19 November 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.

**Violence against Women

Bear with me, I have quite a few stuff today and quite a few updates from the field.  In case you were wondering today why I’m wearing orange, not that you were, today [at Headquarters, we are marking] the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  And this morning, the Secretary‑General spoke at a special event here at Headquarters.

He said that violence against women and girls is a global pandemic, a mark of shame on all our societies and a major obstacle to inclusive, equitable and sustainable development.  At its core, he said, violence against women is “a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women”.  He added that recent efforts to uncover the issue are showing the galvanizing power of women’s movements to drive the action and awareness needed to eliminate harassment and violence everywhere.

The Secretary‑General also highlighted the UN’s work to achieve gender parity among senior leadership, combat and prevent sexual harassment committed by staff and UN partners, and to end all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers and UN staff in the field.

The commemoration brought together survivors and activists under the theme “Orange the World”.

**Alliance of Civilizations

And the Secretary‑General this morning also spoke at the opening of the eighth Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilization, which he said is fundamental to peace, security and to sustainable development to the world we need to build.

Sadly, he said, culture, faith and a false notion of identity today are still creating serious problems and threats in different regions.

As examples, he pointed to the plights of the Rohingya people of Myanmar and the Yazidi people in Iraq.

He stressed the need for all us to work together to build societies that are truly respectful and inclusive, where diversity is seen as a richness, and not a threat.

For this to happen, the Secretary‑General said that we must engage in sincere and inclusive dialogue; we need to harness the creativity and energy of young people, and our efforts must be anchored in respect for universal human rights.  His full remarks have been distributed.


And as I mentioned, a few updates from the field:  On Yemen, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, today tweeted that he welcomes Ansar Allah’s announcement to halt drone and missile attacks.

Mr. Griffiths added that he hopes that all parties continue to exercise restraint, to create a conducive environment for convening consultations.

As you will recall, last week he welcomed President [Abdrabbuh Mansur] Hadi’s announcement to move swiftly to a political solution and said he believes that Ansar Allah is committed to this.

Mr. Griffiths said he feels that we are close to resolving the preparatory issues to reconvene the parties and he intends to visit Sana’a this week to finalize arrangements.  He noted he has received firm assurances from the leadership of the parties that they are committed to attending.

The Special Envoy also plans to visit Hodeidah this week with UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande to revisit a UN supervisory role and to draw attention to the continued need for a pause in the fighting.

And over the weekend, Mr. Griffiths took part in the Sir Bani Yas Forum in the United Arab Emirates and he is back in Amman today.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

And from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN peacekeeping mission there (MONUSCO) reports that suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) elements launched an attack on Friday evening in the area of Boikene, close to Beni in North Kivu Province.  One civilian was reportedly wounded, and two homes and a civilian vehicle were destroyed.  A member of the Indian Formed Police Unit stationed there was also lightly wounded.

The UN Mission and the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) have increased security measures in the Beni area, including around hotels occupied by UN personnel and humanitarian workers who are focused on the Ebola response, and they have also expanded their support of police operations in the Beni area.

The Mission also reports that memorial services were held over the weekend for the Malawian and Tanzanian peacekeepers who were killed last week during an operation against the ADF in the Beni area.

And the World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, says that following the attacks on Friday in Beni, all activities related to the Ebola response were relaunched yesterday, and that includes vaccinations, which are continuing.  The treatment centres, which are run by partners, also remain operational.

**Central African Republic

And on the Central African Republic, we issued a statement over the weekend, on the recent violence in the country.

There was an attack on a camp for internally displaced persons last week as well as a separate attack on the UN Mission in the country (MINUSCA), in which a Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed.

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reported today that 60 civilians were killed in that attack in the IDP [internally displaced persons] camp in Alindao.

The Mission provided security to an estimated 3,000 people who sought protection at its temporary operating base, and the peacekeepers also dispatched a patrol to the scene of the clashes to investigate the incidents.  It also intensified patrols near the town to provide protection to civilians and to deter activities by armed groups.

The UN Mission is also engaging with the Union for Peace in the Central African Republic and anti‑Balaka to address their roles in instigating the violence, as well as religious leaders, on ending this violence in Alindao and Ouaka Prefectures.

Also, just to flag from our colleagues in the Mission, that Alfred Yekatom was surrendered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Saturday, following the issuing of an arrest warrant for his alleged criminal responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity conducted in the western part of the country between December 2013 and August 2014.

At the request of the Government, the Mission provided reinforced security in the Camp de Roux prison, where he was held in custody, and provided an escort for his transportation to the airport.


Turning to Syria, we are concerned about reported restrictions to education, health and nutrition services in the north‑east of the country since September.

Half of the 102,000 children enrolled in Government schools in north‑east Syria are reportedly facing transportation restrictions, especially in Qamishli and Hassakeh cities.  Of the affected school children, an estimated 10,000 have not been able to attend school since late September.

The UN continues to provide education support in the north‑east, including through the rehabilitation of schools, installation of prefabricated classrooms, targeted programmes to help those who have missed years of school to catch up, and provision of education materials.

Access to health facilities has also reportedly been restricted, although health support continues in some facilities and in internally displaced people settlements across the governorate.

The UN calls on all parties to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded access for all in need, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.


And on Haiti, the peacekeeping mission there, MINUJUSTH, reports that the demonstrations held yesterday were largely peaceful although there were reports of casualties.

The Haitian National Police predeployed in the sensitive areas in the country, supported by the UN Mission’s Formed Police Units in key areas of Port‑au‑Prince and [in the] regions.


And Knut Ostby, the UN Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, said that he is deeply concerned about the reports of shooting in Ah Nauk Ye camp in central Rakhine State, which holds internally displaced people who fled the violence in 2012.

He called for calm, non‑violence and restraint, expressing his appreciation for the work of the organizations which provide first aid on‑site to the injured.

The UN will continue to monitor the situation and is committed to supporting sustainable solutions to the situation in Rakhine State.


And our humanitarian colleagues in Libya report that a joint United Nations inter-agency visit to Tawergha and Misrata on 14 and 15 November found a high level of destruction to houses and infrastructure as well as protection risks, including unexploded ordinances.

Most Tawerghans remain displaced, living in urban settings and in more than 26 poorly resourced camps throughout Libya where humanitarian conditions have reportedly deteriorated.  Leishmaniasis — a disease transmitted by the bite of certain type of sandflies — is a major concern with very limited or no treatment available.

The humanitarian community will mobilize to address the people’s most urgent needs, while engaging with authorities and development partners to ensure that durable solutions are promoted, allowing for voluntary, safe and dignified returns.

**Middle East

And you will have seen that Nickolay Mladenov, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council by videoconference today.  He said that in recent days, we witnessed another dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza that risked unleashing an armed conflict with catastrophic consequences for two million impoverished Palestinians.

He said his team had worked closely with Egypt and all concerned parties to ensure a return to the 2014 ceasefire arrangements.  Thankfully, he added, a precarious restoration of calm has now been achieved, and we must all work to ensure that this calm is maintained.

**UN Police

And the annual UN Female Police Officer of the Year Award will be presented in New York today.

The 2018 Award is presented to UN Police Officer Phyllis Ama Tebuah Osei, who is with the UN Mission in Somalia.  Ms. Osei is a superintendent of police from the Ghana Police Service whose exemplary work has positively impacted the local community and helped to build the capacities of the host state police in Jubbaland.

This is the first time the award is being presented in New York, and a ceremony is being co‑hosted by the UN Police Division and the Permanent Mission of Canada.


And the World Health Organization (WHO) today released its eleventh World Malaria Report, which says reductions in malaria cases have stalled after several years of decline globally.

For the second consecutive year, the annual report reveals a plateauing in numbers:  in 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria, compared to 217 million in 2016; in the preceding years, the number of people contracting malaria globally had been steadily falling.

In 2017, approximately 70 percent of all malaria cases were concentrated in 10 African countries and India.

In order to get the reduction in malaria deaths and disease back on track, WHO and partners launched a new country‑led response to scale up prevention and treatment, increase investment and protect vulnerable people from the deadly disease.  More information online.

**Toilet Day

Today is World Toilet Day, and this year’s theme is “When Nature Calls” and highlights the need to act on the sanitation crisis.  Nearly 4.5 billion people live without access to a safe toilet and 892 million people still practice open defecation, which can lead to the spread of disease, and contamination of water and soil, and have a serious impact on public health.  More information online.

**World TV Day

And on Wednesday will be World TV Day, which we are marking today, and our colleagues in the Department of Public Information and the UN Foundation are holding an event this afternoon in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber called “Lights, Camera and Action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”.  The 3 p.m. event consists of a series of discussions with TV executives that will showcase production used to promote the SDGs.

You are all welcome to attend.

**Noon Briefing Guests Tomorrow

And lastly, tomorrow we will have a slightly different line‑up at the briefing.  At noon, we will start with Emmy‑nominated actress and star of the show Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown, and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] Director of Communication Paloma Escudero, will be here to briefly talk to you about the importance of empowering children, as part of UNICEF’s commemoration of Children’s Day.

And right after my briefing, I will immediately be joined by Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies; Rajika Bhandari, Director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research; and Ninette Kelly, Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

They will brief you on UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) flagship annual education report, the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report — Migration, displacement and education:  Building bridges, not walls.

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you.  I was wondering if you have anything for us on the meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Secretary‑General.  And did the minister request an international investigation?

Spokesman:  Yes, the Secretary‑General and the Foreign Minister of Turkey had a pull aside on the sidelines of the Alliance of Civilization meeting.  They discussed Yemen, Syria, Cyprus, as well as the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.  Since you asked, we have not received any formal request from the Turkish side.  And, if something is submitted, we will let you know.  James?

Question:  A follow up on that.  I want to get clear some of the stuff you said in recent days and recent weeks on exactly how this would work.  I’m sorry to revisit this.  You have said you need a request from a Member State, for example, Turkey.  And you’ve also said that you need a mandate from a legislative body, and then you pointed to the [Benazir] Bhutto case, where there wasn’t a mandate; there was an exchange of letters where the then‑Secretary‑General, Ban Ki‑moon, informed the Security Council what he was going to do…

Spokesman:  It was an exchange of letter and that was… if we go back to that time, it was interpreted as backing from… a blessing…

Question:  A blessing but not a man… not a legal mandate.

Spokesman:  One can use a small “M”.  Right?  I don’t want to get too much into hypotheticals, but the point is we do need…  [inaudible]

Question:  No, but I just want to be clear…

Spokesman:  We do need… the Secretary‑General feels that he needs a mandate from a legislative body.

Question:  He feels he needs a mandate.  Is that what the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) are telling him, that he needs a mandate…?  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General receives advice from his legal counsel and then acts upon it.

Question:  Can we see the advice his legal, first of all?

Spokesman:  No.  No, that is… any advice between an individual and his legal counsel usually is not shared.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you, sir.  Stéphane, can you confirm on… that when Mr. Jeremy Hunt, British Secretary, went to see the Prince… Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia on a resolution that he was bringing in the Security Council to stop the war in Yemen and allow the aid to go through that he threw a fit, and so far, the resolution has been stalled?  Do you know anything about this?

Spokesman:  That sounds like a question for my colleague, Mr. Matthew Moody.  I do not speak for either of their Majesties’ governments, the Saudi Government or the British Government.

Question:  But the thing is that… was there a resolution that was stopped…? [inaudible]

Spokesman:  That is within the domain of the Security Council.

Question:  But, I mean, he went to as a courtesy…

Spokesman:  Masood, I don’t speak for the British Government.  I don’t speak for the Saudi Government, and I don’t speak for the Presidency of the Security Council.  I speak for one person; that’s the Secretary‑General.  What the Security Council members do with their resolution, their negotiations, is not for me to comment on.  Sidi rais?

Question:  Shukran.  First, can you confirm that Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura will stay in office another month, as it has been circulated here?  That’s my first question.

Spokesman:  Okay.  The… I don’t have exact dates.  What is clear is that there will be no… we want to make sure that there’s no gap in the leadership of the office.  So, Mr. de Mistura is staying on for a bit longer.  And that’s really to make sure that there is no gap in not only a very important office but at an extremely critical time in the Syria talks.

Question:  Yeah.  And my question about Mr. Mladenov’s remark to the Security Council in which he said, clearly, that the one who started the latest escalation was Israel, not the Palestinians, but he failed also to follow up with that responsibility, and he just stated it.  And he said that one hotel was bombard and the TV station, but the… they were nowhere to be found that he is opposing that or he is condemning, targeting a hotel and a TV station…

Spokesman:  I think it is clear that Mr. Mladenov is calling for a halt to the fighting.  His report speaks for itself, and he is reporting the facts as we’re able to gather them.  Ben?

Question:  Hi.  Is the UN involved in any way in trying to help Asia Bibi gain asylum outside of Pakistan?

Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of, but I can check on those developments.  Okay.  Yes?

Question:  Hi, Steph.  I just have a… sort of a housekeeping question.  Do you know if the SG is planning to give his own press conference by the end of the year or the New Year?  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I think what we did last year is more of a forward looking start of the year than a recap in the holidays.  There’s going to be a lot of travel in December, as well, which we’ll be announcing.  Mr. Bays?

Question:  Today, as you have said, is a day about violence against women and girls.  On this day, does the Secretary‑General have concern about the efforts that seem to be being made by the US delegation in the Third Committee in a number of different amendments they’ve put forward to change agreed language on gender that has been in place since the Beijing Women’s Conference, so for 23 years?

Spokesman:  Look, each country will bring its own position.  For the Secretary‑General, I think this need to keep language that has been agreed upon for a long time is important.  But, obviously, the Member States… this is a discussion that involves Member States.

Question:  As… as it’s so important, will the Secretary‑General try and have a conversation with whoever is driving this in Washington?  And the suggestion from diplomats is this is coming from the Vice President’s office.  Will the Secretary‑General perhaps reach out to Vice President [Michael] Pence on this issue?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any direct contact with Vice President Pence.  Our main point of contact is with the US Mission here.  Abdelhamid then Masood.

Question:  Back to the Khashoggi affair, what do you mean, Stéphane, by “legal mandate”?  Where this comes from?  How the… how the SG can obtain…

Spokesman:  It needs a backing from a legislative body.

Question:  What… like what?  Like legislative body…?  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Security Council, the… I mean, we’ve seen different investigations take different forms. And, as far as I recall, they all have had some backing from one of the UN’s legislative bodies.  But I’m not… I don’t want to get into…

Question:  Just one question.

Spokesman:  Yes?

Question:  If a Member State requests the SG to do this investigation, would he respond to that Member State, the way Lebanon asked the former Secretary‑General to investigate the killing of former Prime Minister [Rafik] Hariri…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I mean, if you recall…

Question:  It was from Lebanon.

Spokesman:  First of all, when we get a formal request, we will study it, and we will respond to it accordingly.  If you recall, the Lebanon tribunal investigation went through the Security Council and was created through a Council resolution.  [inaudible]

Question:  The tribunal, yes, but the request came from Lebanon first.

Spokesman:  It also… it involved the Security Council.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  I mean, not to say if the resolution was stalled or not, are you aware that the Saudi Coalition is fully allowing the aid for the Yemenis to go through?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. [David] Beasley was very clear on issues having to do with aid not… and I’m not aware that the situation has changed since he briefed you on… Friday?  Maggie agrees.  [inaudible]

Question:  So where does it stand now?  I mean…

Spokesman:  As I said, I’m not aware of the situation having changed.  Mr. Griffiths will be in Hodeidah with Lise Grande to take a look at the situation in the port and to, again, appeal for the free flow of humanitarian aid.  Sato?

Question:  Yes, follow‑up question about Yemen.  So, does Mr. Griffiths expect the peace talk happen in Sweden by end of this month?

Spokesman:  I don’t think anyone wants to be boxed in by a date.  I think he gave some fairly positive assessment of his feeling that these… this gathering could happen.  Thank you.  Monica, all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.