The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I know I’ve been asked quite a few times in the last hour or so, so I will just pre-empt the questions and give you some information about our reaction to the announced departure of Nikki Haley. And I can tell you that the Secretary-General wishes to express his deep appreciation for the excellent cooperation and support that Ambassador Haley has always demonstrated. They had a very productive and strong working relationship during her tenure as United States Permanent Representative. They worked hard to promote constructive ties between the United Nations and the United States, showing the value of the United Nations. The Secretary-General looks forward to continuing to work with Ambassador Haley until the end of her tenure, and of course, with her replacement.
The Secretary-General, as you know, is on his way to Indonesia, where, on Friday, he will visit Palu, in central Sulawesi, which was recently devastated by an earthquake, tsunami and landslides, and before that, he will be attending the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank meetings. Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, according to the Indonesian Government, more than 2,000 people have died and more than 10,000 have been seriously injured, with hundreds still missing. As we have said, the humanitarian response is being led by the Government with support of the international community.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and a team of social workers from the Ministry of Social Affairs are identifying separated and unaccompanied children, with reports indicating a high number of separated children. As of yesterday, a total of 61 unaccompanied and separated children were registered and recorded, three of whom have now been reunited with their families. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is distributing hygiene kits to women, maternity kits, post-delivery kits and newborn kits. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also providing 28,000 gallons of bottled water and 1,700 emergency shelters. The World Food Programme (WFP) is providing logistical assistance, carrying out assessments of the airport, port and roads. WFP has established a mobile storage unit to store aid items coming into Palu, with six more to be set up in the next week.
And turning to South Sudan, our colleagues at the United Nations World Food Programme report that, for the first time since civil war broke out in South Sudan almost five years ago, they have managed to send boats carrying food assistance up the Sobat River, a major tributary of the White Nile in the Greater Upper Nile region. The river convoy transported some 752 metric tons of food, including sorghum, pulses, vegetable oil and a nutritious porridge blend — enough to sustain 40,000 people for one month. WFP plans to deliver more than 6,000 metric tons of food for some 130,000 people in seven hard-to-reach locations over the next year. Reaching these areas by river necessitated negotiating access and gaining security guarantees to allow safe passage for vessels; previously, these communities had to be supplied by airdrops, costing on average six times as much as river transport.
Still on South Sudan, we’ve been telling you about the trip taken by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, and the co-chair of the Network of African Women in Conflict Prevention and Mediation, Dr. Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, and the Executive Director of UN‑Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. And they’re wrapping up a joint visit to the country, and held a press conference in Juba, where they expressed their solidarity with the South Sudanese people and conveyed a message of readiness to help in the implementation of the revitalized Peace Agreement. A full transcript will be made available shortly.
**Central African Republic
And in the neighbouring Central African Republic, our colleagues at the Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are working with the Government of the Central African Republic and signed a Memorandum of Understanding that aims to curb new HIV infections within the military, reduce sexual violence by security and defence forces and increase their use of HIV support services. The Memorandum of Understanding comes at a critical time: at 7.8 per cent, the HIV prevalence among uniformed personnel in the Central African Republic is nearly double the overall national prevalence of 4 per cent. The Memorandum of Understanding places special emphasis on training for defence forces reducing gender-based violence and preventing HIV and AIDS, including by improving reporting mechanisms for sexual violence, providing support for survivors and ensuring access to HIV prevention tools.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
And WFP said today that, despite some improvements this year, chronic food insecurity and malnutrition are widespread in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Some 40 per cent of the population, or more than 10 million people, are undernourished and need humanitarian assistance. One in five children is stunted due to chronic malnutrition in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. WFP says it urgently required sustained funding to help vulnerable people in the country. The UN food agency operation for this year is only 37 per cent funded for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and needs $15 million over the next five months to avoid more cuts to food aid.
And a new report released today by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says that funding for the world’s forcibly displaced and stateless people is becoming increasingly squeezed, with barely more than half of the funding needs being met; this is worsening hardship and risks for displaces populations. UNHCR said it expects to meet just 55 per cent of the $8.2 billion in funding needed for this year. This compares to [56.6] per cent in 2017 and 58 per cent in 2016. In short, donor funding is falling increasingly behind while the number of forcibly displaced people has grown, according to UNHCR. The full report is available online.
I just wanted to flag, you saw that we issued the Secretary-General’s statement yesterday afternoon on the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on climate change. The Secretary-General said the report is an ear-splitting wake-up call to the world, which confirms that climate change is running faster than we are — and we are running out of time. More information online.
And I was asked earlier today about fuel movements to Gaza, and I can tell you that two trucks went in today, with about 35,000 litres each. Tomorrow, seven more are expected. Over the month, the number of trucks per day is expected to rise to 15. In addition to other long-term efforts underway to increase the energy supply, additional fuel for the Gaza Power Plant remains the fastest and most immediate way to increase electricity to help alleviate the humanitarian and related public health needs on the ground. The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation to the Government of Qatar for its $60 million contribution, which made the delivery possible and will allow continuation for the coming months.
While we welcome the improvement in the electricity supply, the return of the Palestinian Authority will substantially better the humanitarian situation of Gaza’s population. Gaza remains an integral part of the two-State solution based on relevant UN resolutions. We hope that relieving the humanitarian pressure in Gaza will reduce tensions and the threat of escalation. Furthermore, we call on the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to seriously engage with Egypt on reconciliation and move forward with implementing the 12 October 2017 Cairo Agreement. Two trucks went in today, with about 35,000 litres of fuel each.
And today is World Post Day — I’m a big letter writer, it’s a very important day. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General said the postal sector is one of the world’s largest logistical networks, and a vital centre for communities everywhere. This year’s observance highlights the sector’s value not just for delivering the mail, but for delivering good as postal systems offer support during natural disasters, financial services to hundreds of millions of people, and essential information in times of crises.
**Noon Briefing Guest
And, after we are done here, and you’re done with me, I will be joined by Stefan Schweinfest, the Director of Statistics of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He will be here to talk to you about the UN World Data Forum. Khalas. Madame?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, regarding the resignation of Nikki Haley, were you surprised by the news? And how do you see her legacy in the last two years given the fact that she's leaving the office with one where the UN is $1.5 billion less in their budget? There is no… almost no money for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East]. The US is out of the Paris Agreement, Human Rights Council, et cetera. Thank you.
Spokesman: Well, I will leave the deep analysis to you and to your colleagues. As far as I'm aware, the Secretary‑General was not… no one here was forewarned of the announcement; so, we learned it… most of us here learned it with… like you in the press. I think, you know, in terms… as I said, the legacy will be for others to analyse and to report on. The Secretary‑General had a truly very good working relationship with her. They worked to get through some of the toughest moments, I think, between the US and the UN. The Secretary‑General has his positions on climate change, on the need to support UNRWA, on the issue of refugees. Those positions are unchanged. Ambassador Haley represented her country's position, but I think they had a very… they had a good working relationship. Sir, and then we'll come…
Question: So, can you please give us… like, one example you… you mentioned some tough, maybe, topics they… they worked on or they… they succeeded in addressing some tough positions. And in the same time, can you give us one or two examples of the… of the areas where there was a common understanding and cooperation between the SG and Ambassador Haley?
Spokesman: I think the United States, as you know, is the largest donor on the scale of assessment of the United Nations. It's a… the relationship between the United States and the United Nations, between the Secretary‑General and a Permanent Representative of the United States, is a very critical relationship. The Secretary‑General has to have very good relationships with 193 Member States. Obviously, the one being in New York and the one that everybody seems to focus on is on that one. I think, throughout her tenure, the United States remained engaged with the United Nations. Policy differences are open and for all to see. But, that doesn't mean there isn't a need for a strong and engaged dialogue, and there was one. Evelyn, and then we'll go to the back.
Question: Yes. Indonesia, apparently, has asked all foreign aid NGOs [non-governmental organizations], at least the smaller ones, to leave, while the UN was not asked to leave. I wonder if that has an impact on collaboration between NGOs and the United Nations agencies?
Spokesman: I haven't seen that particular report. The UN is there to support the work of the national government, obviously help coordinate the international relief effort in whatever way we can. That involves, obviously, working with our NGO partners, but I had not seen that particular report, but I will take a look at it.
Question: While all attention is given to Nikki Haley's resignation, the Saudi‑led Coalition today intensified its starvation techniques in Yemen and bans importation of raw materials that are used by locally factories. So, basically, the… the dairy and food industry is threatened in Yemen. What is the UN position from that?
Spokesman: The UN's position is very clear, is that we need to see a halt to the fighting in Yemen. We need to see a situation where all the parties come together around the table for a political agreement that will allow for the end of the suffering of the Yemeni people, will allow for humanitarian aid to go in unfettered, for the Yemeni economy to rebuild. And we are continuing, through the effort of Martin Griffiths, to try to reach that goal. Mr. Klein and then Edie.
Question: Thank you. Actually, I have two questions. First question is, I think, several months ago, the Secretariat had announced that the UN was facing a fairly dire financial crisis, at least in terms of cash flow. I'd like to know to what extent that may have been alleviated since that time and whether you have any indication or the UN Secretariat has any indication when the US will actually pay its annual dues. Usually, it comes after the…?
Spokesman: Yeah, it usually it comes… you know, it's a very valid question, and it reminds me that I had a thought I think about 4 a.m. yesterday to check up on that situation and to be able to answer you, so I will check up on it, and I will get back to you. Okay?
Question: Okay. All right. Should I call you tomorrow morning at 4 a.m.?
Spokesman: You can ask… I should be… yeah, exactly. That would be good and make me write it down. Edie?
Correspondent: Wait. I had a second question.
Spokesman: Oh, you have a second question. Sorry.
Question: Actually, this… this involves Mr. Lee. He… he said… or he has claimed that he was not admitted to the UN premises during the General Assembly week despite an invitation, which he accepted, to a forum sponsored by the Committee to Protect Journalists. So, I'd like to know whether the ban on Mr. Lee's… or removal of his accreditation as a UN correspondent now is extending to his physical premise… presence on UN premises in any capacity?
Spokesman: At this point, Mr. Lee is not allowed into the building. Edie?
Question: Thank you, Steph. In light of the findings in the UN climate report that came out yesterday and in light of the Secretary‑General's very strong message to world leaders warning of runaway climate change if nothing is done in the next two years, what is the Secretary‑General going to be doing to follow up on the report?
Spokesman: Well, this is an issue he raises with world leaders when he sees them. This is an issue that also the Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, has been very much leading on. But, it goes beyond our interaction with world leaders. It is… it will be also part of our sustained and continued interaction with civil society and especially with the private sector, which has a critical role to play in terms of energy policy, insurance policies, investment policies. Governments alone can't do it. The private sector needs to be involved and is very much involved. What the Secretary‑General wants from Governments is an expression of the political will, and it's part of the reasons that he will be bringing leaders together in New York on this very issue in September 2019, I think as he announced a few weeks ago himself.
Question: Thank you, Steph. I… there's a growing concern right now that tensions could escalate in Venezuela again after it was reported the death of a politician from the opposition. So, the… in the past, the Secretary‑General has called all parties in Venezuela to find common ground for dialogue. And right now, tensions could escalate there especially after the Government said that the death of this man was a suicide, and opposition leaders said that it's not the case, that, in fact, this is an act by the Venezuelan leadership. So, I wonder if there is any reaction by the Secretary‑General on this case that could raise tensions again in Venezuela…?
Spokesman: On this particular case, I need to get some guidance on it. I don't have anything with me at this point. Mr. Abbadi and then Rami.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Back to the resignation of Ambassador Haley, you indicated that the Secretary‑General learnt it through the press. He did not receive…?
Spokesman: Mr.… sorry. Go ahead, then Mr.… I didn't hear the first part of your question.
Correspondent: That the Secretary‑General learned about the resignation of Ambassador Haley through the press.
Spokesman: Well, I'm not sure he, in fact, learned about it through the press because he's on a plane, and I think he's scheduled to land… he's flying through Hong Kong. So, I'm not even sure he's actually landed, and I'm not convinced there's Wi-Fi on the plane. But, he will learn about it sooner or later.
Question: But, he did not receive a written communication?
Spokesman: No, we have not… we checked with our protocol colleagues. And, as of 45 minutes ago, we had no official…
Question: And how does that work regarding protocol precedent?
Spokesman: Well, first of all, my understanding, from watching the news coverage this morning, is that Ambassador Haley will be with us through the end of the year. So, there's obviously time for them to officially inform us of a change in the permanent representation of the United States. Rami?
Question: Thanks, Steph. Some UN human rights experts have called for an international and impartial investigation into the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. Does the SG agree that there should be an international probe into the matter?
Spokesman: You know, the High Commissioner for Human Rights office called for the Saudi authorities, for the Turkish authorities to cooperate to conduct a prompt, impartial and transparent investigation. And the Secretary‑General has no… you know, would agree with that statement from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mr. Klein?
Question: Yes. Yesterday, it was announced that Dr. [William] Nordhaus had received or was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics along with another economist. Dr. Nordhaus' work was specifically looking at the economics of climate change. He was one of the early advocates of a carbon tax. Is any consideration being given to the possibility of… of enlisting the aid of Dr. Nordhaus given his prominence now in the field of climate change to work with the UN like Jeffrey Sachs in… in trying to advocate policy changes to combat climate change?
Spokesman: I'm sure we will be in touch with him. I'm not aware of any formal outreach that has been done. Great. Thank you. I will ask you to stay and welcome Mr. Stefan Schweinfest up here. Thank you.