1 May 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Sexual Exploitation and Abuse

Today, I want to give you an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on these allegations. 

For the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, we have received 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners.  Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.

Out of the 54 allegations, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes.  Twenty-one allegations relate to implementing partners and one to a member of a non-UN international force.

Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.

The allegations involve 66 victims — including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown. 

With regard to the status of the allegations, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.

With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization.  But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world.  For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018.


The Security Council delegation visiting Myanmar today travelled in the morning to Rakhine State, flying from Naypyidaw to Sittwe.  From Sittwe, the team flew by helicopter to visit two villages, one reception centre and one transit centre, and the delegation met some returnees to Rakhine State.  They also met separately with the Rakhine government and civil society representatives.

Upon returning to Naypyidaw, the Security Council mission held a press conference before heading back to New York.  The team is on its way back now.

Our humanitarian colleagues stress today that a population of around 500,000 Rohingya still live in Rakhine, facing continued discrimination and marginalization, including around 130,000 men, women and children who are trapped in appalling conditions in camps. 

Severe restrictions on their freedom of movement persist, grossly restricting their access to health care, education and livelihoods.  This is the reality that must be changed if refugees are to be reasonably expected to return. 

Regarding the situation in Kachin State, in Myanmar’s north-east, our humanitarian colleagues also stress that since 1 April, more than 5,000 people have been displaced by an escalation in fighting between the Government and the Kachin Independence Army. 

The United Nations calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and to end the violence. 

Lastly, in Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, funding is urgently needed to prepare for, and respond to, the onset of the early rains, cyclone and monsoon season starting this month.

Up to 200,000 Rohingya refugees are at risk of landslides and flooding in what could become a disaster on top of the current emergency. 

The Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis (JRP) is seeking $951 million for both Rohingya refugees and vulnerable members of the host community until December 2018.  To date, it is only 10 per cent funded. 

And the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today it is grateful to Indonesian and Malaysian authorities for rescuing and disembarking three boats carrying a total of 140 Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar by sea in April.

The three boats set sail from the central townships of Rakhine State in Myanmar.  The refugees are safe and in generally good condition.

From preliminary reports, as many as 10 other refugees have perished at sea.  Since the beginning of the latest Rohingya refugee crisis in August 2017, over 200 lives are estimated to have been lost in the Bay of Bengal, mainly in the crossing from Myanmar to Bangladesh.

UNHCR has access to the recent arrivals in Indonesia and has received assurances from Malaysian authorities that it will soon be granted access to those in Malaysia, as well.

UNHCR reiterates its calls on the Government of Myanmar to take measures to address the root causes of displacement, in line with the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State.

**Central African Republic

The United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that the situation in Bangui is tense and evolving, with violence and casualties being reported in the capital’s 2nd and 3rd districts. 

This follows an exchange of fire earlier today between Central African internal security forces and the armed criminal gang “Force,” which operates in the PK5 area of Bangui. 

MINUSCA immediately deployed patrols to protect civilians and secured key points in Bangui, in close cooperation with the authorities.

The Mission condemns the violence and calls for calm. 


Staffan de Mistura, the Special Envoy for Syria, travelled yesterday to Washington, D.C., to meet with senior US officials, with whom he had in-depth discussions on Syria.  His meetings included discussions with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The Special Envoy afterwards went to New York to meet with senior UN officials.  Mr. de Mistura will now travel to Brussels to participate in the Laeken Dialogue 2018, on “A critical conversation between Asia, Europe and the United States: fixing the cracks and finding the next fault lines in the global order”.  The Special Envoy is to attend the opening ceremony and hold discussions on the margins of the Dialogue with key high-level officials.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for London to attend meetings on 2 May of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group, the United Nations Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration, and the session of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) taking place on 3 and 4 May.  The Deputy Secretary-General will also be meeting with senior UK officials.

**Honour Roll

Grazie molto to our amici in Roma.  Italy has paid in full its dues for this year’s regular budget.  The Honour roll is now at 88.

**International Workers’ Day

I would like to flag that at 1:45 p.m. in the Secretariat Circle, the Secretary-General will be speaking at the event to celebrate International Workers’ Day, which you are welcome to attend.  The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will also be there.

**Press Briefings

After I am done, Brenden Varma, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will speak.  Tomorrow our guest will be Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bintou Keita.  She will be here to brief on her recent visit to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

**Questions and Answers

That is it for me.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the sexual abuse and harassment violations, how do the 54 allegations in the first three months of this year compare to the number during the first three months of 2017?  And in the victims, were any of the victims pregnant?  And how young was the youngest?

Deputy Spokesman:  I do not have those precise details, but we'll… but we can get back to you on those.  I… you know, certainly, it's distressing to have as many child victims as we have had.  As for last year's totals, I believe that this is roughly on par, but it reflects a certain amount of increased reporting from all of the various agencies and bureaus that we've been dealing with.  Yes?

Question:  What's the difference between sexual abuse and sexual exploitation?  Is not exploitation abuse?

Deputy Spokesman:  There's a difference in terms of the nomenclature, and we have that spelled out on the website.  So, I would refer you… it's a complicated definition, but, if you see the website, it's clearly explained there.

Question:  Same topic?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Sure.  I'd wanted to… I'd asked Stéphane [Dujarric] a few days ago… he'd said he would provide the nomenclature for the way in which the situation in South Sudan of the Nepali peacekeeper was downgraded from child rape to sexual… attempted sexual assault, but he still didn't come back with that.  Is child rape defined in… on this website that you're…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, look at website, and it has a definition, a breakdown of what the various terms are named.

Question:  Because what I don't understand is that you… the numbers, you have 17 abused, 34 exploitation and, if I heard you right, 3, you know, unknown or un… maybe you could say the right word.

Deputy Spokesman:  Three are of an unknown nature.

Question:  Okay.  And then you also have three girls under 18.  Are those the three?  Or… or… in fact, if somebody is underage, are they still categorized in abuse and exploitation or is it, in fact, called rape?  That's what I don't understand. 

Deputy Spokesman:  We examine all these case by case.  Obviously, all of the allegations involving children are… involve sexual exploitation or abuse.  Rape is defined in a specific way.  Not all of these would necessarily be determined as rape.

Question:  Right.  Okay.  And then just one other… this… and… this is separate and apart from… from the statement by the Secretary‑General that he would be keeping track of sexual harassment data.  Right?  That… this is… isn’t that what…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  So when is that… when is that data coming up and how… is there any… there's no…

Deputy Spokesman:  We're accumulating that.  When we have that, we'll report on it.

Question:  And there's no overlap?  That's what I… I'm…

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  These are separate issues.  Sexual exploitation and abuse is a separate one.  And, as you know, we've been providing quarterly updates, and this is the latest of those.  Sexual harassment is something we're also looking in throughout the system.

Question:  So, like the UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS) case involving Mr. [Luiz] Loures, where he, apparently, lunged at the victim in the elevator, would this go under… this would be harassment?

Deputy Spokesman:  This would be sexual harassment.  This is not involving, in other words, the way we treat people under our care.  You know, this is… sexual harassment has to do with, you know, staff at the UN, whether they believe that they have been harassed in the course of their time here.

Question:  But isn't there… one last thing.  In… in… I'm aware that, in the UN Support Office on Somalia, there's an allegation of actual sexual exploitation of a UN staff member.  And so I'm wondering, does that… is it… in all cases, if the victim is a staff member of the UN, is it categorized as harassment regardless of… of…

Deputy Spokesman:  The… it would have to be looked into and to be determined which that would fall under.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, in the two cases that were substantiated, what action was taken?  And there's one in… investigation under review.  I'm not sure what that means.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  There's one under review.  Like I said, there were two substantiated.  There's always disciplinary measures taken.  I don't know what the specific measures are.

Question:  Could we get that?  Can we get those details?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, we'll try to get that as part of a fuller report.  But there will be a fuller report with more details.  We're giving you sort of sampler of the details of that.

Question:  The question is… there's two cases substantiated.  What action was taken, if any?

Deputy Spokesman:  All right.  And if that's it, come on up.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah.  I'd wanted to… a few things, but I'd wanted to ask, yesterday, I'd asked Stéphane about this award received by Marta Ruedas in Sudan from Omar al‑Bashir, the Order of the Two Niles.  And he said he hadn't seen it, but it seems like the UN probably is aware of it.  How does it meet the limited‑contacts principal of the ICC (International Criminal Court) given that he's indicted for genocide?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are looking into the matter, and we're studying to see whether this falls in within the parameters we've set.  You're right that we've set very strict parameters for any meetings with Mr. Bashir.

Question:  And on this report that… that… that President Moon [Jae-in] of South Korea called António Guterres, can… what can you say about… one… in one report, it said that… that he'd said that, yes, I'll do it, and another report it said he'd said it's up to the Security Council, but I want to.  Which is it?

Deputy Spokesman:  We actually expect to have a readout… I was hoping to have it when I got in, but it's not ready yet.  But, hopefully, you'll have it shortly.  Yeah?  Do you have a question? 

Correspondent:  I had the same question.

Deputy Spokesman:  All right.  Come on up, Brenden.

Correspondent:  I have another…

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh, yes.  One more?

Question:  Farhan, I wasn't here yesterday, so I don't know if this came up.  But following up on the resolution on Western Sahara on Friday, part of the resolution calls on the Secretary‑General to interview the parties about the military agreements in Western Sahara.  Do you know if anything is planned along those lines?  And also, is the Special Envoy going to do another tour in the region?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we don't have a tour by the envoy to mention at this point.  But regarding the resolution, of course, we have already taken note of the resolution that passed on Friday.  And we will… and we're looking at ways to follow up.  And, of course, we'll implement it in terms of the requests of the Council.  Yes, Linda?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I was just wondering, regarding the Israeli… the new Israeli information about Iran's weapon programme, if the SG has, you know, made any statement about it.

Deputy Spokesman:  We haven't made a statement about this, but, as you're aware, the Secretary‑General has supported and continues to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  He believes it's a significant diplomatic achievement, and we need to build on it.  And, regarding Iran's past programme, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as you know, was deputized to look into that and make an assessment.  They do have a press release out today concerning their evaluation of Iran's programme, and I'd refer you to what they've said.  Yeah?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted… I'm… Stéphane yesterday, when I asked him about the comments of Josette Sheeran on Haiti cholera, said, I hope to have something for you on that tomorrow.  How much money has, in fact, been raised?  And has any individual received compensation?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, there's a website, as you know, that we update that has all the details.  So I'd refer you to that.

Question:  But she… she was asked directly in the published account whether any individual has been… meaning families of victims who were killed by cholera has actually received compensation.  I don't… can you just say yes or no?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't believe that's the case, no.  But, in terms of the money, that's available on the website.  All right, Brenden.  Come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.