The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
**Nobel Peace Prize
The Secretary-General this morning congratulated Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege on being awarded the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. In defending the victims of sexual violence in conflict, he said, they have defended our shared values. The Secretary‑General said that Nadia Murad’s powerful advocacy has touched people across the world and helped to establish a vitally important United Nations investigation of the harrowing crimes that she and so many others endured. Dr. Denis Mukwege, he said, has been a strong voice calling for the world’s attention to the shocking crimes committed against women in wartime. As a skilled, sensitive surgeon, he has not only repaired shattered bodies but restored dignity and hope. The Secretary‑General added that this award is part of a growing movement to recognize the violence and injustice disproportionately faced by half of our population. He said we must honour these new Nobel laureates by standing up for victims of sexual abuse and violence everywhere. His full remarks are online.
And one week after the earthquake and tsunami that hit Central Sulawesi in Indonesia, the Humanitarian Country Team has launched a $50 million Response Plan. This plan [was] developed in consultation with the Indonesian Government and outlines how aid workers will provide targeted technical assistance in support of the Government‑led response to help 191,000 people over the next three months. More than 1,500 people are believed to have died, with 2,500 more seriously injured, after the earthquake that struck Palu on 28 September. The UN Resident Coordinator in Indonesia, Anita Nirody, said that Palu and neighbouring Donggala have been cut off due to landslides and infrastructure damage, creating logistical and access challenges. She said the new Response Plan will provide, not only immediate relief items, but also the logistical support needed to provide aid to those in need.
And you will have seen the, we issued a statement yesterday afternoon on Cameroon, in which the Secretary‑General encourages all Cameroonians to exercise their democratic right and called for a peaceful, credible and inclusive process as the country prepares for presidential elections on 7 October. The Secretary‑General called on all stakeholders to exercise restraint before, during and after the elections. He also urges the candidates to address any complaints related to the electoral process through established legal and constitutional channels. The Secretary‑General condemned all threats of violence or acts of intimidation by any group and reiterates that all grievances should be addressed through an inclusive dialogue. The United Nations stands ready to provide the support in this regard.
**Central African Republic
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) has received new allegations of sexual abuse of at least three minors by Mauritanian peacekeepers in the southern part of the Central African Republic. As soon as the first allegations were reported on 24 September, a multidisciplinary team was sent to the scene to establish the needs of the alleged victims, identify the perpetrators and collect and preserve relevant evidence. A team from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the Conduct and Discipline Section and the Victims' Rights Advocate also visited the site last week to reinforce the preliminary investigations. The alleged victims have received medical and psychosocial support from two partners within the UN System.
Given the seriousness of the allegations and the information gathered by the preliminary fact‑finding team, the United Nations took immediate and appropriate measures, including the confinement of one suspect who has been identified. The concerned troop‑contributing country has been informed of these allegations by the United Nations. It was requested to appoint a National Investigation Officer within five working days and for the investigation to be completed within the reduced 90‑day timeframe. More information in a press release issued by the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that millions of hungry and destitute Yemenis are being challenged by the rapid and uncontrolled devaluation of the Yemeni rial. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator, said that if the rial continues its downward spiral, 3.5 to 4 million more Yemenis will fall into pre‑famine conditions. In the past month, the cost of a minimum family food basket has increased by 11 per cent, diesel [has] risen by 45 per cent and cooking oil skyrocketed as much as 200 per cent in worst‑hit areas. The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) and partners are providing assistance to nearly 8 million people who are desperately hungry each month.
The African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui; the Under‑Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean‑Pierre Lacroix; and the co‑chair of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, known as AU FemWise, Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe; and the Executive Director of UN‑Women will jointly visit South Sudan from 7 to 9 October. The delegation is expected to meet with the President, the First Vice President and other high‑level Government officials of South Sudan’s Transitional Government of National Unity. The visit will focus on the significance of ensuring women’s meaningful participation and leadership in the implementation of the recently signed peace agreement. The delegation will also meet with women leaders and organizations in Juba and Bentiu, including representatives of Protection [of] Civilian sites. After South Sudan, they will go to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, where they will brief the African Union Peace and Security Council on 10 October. And they will jointly brief the Security Council later this month.
And the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today said that it is greatly concerned for the safety and security of seven nationals of Myanmar, who were returned from India to Myanmar yesterday. On learning of their detention and planned return and based on credible reports that the seven men are Rohingyas, UNHCR requested access to this group to assess their needs for international refugee protection. UNHCR regrets that they did not receive a response to this request and was unable to secure a lawyer from state legal services in India. The agency continues to seek clarification from the authorities on why these individuals were returned to Myanmar and is concerned they did not have access to legal counsel and were not given the chance to access asylum processing or have their claims assessed in India.
And the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today condemned the execution in Iran this week of Zeinab Sekaanvand Lokran, a juvenile offender. She was convicted of murdering her husband in 2012 when she was only 17 years old, but her claims that she was coerced into confessing to the killing and that she had been a victim of domestic violence were reportedly not adequately examined during her trial. More information on the Office of the High Commissioner’s website.
Today is World Teachers’ Day and the theme is “The right to education means the right to a qualified teacher”. In a joint statement, the heads of UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and the International Labour Organization (ILO) stressed the importance of investing in a strong teaching workforce, including in conflict countries. “As we celebrate teachers’ important contributions to improving the lives of children and youth around the world, we reaffirm our commitment to increasing the global supply of qualified teachers,” they said, and urged all Governments [and] the international community to join them in this endeavour, so that all children and young people, no matter what their circumstances, can secure their right to quality education and a better future. Please be patient.
**Press Conference Monday
And on Monday at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing here on the launch of the World Economic and Social Survey 2018. This year’s theme is “Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development.” Speakers will include Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Hamid Rashid, the Chief of the Development Research Branch in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. After you are done with me, we will welcome Monica [Grayley], the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly. Oh, you had a question?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I wanted to follow up with you on the last paragraph in the Secretary‑General's statement on the Nobel Peace Prize winners which you just read out, which was to do with: "The award is part of a growing movement to recognise the violence and injustice disproportionately faced by half our population. Let us honour these new Nobel Laureates by standing up for victims of sexual violence everywhere." Would the Secretary‑General apply this statement to the current debate happening in the United States related to the nomination of a Supreme Court justice?
Spokesman: This was not focused on one… one event. I think that last paragraph speaks for itself and is an issue that the Secretary‑General has been focusing on very much since he first came into office. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thanks, Steph. In the CAR [Central African Republic], do you have the ages of the victims?
Spokesman: They're minors. I don't have any more…
Question: What's a minor?
Spokesman: A minor is somebody under the age of 18.
Question: But, you don't have the ages?
Spokesman: They're minors. Okay. Yep.
Question: Okay, thank you. Good afternoon. I just wanted to ask: Are you going to have some conference with Nadia Murad, maybe next week or sometime soon?
Spokesman: I would check with our colleagues in the Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Simone [Monasebian], who's the head of office here, she should be able to tell you. She's a goodwill ambassador for them. Masood?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Stéphane, on this situation in Gaza. Yesterday, one person… one young boy, age 15, was killed and 24 were injured by the Israeli, what do you call it, forces firing these grenades at them. Do you have anything to say about that? And then also, has the Secretary‑General been able to prevail upon the Israeli authorities to release some sort of funds… I mean, the… the… crossing, to be…
Spokesman: I'll have to get you an update on the situation on the crossings. I don't have anything with me. Obviously, for… you know, it is important that every loss of life be fully investigated.
Question: Because… another thing I wanted to ask you. While the Secretary‑General was in India and you were there with him, at that point in time, there was some Rohingya refugees that were being deported at that time from Indian part of West Bengal and so forth. Do you have anything about that?
Spokesman: I just read an update for you on UNHCR expressing their deep concern about the repatriation of the seven, and of course the Secretary‑General stands behind UNHCR as the High Commissioner for Refugees is the voice of authority on issues having to do with refugees and refugee protection. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thank you. Since the Secretary‑General mentioned the investigation into possible Da’esh war crimes that was instigated in part due to Nadia Murad's advocacy. Any brief update on where that stands or when there might be an update?
Spokesman: I can check… I know they've begun their work. I think there is a reporting calendar and I'll check for you what that calendar is. Monica, your podium. Enjoy, and welcome.