25 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General spoke to the Security Council members today at the open meeting on women, peace and security, and he noted the many contributions women have made in peace efforts from Guinea-Bissau to Colombia to Mali and Syria.  He said he can personally attest to the critical importance of the work done by the women peacemakers that he has met around the world, from Mali to Bangladesh.

But despite progress in some areas, the Secretary-General said, the facts on the ground show that we still have far to go.  The participation of women in formal peace processes remains extremely limited.  Between 1990 and 2017, he noted, women constituted just 2 per cent of mediators, 8 per cent of negotiators and 5 per cent of witnesses and signatories in all major peace processes.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General said, conflict continues to have a devastating effect on women and girls.  The United Nations documented more than 800 cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2017 — a 56 percent increase since 2016.

The Secretary-General urged Member States to invest in gender equality and women’s empowerment not only as ends in themselves, but as critical means of achieving our overarching aim of preventing and ending conflict and building a secure, peaceful and prosperous world for all.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Executive Director of UN Women, said the latest report on women, peace and security is a loud alarm bell which demonstrates how women are being excluded from peace processes.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ján Kubiš, today welcomed the formal confirmation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and the partial formation of the new Council of Ministers.

However, Mr. Kubiš expressed his disappointment at the lack of any women among the ministers announced so far, noting that ignoring the potential of women is to miss important opportunities for Iraq.

He reiterated that the new Government should work hard to meet the aspirations and expectations of the Iraqi people in consolidating security and law and order, in delivering on public services, in rejuvenating the country’s economy to create job opportunities for the increasingly young population, and in providing for the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and reconstruction.  You can read more about this online.

Also on Iraq, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that it has set up a new emergency health-care unit and ambulance call centre in the western part of Anbar as part of its efforts to help people returning home.

The initiative follows a request from health authorities in Anbar to restore and equip hospitals affected by the three‑year crisis in Iraq.  In 2017, more than half of Anbar’s health infrastructure was either looted or destroyed.

WHO says that this marks a significant step towards the transition from emergency response to early recovery, reconstruction, and resilience-building to allow people to receive regular health care.


The Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, Lise Grande, has expressed her condolences to the families of civilians killed in recent attacks in Hodeidah.

Yesterday, at least 21 civilians were killed and 10 injured when strikes hit a vegetable packaging facility in Al-Masoudi in the Bayt Al-Faqih District.  In a separate incident on the same day, three more people were killed and six injured when strikes hit three vehicles in the Al Hali District in Hodeidah Governorate.

“Civilians are paying a shocking price because of this conflict,” said Ms. Grande.  “This is the third time this month that fighting has caused mass casualties in Hodeidah.”

Humanitarian partners report that more than 170 people have been killed, at least 1,700 have been wounded, and more than 570,000 people have been forced to flee their homes across Hodeidah Governorate since fighting escalated in June.


Our humanitarian colleagues report that nearly 2.4 million women, children and men across Syria will struggle to get adequate warmth this winter and require targeted support.  This includes tens of thousands of newly displaced people, including those in displacement sites and open areas; those who have been displaced multiple times and for long periods and now live in substandard shelters; as well as returnees and host communities.

As the cold weather season approaches, sleeping bags, winter clothes, plastic sheeting, high thermal blankets, heaters and stoves are urgently required.

Funding has been secured to assist approximately 1.9 million of the 2.4 million people in need of winterization support.  An additional $33 million is urgently required to assist the approximately 500,000 additional people.

Meanwhile, the United Nations remains deeply concerned over the safety and protection of civilians following recent reports of air strikes in Deir-ez-Zour Governorate.  On Tuesday, air strikes on the city of Hajin reportedly destroyed a mosque, with unconfirmed reports of civilians being killed or injured.

The United Nations condemns attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure and calls for their protection in line with International Humanitarian Law.


We just issued a joint communiqué by the United Nations, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the situation in Guinea-Bissau.

In it, the three organizations welcome the progress made in the stabilization of the country.  They also called for renewed efforts to ensure the holding of legislative elections on 18 November — in a timely fashion and under the conditions required for a fair, transparent and credible vote.  The interests of Guinea‑Bissau must prevail over all other considerations.

The three organizations also call on African countries as well as the entire international community to mobilize the resources and logistical means needed for the smooth functioning of the electoral process.  The full communiqué is online.


In Astana, Kazakhstan, Member States today adopted the Declaration of Astana, in which they commit to strengthen their primary healthcare systems as a step towards achieving universal health coverage.

The Declaration was adopted during the Global Conference on Primary Health Care, which is co-hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and the Government of Kazakhstan.

UNICEF and WHO will help governments and civil society to act on the Declaration and review its implementation.  More information can be found online.

**Photo Exhibit

You are all invited to the opening this evening at 6 p.m. of a UN photo exhibition in the Visitors’ Lobby.

Entitled “People on the Move”, the more than 50 stunning images which will be on display have been selected from thousands of archived UN photos, portraying refugees, migrants and internally displaced people over seven decades, going all the way back to the end of World War II.

The exhibit has been organized by the Department of Public Information (DPI), as part of this year’s United Nations Day observance.

**Press Briefings

After I am done, you will hear from Monica Grayley, the spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

At 1:15 p.m., there will be a press briefing by Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

And at 1:45 p.m., there will be a briefing by Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

**Questions and Answers

That’s it for me.  Are there any questions before we go to Monica?  If not…  yes.  Yes, Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  I’m sure you’re aware of several complaints in Afghanistan about election rigging and malpractices, including by figures like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.  Any comments on that?

Spokesman:  Yes.  We’ve made clear the need for all grievances about the electoral process, all complaints about the electoral process, to be channelled through the electoral system and the Independent Electoral Commission.  And, so, we trust that all the parties will go through the existing procedures and do that.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Farhan.  On Bangladesh, ahead of next election, ruling Government of Bangladesh trying to control opposition by any means as they posed a new dark law in the name of Digital Act.  As you know, main opposition leader, Begum [Khaleda] Zia, internationally renowned photojournalist Shahidul Alam still is in jail with thousands of opposition prisoners.  Last week, they arrested an English daily newspaper publisher, Barrister Mainul Hosein.  He was adviser to the last known party government.  Now he’s in torture cell.  Does Secretary-General aware of this current situation of Bangladesh?  And what is the UN position on Bangladesh right now?

Spokesman:  Well, regarding the case of this particular editor, of course, we would hope and expect that all members of the media be free to go about their work without harassment and would implore the authorities to respect the rights of the press.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Does the SG have any comment on the appointment of Ethiopia’s new president?

Spokesman:  Yes.  It’s actually our old colleague, Sahle Work Zewde.  In fact, the Secretary-General received a phone call yesterday from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, who had informed him that Ms. Sahle Work Zewde was going to become the next President.  And the Secretary-General congratulated the Government and people of Ethiopia on that choice.  We know her and her work very well.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  In light of the terrorist bombings or bombs placed all over the East Coast and wherever, has the UN taken any special precautions?

Spokesman:  Our security are apprised of the matter.  As far as we’re aware, there’s been no problems with packages sent to the United Nations, but, of course, we are taking a look at incoming mail in light of the latest evidence.  Of course, for our part, we’re grateful to know that, so far, no one has been harmed through this.

Question:  When… when you say taking a look, heightened security procedures?

Spokesman:  I tend not to provide any real detail about security procedures, but, certainly, security is apprised of this matter and will review packages and mail coming into this building in light of this.  As a general rule, by the way, all the mail coming in is looked at.  And anytime there’s anything that’s suspicious, we have the facilities both to inspect the packages and to dispose of them properly.  And with that…  yes, Erol?

Question:  Yeah.  Farhan, since we talked yesterday, and you have a lot of questions of Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi’s death, did you actually figure out what is in the offer of Turkish authorities for Saudis to be trialled in Turkey? And what’s your position now?

Spokesman:  Well, as you are aware, there have been new developments on this every day.  We’re keeping pace with that, and we’ll see about any requests when they come in.

Question:  What do you…  what do you think…  sorry.  What do you think for how long it will take since, obviously, time, I would say, is not on your side or our side in order to figure out all the details to make your firm and, I would say, affirmative position on that?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we have to wait and see what is requested of us, and we’ll wait until that happens.  Come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.