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

14 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.


Our humanitarian partners are rushing to provide life‑saving assistance to thousands of vulnerable families in the port city of Hodeidah, where fighting has escalated.  Lise Grande, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, said that dozens of UN staff are in the city helping to deliver food, water and health services.  We estimate that 600,000 civilians are in the city — many of whom are dependent on assistance to survive.  Agencies have pre‑positioned 63,000 metric tons of food, tens of thousands of emergency kits, nutrition supplies, water and fuel.  Medical teams have been dispatched and humanitarian service points established.

Ms. Grande said that yesterday, even as the city was being shelled and bombarded, a UN‑contracted vessel, which is docked at Hodeidah port, offloaded thousands of metric tons of food.  Two more vessels are making preparations to do the same.  Today, partners are distributing emergency boxes with food and hygiene supplies to people who have been displaced by the fighting south of the city.  The UN and partners are requesting $3 billion through the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan to support 22.2 million people in need across Yemen.  To date, $1.5 billion, half of the resources necessary for the year, has been received.  The Security Council is just starting consultations on Yemen now.


Today, the United Nations and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are delivering urgently needed humanitarian assistance for 51,000 women, children and men in Yalda, Babila and Beit Sahem in southern Damascus.  The supplies consist of food, health and nutrition supplies, and core relief items.  The area was last reached on 5 June, when the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) delivered aid for 3,500 people in need.  The United Nations continues to call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all in need in line with obligations under international humanitarian law.

**Central African Republic

The Assistant Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bintou Keita, will travel to the Central African Republic from 18 to 22 June.  She will spend time in the capital, Bangui, and will also visit the sub‑prefecture of Ndele, in the country’s north‑east.  Ms. Keita will meet with senior Government officials, personnel from the peacekeeping mission in the country, MINUSCA, as well as other UN officials, members of civil society and relevant stakeholders to reaffirm the UN’s commitment to supporting the Central African institutions and people.  Ms. Keita will also meet with the Panel of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic in support of its efforts to promote peaceful dialogue and an end to violence in the country.

And also on the Central African Republic, the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, today welcomed the signing of an Action Plan to end and prevent grave violations against children between the Mouvement Patriotique pour la Centrafrique and the United Nations, and asks for its immediate implementation.  There are more details online.


A report by the UN Human Rights Office, published today, says that there is an urgent need to address past and ongoing human rights violations and abuses and deliver justice for all people in Kashmir.  The report says the Kashmiri people have suffered a conflict for seven decades that has claimed or ruined numerous lives.  The 49‑page report — the first‑ever issued by the UN on the human rights situation in Indian‑Administered and Pakistan‑Administered Kashmir — details human rights violations and abuses on both sides of the Line of Control, and highlights a situation of chronic impunity for violations committed by security forces.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, will be urging the UN Human Rights Council to consider establishing a commission of inquiry to conduct a comprehensive independent international investigation into allegations of human rights violations in Kashmir.


UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] warns today that the torrential rain and strong winds that hit Rohingya refugee camps and makeshift settlements in the past week in Bangladesh are threatening the health and safety of thousands of children.  Two hundred thousand Rohingya refugees — over 50 per cent of them children — are currently exposed to the dual dangers of flooding and landslides, with 25,000 at the highest risk.  Rehabilitation efforts are under way to fix the almost 900 shelters, 15 water points, over 200 latrines, two UNICEF‑supported health facilities and two food distribution sites which have been damaged or destroyed in the camps.  Several learning centres and Child and Women Friendly Spaces run by UNICEF and its partners have been temporarily closed because of the bad weather.  The arrival of the monsoon rain also increases health risks within the camps, particularly waterborne diseases such as acute watery diarrhoea and cholera.


We were asked yesterday about a request to close the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) Liaison Office in Nepal.  I can confirm that we received a letter from the Permanent Mission of Nepal last week, requesting the closure of the UN DPA Liaison Office in Kathmandu in the next three months, in light of Nepal’s achievements in the peace process.  We will review it closely, and discuss with the Government of Nepal how best to proceed.


Our teams in Guatemala tell us that a training session started this week for the national team working on the needs assessment after the eruption of the El Fuego volcano on 3 June, which affected the lives of over 1.7 million people and killed over 110.  It is conducted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in coordination with the European Union.  The UN and the national authorities have set up the recovery cluster to establish a coordination mechanism to start building back better.  Upon request from the Government, UNDP also deployed a volcanologist and has provided equipment to facilitate the authorities’ emergency management and information sharing.


Our colleagues at UNICEF issued a new analysis today that found that that almost two thirds of the world’s children under 1 year old — nearly 90 million — live in countries where their fathers are not entitled by law to a single day of paid paternity leave.  Ninety‑two countries do not have national policies in place that ensure new fathers get adequate paid time off with their newborn babies, including India and Nigeria — which all have high infant populations.  In comparison, other countries with high infant populations, including Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have national paid paternity leave policies — albeit offering relatively short‑term entitlements.  UNICEF urges Governments to implement national family‑friendly policies that support early childhood development — including paid paternity leave — to help provide parents with the time, resources and information they need to care for their children.

**International Days

Today is World Blood Donor Day.  The theme this year is “Be there for someone else.  Give blood.  Share life”, and it highlights the human values of altruism, respect, empathy and kindness which underline and sustain voluntary unpaid blood donation systems.  It also seeks to motivate people in good health who have never given blood to begin doing so, particularly young people.  The host country for the Day is Greece, through the Hellenic National Blood Centre.  There will be blood donation events in Athens and around the world.  More information is available on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website.

And I want to flag a few other International Days that we have this weekend.  Tomorrow is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which raises awareness of the abuse and suffering inflicted to some of our older generations.  This issue will only get worse as the number of older people will substantially grow in the next 15 years, and the Day asks countries to address it in their national action plans.

On Saturday, we observe the International Day of Family Remittances, which recognizes the significant financial contribution that migrant workers make to the well‑being of their families back home and to the sustainable development of their countries of origin.

And Sunday is the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.  The theme this year is “Land has true value — invest in it”, and calls on people to move away from unsustainable land use and promotes consuming organic products to avoid land degradation.


In addition to all those other days, tomorrow will be a day off at UN Headquarters as we observe the Eid holiday.  We won’t have a noon briefing tomorrow, but we’ll be back to our regular schedule on Monday.  Any questions for me before we go to Brenden Varma?  Yes, Iftikhar.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Regarding the report you read out about the first‑ever report on Kashmir by… from the UN Human Rights Office, does the Secretary‑General support an independent international probe into the Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir?

Deputy Spokesman:  This, as you know, is a question for the member States of the Human Rights Council.  The High Commissioner, High Commissioner Zeid, has made that proposal to the Human Rights Council.  And we will see and evaluate what the response will be.

Question:  But does the Secretary‑General support a probe into the atrocities being carried out in Indian‑occupied Kashmir?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has long believed that the parties need to resolve the situation in Kashmir as… through their own relations.  We will have to see what the Human Rights Council determines as a result of this report that was carried out by the Human Rights Office.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Farhan, this… this particular report, it has been rejected by India but accepted by Pakistan.  What I'm saying as a follow‑up on this question, in this… in this scenario that is obtaining now, would there be… is there a possibility of such an international probe?  And can the Secretary‑General generally push for it or just wait for the Human Rights Council to go ahead with its probe?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as with all questions regarding mandates by Member States, it's up to Member States to determine the sort of mandates that the United Nations will have.  What the High Commissioner has done and what the Human Rights Office has done is provide a report with the best information they have available, even though they lacked the sort of access that they needed to either of the areas of Kashmir.  At this stage, now that they have the reports in their hands, the Member States of the Human Rights Council can determine whether any other steps are needed.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Yesterday, at the tenth special emergency session of the [General] Assembly, the Assembly adopted the resolution titled “Protection of the Palestinian Civilian Population”.  And, actually, the resolution is wide‑ranging.  It deals with many important issues, including the protection of civilians, the immediate ceasefire, the humanitarian situation, reuniting Gaza and West Bank, addressing infrastructure and development, creating the conditions…

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.  I'm aware.  What is the question?

Question:  The question is, how is the Secretary‑General going functionally to deal with this variety of issues?

Deputy Spokesman:  Obviously, we take note of the resolution as it was passed by the Member States of the General Assembly.  We will now study the resolution and its various requests to the Secretary‑General, and we'll follow up.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I'm sorry if I missed this coming in.  At the stakeout, the UK Ambassador, Karen Pierce, said that… that the meeting… the consultation on Hodeidah is closed because the UN is going to be providing detailed information about the actual situation on the ground.  So, I wanted to know, can you say who… who from the UN is going to be providing that briefing?  And is it… can you tell us, you know, as much as you can publicly about what's happening there?

Deputy Spokesman:  The briefing, as… as I was going into this, the intention was for it to have the Assistant Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, brief the Security Council on the humanitarian conditions in Hodeidah.  At the top of the briefing, I did point out what our Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, is saying about the situation there and about the work that we're undertaking to help the estimated 600,000 civilians in the city.  There's a press release from her with more details.

Question:  I guess… my question is just, because Karen Pierce referred specifically to military information, she said the meeting had to be closed because they want to know the stat… the military status of the assault on Hodeidah.  And so I guess I'm wondering, does Ms. Mueller… who's… who's providing from the UN system… who's providing that information?  Is it through OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)?  Is there some…?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe that… regarding political developments that Martin Griffiths will also be calling in to that briefing.

Question:  Right, but she kept using the word “military”.  That's why… I'm just trying to figure out if there's some… is it the national staff that are in Hodeidah that would provide this information?

Deputy Spokesman:  There… obviously, the details that are going on in closed consultations are by definition details to which I'm not privy, so I wouldn't be able to express those.  Yes.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  You indicated, as I understood, that Nepal will be closing the Office of the Department of Political Affairs.  What specific reasons did they give for that?

Deputy Spokesman:  As… as I mentioned right now, the reason that they gave was, in light of Nepal's achievements in the peace process, the idea that there's less need for the liaison office.  So we are reviewing the request closely, and we're going to be discussing with the Government of Nepal how best to proceed.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  On this situation in Gaza and how the United Nations… I mean the General Assembly passed a resolution.  Israel has rejected it and so has United States.  So, what I'm asking is… and it has no mandatory — what do you call — value at all.  How is this resolution going to be going over?  And how can any aspect of it can be accepted or implemented?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, there are a number of requests in the resolution that involve the Secretary‑General.  So, we are, in fact, studying the request now, and we will see how best to comply.  But, obviously, there are certain things where the implementation falls to the Secretariat, and we will follow up accordingly.  Yeah?

Question:  Sure.  I want… just on… and thanks for the… the answer on Nepal.  It just… I want to understand.  It is a country's absolute right to ask the UN to close down such an office.  Right?  You're saying, like, you're going to consult with them, but I always hear that the UN can't send a mission without the consent of the country.  So, if they say, go, it's pretty much go.  Right?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, yes.  What I've said is that what we're now doing… they've given us, as I mentioned, a three‑month window.  And what we're doing is discussing with the Government how best to proceed from there.

Question:  Right.  With… but within the three months, you would comply with their request.

Deputy Spokesman:  I've said what I've said.

Question:  Okay.  And I did… and thanks for that answer, but I… I… Stéphane [Dujarric] yesterday had said… I'd asked him a pretty… pretty straightforward questions, that there… there are photos circulating.  Many people in Anglophone Cameroon are concerned about it, of several… a team of UNDSS [Department of Safety and Security] personnel in Buea at the Mountain Hotel in blue t‑shirts.  What is the purpose of that deployment?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, we've asked our colleagues in the Department of Safety and Security.  They're actually unaware of what these reports are, but they are following up.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you the… the… the Administrative Committee on Advisory and Budgetary Questions [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] has put out a report on the Secretary‑General's proposal on the global service delivery mechanism, the three cities, and moving… moving several jobs.  They… I guess the word is, reject it.  They're saying that they don't accept three cities.  There should only be two cities, one in Africa.  And they're also saying that the Secretary‑General should provide further information to those impacted, including staff.  What… what is the Secretary‑General's response to that?  And… and seems to… will slow down the implementation.  So what's he going to do?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding that, we're going to continue our dialogue with the Member States, including through the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, and we'll follow up with the intention of trying to get the system in place as early as possible next year.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  This… on this Kashmir report, now that Pakistan has accepted it, India has rejected it, where do we stand on this report?  You know, will there be any further probe at all given the conflicted… conflicting stands of the two countries?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I've told you what the recommendation by High Commissioner Zeid has been and his recommendation for an independent probe. Now the question goes into the hands of the Human Rights Council to see how they will respond to that.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  I would like to go back to the resolution adopted by the Assembly yesterday.  It speak… it requested the Secretary‑General within 60 days or less to make proposals regarding the safety and protection of civilians.  Does that imply sending an observer force or peacekeeping mission?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, what's going to happen there is we will… we're, as I said, examining the request.  And we will respond in due course and carry it out.  Okay, Brenden.  Come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.