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

1 June 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.

**Peacekeeping

First of all, I want to let you know that the Secretary-General participated this morning in a wreath-laying ceremony in honour of the women and men who lost their lives while serving United Nations Peacekeeping.

Since UN Peacekeeping opened its first mission 70 years ago, more than 3,700 military, police and civilian peacekeepers have lost their lives.  The Secretary-General noted that last year saw the highest number of fatalities in our operations as a result of malicious acts.  But the past year has also demonstrated the value of our peacekeeping missions, he said, stressing that the closure of two of them, in Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, is a landmark on the road to peace and stability in a region that was once in chaos. 

And we do expect very shortly to have with us the Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, namely Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Atul Khare.  They will be speaking to you just after I complete my portion and take a few questions.

**Development System

The Secretary-General spoke yesterday afternoon at the General Assembly’s adoption of the resolution on the reform of the UN development system, saying that the resolution being adopted ushers in the most ambitious and comprehensive transformation of the UN development system in decades.  He said it sets the foundations to reposition sustainable development at the heart of the United Nations and gives practical meaning to our collective promise to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for everyone, everywhere, leaving no one behind.

Under the new system, the Secretary-General said, national ownership and a strong focus on accountability and results will guide the system every step of the way.  He added that UN teams on the ground will now be better able to tailor their presence, capacities, skillsets and overall response to the Member States’ priorities.

The Secretary-General appealed to the Member States for their immediate support so that we can hit the ground running on 1 January 2019.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

This weekend, the Deputy Secretary-General will depart New York for Istanbul, Turkey, to attend the inauguration of the Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries, which will take place on Monday in Gebze.

From there, she will proceed to Brussels to attend the European Development Days and have bilateral meetings with senior European Union and other officials on 5 and 6 June.  And on 6 June, she will travel to Geneva to attend the meeting of the Board of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York next Thursday.

**Palestine

Today, the Humanitarian Coordinator, for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Director of Operations in the West Bank, Scott Anderson, joined others in the international community in calling on the Government of Israel to cease its plans to carry out the mass demolition and transfer of the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar–Abu al Helu, located on the outskirts of East Jerusalem in the occupied West Bank.

Mr. McGoldrick said that Israel’s obligations as an occupying Power to protect the residents of Khan al Ahmar are clear.

**Political Affairs

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo is embarking this Sunday on her first mission since taking up her duties last month.  From 5 to 8 June, Ms. DiCarlo will visit Addis Ababa to meet with the leadership of the African Union on Somalia and the UN political mission in the country, UNSOM [United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia], and Nairobi.  During each leg of her trip, she will meet Government authorities and the UN presences.

We expect to have a roundup of her mission next Friday.

**Libya

The UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) today called on parties to the Derna conflict to exercise maximum restraint and ensure that they take all precautions to protect civilians.

The escalation of fighting in Derna has reached unprecedented levels during the past week, with fighting further encroaching into densely populated areas.  Since 16 May, at least 17 civilians, including two children, were killed, and another 22, including seven children, were injured in the conduct of hostilities.  The number of civilian casualties was the highest in the past two days, with seven killed and another seven injured on 30 May in an explosion as they were attempting to leave the city.

And the Mission also said today that during the month of May, they documented 101 civilian casualties — including 47 deaths and 54 injuries — during the conduct of hostilities, including car and suicide bombings, across Libya.  The death toll is the highest recorded in 2018.  The majority of civilian casualties were caused by shelling, followed by vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, unidentified explosives, and airstrikes.  There are more details online.

**Nicaragua

Our Human Rights colleagues say they are appalled at the ongoing violence in Nicaragua, where this week at least 16 people are reported to have been killed and more than 100 injured amid anti-Government protests.

They also express concern at the reported arrest and detention by the army of six human rights defenders, including two adolescents, and called on the authorities to ensure their prompt release.

They are also extremely concerned at continuing reports of death threats, acts of violence and intimidation against journalists, students, and members of the Catholic Church, among others.

The Office of the High Commissioner reiterates its request made on 7 May to the Nicaraguan authorities to be granted immediate access to the country.

**Ukraine

Our Human Rights colleagues today called on the Ukrainian authorities to act urgently to protect minority groups, including Roma communities and LGBTI (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex) activists, in the wake of a number of serious acts of violence and harassment against them in recent weeks.

The Human Rights Office urges the Government to pay closer attention to the actions of extreme right-wing groups throughout the country.  In a number of cases, it says they have claimed responsibility for the recent attacks and intimidation.

The Human Rights Office adds that the lack of accountability for attacks against minorities and evictions of Roma in previous years has fuelled an atmosphere of impunity.

Our colleagues urge the Government to demonstrate zero tolerance by publicly condemning such acts, investigating all attacks against minorities, bringing perpetrators to account and guaranteeing the right to non-discrimination and equality.

**Press Briefings

Shortly after, as I mentioned earlier, we will have right in the next few minutes the Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support, namely Jean-Pierre Lacroix and Atul Khare.

After that, we shall also have the Spokesperson of the President of the General Assembly, Brenden Varma.

And then shortly after our briefings, at 1:30 p.m., Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and President of the Security Council for the month of June, will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme for June.

And then on Monday, at 10 a.m., here in this room, there will be a briefing by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the launch of their Renewables 2018 Global Status Report.

**Questions and Answers

That is it for me.  I can take a few questions before we turn to our guests.  Yes, Mushfiq?

Question:  Thank you, Mr.  Farhan.  As I asked to Stéphane [Dujarric] yesterday, I told Stéphane that in Bangladesh, the extrajudicial killing is going on.  Within 16 days, 125 people face extrajudicial killing by the law enforcement agency in Bangladesh in the name of drug control, one.  And second question was… he said he will update me by tomorrow.  And second question was the main opposition leader, Begum [Khaleda] Zia, is in prison and she's facing very inhuman situation, lack of electricity and providing low-quality food.  Though she got the bail from the… for her controversial verdict, but she is not released from the courts because they filed new cases, so what is your observation on these two particular issues?

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  Well, regarding your second question, I don't have anything particularly new to say, beyond the concerns we had expressed in the past about this process.  Regarding your initial question, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is aware of the questions that have arisen in the context of the recent activities in Bangladesh.  What I can say is the UN Office on Drugs and Crime urges all Member States to adhere to their commitments to promote balanced human rights-based approaches to drug control, in line with the three international drug control conventions and the outcome document of the United Nations General Assembly special session on the world drug problem.  UNODC stands ready to engage with all countries to help bring criminals to justice with appropriate legal safeguards, in line with international standards and norms, and to promote evidence-based prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and reintegration.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask about Burundi and then about this development system reform.  I know I had asked you before about Burundi after the… the… the referendum on the Constitution.  You had said that… that reports were that it were calm but that it hadn't yet been finalized.  Now the constitutional court of the Government has dismissed all opposition petitions, claiming intimidation and arrests during the campaign should invalidate this extension of term limits for Pierre Nkurunziza.  What is the UN's position, now that the… the… the vote is essentially legally final within Burundi?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding the referendum, I would just refer you to the Secretary-General's recent report on Burundi, where he did make it clear that it is Burundi's sovereign right to amend its Constitution.  At the same time, what we have stressed is that there's no alternative to dialogue, and we particularly want the involvement of the East African Community (EAC) and for their role in the inter-Burundian dialogue, and once more, we would like to call for the unconditional participation of all parties in good faith in the next session of the inter-Burundian dialogue, and we urge the leadership of the East African Community to keep encouraging the Burundian stakeholders in this regard.

Question:  Thank you, but does the… does the UN believe, now that it's seen the draft, the… the text of the amendments and the now-final vote, that this constitutional amendment is in accord with the Arusha Agreements that the UN has worked on, you know, for some years?

Deputy Spokesman:  We have been studying this language, but the position I have stated is the one that we have.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you about language.  I saw… I noticed yesterday in the… in the meeting to… on the… on the development system reform, there was a sort of formal statement of the Secretariat that said, quote, "The Secretariat is not in a position to provide a detailed statement of programme budget implications (PBI) prior to the finalization of the implementation plan."  So I wanted to ask what I was trying to ask Stéphane yesterday.  What is the… usually, I mean, at least in my experience, usually the PBI is done before the vote.  Maybe this is… I'm sure States agreed to this, but what is the plan for the Secretariat?  What's the time frame to actually say how much it's going to cost?

Deputy Spokesman:  What's happening now — we're very appreciative of the adoption of the resolution yesterday by the Member States.  We had informed the Member States in a note of our… of the process that we're going through, and what we're going to do now is that we are engaging… as of now, we're engaging with the Fifth Committee to provide more information, and we'll do this so that, as the Secretary-General made clear, we can hit the ground running on 1 January 2019.

Question:  So that's in this May section, in this… in this current session, that… that this information is going to be provided, the PBI?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, we have started, as of this past day, we're starting our dialogue with the Fifth Committee on this.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, what is the Secretary-General's reaction to the passage of this resolution in the… in the Security Council yesterday that basically lays the groundwork for possible arms embargo and targeted sanctions, given the long-standing view of the Secretary-General calling for an arms embargo, but also given the objections… I'm sure you saw the Ethiopian minister speaking on behalf of IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development), to the passage of this resolution, saying it might undermine the peace process.  What's your sense of what this resolution does?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you're aware of the positions that the Secretary-General has made regarding the peace process in South Sudan, and the need to exert the necessary pressure on the leaders who, in his view, need to do much, much more and much better in order for there to be meaningful progress towards peace in South Sudan.  So given that, of course, we take note of the passage of this resolution, and we'll follow up as according to the will of the members of the Security Council.  Did you have a question?

Question:  Do you have any latest update on timing for the Gaza resolution passage?  No?

Deputy Spokesman:  That's outside of our hands and in the hands of the Member States.

Question:  And secondly… maybe I should ask the next group.  It seems like the CAR [Central African Republic] has an enormous amount of peacekeepers who were killed.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  Well, I think our guests will be able to talk a lot about the specific challenges of different peacekeeping missions, but yes, regarding the timing of Council activities, you will have, at 1:30, the new president of the Security Council, Ambassador Nebenzia, and he can shed some light on that.  Yes, you, and then you, and then we'll go to the guest.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask, I guess, to follow up on… on something Stéphane said yesterday about the… the Ghanaian police unit in Wao.  The press in Ghana has this headline: "Sex scandal:  Indicted Ghanaian Police Officers Resume Duties," and says, "The Ghana police service says 46 police officers interdicted in South Sudan for allegedly engaging in transactional sex are back at their posts in Ghana."  And I would just… it seemed inconsistent with what he had said that some "unknown number" of… of those in the uniformed police unit were found, at least by OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], to have been engaged in sexual abuse and exploitation, so is it… is it true that they're all back on the job in Ghana?  And how is this consistent what he said yesterday?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what we said, what Stéphane made clear, was that the contingent of 46 police officers was repatriated to Ghana on 30 May, and we're closely following up with the Ghanaian authorities on the accountability of those found responsible for these acts under due process.  Of course, questions about what is happening inside Ghana should be addressed to the Government of Ghana.

Correspondent:  Right, but I mean, have you seen… in terms of following up about accountability, they're all back on the job.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, we're in touch with the Government of Ghana.  Now, it's up… now, any questions on how the Government of Ghana is handling its responsibilities, once they're back inside Ghana, should go to them.  Yes, Iftikhar.  Then we'll go to guests.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  A new interim Administration has taken over in Pakistan, following the completion of the term by Pakistan Muslim League Government.  Any thoughts on… on this development?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  There's… there's no particular comment.  As you know, we work with all of the member Governments, and we will do so in this case.  And with that, let me turn to our guests.  Thanks very much.

For information media. Not an official record.