13 July 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.


The text of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration was finalized this morning.  This is the first time that Member States of the United Nations have come together to negotiate an agreement covering all dimensions of international migration in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said that “migration raises profound issues: around State sovereignty and human rights; around what constitutes voluntary movement; the relationship between development and mobility; and how to support social cohesion”.  She added: “This compact demonstrates the potential of multilateralism: our ability to come together on issues that demand global collaboration — however complicated and contentious they may be.”

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration, Louise Arbour, added that “Human mobility will be with us, as it has always been.  It’s chaotic, dangerous exploitative aspects cannot be allowed to become a new normal.  The implementation of the Compact will bring safety, order and economic progress to everyone’s benefit.”

This afternoon, at 1:15 p.m., right here in this room, there will be a briefing on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.  Speakers will be Miroslav Lajčák, President of the General Assembly; Louise Arbour, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for International Migration; Ambassador Juan José Ignacio Gómez Camacho of Mexico; and Ambassador Jürg Lauber of Switzerland, the co-facilitators who led the process.

**Costa Rica

On Monday, the Secretary-General will begin an official visit to Costa Rica, where he will attend the Inauguration of the commemorative week of the fortieth anniversary of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.  He will also meet with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado and other senior officials, including the Vice President and Foreign Affairs Minister, Epsy Campbell Barr, and the President of the Inter-American Court, Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor.

During his visit, the Secretary-General will also meet with civil society leaders and visit the country’s National Energy Centre.  He is expected to be back in New York on Tuesday.


You will have seen that yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Major General Stefano Del Col of Italy as Head of Mission and Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.

Major General Del Col succeeds Major General Michael Beary of Ireland, who will complete his assignment on 7 August.  The Secretary-General is grateful to Major General Beary for his exemplary service and leadership of UNIFIL over the past two years.

Major General Del Col has had a long and distinguished career in the Italian Army, and you can find out about that online.


Our humanitarian colleagues were alarmed by the impact of reported hostilities on civilians in several areas of Syria.  Today, dozens of civilians were reportedly killed by airstrikes that hit a site for internally displaced people between Bagouz and Susah villages in the eastern Deir Ezzour countryside.

Yesterday, hostilities reportedly continued for the third day in the Akrad mountains area in western rural Idleb governorate and north-east Lattakia governorate.  Several people were reportedly killed, including a woman and two children, and many others were injured by the airstrikes.

Hostilities continued to affect civilians around the Yarmouk Basin area in south-west Dara’a governorate.  In Hayt town, strikes reportedly killed three children and a woman and wounded six other people.

Despite the return of tens of thousands of internally displaced people following local agreements and changes in control in many areas, it is estimated that up to 234,500 people remain displaced across south-west Syria.  Some 70 per cent, around 160,000 people, are reportedly located in Quneitra in the west with limited access to humanitarian assistance.

**South Sudan

The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudehou, yesterday called for the urgent scale-up of humanitarian assistance for displaced people in Tambura, in Western Equatoria.  Tambura has in recent weeks witnessed an influx of over 18,000 internally displaced people following an escalation in fighting in the surrounding areas.

Mr. Noudehou expressed serious concerns about the deteriorating situation there and called on all sides to facilitate safe access for humanitarian assistance.  He reiterated that the UN is committed to supporting its partners in the provision of assistance based on need, including in the delivery of vital supplies.  Most urgently, the UN will provide emergency latrines to recently displaced populations to protect communities from the potentially catastrophic spread of water-borne disease.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that after months of conflict between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ituri region, they were recently able to obtain access to the area where they met some of the 150,000 formerly displaced people who are now returning in hope of finding their homes.

They said that conditions are grim.  Around 350,000 people are estimated to have fled the violence, and those who have returned so far are in many cases finding that their villages and homes have been reduced to ash.  UNHCR heard harrowing reports of barbaric violence, including armed groups attacking civilians with guns, arrows and machetes; entire villages razed; and farms and shops looted and damaged beyond repair.  The humanitarian challenges are enormous, with hospitals, schools, and other key infrastructure destroyed.

UNHCR is providing emergency and transition shelter kits to replace houses that have been damaged or destroyed, as well as cash grants to meet immediate and critical needs.  However, the humanitarian appeal for the DRC continues to be among the least-funded in the world and UNHCR has received just 17 per cent of the required $201 million.

**High-Level Political Forum

Today at the High-Level Political Forum, participants discussed progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, which calls on countries to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.  Participants highlighted the importance of this goal to ensure water supplies, mitigate climate change and secure the well-being of many indigenous communities and others traditionally viewed as excluded, marginalized or at risk of being left behind.

And this afternoon the Forum will discuss Sustainable Development Goal 17, focusing on national, regional and global trends to establish global partnerships for sustainable development.  This will be followed by a session dedicated to the principle of ensuring that no one is left behind.

The week will conclude with a brief wrap-up session summarizing the main outcomes of the first week’s thematic review, delivered by the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) President, Marie Chatardová.

**Honour Roll

And a huge thanks go to our friends in [the Republic of] Moldova as they have paid their regular budget dues in full.  The honour roll is now up to 109.

**Press Briefings

On Monday, at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing here on the SDGs and indigenous peoples with Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People and others.

And then at noon, the guest will be Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.


The Secretary-General announced today the appointment of Hanna S. Tetteh of Ghana as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Nairobi.

She succeeds Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, who has been appointed as Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU).

Ms. Tetteh most recently served in the Cabinet of the Government of Ghana as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Trade and Industry.

Ms. Tetteh is a practising lawyer and holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Ghana.  We have more on her career in a bio in our office. 

**Questions and Answers

And that is it for me.  Are there any questions? Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Regarding these attacks on Al-Bukamal Dair Azzur area.  Does the Secretary-General call for any investigations of the perishing of dozens of civilians?

Deputy Spokesman:  For us, the main point is that we want all the fighting to be halted.  To that extent, as you know, the special envoy, Staffan de Mistura, has been working to try to bring the parties back to the table and get a halt in the fighting across the board.  Of course, it is up to the authorities ultimately to establish accountability for all the violence, including these attacks, but the first and foremost need is to have peace on the ground.

Question:  Well, according to the American sources, the… the… the air power which hit these civilians were not American.  Is it important for the United Nations to know which air force was used in doing that massacre?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, ultimately, there is a broader need for accountability for all the violence that has occurred in Syria over the past seven years, but it's essential that all military offensives be halted, and that includes the halting of all air strikes everywhere.  Yes?

Question:  Deraa… the refugees in Deraa right now.  The border is closed from Jordan.  Jordan is going to, you know, open it for them or what?

Deputy Spokesman:  You'll have seen what we had said, that we want to make sure that all borders are open for those who are fleeing from the fighting.  I believe our latest humanitarian updates are that they have been fleeing in the opposite direction, away from the Jordanian border, and our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) are working to ensure that they get aid and support wherever they go to from Deraa.  Yes, in the back, and then you.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah.  Yesterday, the Secretary-General was talking about hiccups in North Korea denuclearisation process, and right as he was saying that, the USA submitted a request to the Sanctions Committee to halt petroleum dealings with… with North Korea.  Does the Secretary-General have a comment on this report?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  You'll have seen what the Secretary-General said yesterday, and he stands by what he said there.  Regarding questions for the Sanctions Committee, those are really to be addressed by the members of the Security Council Sanctions Committee itself.  Yes?

Question:  Ebrahim from Al Ekhbariya Saudi TV.  What is the reaction of the United Nations regarding the arrest of three Yemeni journalists in Yemen by Houthi, which was between 27 June to June… to 27 July.  Based on the information received, these arrests came along with other arrests of journalists for, like, more than two years by this Iranian militia.  One of the journalists has died just one… less than one month of his release by the kidnappers.  What is your… your reaction on this?

Deputy Spokesman:  We want to make sure, throughout Yemen, that all of those who are journalists have their rights respected and we stand opposed to any efforts to hinder or constrain the exercise of the freedom of the media and a free press.  Yes?

Question:  Do you subscribe to the… to the question that the Houthis are Iranian militias?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't speak for your questions.  All of you, I've noticed, have certain assumptions implicit in your questions.  Those are your views, not mine.  Yes?

Question:  Staying on Yemen.  What is the latest on… I mean the… the envoy… special envoy, Mr. [Martin] Griffiths?  What’s his latest… Since… since the fighting is continuing unabated, what is the latest… what progress has been achieved on the political side?

Deputy Spokesman:  He has continued with his negotiations.  Earlier this week, he did meet with President [Abdrabuh Mansur] Hadi, and he… we don't have any particular agreement to report, but his talks have been going on constructively with all the various sides, and he's continuing with that effort.

Question:  Is there anything to flag regarding Hodeidah, whether there will be any breakthrough there?

Deputy Spokesman:  Like I said, he has been pleased by the constructive attitude that he has seen among the various sides.  We'll see whether there's anything further to report as his negotiations and his discussions proceed.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Mula with RTV21.  Some 40 members of the Kosovo Security Force from the Serbian minority are resigning due to the pressure… made from Belgrade.  Some of them were being detained and arrested.  Integration of the Serbian minority in Kosovo is… it has been encouraged from the Secretary-General, UN, and international community is giving pretty good results.  A percentage of them into this institution is about 10 per cent.  What is Secretary-General… is Secretary-General… are you aware of this issue?  What are you doing?  What are you encouraging to the Kosovës Institution and to the Serbian… to the Belgrade that is pressuring on them?

Deputy Spokesman:  What we are doing is to encourage, as we have done throughout, for all the communities of Kosovo to participate in Kosovo's institutions.  We want to make sure that the institutions of Kosovo are inclusive of all communities and that they all feel that they are represented fairly.  And with that, have a good weekend, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.