The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
I have a trip to announce: The Secretary-General will travel to India, arriving in New Delhi on Monday, 1 October. His visit coincides with the beginning of events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi on 2 October 2019. In 2007, the General Assembly designated 2 October as the International Day of Non-Violence. In the evening of Monday, 1 October, the Secretary-General will formally open the new UN House in New Delhi. The following morning, Tuesday, 2 October, the Secretary-General will participate in the closing session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Convention. He will also meet with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, before giving an address at the India Habitat Centre on Global Affairs on the theme “Global challenges, global solutions”. In the evening, the Secretary-General will take part in the General Assembly of the International Solar Alliance. The following day, Wednesday, 3 October, the Secretary-General will meet with President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. In the afternoon, he will visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Secretary-General returns to New York on Thursday, 4 October.
And today, we would like to say a special thank you to the Government of India, which is contributing $1 million to install solar panels and a green roof on the Conference Building of the United Nations Secretariat. The contribution was received by Under-Secretary-General for Management, Jan Beagle, who said that “India’s generous contribution sends a strong message promoting innovation for action on climate change, and to enable greater efficiencies”. The initiative will help the Secretariat reduce its carbon footprint and promote sustainable energy.
This morning, the Secretary-General took part in the General Assembly’s plenary meeting to pay tribute to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He said that Kofi Annan was “uncommonly warm, accessible and of the people — but above all he was principled and forceful in battling for the values of the UN Charter”. The Secretary-General praised Mr. Annan’s support for multilateralism and called him a “true UN-blue believer in a rules-based global order”. He added that his loss cuts even deeper because we have never needed that faith and inspiration more. His remarks are online. And that ceremony is going on now.
Today is the International Day of Peace. This morning, in the Japanese Garden, the Secretary-General took part in the annual Peace Bell Ceremony. The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and the President of the General Assembly were also in attendance, as well as Messengers of Peace Michael Douglas and Princess Haya. The Secretary-General said that peace is the unifying concept that brings people together at the United Nations. Even though conflicts are multiplying everywhere, the United Nations is determined not to give up and it will continue to protect human rights, eradicate poverty and reduce inequality — all necessary conditions for a peaceful society, he said. His full remarks are online.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will update the Security Council later this afternoon on the alarming and deteriorating situation in Yemen. He will hold a media stakeout after the briefing.
I just want to flag that 131 countries have now endorsed the Declaration of Shared Commitments on UN Peacekeeping. The endorsing countries account for 90 per cent of all personnel contributions. Eleven of the 13 countries that host peacekeeping operations have endorsed the Declaration and so have 13 of the 15 current Security Council members. The Declaration is part of the Secretary-General’s effort to renew our collective action to strengthen support for UN peacekeeping operations. And as you know, there will be a high-level meeting on Action for Peacekeeping on Tuesday. The list of endorsing countries is published daily on the Peacekeeping website.
Our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] report that they and their partners have so far identified 155 children orphaned or left unaccompanied as a result of the latest Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Children who lose a parent due to Ebola are at risk of being stigmatized, isolated or abandoned. Since the beginning of the current Ebola epidemic, UNICEF and its partners provided food, psycho-social assistance, school supplies and various other support to orphans and unaccompanied children in the affected areas of Beni, Mangina, Makeke and Butembo. According to the World Health Organization [WHO], as of 19 September, a total of 143 cases had been reported — 31 confirmed and 112 probable. The outbreak has claimed 97 lives. WHO says the evidence indicates that the outbreak is being controlled. However, it continues to evolve and present serious challenges, including difficulty in tracing contacts and an unstable security environment.
In a new report, the World Health Organization today warned that more than 3 million people — most of them men — died in 2016 as a result of the harmful use of alcohol. This represents 1 in 20 deaths worldwide. Of all deaths attributable to alcohol, 28 per cent were due to injuries, such as those from traffic crashes, self-harm and interpersonal violence; 21 per cent due to digestive disorders; 19 per cent due to cardiovascular diseases; and the remainder due to infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions. You can find the full report on WHO’s website.
Because we did not have a briefing yesterday, we did not have a chance to thank Afghanistan and Malawi, which paid their regular budget dues in full. And today, we would also like to thank Kiribati for having paid their regular budget contribution in full. The Honour Roll now has 137 members.
In a short while, I will be joined by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, Toby Lanzer. He will brief you on the situation in Afghanistan. And then following this briefing, at 1 p.m., the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Geoffrey Onyeama, will be here to brief you. And we have a number of briefings scheduled for next week. And we will be sending those out by email on a daily basis. That’s it. Anything for me before we go to Mr. Lanzer? Yes, James?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, yesterday at his news conference, the Secretary-General told us that he will not be briefing at the high-level meetings of the Security Council on Wednesday and Thursday. From checking records, it seems that normally, when there is a high-level meeting of that sort, the Secretary-General normally speaks. For example, last time President [Barack] Obama presided over the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke. Can you tell me the thinking of why the Secretary-General is not speaking? Was he invited?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, it’s not unprecedented for the Secretary-General simply to attend Security Council meetings and not speak. Indeed, an occasion like that happened just last year, so occasionally that’s the case, and it’s when he feels that that is the best way to contribute is simply to be an observer rather than a speaker.
Question: So it was his decision?
Deputy Spokesman: He has decided not to speak, yes. Yes, please?
Question: The UN has put out several statements on the political reforms in Ethiopia over the last few months but has said very little if nothing at all on the past few days when there have been killings which have an element of ethnic killings and the displacement of thousands of people since last weekend. Do you have a comment on that?
Deputy Spokesman: Our concerns about the human rights situation in Ethiopia remain unchanged as they had been before. We want to make sure that there is an Ethiopia that is inclusive of all of its communities. We certainly hope that this Government will follow through on an inclusive procedure for all Ethiopians, and we’ll have to see where we go ahead with that. Yes. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. I have noticed yesterday in his introductory remarks the Secretary-General did not mention Palestine whatsoever. Haven’t I asked or forced my question at the very end, then the question of Palestine would not have been mentioned completely. Why is that? And the second: Since last Friday, six Palestinians were killed, and there was not one mention, any UN official, of those six innocent people, including children, who were murdered in the last few days. Why is that? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, regarding that, regarding your second point, we have been mentioning to the Security Council and other bodies about the continuing toll of violence. Indeed, Nickolay Mladenov briefed the Security Council yesterday afternoon, and he did continue to provide updates about the violence on the ground. Regarding the Secretary-General, as you know, there’s a small amount of time he has to give introductory remarks to you before press conferences, so he doesn’t get to mention every single topic that is dear to his heart, but he did bring this up, as you know, from your own question. Yes, please? And then you after. No, no. Him first.
Question: My name is Simon Ateba from Today News Africa. I… I just want to clarify the Secretary-General issued a statement on the situation in Cameroon, where thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have been displaced into Nigeria and other countries, and he’s been accused online of not doing enough, you know, having a blind eye to the situation in Cameroon. Can you remind us the last time he… he spoke about Cameroon?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, the Secretary-General has spoken about Cameroon many times and, as you know, over the course of the past year, he’s taken the issue up, as have his envoys. The Secretary-General himself has personally raised the issue of Cameroon when he met with President [Paul] Biya. As you’re aware, we also have a special envoy in the region, François Louncény Fall, who has been trying to deal with the situation of Anglophone Cameroon, and we have called on all sides, including those of the Government and its security forces, to handle the situation non-violently and to respect all communities, and we are continuing with that effort, including from the Secretary-General and from Mr. Fall.
Question: And lastly, the situation we’ve had in Nigeria. We’ve had like 500 soldiers killed in the last few months and we have thousands of people who have been killed by Boko Haram and the herdsmen. Do you think the UN has done enough to speak forcefully against… about instability in Nigeria and the humanitarian crisis and what is the UN doing specifically to help those people who have been displaced? Millions of people who remain displaced since the crisis started in 2009.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we have expressed our concerns about these when we’ve had different incidents, when these clashes have arisen, so we have mentioned that here from this podium. Regarding the question of Boko Haram, as you know, the United Nations tries very hard to ensure that there is international solidarity against Boko Haram throughout the region, whether in Nigeria or in the wider Sahel Region, and we have been working with different countries and different forces to make sure that Boko Haram and its activities are combated. Yes, Yassein? Wait, hold on. You had your hand up. No, him first.
Question: Amitoj Rao from India. Just a question on the Secretary-General’s visit to the Golden Temple. Is that a personal visit or an official visit? And if it is an official visit, would he be… I mean, he will definitely be asked questions on the frustrations of the Sikhs, particularly in and around the Golden Temple and Punjab in general, about 1984. Will he be addressing that issue? Can we expect that?
Deputy Spokesman: Obviously, the week… it’s still a week or so to go before he travels there, so it’s a bit premature to mention the topics he will bring up. Regarding the visit to Amritsar, this is essentially a personal visit, but it’s something that he had wanted to see for some time, but if we have any further details when the visit occurs we’ll let you know at that point. Yassein?
Question: Libya. Did Ghassan Salamé, he inform what’s going on over there, after that happened with Khalifa Haftar?
Deputy Spokesman: He has been reporting about the situation there. The UN Mission in Libya, UNSMIL, has also warned about the violence that has been taking place in Tripoli and has been calling on all sides to cease their operations. James. Do you have your hand up? You don’t? Then you. No, it was her.
Question: I’m Jane Shirima from Tanzania. I’m Jane Shirima from Tanzania. I was wondering what is the fate of the… of one soldier, military peacekeeper who died in DRC, Congo. He’s still missing. Several died, like more than 10 soldiers died.
Deputy Spokesman: We certainly hope that all missing personnel can be found, and certainly we are trying to get as much information as we can on that. Yes?
Question: Yeah, you announced that António Guterres is meeting with Donald Trump next week. What day, what time and how long will they meet?
Deputy Spokesman: We’ll have a full schedule of bilaterals that we’ll share with reporters once we can do that. Right now, the meetings are being worked out and we’ll share the programmes with you, so look at our websites and we’ll have those ready. Yes, please?
Question: About alcohol. The report of the WHO, the projections of alcohol consumption for 2025, it says that the highest increase is expected in the South-East Asia region, with India a big focus. I wanted to ask you: Has the WHO or the UN in particular reached out to India to address this issue after this report or before or during this report?
Deputy Spokesman: WHO has offices throughout the world and it will try to make sure that all of the Governments take the findings that it’s putting out seriously and take action to address them. And with that, let me get our guest. Thanks.