflict, and that's why he meets regularly with representatives of Member States.

Question:  And with ambassador…  well, excuse me.  With… with…

Spokesman: Unfortunately, I don't have anything on Guyana.  I was hoping to get something, but I don't.

Question:  But I'm saying, with the Polisario Front, their representative at the UN, now recently deceased, with whom on the other side as a conflict‑prevention man is Mr. Guterres…

Spokesman:  I don't…

Question:  …speaking?

Spokesman:  As you know, the death of the Polisario representative was very sudden, coming in the last two or three days.  I don't know if they have appointed someone to replace him.

Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you.  On January 9, when an Israeli settler was killed, Mr. Mladenov did not hesitate one minute to issue a strong condemnation.  However, 17 Palestinian killed in a peaceful settlement…  peaceful demonstration.  The world was watching.  It was peaceful.  It was…  the location was on Palestinian land, yet he failed to issue the word "condemnation"…

Spokesman:  What is the question, Abdelhamid?

Question:  Why he did not issue a strong condemnation…

Spokesman:  If I'm not mistaken, the Secretary‑General issued a statement…

Question:  I know that.  And he said he's deeply concerned.

Spokesman:  Since M. Mladenov represents the Secretary‑General, a statement from the Secretary‑General would supersede whatever any envoy would say, so…

Question:  But why the word "condemnation" was absent?  This is my question.

Spokesman:  I think, if you look at the Secretary‑General's statement, it was very strong.  If you look at the periodic briefings that the Secretary‑General and his representative presented to the Security Council, I think their language on the condemnation of the deaths of all civilians is very strong and very clear.

Masood‑ji.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane‑ji.  I just want to know about this situation that Secretary‑General is reluctant to talk about.  It is the situation in Indian‑occupied Kashmir, which continues to defy absolutely all…  I mean, all the human rights organizations have condemned this…  what is happening in…  in the occupied Kashmir, killing of the Muslims and the children and so forth.  Is the Secretary‑General…  has had any conversation with the Indian authorities about this at all?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has expressed and will continue to express his concern at the situation.  I think we spoke about it earlier in the week, reminding all parties of the need to protect civilians. 

As a matter of principle, in any issue where there are differences to be bridged between Member States, the good offices of the United Nations are available, but they only work if both parties require, ask for it and are open to it.  And that's, I'm not talking about Kashmir.  I'm just talking about a question of principle of the UN and how its good offices work.  But, obviously, this is a situation that we continue to follow and follow very closely.

Question:  if you allow me.  When was the last conversation that the Secretary‑General or any top UN official had with the Indian authorities about this?

Spokesman:  With the Indian Prime Minister?  I will have to check when the last conversation the Secretary‑General had with the Indian Prime Minister.  I don't have it off the top of my head.

Mr. Lee and then we'll come back to you.

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I'd wanted to ask about, yesterday, it seems it was…  that it was yesterday that…  that new sexual exploitation allegations went up on the website.  The last time that I was asking was about the…  the most recent ones were five from…  in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] by South African troops.  They were…  they were dated on the website March 20th.  And now two more have gone up, but they're both backdated or…  somehow they're dated March 20th.  So, it's a little difficult to know, but I had not seen them before.  So, I want to ask you about them. 

One is a Burundian troop in MINUSCA in the CAR [Central African Republic].  The other is a Gambian police officer in the now closed UNMIL.

Spokesman:  Right.

Question:  What… is the dating correct?  Was…  what explains the gap between putting them up and… and them being dated that date?

And, two, what's the status of the…  of the Burundian?  Particularly, that mission is still open.  Is the person suspended, not suspended?

Spokesman:  I don't know why the issue of the dating was.  But, obviously, as you know, the Secretary‑General has pushed forward, and we have been implementing a policy of much greater transparency in putting up allegations as they come to us and to the Conduct and Discipline Unit.

The one you're referring to about Burundi was reported last month to the Mission in the Central African Republic.  It relates to an exploitative relationship between a member of the Burundian military contingent who had been formally deployed in the Mission and an adult female.  The alleged victim has received medical assistance from an NGO inter‑SOS and was referred to our partner UNFPA for further assistance.  The UN has requested the Member State to inform us whether it will appoint a national investigative officer.  They have until March 9th to respond to the request.

My reading of this is that the military person in question is no longer deployed there.

Question:  When you say March 9th, you mean April 9th.  I'm just… I'm… I don't know.  I just heard you say that. 

I'm just… if it's possible to know going forward, just for reporting purposes, if something goes up…

Spokesman:  I didn't say March, did I say March 9th?

Question:  You did, but it doesn't… 

Spokesman:  Okay.  No, I didn't mean March 9th.

Question:  My point is, can…  maybe you can find some answer.  In terms of seeing these things when your office is closed or wouldn't otherwise respond to an email, it's hard to know if they're… to call them new… are they new? If you put them up in April…

Spokesman:  If they're up on the website for the first time, they're clearly new.

Question:  Okay.  So, what does it mean to say March 20th? That's when they became aware, and it just happens to be the same date as all… 

Spokesman:  That's when the Mission became aware.  But, I mean, the point is, we're talking about a few weeks. 

Correspondent:  Sure, sure, I understand.

Spokesman:  …so…

Question:  You understand the word…  to use the word "new," we don't want to misuse the word…

Spokesman:  As I said, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you.

Correspondent:  Well, okay.

Spokesman:  Exactly.  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  Hi… thank you, Stéph.  You mentioned Gaza and the fact that Mladenov has already issued a statement concerning… calling on Israeli forces to exercise max restraint and for the Palestinians not to approach the fence.  But, realistically speaking… so, if things were to escalate the way they did last week, and given the Israeli position on the topic, what would the next step be?

Spokesman:  It's not for me to answer a hypothetical.  I think Mr. Mladenov's message today, as it was before the previous march, was to the Israelis to exercise restraint to the Palestinians that demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner and, I think, to both to think about children, to not deliberately put them in harm's way nor should they be deliberately targeted.

Question:  Right.  I don't think it's…  it's a hypothetical because of the Israeli position that they said they weren't going to…  I mean reverse or…

Spokesman:  Well, I mean my interpretation of hypothetical is not to comment on something that has not happened.  So, I'm trying to stay in the now.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Masood.

Question:  Yes, sir.  About the Rohingya Muslims, who are going from State to State [inaudible] Bangladesh [inaudible] places and…

Spokesman:  Yes, sir. 

Question:  …Malaysia and so forth, has anybody from the United Nations has had any talks with the Myanmar Government that they're stateless people and they should be given some sort of a statehood? I mean, they have been…

Spokesman:  Masood, if I may interrupt you, that has been a message that has been brought to the authorities in Myanmar by the Secretary‑General, by many by many others, which is to ensure the full rights of the Rohingya people, to find a solution, even an interim solution, to the issue of their status so that they can enjoy access to education, access to health‑care, freedom of movement.  This is an issue that is part…

Correspondent:  Yes…

Spokesman:  …and it also has to do with parts of the implementation of the Annan Commission proposals. 

Correspondent:  Yes, sir.

Spokesman:  This is a message that has been passed on.  Okay.

Question:  I want to know, when was the last time this conversation took place?  because they…

Spokesman:  We've had contacts with the authorities in Myanmar regularly at various levels, and the deputy emergency coordinator was there not long ago.

Abdelhamid.

Question:  I want to ask about the summit meeting and the stumble between Iran, Russian Federation and Turkey.

Spokesman:  Turkey, yeah.

Question:  Was the UN invited to that meeting? And was it involved in any way, the de Mistura…

Spokesman:  No I don't believe we were.  my reading of it and from seeing it from a few miles away is that it was a summit meeting between three Heads of States.

Mr. Lee and then…

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you about Cameroon and also about the Global Service Delivery Model.  In Cameroon, there was a pretty widely publicized event in which it was alleged by the Government that European tourists had been taken hostage from… both from Switzerland and Italy, and it was reported that they were taken hostage until the tour guide said that they were not taken hostage. 

So, what I'm wondering is that, since this is a… the kind of incident that has the potential if misreported to justify characterizing people as extremists and terrorists akin to Boko Haram, what is the UN, which has a country team there… what is its understanding of… of… of what took place?  Was it a hostage‑taking or not a hostage‑taking given the hostages said they weren't taken?…

Spokesman:  I don't have any information.  I can check with them.  I'm not sure they were involved in this in any way but…

Question:  But it seems like the country team should have some view… 

Spokesman:  I'm just saying I…  I have nothing in here… 

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  …and if I have something…

Question:  I think… I'm hoping that on global service delivery model that you do. 

My understanding is, after a review of 45 cities, António Guterres has selected four cities as the winners of 684 UN posts:  Mexico City, Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, and Budapest, which it had chosen previously.  And I just wanted to know, it seems like it's a big thing that they've just told ACABQ what the four cities are.  What's the logic behind it?  What's the impact on… on… are the people… are people that are employed here, particularly local staff… are they able to move to these new jobs, or are they going to terminated?  Are new jobs going to be found for them?  And how did he select these four out of the 45 cities listed?

Spokesman:  It went through a rigorous process you know, I will have to check, but my understanding is that, obviously, whenever jobs are moved, staff always have the option of moving with the post.  But let me try to get some more detailed language on that.

Question:  On climate change, today, the Colorado State University released its 2018 hurricane season forecast with at least 14 named storms coming up in the next… I mean, the season starts next June so… is this something that the… is this something that speaks to the Secretary‑General's distress call a couple… like, last week for… for a global action to… to… for…

Spokesman:  Yes, I mean very much so.  I think we're seeing from different quarters, whether it's from the UN or private sectors or educational institutions, a lot of data that only can underscore and support, as you say, the distress call that the Secretary‑General issued.

He is very concerned about the lack of action to help us get to the target set by Paris. 

You know, during the Paris climate agreement, nationally determined goals were set.  We need to see action to meet those goals.  I think we're seeing a lot of times the private sector moving faster than governments, but I think all these scientific papers should just focus us and focus Governments on even greater and more rapid action.

Thank you.  And I will leave you in the hands of Mr. Varma, Brenden Varma. 

For information media. Not an official record.