The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Hello everyone and good afternoon. Starting with an announcement today: today, the Secretary‑General is announcing the appointment of Helen Meagher La Lime of the United States as his Special Representative for Haiti and Head of the UN Mission for Justice Support in Haiti, known as MINUJUSTH. Ms. La Lime will succeed Susan D. Page of the United States, to whom the Secretary‑General is grateful for her dedicated service and effective leadership of MINUJUSTH. Ms. La Lime has had a distinguished career with the United States foreign service. She most recently served as the Ambassador of the United States to Angola from 2014 to 2017, and as Director of Outreach of the US Africa Command in Germany, from 2011 to 2013. We have more on her career in our office and online.
A couple of things from Afghanistan: the UN Mission there (UNAMA) today welcomed the announcement by the Independent Election Commission of the date for the presidential election, which will take place on 20 April 2019. According to the Election Commission, more than 8.9 million Afghans, including more than 3 million women, have registered to vote in both the parliamentary and presidential elections.
And on a sad note, our colleagues have confirmed that an employee of the UN Migration Agency (IOM) was killed in yesterday’s attack on the Department of Refugees and Returnees in Jalalabad. The attack claimed the lives of at least 13 civilians and injured 20 others. One of the injured was also an IOM colleague, a 22‑year‑old woman.
“We mourn the loss of our colleague and, in tribute, commit ourselves to redouble our work to serve Afghanistan and its peoples,” said Special Representative Tadamichi Yamamoto. And the IOM Director General, William Lacy Swing, also expressed his condolences and said there is no justification for such acts of terror.
In a joint statement issued today, the senior UN humanitarian officials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have expressed their deep concern over the continued violation of children’s rights in and around the Gaza strip. The statement was issued by the Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Jamie McGoldrick, along with James Heenan, the head of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and UNICEF’s [United Nations Children’s Fund] Special Representative in the State of Palestine, Genevieve Boutin.
The senior UN officials describe how children in Gaza continue to be killed and injured. Meanwhile, children in Israel and Gaza continue to be exposed to fear, trauma and grave injuries. They called on all sides to put children’s rights ahead of any other considerations and to take immediate steps to alleviate their suffering.
Yesterday, a convoy of 186 people from south‑western Syria — many of them women and children — arrived in north‑western Syria following a local agreement reached between the parties in their location of origin. Most of the internally displaced people (IDPs) received assistance from an NGO [non‑governmental organization]‑run reception centre. They will then move to locations where they can be supported in the north‑west. However, communities in the north‑west are already overstretched as they are supporting over 1.3 million IDPs throughout the area. With this evacuation, the total number of people that have been evacuated from south‑west Syria to the north‑west has risen to over 10,000.
The United Nations was not party to the negotiated agreements or their implementation, but stands ready to provide all people in need with humanitarian assistance, wherever they are. We remind all parties to the conflict that any evacuation of civilians should be safe, voluntary, well informed and to a place of their own choosing. All people displaced through such agreements must retain the right of return as soon as the situation allows.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that seasonal flooding due to the monsoons are affecting several countries across South‑East Asia. In Myanmar, 148,000 people have been displaced by flooding since 9 July. Several UN agencies and NGOs are assessing needs and providing assistance.
In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, the rains that caused the collapse of the Attapeu Province dam have not yet receded. Search and rescue operations continue with assistance from the UN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as individual countries and the private sector.
In Cambodia, more than 4,700 families have been affected by flooding with at least two deaths reported. Rising flood waters in the Mekong River pose a further risk. In Thailand, five provinces have been affected by flooding after the Mekong banks burst.
The UN is liaising closely with the national Governments and providing assistance. As rains continue in many areas, the risk of further flooding remains acute and the UN is on standby to respond as required to assist communities in need.
**Food and Agriculture Organization
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today appealed for $120 million dollars to reach 3.6 million people who urgently require humanitarian and agricultural assistance. In a new report, FAO identified the most underfunded crises in the world which include emergencies in Afghanistan, Sudan and Syria, which have been hit by drought; Bangladesh, which has been affected by a severe monsoon season; a resurgence of violence in the Central African Republic; and lean seasons in Iraq, Myanmar and the Sahel.
Without adequate funding, these crises could push millions of people into acute hunger and food insecurity, jeopardizing their well‑being, lives and future, FAO warned. More information is available on its website.
This morning, the Security Council adopted its programme of work for the month of August. And at 3 p.m., Ambassador Karen Pierce of the United Kingdom, President of the Security Council this month, will brief you about it in this room. Are there any questions for me? Take your time.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Not that we’re all rushing to the front. Farhan, Zimbabwe, does… are you observing what’s happening on the streets of Harare as the election results come in? There’s violence, there’s live ammunition, the army’s on the streets, clashes with protesters.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, we have been monitoring, and we are concerned about the reports that there have been incidents of violence in some parts of Zimbabwe. We’d like to remind the incumbents and political parties of the commitments they made in the Peace Pledge and the Code of Conduct to ensure a peaceful electoral process. We call on the political leaders and the population as a whole to exercise restraint and reject any form of violence while awaiting resolution of the disputes and announcement of the election results.
Question: Given that the country team has been providing technical support to the electoral process, are they… are you speaking with them? Are they giving you any feedback on the process that unfolded over the last couple of days?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, we’ve been in touch with the country team during the process as the elections happened. As you know, the election day process itself went relatively smoothly. Our concerns are, at this stage, we’re monitoring what the situation is. And, if there’s any need for a further statement, we’ll provide it at that point.
Question: Can I follow up on that?
Deputy Spokesman: Sure.
Question: I guess you had… you had a statement there for the political leaders, including incumbents. We’re told it could still be days before the presidential results are out. And, obviously, we’ve got a very anxious population watching this. Is there a message the Secretary‑General has for the people of Zimbabwe during this long wait?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, obviously, we want to make sure that the elections… the entire election process can go smoothly, and we call on all of the people of Zimbabwe to respect the electoral law, the Peace Pledge and the Code of Conduct and to desist from any inflammatory statements and refrain from violence. Yes?
Question: Thank you. I asked already about it yesterday, about maybe there was some development on the situation with the tragic death of Russian journalists in Central African Republic. Is there any development of the investigation of what happened?
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, what we can tell you is that, yesterday, north of Sibut in Kemo Prefecture, UN peacekeepers found the bodies of three men along with an abandoned vehicle. The bodies were transferred to a UN hospital in Sibut and they were then transferred to a local hospital in Bangui by national authorities. The circumstances of the incident have not yet been established. National authorities, with the support of the UN Mission, MINUSCA, are investigating the case. And, today, a team of UN police travelled to Sibut to support the national police with the investigations. Yeah… yes, Luke?
Question: Thanks. There are going to be meetings in September, I guess, parallel to the GA [General Assembly] on the Convention on the Law of the Sea concerning high seas conservation, an issue which, I guess, was put into focus last week with a big study that shows, I think, 13 per cent of the world’s oceans remain wilderness. Is the SG involved in these meetings? Does he intend to be? And is he pushing for any sort of update to this treaty on a set timetable, or is that in the hands of Member States to… to decide?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, obviously, it’s up to Member States themselves to decide how they want to deal with questions of the Law of the Sea and treaties relevant to that. At the same time, of course, the Secretary‑General has encouraged progress towards protecting the oceans. You’re aware that one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Sustainable Development Goal 14, is the goal of the oceans, which the Secretary‑General says has to be our road map to clean and healthy oceans. And he has taken a number of steps trying to push for that, saying that we need to promote strong political leadership and new partnerships to protect oceans. We need to expand marine‑protected areas, manage fisheries, reduce pollution and clean up plastic waste. And so, there’s a lot of concrete things we’re trying to do to make sure that Sustainable Development Goal 14 can be upheld. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I have a question regarding the… recognizing Kosovo. There… there are some new Serbian proposal of territory exchange. Have UN… have you an official statement about this?
Deputy Spokesman: We don’t have an official statement to make. Obviously, we welcome all discussions between Pristina and Belgrade to deal with the questions of the status of Kosovo, and so we would encourage the parties to discuss this matter. And you have a further question?
Deputy Spokesman: Okay. And so Evelyn, then.
Question: Yes. On Gaza, can you give details of how the children were killed? And Israel, we know it was kites. Is this Israel bombing or what?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, these have to do with the concerns that we’ve been expressing in recent weeks and months. You’ll have seen what we have said about the killings and injuries of children. But I would refer you to the full statement for more details. And, with that, have a good afternoon, everyone.