12 September 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 Secretary-General is on his way to Ghana.  He will arrive in Accra later this afternoon.  As you know, tomorrow he will attend the funeral of the late former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.  We will make the Secretary-General’s remarks available to you as soon as we can.


In his press remarks yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General emphasized that it is absolutely essential to avoid a full-scale battle in Idlib, which would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict.  Idlib, he said, must not be transformed into a blood bath.  The Secretary-General appealed to all parties directly and indirectly involved — and in particular the three guarantors of the de-escalation zone, namely Iran, Russia and Turkey — to spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians, preserve basic services and hospitals, and ensure full respect for international humanitarian law.


The Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Nicholas Fink Haysom of South Africa as his Special Representative for Somalia and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).  He will succeed Michael Keating of the United Kingdom, effective 1 October 2018, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his exemplary service and leadership of UNSOM.  Mr. Haysom is a lawyer with a long international career with a focus on democratic governance, constitutional and electoral reforms, reconciliation and peace processes.  He is currently the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, a position he has held since 2016.  He had earlier served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, and before that as Director for Political, Peacekeeping and Humanitarian Affairs in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General from 2007 to 2012.  His full bio is in our office.

**South-South Cooperation

Today is the UN Day for South-South Cooperation.  At an event to mark the Day here in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that developing countries have become key actors to implement the Sustainable Development Agenda and that their leadership, practices and experiences have played a major part in global transformation.  “We must identify and encourage the areas where South-South cooperation can be most effective and have lasting impact,” she said.  Her full remarks are online.  And today, the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, in collaboration with Member States and other partners, launched a compilation of ‘Good Practices in South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development’ which features more than 100 Southern best practices that are relevant to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  And in a short while, I will be joined by the Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, Jorge Chediak.  He will brief you on the occasion of the UN Day for South-South Cooperation.

**Security Council

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, spoke this morning at the Security Council’s thematic debate on peacekeeping reform and performance.  He said that improving peacekeeping was a collective endeavour.  All stakeholders who, in one form or another, take part in peacekeeping need to improve our performance, and we all need to support each other in doing so, he said.  Mr. Lacroix highlighted initiatives and tolls put in place by the UN to strengthen peacekeeping.  He noted that strengthening peacekeeping often requires strengthening the capacities of those who provide its men and women.  He encouraged all Member States who have the capacity to provide training and equipment to troop and police contributing countries to continue their efforts to respond to the current needs.  And he also called on Member States, particularly those with the most advanced military capabilities, to contribute more troops and police to UN peacekeeping.  On the Declaration of Shared Commitments, part of the Action for Peacekeeping initiative, Mr. Lacroix reported that as of today, 55 Member States had endorsed it.  He said that the broad and cross-regional support to the Declaration reflected the strong consensus around the key objectives that it lays out.  His full speech is available in our office.

**Human Rights

A new report by the Secretary-General has found that people around the world face harsh reprisals and intimidation for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights, deterring others from engaging with the Organization.  The report — the ninth of its kind — notes allegations of killing; torture and ill-treatment; arbitrary arrests and detention; surveillance; criminalization; and public stigmatisation campaigns targeting victims and human rights defenders.  Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour said that we are also increasingly seeing legal, political and administrative hurdles used to intimidate — and silence — civil society.  He echoed the Secretary-General who said that we should all be deeply shocked and angered by the extent to which civil society actors suffer reprisals because of their work, including when they cooperate with the UN.  Mr. Gilmour stressed that shock and anger must translate into real action.  The full report is available online.


Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council yesterday afternoon that, despite the absence of one of the sides to the Consultations in Geneva, he still managed to relaunch the political process with solid support from the Yemeni people and the international community.  He added that he was disappointed that he was unable to bring the Sana’a delegation to Geneva.  The Special Envoy expressed relief that Hodeidah city has not yet suffered the calamity of military operations.  However, he is concerned that the intensive operations on the outskirts of the city are a gloomy portent for what is to come.  Mr. Griffiths will continue his discussions by holding an initial set of visits in the coming days, including to Muscat and Sana’a, to engage the Head of the Sana’a Delegation as well as the political leadership of the parties in Sana’a.  He will also meet with the Government of Yemen in Riyadh.


Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its latest estimates on the global burden of cancer.  According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), cancer is estimated to have risen to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. One in five men and one in six women worldwide develops cancer during their lifetime, and one in eight men and one in eleven women dies from the disease.  Worldwide, the total number of people who are alive within five years of a cancer diagnosis, called the five-year prevalence, is estimated to be 43.8 million.  Cancers of the lung, female breast, and colorectum are the top three cancer types in terms of incidence and are ranked within the top five in terms of mortality — first, fifth, and second, respectively.  Together, these three cancer types are responsible for one-third of the cancer incidence and mortality burden worldwide, the agency said.  More information can be found on the WHO website.

**Global Compact

Today, the United Nations Global Compact launched a new digital learning platform called the UN Global Compact Academy to help companies become more sustainable.  The Academy is designed to provide businesses with the knowledge and skills they need to meet their sustainability objectives, mitigate business risks and achieve long-term growth by contributing to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Users will be able to access on-demand learning resources and measure their progress.  The sessions will guide companies on how to align their business strategies and operations with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact and the Sustainable Development Goals.  You can find more information on the Global Compact’s website.

**Honour Roll

We say shukriyah today go to our friends in Pakistan, who have paid their regular budget dues in full.  The Honour Roll now totals 132.

**Press Briefings

And after I'm done, you'll hear from Brenden Varma, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.  And then, tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be an end-of-presidency briefing by the President of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcák.  And my guest at noon will be Michael Keating, the outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia.  And we'll have Brenden and then our guest Jorge Chediek.  Are there any questions for me before that?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan. As you know, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is criticized from several sides, from the African sides, which says that it selectively tries its own leaders, from the US side, which says that it is not entitled to try its own citizens.  What does that say to the Secretary‑General, that the institution is independent, neutral, or deficient?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Criminal Court is independent, and the Secretary‑General believes and continues to believe that it is a valuable body in terms of ensuring respect for the rule of law and for accountability.  Obviously, we're aware of the various issues that have arisen.  As you're aware, in terms of the work that the court has done, it has tried to show how effective it can be on a variety of different cases and situations.  And, of course, we'll let the officials of the court speak for the work that it does.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On this briefing by Mr. Martin Griffiths on Yemen, I mean, he basically also rejected the fact that he was unable to invite one of the parties to the meeting.  But, ultimately, did he say anything about Saudi Arabia and the Coalition partners being… killing the people and everything else that they've been accused of?  Has there been any movement towards asking Saudi Arabia to somehow stop this campaign and allow the children to be given the medical aid that they need?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll refer you to what he said.  We put out the transcript of his remarks to the Security Council, and those speak for themselves.  Regarding the efforts by the Saudi Coalition, he talked about the need for all of the various parties to halt fighting and allow for peace negotiations to take hold.  Yes?

Question:  In Syria… thank you, Farhan.  We focus on Idlib all the time, but we have in Hama a lot of fire, and people die, no food, no nothing.  Did [Staffan] de Mistura… Mr. de Mistura inform that to the US?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, he's informed them of the various issues, including there, and… and ‑‑ bless you ‑‑ they've also heard from… in recent weeks, from John Ging, the Director of Operations for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who has also alerted them to the various situations outside of Idlib as well.  Yes?

Question:  Follow‑up on the ICC question.  Do you know of any precedent of retaliation against the court officials, as was indicated could happen by the National Security Adviser in the US?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I don't want to comment on hypothetical situations.

Question:  Well, threat.

Deputy Spokesman:  We're aware of the remarks that were made.  We'll have to see what happens.  As you know, the officials of the ICC do have different tasks that require them to come to UN Headquarters in New York, including, as you're aware, the periodic briefings to the Security Council, for which the Council has requested briefings by the Criminal Court.

Question:  Do they have immunity against sanctions or any other retaliatory measures?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the normal rules that involve international diplomatic officials would apply.  And with that, Brenden, come up first, and then we'll have our guest.

For information media. Not an official record.