Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

8 October 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Indonesia

All right.  I will start off with a trip announcement.  The Secretary-General is traveling to Bali, in Indonesia, to attend the Leaders’ Gathering of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group.

While in Bali, he will meet with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, as well as other high-level officials attending the gatherings.

The Secretary-General will participate in the IMF and World Bank sessions on topics including sustainable development, climate change and famine.

On Friday, 12 October, together with the Vice President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla, the Secretary-General will visit Palu on Sulawesi Island, which, as you know, was struck by an earthquake and a tsunami at the end of last month.

And the Secretary-General who is leaving this evening, will be back in New York on Sunday.

Also on Indonesia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, according to the Indonesian Government, more than 1,900 people have been killed, more than 10,000 injured and more than 800 are still missing following the earthquake and tsunami.

More than 62,000 people have been displaced, with many people having lost absolutely everything.

Aid is being delivered by air through the airport at Palu, and many roads in the area are now functional with improved access to outlying areas.

The Government is leading the humanitarian response with support from national NGOs [non-governmental organizations].  As requested by the Government, international aid workers are providing technical support and relief items.

The United Nations, NGOs and the Red Cross are on the ground and are distributing newborn baby kits, maternity kits, educational supplies and other items.  They are also helping children who have been separated from their families.

**Climate Change

And you will have seen that earlier today in Incheon, in the Republic of Korea, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its new report which confirms the need to limit global warming to well below 2ºC and pursuing efforts towards limiting it below 1.5ºC.

The report clearly states that the world has already warmed by 1ºC due to human activity and as a result, climate change is already affecting people, ecosystems and livelihoods around the world.

The Secretary-General welcomed the report, and in a tweet said that it is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5ºC, but it will require urgent, unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas.  There is no time to waste, he added.

And we do expect a longer statement and reaction from the Secretary-General on this a bit later.

**Haiti

You will have seen over the weekend on Sunday, the Secretary-General extended his condolences to the Government of Haiti and the families of the victims of the earthquake that struck north of Port-de-Paix.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are supporting national, regional and local authorities in distributing aid that had been pre-positioned including shelter, water and sanitation stocks.

The UN and its partners are also supporting the government in assessing the needs of the population impacted by the quake.

**Great Lakes

Today, the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region held its ninth high‑level meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.  Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes, said the historic Agreement signed by the Presidents of the region in Addis Ababa in 2013 remains central to peace and stability.

Mr. Djinnit said the Summit presented an opportunity for a frank exchange on neutralizing remaining negative forces and advancing the African Union’s objective of “silencing the guns by 2020”.  He encouraged the leaders to recommit to political inclusion and participation, to work together for urgent and durable solutions to address the suffering of those forcibly displaced from their homes, and to intensify the support and to end impunity and human rights violations.  More information online.

**Nigeria/Chad

And, wrapping up a joint three-day mission to Nigeria and Chad, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and the UN Development Programme Administrator, Achim Steiner, made a strong call for support to consolidate humanitarian and development action.

In Nigeria, they visited projects in Borno State, where 7.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

In Chad, they visited a nutrition centre in N’Djamena, where more than 16,000 malnourished children are admitted each year.

The visit follows an international donor conference in Berlin earlier in September where donors pledged US $2.5 billion for humanitarian, stabilization and recovery projects in the Lake Chad region, which as you know comprises parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.  More than 10 million people across the region require humanitarian assistance.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And after I’m done here you will hear from Monica [Grayley] on behalf of the President of the General Assembly; and tomorrow we will have a guest at noon and that’s Stefan Schweinfest, the Director of the Statistics for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), he will brief on the upcoming UN World Data Forum ‑ we like data ‑ that takes place in Dubai, from 22 to 24 October.

**Questions and Answers

Ms. Lederer?

Question:  Thank you, Stéph.  One follow-up on the climate report.  The Secretary General said in his speech to world leaders that he feared runaway climate change if nothing was done in the next two years.  Does this report, in his view, support that finding?

Spokesman:  It doesn’t go against it.  I think the report is a very clear wake up call to the international community as a whole.

Question:  And a second question: Does the Secretary General have any comment on the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul after he visited their consulate?

Spokesman:  I mean, I think we’re very concerned about a number of recent cases and reports of violence against journalists, including the murder of Victoria Marinova in Bulgaria, the dis… reported disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi.  Both publicly and privately, the Secretary General has often raised this issue with Member States.  And I think it’s also important to note there’s been a very worrying increase of violence, sexual and otherwise, that’s particularly targeting women journalists.  The Secretary General’s position is clear:  a free press is essential for peace, justice and human rights for all.  He reiterates his call on all Governments to strengthen press freedom, including ensuring that there is justice and accountability for crimes committed against journalists.  Mr. Klein?

Question:  Can I follow up?  A question, follow-up.  Do you mind?

Spokesman:  Okay.  Mr. Klein yields.  Okay.  Go ahead, go ahead.  No, no, go ahead.

Question:  Do we expect a strong statement once the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi is confirmed that he’s dead?  Do we expect… this is a generic statement, what you have just read.

Spokesman:  I don’t think it’s… well I mean, you can interpret it the way you want.  What we have seen recently, there was a case in Somalia last week where a journalist working for Voice for Peace was stabbed outside of his place of work.  We’re following the issue of Mr. Khashoggi.  There is an investigation going on.  We have…

Question:  But this is different.  This is completely different.

Spokesman:  No, I…

Question:  Yeah.  Please.  Sorry.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  We’re obviously following that case closely.  We have to wait until there is an end of an investigation, and then we’ll figure out… we’ll, obviously, say something once facts are established.  I think the grisly murder and rape of Victoria Marinova is also being investigated.  We look forward to the conclusions of that.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Mr. Klein?

Question:  Yes.  Two questions.  First of all, does the Secretary General have any comment on reports that the Brazilian Government is going to be cutting back substantially in funding and participating in a number of international bodies affiliated with the UN?  And, secondly, in relation to Haiti, has there been… and maybe I missed this, and if I did, I apologize, but has there been any communication from the Haitian Government to any UN agencies specifically requesting UN assistance again against the backdrop of what happened with the whole cholera episode?

Spokesman:  No, they are…  As I mentioned, our colleagues on the ground are working closely with the Haitian authorities.  The Haitian authorities are obviously in the lead in the response.  WFP, World Health Organization, and others are working closely with them to distribute aid that’s been pre-positioned and, obviously, to help the Haitian Government assess what the needs of the population is.

Question:  But, on that question, there’s no… there’s no plan currently to either maintain or reintroduce any peacekeeping forces given what happened for the cholera… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  No.  Not at all.  As you know, a peacekeeping decision is the decision of the Security Council.  Here we’re looking at a humanitarian response to a humanitarian disaster.

Question:  Wait, and I… my other question was on Brazil.

Spokesman:  On Brazil, we… you know, I think I’ve heard of these reports.  I think, obviously, we’re not going to comment on things that have yet to happen.  Evelyn and then we’ll go to Stefano.

Question:  More on Khashoggi.  Is… has the UN spoken privately to Saudi Arabia on this? I mean, you’re waiting for an investigation…

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any particular conversations that have been had.

Question:  Okay.  And, on Cameroon, can you update us what seems to be the problem with the voting machines and what’s the UN involvement?

Spokesman:  Yes. On Cameroon, I can give you an update as to the UN role.  First of all, we are not and were not mandated to observe the ongoing electoral process.  We’re not in a position to assess the conduct of the elections.  The UN in Cameroon played a technical advisory role in the electoral process, supporting Cameroon’s electoral management body in the areas of capacity building, strategic communication, civic and other voter education.  The UN has advocated for and promoted the participation of women and youth in the election, internally displaced people and people with disabilities.  It’s worked with the National Communication Council, the media and political parties to prevent hate speech and promote the peaceful coverage of the elections.  But I will add that we are very much concerned about the reports of displacement, threats and violence that may have impacted the participation in some parts of the North West and South West regions.  We once again condemn all forms of incitement or acts of violence and intimidation by any group and reiterate the Secretary General’s call for an inclusive dialogue process to address grievances and to prevent further escalation of violence.  And we also encourage the Government of Cameroon to grant unfettered access to human rights and humanitarian actors to all affected… all the areas that have been affected by violence.  Yeah?  Sorry, then I’ll go… 

Question:  It’s about the ICJ’s [International Court of Justice] decision with regard to US sanctions against Iran.  SG [has] always been supportive of ICJ’s decisions.  Has he spoke to the Americans about this decision and about the implementation of the ICJ’s decision? [inaudible]

Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of any conversation.  The International Court of Justice is one of the principal organs of this organization.  The Secretary-General believes firmly in defence of the work of the International Court.  It is not for him to support particular decisions.  Right?  This is a dispute between two Member States.  We are supportive of the process that the International Court of Justice represents.  As the Secretary-General is there to defend the Charter, the ICJ is a principle part of that Charter.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes.  One is a follow-up, and one is a question.  Follow-up on [the] disappearance of the Saudi journalist, Khashoggi, well, like one… my colleagues say, this is a very different case, because he was inside a diplomatic mission, from what I understand, in… in the Tur… in Turkey, the Saudi consulate.  So, does this make it like kind a different situation?  And what happened to the idea of appointing a Special Envoy for the protection of journalists?  Is this still on… [inaudible]

Spokesman:  On your second part, you know, the appointments… the creation of a Special Envoy post would require… obviously, have to go through General Assembly and so forth.  That’s a legislative process.  The Secretary General is paying very close attention to the issue of protection of journalists.  He has a senior official in his office who is following this directly, and we are in, I would say, regular and almost constant contact with the main organizations that are focused on the protection and the safety of journalists.  And the Secretary General’s been an advocate for journalists, both publicly ‑ I mean he’s mentioned a number of cases, most notably the Reuters journalists at Security Council meetings ‑ and has also done so privately, because sometimes these issues are best dealt privately.  We are following the case… all the cases that we’ve seen right now in the press.  We have no way of knowing anything more that’s been reported, and, obviously, as the facts become clearer, we may have other things to say.

Correspondent:  My question… I have a question.

Spokesman:  That wasn’t a question?

Question:  No.

Spokesman:  Oh, okay.

Question:  That was the follow-up question.

Spokesman:  Okay, sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry.

Question:  The question is:  Today is Columbus Day in this country, and in New York there is a big march.  Usually, this event brings a lot of controversy in this city and the United States, because it’s a moment where Italian-Americans are proud of the day, but there is a lot of people that feel… especially people that want to remember the history of what happened to Native American, to indigenous people and so on.  We notice that President [Donald] Trump…

Spokesman:  [In Italian] Lo domanda, per favore?

Question:  [In Italian] Lo domanda?  Well, I have… if I don’t do the background… 

Spokesman:  We know the background.

Question:  You know the background?  So, President Trump’s message this year didn’t mention at all the suffering of indigenous people, while President [Barack] Obama and other presidents before, they did.  So, what message the Secretary General for today for Columbus Day would give?

Spokesman:  Look, we are not in the business of comment… commenting on statements that the President has made.  What I will say is that there is a debate going on in this country.  For the Secretary-General, I think his position on the rights of indigenous people has been clearly stated and remains unchanged.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Stéphane, just… just a very simple question I want to ask you…

Spokesman:  No such thing.

Question:  Do you have an update on the Palestinian children in Israeli custody?

Spokesman:  No, sir, nothing than what we’ve last reported, but you could check with our human rights colleagues.  Sorry.  We’re still on the first round. Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  You did offer comments on India’s move to deport Rohingya refugees, but now that it is actually taking place, do you have any statement?

Spokesman:  No, I think our comment remains the same, is that the Secretary‑General backs what has been said by UNHCR; the High Commissioner for Refugees is the voice of the UN when it comes to refugee issues and protection issues, and I think he has spoken out, and we back his statement.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Yeah.  I’m going to stay with journalists and a Palestinian journalist called Amar Abu Arafat was called by the Palestinian Preventive Security to the city of Hebron to be questioned on Saturday, and he didn’t come out of… and there are a lot of now statement calling for his release.  Are you aware of that?  Is Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov aware of his…

Spokesman:  I personally had not seen the news reports about this case, but I will follow up and ask.

Question:  Yeah.  The second question, there is an activity now in ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) about Islam and tolerance, bringing prominent leaders from many parts of the world, including a video conference by Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.  It has not been announced and… before or now.  What criteria for these important activities to be announced by the Spokesman?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You know, we focus on the activities of the Secretary General. I’m the Spokesman for the Secretary General, not for ECOSOC, not for the Security Council; for the General Assembly has a very eloquent spokeswoman who will be here to answer your questions.  If the ECOSOC presidency flags an event to us, then we will flag it.  On that note, Monica, the podium is yours.

For information media. Not an official record.