The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
In New Delhi today, the Secretary‑General laid a wreath in honour of Mahatma Gandhi at the Raj Ghat memorial to mark the 150th anniversary of his birth. After the ceremony, the Secretary‑General told journalists that Gandhi’s example demonstrates that the way to reach objectives is through non‑violence. He then joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the closing session of the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference. The Secretary‑General told the participants that hosting an international conference on advocacy and action on sanitation was a fitting way to honour the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi — someone who defended the right of sanitation for everyone. He added that ensuring that everyone has access to clean drinking water and people have access to sanitation facilities is urgent if we are to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In the afternoon, the Secretary‑General held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi. He thanked the Prime Minister for the strong cooperation between India and the United Nations, especially in the support given to his reform efforts at the United Nations. The Secretary‑General also underscored the leadership role that India played in South‑South Cooperation. Following the lunch, the Secretary‑General addressed a group of young people at the India Habitat Centre. He spoke to them about global challenges and answered their questions on a variety of topics. He spoke of the challenges facing the international community, including lack of trust, growing attacks on multilateralism and climate change, to mention just a few.
The Secretary‑General ended his day with remarks delivered at a meeting of the first General Assembly of the International Solar Alliance. He told the delegates at this meeting, initiated by India and France, that we still lack the political commitments to make the transformative decisions that will help to meet the goals set in the Paris Agreement. The International Solar Alliance, the Secretary‑General said, is a welcome initiative. Solar energy, he declared, is at the centre of the renewable energy revolution.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today said that the Indonesian Government has confirmed that 1,234 people have died following the earthquake and tsunami in Sulawesi last week. Some 100 people are still missing and 800 have been seriously injured. It is likely that these figures will increase as more areas become accessible. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Indonesia, Anita Nirody, said that the Government has significant experience and capacity to manage natural disasters, but given the scale and complexity of this emergency, combined with the response to the recent series of earthquakes in Lombok and the residual needs there, United Nations agencies and non‑governmental organizations (NGOs) are working closely with Government ministries to provide all necessary technical support. United Nations agencies and others are already on the ground or are en route to the affected areas to provide assistance and to assess what is needed. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that needs are vast, and people urgently require shelter, clean water, food, fuel, emergency medical care and psychosocial support. Water remains the main issue as most of the water supply infrastructure has been damaged.
As mentioned in yesterday’s briefing, the Government has welcomed specific offers of international assistance that are in line with identified humanitarian needs on the ground. For its part, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is concerned for the safety of thousands of children in the wake of the disaster, which is affecting a vulnerable population, particularly vulnerable children. The Indonesian Ministry of Social Affairs has requested UNICEF to deploy social workers to the affected area to support separated and unaccompanied children. The World Health Organization (WHO), which is coordinating closely with the Ministry of Health, is warning that the lack of shelter and damaged water sanitation facilities could lead to outbreaks of diarrhoea and other communicable diseases. The World Food Programme (WFP) is supporting the Government in distributing emergency supplies. The WFP‑operated United Nations Humanitarian Response Depot in Subang Jaya, Malaysia, is on standby for aid partners who want to release stocks.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is concerned by the level of violence early in the campaigning period for the 20 October parliamentary elections, including intimidation and attacks against candidates, their agents and supporters. The Mission condemns today’s most serious incident that killed at least 14 civilians and wounded a further 42 when a suicide attacker struck at a campaign rally in Nangarhar. The attack appears to have deliberately targeted a crowd gathered at an electoral campaign event. Since campaigning formally commenced on 28 September, there have been several attacks resulting in the killing of a candidate and three security guards of another candidate, as well as the shooting of a further candidate’s agent and son. Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said that this violence, including today’s reprehensible attack in Nangarhar, is an assault on the constitutional rights of the people of Afghanistan.
The Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, has expressed her sincere condolences to the families of three children who were killed, with one child injured, by explosive remnants in eastern Ukraine on 30 September. She appealed for immediate action to protect millions of people who face risks every day due to the extensive landmine and explosive ordnance contamination. Ms. Lubrani said that it is unacceptable that children face such lethal risks when playing with their friends or attending school. You can read more about this online.
Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary‑General announced the appointment of Joanne Adamson of the United Kingdom as his new Deputy Special Representative in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Ms. Adamson succeeds Koen Davidse of the Netherlands. The Secretary‑General is grateful to Mr. Davidse for his important contribution to the work of MINUSMA. Ms. Adamson brings 30 years as a leader and policy specialist in peace and security, with extensive experience in diplomacy, political affairs and analysis, multilateral negotiations and conflict resolution with the European Union, the United Nations, and the diplomatic service of the United Kingdom. More on this is available on our website.
And today, I am happy to announce that the Democratic Republic of the Congo has paid its regular budget dues in full. The Honour Roll now totals 142.
Tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m. in the Press Briefing Room, the President of the Security Council for October, Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia, will brief you on the programme of work for October. And that is it for me. Are there any questions? At all? No? Okay. Yes, Carole.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, I wanted to ask, on Macedonia, what will be the procedure for the name change at the UN following the referendum?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, I think we made clear the Secretary‑General's views in the statement that was issued yesterday that took note of the consultative referendum. The Secretary‑General now urges all political forces in the country to proceed with implementation through the country's institutions, and we have reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to provide all necessary support, if required, both through the Secretary‑General's personal envoy and through the relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes. But, first, at this stage, we're waiting to see what the steps are within the country itself. Yes, Edie?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Couple of follow‑up questions on Indonesia. Has the UN been asked at all to coordinate international aid coming into the quake‑ and tsunami‑struck area as it has in the past?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as I pointed out, what our Resident Coordinator on the ground has said is that the Government itself has significant experience and capacity to manage natural disasters, yet, of course, the scale and complexity of this particular disaster depend on… need a different response. And, so, as a result, UN agencies and NGOs are working closely with the Government ministries. However, the Government remains in charge of this process. Yes, Mr. Sato in the back.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. About humanitarian assistance to DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], can you tell us any timeline for UN CERF [Central Emergency Response Fund], to support DPRK?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have any details beyond what we have already announced. We announced that the Central Emergency Response Fund would contribute some money to this. And, so, we're in the stages of providing that, but if I can get more precision about how the money travels, I'll let you know. Yes?
Question: Also, on Indonesia, has anyone linked this to climate change, or is that too early for the specialists to define it?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we'll leave it to the specialists on climate change to make their own evaluations. As you know, of course, there have always been natural disasters and we've gone through phases where all parts of the world get hit with different natural disasters. What we've been noticing in recent years and what the Secretary‑General has pointed out in his speeches is that there is a growing frequency of certain types of disasters, whether it be hurricanes or droughts, that are related to the intensity of the climate in different areas. Intense heat, whether it's in the oceans or on land, has created its own repercussions. And we believe that the governments of the world, policymakers of the world, need to be aware of how this is affecting them. Yeah? One more before we go to Edie.
Question: One more question on Cameroon. The Government has said that it has defeated Boko Haram, but it still seems to have enough munitions left over to harass the Anglophones. Do you have any update on that?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, what I can say about this is that we remain concerned about the situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon and the impact that the violence is having on the civilian population. We urge all parties to fully respect international humanitarian and human rights law, guarantee the protection of civilians and facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access to the North‑West and South‑West regions. The United Nations remains available to work with the Cameroonian authorities in their efforts to find a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Yes, Edie?
Question: More a suggestion than a question. Yesterday, we had an interesting wrap‑up press conference on the General Assembly's general debate with the President of the General Assembly. Would it be possible to have a similar press conference with the Secretary‑General, particularly since his speech basically was quite worrying and concerning about the state of multilateralism, the state of the world, and it would be interesting to hear from him whether he saw anything or heard anything during the GA that… that might have changed his thoughts about the state of the world?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we'll take note of your request and run it by him, but we're sure that he'll stay in touch with you and we'll let you know whenever the next time is that he gives a press briefing. Yeah, Carole?
Question: Farhan, similarly, in line with what Edie was saying, we heard the North Korean Foreign Minister say on the weekend that North Korea would not denuclearize until the US took steps to build trust. Now, the Secretary‑General met with the North Korean Foreign Minister, I understand, and also with South Korean President, and I understand there was a conversation with [Michael] Pompeo after that. Is… is he… what is his view about the state of affairs? Is he… does he share, perhaps, the concerns of the North Koreans that the Americans are not making a gesture?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you're aware, we had readouts of his various bilateral meetings, including the ones that you've mentioned. So, I would refer you to the text of those. But, beyond that, the Secretary‑General, as you know, has welcomed the sort of dialogue we've seen about denuclearisation. Obviously, no diplomatic process is uniformly smooth, but we remain hopeful that the parties will remain in dialogue and that this can contribute to the ultimate aim, which is the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Yes, Linda?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. This is kind of a procedural question. On Saturday, the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister said that it's… it's… things are stable enough for refugees to come home. So, I was just wondering how that works. For example, if there are refugees, whether they be in Germany or Lebanon or in different parts of the world, and they do want to go home to Syria, do they go through the UNHCR, or is there any UN con… facilitation in this?
Deputy Spokesman: The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, does facilitate or help to facilitate the return of refugees once the conditions are right and once the refugees themselves are willing to return, once they believe that they can return home safely. We do not compel anyone to return. And, of course, what this means is that, in countries like Syria, what needs to happen first is you need to set the conducive conditions on the ground to enable a large‑scale refugee return. That takes a certain process. But that, in turn, would mean that we would need, first and foremost, to have an agreement to end the fighting in Syria once and for all, and that's what we're working towards.
Question: Just to follow up, what if there are thousands of Syrian refugees who decide that they're going to heed that call, and they believe it's safe enough for them to go home? Would the UN have… make its own decision: it is safe; it's not safe? Or would… if the refugees want to voluntarily go home, would the UN facilitate them…?
Deputy Spokesman: If they're seeking that, we can assist as needed, but, like I said, you know, there are many countries, including, unfortunately, Syria, where there's still a lot of danger and threat of violence on the ground. So, for us, the priority is, ultimately, to put a stop to that. Yes? Yes, Carole?
Question: Farhan, I notice there are updates to the Conduct and Discipline website. I have a hard time reading that website. Do you have anything… more cases of peace… peacekeeping misconduct that you can report on?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah, I'm not sure what specifically you're referring to, but we can talk about this afterwards. And, if there's any particular cases, then I'll follow up with you on that. Okay. Yes?
Question: Herman Houngbo from BBC Africa. Two US Senators have requested the UN general… the Secretary‑General to investigate… to start investigations into the killings of three Russian journalists in July in the Central African Republic. I wonder if you have an update on that.
Deputy Spokesman: All I have to say about this is what we've said, that the UN mission on the ground, MINUSCA, has been working to… you know, to help out as it can with this particular investigation. Obviously, the investigation is proceeding on the ground. Have a good afternoon, everyone.