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

10 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.  A couple of senior appointments to announce:  The Secretary-General is appointing Carlos Ruiz Massieu of Mexico as his Special Representative for Colombia and Head of the United Nations Verification Mission in Colombia.

Mr. Ruiz Massieu will succeed Jean Arnault of France, to whom the Secretary-General extends his deep gratitude for his exemplary service in support of peace in Colombia since 2015, initially as Delegate of the Secretary-General to the peace talks in Havana and subsequently as the Special Representative in Colombia.

Carlos Ruiz Massieu brings to his position some 25 years of experience in public service and diplomacy, both in bilateral and multilateral contexts.  Most recently, he has been deeply involved in the establishment and support of United Nations peace operations, as well as reforms to the Organization in the areas of peace and security, development and management, through his service as Chairperson, of the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] Committee.

Today we are also announcing the appointment by the Secretary-General of Hanna Serwaa Tetteh of Ghana as his Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union [UNOAU].  She succeeds Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia, who as you know has gone on to become the President of Ethiopia, and to whom the Secretary-General reiterates his deep gratitude and appreciation for her dedicated service to the Organization.

Ms. Tetteh brings to this position decades of progressively responsible experience at the national, regional and international levels, which we hope she will, she brings with her to strengthen the partnership with the African Union.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

As you know, the Secretary-General is in Marrakech today, where he said that witnessing the adoption of the Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration this morning was a very emotional moment for him.

Before the adoption, he spoke at the opening of the Conference and dispelled myths about migration.  The Compact is not a treaty and not legally binding, he said.  The Compact does not establish a new right to migrate but reaffirms that migrants should enjoy human rights independently of their status.  He also stressed that migration was not essentially a movement of people from the South to the global North, noting that South-South migration today is larger than South-to-North movement.  And finally, he said that in the many places where fertility is declining and life expectancy is rising, economies will stagnate and people will suffer without migration.

The Secretary-General also spoke to the press after the adoption of the Global Compact.  He said he believed that the world and the migrants, the countries and the people involved, would strongly benefit from the enhanced international cooperation that the Compact allows.  His press remarks and his earlier speech are available online.

On the sidelines of the Conference, he met with the President of Panama, the Prime Minister of Denmark, the Foreign Ministers of Mexico, Venezuela and Rwanda and the President of the International Organization of Employers.

The Secretary-General also met with a group of young representatives and discussed the issue of migration with them.

**Human Rights

Today is also Human Rights Day, marking the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Secretary-General participated at an event on this in Marrakech and we will share his remarks at the event very shortly, which was also attended by Michelle Bachelet, the Human Rights High Commissioner, and the President of the General Assembly, among others.

In a separate message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General noted how human rights are under siege around the world, stressing our shared duty to stand up for them for everyone and everywhere.

At 3 p.m. in New York there will be a briefing in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber, which shall be a panel discussion 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; and Alex Loznak, a climate change student activist.

**Travel Announcements

A couple of trips to flag by senior officials:  First, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Atul Khare, is in Montevideo in Uruguay today to open the Peacekeeping Ministerial Preparatory meeting.  Mr Khare will address the meeting and also hold bilateral meetings with Uruguay’s Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss peacekeeping challenges and opportunities for improvement.

And the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will travel to Malawi on 11 December to attend a ceremony to honour the seven peacekeepers from Malawi who were killed in the joint UN-Congolese Armed Forces operations against the Allied Democratic Forces [ADF] in the Beni area on 15 November.

He will then travel to Tanzania to pay homage to the 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers who were killed in an attack carried out by the ADF in Semuliki, also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 7 December of last year.  He will participate in an event on 14 December to commemorate the first anniversary of the attack.

In both countries, he is expected to meet national authorities to express gratitude for their contributions and support to UN Peacekeeping, and will also meet with the families of the fallen peacekeepers.


The UN in Jordan and Syria is conducting an exceptional operation to deliver humanitarian assistance through the Jaber-Nassib border crossing point, transferring aid from the UN and partners in Jordan to UN agencies and partners in Syria.

The first items that will be transferred through the crossing will be dry food rations, but the delivery is expected to expand to provide support for [over] 650,000 people.

The first 17 trucks, in what is expected to be a four-week operation, were dispatched to the border on 9 December, and are expected to cross into Syria tomorrow.

Once inside Syria, distribution to vulnerable populations in Syria will be through the ongoing distribution plans in place by UN agencies and its partners.

The UN would like to acknowledge the important role of both the Government of Jordan and the Government of Syria in providing the necessary approvals for this exceptional delivery of assistance to people in need.


And in another travel announcement, tomorrow, the UN Development Programme [UNDP] Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, Mourad Wahba; the Director for UNDP’s Crisis Bureau, Asako Okai; and the UN Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, will travel together to Libya and Tunisia tomorrow.

The aim of the visit is to reiterate the support of the United Nations to national and regional efforts towards a peaceful transition in Libya, as well as to bolster urgent humanitarian assistance, development and stabilization actions.

During their visit, they will meet with high-level Government officials and representatives of the humanitarian, development and donor communities both in Libya and in Tunisia to promote collaboration across humanitarian, development and stabilization projects.  They will also advocate for people’s access to humanitarian and to protection assistance, while supporting resilience, rights, and equal and inclusive development.


With Nadia Murad, the Yazidi activist and survivor of gender-based violence, having received the Nobel Peace Prize officially today, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] is shining a spotlight on the plight of hundreds of thousands of uprooted children in Iraq whose lives are threatened by freezing temperatures and floods affecting large parts of the country.

Peter Hawkins, the UNICEF Representative in Iraq, said that, even if the worst of the violence is over, there are many vulnerable children who need our support.

**Climate Change

The discussion at the COP24 [24th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Katowice is ongoing, and today 43 major global fashion brands today signed a Fashion Charter aimed at achieving zero net emissions by 2050.

Under the auspices of the United Nations, leading fashion brands, retailers and suppliers have agreed to collectively address the climate impact of the fashion sector across its entire value chain.  Among the signatories are Adidas, Burberry, Guess, Gap, Hugo Boss, H&M, Levi Strauss and Target.  My whole wardrobe is in there.

The Charter, which is open for other companies and organizations to join, recognizes the crucial role that fashion plays on both sides of the climate equation; as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and as a sector with multiple opportunities to reduce emissions while contributing to sustainable development.


In Kenya, the UN-backed Africa E-Commerce Week starts today.  This event is jointly organized by the UN Conference on Trade and Development, otherwise known as UNCTAD, the African Union and the European Union, and it seeks to find ways to enhance the ability of African countries to benefit from e-commerce and the digital economy.

The event brings together ministers, businesses, civil society and international organizations who take part in high-level segments, as well as workshops, so they can partner and develop collaborations.  More information on UNCTAD’s website.

**Press Briefings

And after you’re done with me, you will hear from Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, who as you know has just come back from Yemen.  After that Monica [Villela Grayley] will answer your questions on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The Marrakech meeting is over.  The Global Compact on Migration has been adopted.  160 countries participated there out of 193 — membership of the UN.  Does the Secretary‑General consider this event a success?

Spokesman:  Well, it is a success in the sense that the vast majority of Member States reaffirmed their support for the Global Compact.  As you know, the Compact will now come back to the General Assembly for a vote… but I don't want to intrude on Monica's territory.  The point is, it is really a necessary text to manage migration, to ensure that the management of migration is taken from criminal networks into the hands of governments and civil society to make sure that people who move do so safely and in dignity.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you.  As a follow‑up, in his speech, the Secretary‑General in Marrakech talked about, "but there have"… I quote, "but there have been many falsehoods about the agreement and the overall issue of immigration."  And then he goes over, and he puts all… it's a good speech.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  I will tell him.

Question:  That… yes.  It is a good speech.  But it doesn't indicate at the end who's pro… who's spreading these falsehoods.  I mean, we hear… we see here the line that say, I cannot… it's… "it is true that some states are not with us today."  And then he said, just, "I can only hope that they will see the Compact’s value in the future" and so on.  Are… there… are there leaders, Governments, countries?  Who is spreading those falsehoods that made possible the Marrakech, all the country…

Spokesman:  I think, first of all, you read what is being written in the press all over the world as I do, and you can see where the issue of migration has become a wedge issue and where people are misrepresenting what the Compact is and what the Compact is not.  I think we have tried our best.  Louise Arbour was here, I think, being as clear as possible in explaining what exactly this Global Compact is and what it is not.  Right?  It is not a takeover by the United Nations of countries' borders.  Quite to the contrary.  It reaffirms the sovereign rights of countries to manage their borders.  It is not a treaty that is to be signed.  It is a pact, a voluntary, non-legally‑binding pact.  And we have tried our best, through briefings, through Q&As, to make sure that the facts are known and so that people can make up their own minds.  Erol and then… sorry.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Steph.  On UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] award ball, all speakers…

Spokesman:  It was very, very foggy.  I cannot recall anything.  [Laughter]

Question:  Okay.  Very good.  Neither me.

Spokesman:  And there was no video that I've seen, but go ahead.

Question:  All right.  Okay.  President of General Assembly, Ms. [María Fernanda] Espinosa, clearly mentioned the case of [Jamal] Khashoggi, Mr… late Khashoggi, journalist Khashoggi, also did Amal Clooney.  Why the Secretary‑General didn't even mention the name of Mr. Khashoggi at the dinner?

Spokesman:  I think, if you look back at what the Secretary‑General said, I don't think you could have a clearer defence for the rights of journalists all over the world to practise their craft in safety and without harassment.  The Secretary‑General has addressed the case of Mr. Khashoggi, and his position remains unchanged.

Question:  My question was, why the Secretary‑General did not mention the name of Mr. Khashoggi at the UNCA dinner that was clearly dedicated to these freedoms of press and Mr. Khashoggi, as well?

Spokesman:  I don't… that's your interpretation of the dinner.  I think the Secretary‑General's speech was extremely strong and extremely clear.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Stéphane.  On Bangladesh, Bangladesh made up… freedom of press and freedom of expression is very much controlled by the ruling authority, as you know.  Last piece is they blocked yesterday 58 news portal, including my news portal, justnewsbd — the Government blocked.  And then they reinstate and, within 24 hours, they again blocked, you know.  And this is third phase we are facing justnewsbd.com.  So, what is your comment…?

Spokesman:  I have not seen those particular reports, but it is clear that we believe that journalists, through their websites, need to be able to work freely from harassment.

Question:  One follow‑up…

Spokesman:  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  As you know, the election… national election is scheduled to be held in December, and the… but the Government is arresting opposition leaders, those who are prospective candidates.  And scenario is not… the level playing field is not there.  So what is the UN position on that?  And UN is sending any observer for this national election?

Spokesman:  The UN has no observers.  We do not send observers.  What I can tell you is that, following a request for UN electoral assistance from the Bangladesh Election Commission, the United Nations in Bangladesh is providing technical electoral assistance through the UNDP/UN Women's support to the Bangladeshi Parliamentary Election Project.  The project supports… focuses on supporting the Electoral Commission on public outreach, promoting the participation of women and underrepresented groups in the electoral process, strengthening the Commission's training capacity and helping to develop strategies for conflict mitigation and the prevention of electoral violence.  We believe, as matter of principles, that elections should be held in a positive climate, free from any sort of intimidation.  Joe, then Edie… then Edie, then Evelyn.

Question:  Yes.  First of all, I know you've commented in general terms on the conviction of Mr. [Patrick] Ho in the US District Court, I believe, last week.  But do you have anything more specific to say about… to the extent to which the United Nations itself was drawn into… into the case in relation to former Presidents of the General Assembly and use of UN facilities to facilitate the alleged activities?  That's my first question.

Spokesman:  I look forward to your second question.  My first answer is that, as I said, the United Nations cooperated fully with Federal law enforcement authorities from the beginning of this case.  I don't think the United Nations was drawn into it.  I think the United Nations was used and abused by a number of people.  Your second question, sir?

Question:  Okay.  I won't follow that up, so then…

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  At least not for now.  But, more broadly, there have been rising tensions, as you know, between China and the United States now over the whole area of future of technology involving the arrest of the Chief Financial Officer of… I'm not going to pronounce it right.

Spokesman:  No, I know who you're talking about.

Question:  Wanzhou.  Yeah, yeah, okay.  And also now, apparently, in China, an injunction… there's some varying interpretations for injunction against the sale, distribution of Apple products and the Ho conviction.  So, I'm wondering to what extent the Secretary‑General is concerned that, although now, as a bilateral dispute, that this could really have broader implications.

Spokesman:  I'm not going to hypothesize on how this could change.  I mean, obviously, it's a bilateral issue, which we hope gets resolved through discussions between the US and China.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Going back to migration, is the Secretary‑General planning to keep Louise Arbour, for example, in… in her job to try and help bring about support from some of the 30‑odd countries that did not basically go… go along with the adoption of the Migration Compact?

Spokesman:  You know, I have to check what Ms. Arbour's tenure is, but part of the Compact created a migration network.  The International Organization for Migration [IOM] will be coordinating on the UN's part.  And the Secretary-General's message on migration, frankly, has been the same since day one, and he will continue to reaffirm the points that he made in his speech in an effort to bring those countries that have strayed from the pact back in the pack.  Yes?  Go ahead, Pam, and then we'll go down the row.

Question:  Thank you.  We'll hear from the Under‑Secretary‑General soon.  But, on Yemen, can you say if the Secretary‑General is doing anything to try to open the port of Hodeidah or urge others to do that, as an updated…

Spokesman:  There are a lot of discussions that are going on right now in Sweden, and I'm not going to pre-empt those discussions.  The Secretary‑General's staying extremely closely informed by Mr. [Martin] Griffiths and is making calls and helping out as Mr… in any way that can help Mr. Griffiths.

Question:  Does the Secretary‑General have any updated comment about getting aid to children or…

Spokesman:  I think I'll let Mr. Lowcock speak to the aid issue.

Correspondent:  All right. Thank you.

Spokesman:  Evelyn.  I'm sorry and then Fathi.

Question:  Yes, to follow up on last week's discussion on UNAIDS [Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS], is there anything new on it?  And this seems to have dragged on longer than what the late Secretary‑General Kofi Annan had to deal with, with [Ruud] Lubbers.

Spokesman:  No, there's no… first of all, I think they're two distinctive… completely, completely distinctive cases and there is… the issue is… the report that Mr. [Michel] Sidibé himself commissioned is being dealt with by the board.

Question:  Why?  Why is… are they two distinct…?

Spokesman:  Mr. Lubbers… the late Mr. Lubbers, bless his… may he rest in peace, I think, was directly the focus of activities.  Yes, Fathi?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  First, today, the United Nations and the International Committee are celebrating the 70th anniversary for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Secretary‑General, a few days ago, sent a video message about the need for 45 countries to rectify the Convention on Genocide.  I have checked, and I found that, for example, China, which is a member in the UN Human Rights Council, did not ratify this agreement.  And the ones who adopted were the Republic of China or Taiwan.  Does the Secretary‑General have one position or the other for countries that they are not part of major conventions, like the Genocide Convention, like Universal Declaration on Human Rights, Saudi Arabia, for example, did not…

Spokesman:  Our position is simple.  International Conventions can only be strengthened by more countries adopting them.

Question:  Does that… does that… I'm sorry.  Does that impact the membership of these countries in the Human Rights Council, or is it applying of double standards here…?

Spokesman:  The membership of the Human Rights Council is decided by the Member States themselves.  Abdelhamid and then Maggie.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions, on Palestine and on Yemen.  In fact, I want to start with Yemen if you have… how do you evaluate the talks now in Stockholm?  There are signals that…

Spokesman:  Those talks are still going on.  From the information we're getting, it's clear that the delegations are engaged in details on all issues.  Nothing is off the table.  Mr. Griffiths is saying everybody is being very constructive and very studious, which is always very good.  And we're encouraged by both the spirit and the content of the talks.  There's a very positive atmosphere with a great level of interaction, but this is an ongoing process.  And you're second…?

Question:  So, there is no… I mean, there is no limit how long these talks…

Spokesman:  Mr. Griffiths is in charge.  I think, when he's ready to announce something, he will.  Yes?

Question:  Now, my second question, are you aware that today Israeli… Israel had… is conducting a military operation inside the city of Ramallah, and they went to the Amari refugee camp?  They are arresting people.

Spokesman:  I did not see that, but I will look into it.  Mr. Abbadi, and then we have to go to our guest.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Still on migration, the Secretary‑General observed that the meeting in Marrakech that more than 60,000 migrants have died since 2000, and he said this is a source of collective shame.  Does he consider the situation also a humanitarian crisis?

Spokesman:  It clearly is.  You see what is going on in Libya, just one example, which is as a country of transit, where we're… our humanitarian partners are trying to bring help to those migrants who are trapped.  I will get Mr. Lowcock, and then we'll go to Monica.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.