The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon and apologies for the delay, which is more than usual. A trip announcement: The Secretary-General will travel to Portugal this weekend. On Monday, he will receive the José Aparecido de Oliveira Prize from the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries. And the Secretary‑General will also take part in the 2018 Web Summit on Monday, where he will speak at the opening ceremony on the theme “Nurturing a digital future that is safe and beneficial for all”. And he will be back in New York on Tuesday.
As you will have seen, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) until 30 April 2019, calling upon the parties to engage constructively in resumed talks planned for the end of 2018. By a vote of 12 in favour, none against and 3 abstentions, the resolution was adopted. The resolution welcomes the decisions by Morocco, the Polisario Front, Algeria and Mauritania to accept an invitation from Horst Köhler, the Secretary‑General’s Personal Envoy, to participate in an initial round‑table meeting in Geneva on 5 and 6 December.
**Central African Republic
And our colleagues in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) tell us that they are closely monitoring the situation in Batangafo in Ouham Prefecture, where anti‑Balaka fighters clashed with ex‑Séléka following several incidents yesterday in which peacekeepers were fired upon, resulting in one Portuguese peacekeeper being slightly injured. The Mission condemns the attacks against its peacekeepers and reiterates its commitment to continue supporting the restoration of State authority in Bambari, including through joint patrols with the armed forces of the Central African Republic.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo-Angola
And our humanitarian colleagues tell us that since the beginning of October, over 347,000 Congolese people have been forced to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Angola. Nearly 90,000 children were among those who have returned, of which 630 are unaccompanied. Most of the people returning are being hosted by families or staying at some of the 28 temporary sites in Kamako, in the Kasai. The UN and its humanitarian partners are present there and are providing health services, protection, water and sanitation, shelter and food. And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said more resources are urgently required to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in an area already weakened by inter‑ethnic conflicts.
**World Food Programme
And the World Food Programme (WFP) today appointed Golden Globe‑winning actress Kate Hudson as a Goodwill Ambassador; she will lend her voice to speak up on behalf of the 821 million people who go to sleep hungry every night. Ms. Hudson, who has championed WFP’s mission since 2015, will also use her platforms to engage her millions of supporters in advocating for a Zero Hunger world. More information online.
And our friends at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report in their latest monthly Food Price Index that international food commodity prices dipped in October as falling dairy, meat and vegetable oil prices more than offset a surge in sugar prices. FAO’s Price Index averaged 163.5 points in October, down almost 1 per cent from September and 7.4 per cent below its level a year earlier; the agency reports that the October Food Price Index is at its lowest level since May. If you’re interested, go to the FAO website.
And just to let you know our colleagues in the Department of Public Information’s Holocaust Outreach Programme are inviting you to observe a teachers’ workshop to celebrate diversity and combat discrimination. The event will take place tomorrow from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow in Conference Room 12 downstairs and will also be webcast. The programme will feature Stories that Move: A Toolbox against Discrimination and Facing History and Ourselves; the event will mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the eightieth anniversary of the Kristallnacht Pogrom.
And after you’re done with me, you’ll be hearing a briefing by Ambassador Ma Zhaoxu, Permanent Representative of China and President of the Security Council for the winter month… no, for the fall month of November. Before we go to the ambassador, yes, ma'am?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. Can you give us some information about Secretary‑General envoy Ms. [Jane Holl] Lute in Cyprus? She met the leaders. Is she going… I think she's on the way ahead, and is she going to do more meetings with the guarantor powers’ representatives? Thank you.
Spokesman: She was, indeed, in Cyprus where she met both the Turkish community leader and the Greek community leaders. I think she's on her way back to New York now. She is basically implementing the Secretary‑General's instructions outlined in his report to the Security Council to continue to… discussions to see how the process is going. And she will have meetings… no doubt she will have other meetings, but we're not in a position to announce them as of yet. Yes?
Question: Stéphane, there's an article in The Guardian regarding the Saudi demands, a good publicity over Yemen aid from the UN. So, the article goes on, on describing that Saudi Arabia has — I'm quoting — demanded that eight agencies operating in Yemen should provide favourable publicity for their role in paying $930 million to UN agencies. Your comment on that?
Spokesman: It's not about favourable publicity. All donors ask for a number… for… to get some visibility in their donations to the UN different humanitarian appeals. That happens across the board. I think no one can argue that the UN, especially our humanitarian colleagues, led by Mr. [Mark] Lowcock have been extremely vocal about the devastating impact of the conflict in Yemen. The 8 million people that WFP has to feed every day, the outbreaks of cholera that we've had to fight, the constant and repeated violations of international humanitarian law. So, we will continue to advocate on behalf of the people of Yemen, who have been suffering for far too long. We'll continue to advocate for a political solution in the efforts led by Mr. [Martin] Griffiths. And separate from that, at is… as elsewhere, donors always ask for a certain level of visibility, but I would underscore that the money given by Saudi Arabia to the humanitarian appeal, as with the vast majority of money given to humanitarian appeals, is given without any specific instructions on how it should be used and where it should be used. The UN is fully independent in how that money is dispersed.
Question: I have a follow‑up. But, I mean, that is true that many donors do that, but the article is talking about that they were demanding more than what usually donors will ask for, and that the UN did somehow also refuse some demands but did work also along with the Saudis and Emiratis to provide more publicity regarding… and to emphasize more their role and the money they are donating than talking about the war and the fact that the Saudi‑led Coalition is responsible for a large number of what's going on in Yemen.
Spokesman: Look, the… all the visibility material that are used… that were produced and are used, they're being done… that's being done in a manner that's consistent with humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence according to all the internal policies of the agencies concerned. I think, if you read and listen to what Mr. Lowcock has said, what the Secretary‑General has said, what our political envoys, the various reports — I think we've been very clear in our condemnation of the violence in Yemen. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The migration issue is such an important issue, if not the most important issue, today, but the Secretary‑General's comment last… yesterday to Austria's decision to pull out of the UN pact was very weak. At least, I thought it was. Can we expect anything else, especially in view of the fact that other countries may follow?
Spokesman: Look, the… you know, the issue of migration, I think, is clearly an issue that can only be dealt with through international cooperation. And that's exactly what the migration compact does. It is not an enforceable, legally binding document. It provides guidelines. Most importantly, it respects the sovereignty of each Member State to control its border. Each Member State has a duty to its own citizens to implement the policies of its borders, but people will be moving. People will… have always moved, and people will continue to move. It's a matter of managing it, of taking the management of the mass movements of people out of the hands of the criminal cartels, which are actually running the policy as it is now, and into the hands of Member States in a way that respects the rights of refugees, that respects the dignity of migrants, and that benefits… in a way that can benefit all Member States. It is regrettable that we've seen the withdrawal from… by Austria, as other countries also have. Yes, Masood‑ji?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On this issue of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi's death, killing, the… where is these cases that, because it has been said… Michelle Bachelet has said there should be an investigation. Other people are saying there should be an investigation, but there's no investigation per se being called for by the international community. Why is that? And is it going to take place at all in your…
Spokesman: I'm not going to go into predicting the future. What I can tell you is that the Secretary‑General would like to see a thorough and impartial and transparent investigation done, which we hope the… which we understand Turkey is leading. The High Commissioner for Human Rights was very clear in her opinion of the need for such an investigation and also saying that she was ready to provide international expertise to that investigation, and I think everybody wants to see the facts clarified.
Question: The… Stéphane, the funding of the… such an investigation, who will fund this investigation? Is it going to be…
Spokesman: We're talking hypotheticals, Masood. There is no international investigation as… currently. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Usually, UN and UN refugee [agency] can set up camps for refugees who are immigrating to countries. Is UN planning to build such a camp by US border for… because it's about 2,000 or 3,000 refugees are heading there…?
Spokesman: UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is currently working, as is the IOM [International Organization for Migration] and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], with the authorities in Mexico to help provide whatever support the Mexican authorities need. Yes, Linda?
Question: Following up on that question, I was wondering, what is the position of the UN, whether it's UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in terms of setting up these detention centres? In other words, there are a lot of countries…
Spokesman: What detention centres?
Question: I mean if there were to be set… if the US…?
Spokesman: The UN does not build detention centres.
Question: No, no, no. I meant the concept. In other words, there are countries around the world, when migrants come to their borders, they'll develop or set up detention centres. I believe they do. So, I was just wondering, is this criticized…?
Spokesman: I think it's… again, I don't want to get into hypotheticals if you're referring to what may be built in the United States. And the question is more… much more for UNHCR. But, obviously, from our standpoint, it needs to be done in a way… the handling of people who file refugee claims need to be thoroughly looked at, and people need to be treated within their rights and most importantly with dignity.
Question: But, just to follow-up, does that mean that… I gather there are various countries that have built these detention camps. Now, does the UN criticize these, or do they tolerate it?
Spokesman: I would look to UNHCR for a more detailed answer. What is important from our standpoint is that things should be done with respect to people's rights and especially dignity. We have seen camps built in the past where some places in southern Europe where the conditions were extremely harsh, and I know UNICEF and others had spoken out against it. Zach?
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Has the Secretary‑General weighed in at all on the death of a missionary in Cameroon this week?
Spokesman: No, we would like, obviously, to see a full investigation and to… so that those responsible for this crime are brought to justice. Signore?
Question: Stéphane, what is the expectation of the Secretary‑General for the Libya conference that would take place in Palermo on 10 November?
Spokesman: Look, I think what the Secretary‑General would like to see is all the actors who have invested in the future of Libya to come together around the efforts that are being led by Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé. And one of your colleagues had asked me and I meant to answer before about the reaction of the Secretary‑General to the reports coming out of Tanzania where some local municipal authorities seem to be targeting members of the LGBTI community, and I can tell you the Secretary‑General was shocked to read about these reports, which are part of a worrying trend, and he hopes they do not reflect the policies of the Government of Tanzania, which has always been an important partner for the United Nations. Yes, sir?
Question: Actually, you just mentioned it, my questions. Secretary‑General is shocked, but is he doing anything about it? Because the Government of Tanzania is actually…
Spokesman: Well, obviously, our colleagues in the UN office in Tanzania are trying to get some clarity about what exactly was ordered.
Correspondent: It's in the papers everywhere that…
Spokesman: I always trust what's in the papers, but what I'm saying to you is that our colleagues on the ground are trying to get some clarity from the authorities about what exactly this policy had. The Secretary‑General has spoken out and will continue to speak out for the full respect of members of the LGBT community. Thank you. And we'll leave you in the hands of the Permanent Representative.
* *** *