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

7 December 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.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General will be traveling to Marrakech, Morocco over the weekend, where he will attend the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration on 10 and 11 December.

On 10 December, the Secretary-General will also take part in a high-level event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights along with several former High Commissioners for Human Rights.  And that will also be taking place in Morocco.

**Mali

The Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Bintou Keita, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, will arrive in Mali later today for a five-day joint visit, which also includes representatives from UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and the Department of Field Support.

The Assistant Secretaries-General are in the country to take stock of progress being made in the implementation of the peace agreement and to support the integration of the UN peacekeeping mission on the ground [MINUSMA] with the Country Team and its partners.

They are expected to meet with government officials, including the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the National Assembly, members of the opposition, signatory groups and civil society, among others.

They will also meet with peacekeepers to thank them for their sacrifices and dedication in implementing the mission’s mandate to bring peace and security to Mali.  While in Mali, Ms. Keita will also participate in a high-level conference on support to the African Union.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Annual High-Level Pledging Conference for the Central Emergency Response Fund otherwise known as CERF, and said that, if there is anything that works well at the UN, it’s the CERF.

He said that the Central Emergency Response Fund has been at the forefront of the United Nations humanitarian response for the past 13 years.  During that time, it has provided over $5.5 billion in life-saving humanitarian assistance to over 100 countries and territories, thanks to the support of 126 Member States and Observers.

Today, unfortunately, despite our efforts to reduce needs and prevent crises, the Secretary-General said, the CERF must contend with a far greater scale of suffering than at its inception in 2005.

He called on the Member States to stand by their General Assembly commitment to raise $1 billion for the Fund.  A strong UN needs a strong, reliable CERF, he said.

His remarks are online.  And we also expect a press release later this afternoon with details of the contributions of today’s pledging conference.

**Genocide Convention

He also spoke at the 70th anniversary of the Genocide Convention.  This was an event in which he said that 70 years after the Genocide Convention was adopted, people are still being killed, raped, their homes torched, their lands confiscated, just because of who they are.

The Secretary-General said that in Iraq, the violent extremists of Da’esh brutally targeted the Yazidi people for murder, sexual slavery and trafficking, so courageously described by Nadia Murad, a survivor and Nobel laureate.

And he added that he is extremely concerned about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, who have been systematically killed, tortured, raped and burnt alive, victims of what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing.

Elsewhere around the world, the Secretary-General added, racism, hate speech, violent misogyny, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of xenophobia are on the rise.

He added that it is incumbent on all of us, individually and collectively, to reject every single attempt to target people because of their nationality, ethnicity, religion or race, or any other form of identity.

**Yemen

Our colleagues at UNHCR [United Nations Refugee Agency] tell us that nearly 1,500 civilian casualties in Yemen were reported in the period between August and October of this year.  This means an average of 123 civilian deaths and injuries every week during this period.

Given the very heavy human cost, UNHCR urges parties to the conflict in Yemen to improve the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Homes and hospitals continue to be sites of violence.  Twenty-three per cent of all deaths and injuries during this period were reported in houses.

**Road Safety

A new report released today by the World Health Organization [WHO] says that road traffic deaths continue to rise, with an annual 1.35 million fatalities.  The WHO Global status report on road safety highlights that road traffic injuries are now the leading killer of children and young people aged 5-29 years.

The report notes that despite an increase in the overall number of deaths, the rates of death relative to the size of the world population have stabilized in recent years.  This suggests that existing road safety efforts in some middle- and high-income countries have mitigated the situation.  However, low-income countries have not reduced overall deaths, in large part because these measures are lacking.

**Aviation

Today is Civil Aviation Day.  This year’s theme is “Working Together to Ensure No Country Is Left Behind” which highlights the International Civil Aviation Organization’s efforts to assist countries in implementing its Standards and Recommended Practices.

The main goal of this work is to help ensure that all States have access to the significant socioeconomic benefits of safe and reliable air transport and can address safety, security and emissions-related issues.

I think every time we get on a plane and we get there safely, we should appreciate the work of the International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO].

**Human Rights Day

On Monday, we have Human Rights Day.

At 3 p.m. in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber, there will be a panel discussion to mark Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The discussion will focus on the relevance of the Declaration to today’s cutting-edge human rights issues of inequality, climate change and new technologies.

It will feature Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; Nadia Daar, an expert on socioeconomic inequality and head of Oxfam International’s Washington, DC, Office; Brett Solomon, a digital rights expert and Executive Director of Access Now; Alex Loznak, a climate change student activist.

**Press Briefings

And at noon, Mark Lowcock will be here to brief us on his recent trip to Yemen — should be interesting, as he always is.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Ms. Lederer?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Today in Geneva, a report was issued by a panel of experts that looked into allegations of sexual harassment at UNAIDS [Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS].  The report said the agency is plagued by defective leadership, culture of impunity, toxic working environment and that it can't be changed unless its top official, Michel Sidibé, is replaced.  Since that is a decision left to the Secretary‑General, I wonder what the Secretary‑General's response is.

Spokesman:  Sure.  I think, first of all, I would encourage you to read the press release put out by Mr. Sidibé this morning, in which he clearly outlines everything he's done and will continue to do to create a model working environment for all staff that ensures safety and inclusivity.  Second, the report of the independent panel in question is one that Mr. Sidibé commissioned himself as a way of getting recommendations to improve further the management of UNAIDS.  That report is now with the UNAIDS Board, and we await their deliberations for any further comments.  Ali?

Question:  So, the tensions arising across the Blue Line, not only because the… of the tunnel discovered yesterday, but also because of the Israeli overflights, and I wonder whether the Secretary‑General plans to be proactive to do something to just to try to prevent any further escalation of the situation at the border.  And I have a follow‑up.

Spokesman:  Look, the Secretary‑General is, obviously, following this very closely.  He remains in close contact.  His representatives on the ground, notably the force commander, is continuing his contacts with both sides, and I will leave it at that for the time being.

Question:  And my follow‑up is regarding the appointment of the new Special Coordinator for Lebanon.  I understand that the Secretary‑General has nominated Mr. Ján Kubiš for this position and that Lebanon hasn't responded for a month now or over a month to this call by the Secretary‑General.  What do you make of that?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Ali, as usual, you understand more things than I do.  As you know, we announce officially an appointment once all the consultations have been done, when the… which, in this case, the Security Council… an exchange of letters with the Security Council is also needed.  Once that's done, we will announce.  I will only say that the process is under way.

Question:  If I may, asking about appointment… another appointment in Colombia for the Chairman of the ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions), Mr. Carlos Ruiz Massieu, as the new representative for the Secretary‑General in Colombia.  Can you confirm that?

Spokesman:  No, sir.  Maria?

Question:  Yeah, I just wonder if you have any comments on Heather Nauert nomination as US Ambassador to UN?

Spokesman:  Obviously, the Secretary‑General very much looks forward to working with Ms. Nauert when she assumes her post and continuing the very productive and strong working relationship he enjoyed with Ambassador [Nikki] Haley.  Yep?

Question:  Stéphane, could you give us… is there any update from the Special Envoy at the talks in Sweden?  And are these talks going to continue into the weekend?

Spokesman:  Yes.  The talks are ongoing.  I don't… I'm not aware that they will take any breaks for the weekend.  And, obviously, I think the continuing humanitarian crisis that we underscore here every day makes these talks that much more important.  I mean, as you know, the UN and our partners have been feeding almost, what, 8 million Yemenis per month.  The fate of… the state of the Yemeni civilians is heart-breaking, to say the least.  And we very much hope that all the parties involved coalesce around Mr. [Martin] Griffiths during these talks.  Edie?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  On the migration compact conference, does the UN have any updated figures on the number of countries that are going to be attending?  And what is the Secretary‑General's message to those countries that have decided not to attend?

Spokesman:  Well, as we've… on the updates, I don't have one with me, but, hopefully, one of my colleagues will bring it in, because I did see some numbers… I saw some numbers yesterday.  So, hopefully, somebody will bring it in.  You know, we all think it's regrettable that a number of countries have decided not to participate.  This is not a closed door.  People are always welcome to come back.  We hope they will continue to… they will come back and participate in these discussions.  We will say it every time somebody asks a question.  This is a non-binding pact.  This is about helping countries manage migration.  This is about reaffirming the rights of countries to, obviously, control their own borders.  But it seems to defy logic to see how you can manage migration without having a global conversation.  There are three groups of countries, countries of origin, countries of transit, countries of destination.  You have some countries that are… that, in fact, are all three.  Right?  I mean, if you look at Morocco, for example, there are Moroccan migrants in different parts of the world.  Morocco is also… hosts migrants.  People come to Morocco looking for work, and it's also a country of transit.  It's very important, and we're very thankful for the support that Morocco has given to the hosting of this conference, but it just underscores that you have to have a global conversation.  To quote Ms. [Louise] Arbour, migration is not bad or good.  It's a thing, and it needs to be managed in the best possible way.  And, for that, we need to have a global conversation.  [He added that 135 Member States have agreed so far to attend the conference.]

No Monica.  Maybe it was something that I said.  All right.  I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

For information media. Not an official record.