14 January 2019

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.

**State of Palestine

As you know, the Secretary-General is meeting — just about now — with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.  And as you are aware, Palestine will succeed Egypt as the Chair of the G-77 bloc of developing nations, and the Secretary-General and President Abbas will participate in the handover ceremony, which takes place tomorrow.


An update on Yemen:  To date, the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) has held two joint meetings, which brought together the RCC representatives of the Government of Yemen and the Houthis in Hodeidah.  In the last week, due to the inability of the parties to have a joint meeting, the chair, Gen. Patrick Cammaert, has shuttled between the RCC representatives, meeting each side twice, seeking to find a mutually acceptable way forward for the redeployment of forces from the three ports and critical parts of the city associated with humanitarian facilities, as provided for in phase one in the Stockholm Agreement.  While projected timelines have slipped, recent discussions have been constructive.  The chair continues to encourage the parties to resume the joint meetings in order to finalize a mutually agreed redeployment plan.  Currently, plans are being discussed on how to facilitate humanitarian operations.


And the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, is in The Hague today, in the Netherlands, to attend a high-level conference on UN peacekeeping organized by the Netherlands and Rwanda; the meeting aims to prepare the ground for the UN Peacekeeping ministerial meeting scheduled to take place in New York on 29 March.  The Under-Secretary-General delivered the keynote address, in which he stressed the importance of working in partnership to deliver on the commitments of the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative; he said the upcoming ministerial meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to explore how to collectively generate specialized and high-performing capabilities.  While at The Hague, Under-Secretary-General Lacroix also spoke with European Union representatives about boosting the contribution of European Union Member States to UN peacekeeping through smart rotations.  He met with the Dutch Foreign Minister, Stef Blok, and thanked the Netherlands for its participation in UN peacekeeping operations and for its strong support for the Action for Peacekeeping agenda.

**Central African Republic

Staying on peacekeeping, in the Central African Republic, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people have fled from Bakouma town and nearby villages since 31 December 2018.  They were fleeing due to clashes between the FPRC [Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique] and the UPC [Unité pour la paix en Centrafrique] groups’ combatants and armed men with anti-Balaka members.  The majority of internally displaced people have sought refuge in Bangassou town — that’s in the south‑eastern part of the country, near the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  They were provided with humanitarian aid by the UN and non-governmental organizations, including food, non-food items and health services.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says it has deployed an emergency team to scale up coordination, but rural areas remain inaccessible due to insecurity and the growing mobilization of armed people.


And the eightieth session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child opened today in Geneva.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, noted that this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, which is by far the most ratified human rights treaty.  She said that advances have been made in reducing poverty and enhancing child survival, but that, in other areas of the Sustainable Development Goals, progress lags behind.  Ms. Bachelet said that children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and slavery, with millions of girls becoming mothers while they are still children.


And the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), today said the global trade in creative goods and services is expanding mostly because of China.  Creative goods and services include the fashion, design, media and software industries, among others.  In its newest report, UNCTAD said that from 2002 to 2015, the global market for creative goods more than doubled, from $208 billion to $509 billion.  China’s export of creative goods grew at double the global average during this period.  Other countries also stimulated growth in this sector including India, Singapore, Turkey, Thailand and Mexico.

**Honour Roll

And today, we have three new members to add to the Honour Roll.  We thank Australia, Canada and Latvia for paying their dues in full, with their regular budget dues for 2019.  We thank them.  And how many on the honour roll?  We're still in single digits.  Can't be that hard to guess.  Six.  You guys are all pathetic.  All right.  Let's go on that positive note.  Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  You said that General Cammaert… sorry, on Yemen… was shuttling between the two sides.  Is this because the two sides are not willing to be in the same room at this stage, or is this for logistical reasons?  Can…?

Spokesman:  I think, if the two sides were able and willing to be in the same room, they would.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  As of today, FYROM, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, announced that they are the North… Republic of North Macedonia.  It's official now; they call themselves like that.  I know you mentioned and you did make some comments, and I'm fishing for another one that was fresh on that from the Secretary‑General.  What does he says, having in mind that the Greeks has… have still to vote in their parliament and to adopt it?

Spokesman:  No, I think I would refer you to what Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz said and the Secretary‑General fully backs what he said, which is the latest development in the vote taken in Skopje is a very positive move, and we look forward to the full completion of the agreement.

Question:  What would he say to Greeks?

Spokesman:  What I just said now, that we look forward to the full completion.

Question:  Steph, thanks.  On the provisional electoral results in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, SADC [Southern African Development Community], the regional body, has called for a government of national unity and a possible political… negotiated political settlement.  SADC has also mooted a possible recount at the discretion of authorities in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo].  What do you make of those pronouncements by the regional body?

Spokesman:  Look, it's not for me to comment on what SADC says.  We continue obviously to follow the discussions… the developments closely.  We are in touch on the ground with all the relevant stakeholders.  I think what is important is that the constitutional process follows its way.  We've seen the latest developments on that end.  It is also important that everybody remains calm, and we will continue to follow and support what is a Congolese‑owned process in whatever way we can.

Question:  Does the UN, though, foresee any role for itself or the organization, its good offices, in possible mediation talks between the political parties and their country?

Spokesman:  As always, the UN remains available for good offices should all sides request it, and that's valid for any situation.  Evelyn and then…?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  The State Department says that it's eased some of its sanctions on North Korea, allowing humanitarian goods in and humanitarian workers.  Is there any sign that this has happened?

Spokesman:  I’m not… I'll have to check with our humanitarian colleagues.

Question:  Right.  Secondly, could you check? Your honour roll is on regular budget.  Correct?

Spokesman:  That is correct, ma'am.

Question:  Can you eventually do an honour roll on peacekeeping?

Spokesman:  We… that data is available.  We'll get that for you.

Question:  Because it's larger, isn't it, than regular?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I have a question on… on Venezuela.  Currently, there is an unprecedented situation happening there.  There… the President of the National Assembly is pretty much doing… or calling for the nation to follow him as he says that he is… is the new President of the nation, and that happened shortly after [Nicolas] Maduro was sworn for a new period or for a new mandate.  And over the weekend, the President of the National Assembly was briefly detained creating some level of uncertainty in the nation and increasing concerns throughout the region.  So, I wonder if the SG has been following all of these latest developments in Venezuela and if the new… and if the President of the National Assembly has reached out to the UN for any kind of talks, discussions or support?

Spokesman:  Sure.  I'm not aware that the President of the National Assembly has reached out to us, but we can check.  I think the events over the weekend, including his temporary detainment, highlights the polarization that we're seeing in Venezuela.  We call on all actors to refrain from any rhetoric or actions that may escalate the already existing tensions, and we reiterate our conviction that the road to recovery depends on Venezuelans themselves and their State institutions, including the National Assembly, searching for a peaceful negotiated solution that strengthens democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law in Venezuela.  And of course, I think, as I said, the Secretary‑General is following this closely and, I think, remains concerned about what we're seeing in Venezuela.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, two questions.  One, will there be a readout of the Secretary‑General's meeting with the… with Mr. Mahmoud Abbas…?

Spokesman:  We will effort to get you one.

Question:  Okay.  The other thing that I wanted to ask, the peace process that as you have described between the Yemeni parties and the opposing… the Saudi Coal… are they going on, or are there any differences, as you just mentioned earlier that this is going on smoothly?

Spokesman:  "Smoothly" is not a term that I would use.  There remains differences.  There are two levels here really on… first, there is the implementation of the agreement in Stockholm as Mr. Cammaert is leading on the ground in Hodeidah under the overall political direction of the Special Envoy, of Mr. [Martin] Griffiths, who continues his discussions with all the parties to try to get them back to a table for an overall political agreement.  And that's the situation that we're in now.  Widad?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  So, there's a new caravan forming in Honduras, gearing up to come to the… up… heading up north coming to the United States.  I was wondering if the UN or UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] have any contingency plans on how they'll be dealing with these people.  And if… are you guys discussing with US border authorities?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware of any discussions with the US border authorities.  There may be.  I know our colleagues, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] and UNHCR and others, already have a presence in Mexico.  And we'll try to get an update from them as to what contingency plans they may be doing in addition.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Stéphane, just two… one quick follow‑up and then a question.  Is the offices of Mr. Nimetz are now closed?  Is he still…?

Spokesman:  No.  They are not closed.

Question:  So he continues?

Spokesman:  He continues.

Question:  Until when?

Spokesman:  Well, until he no longer continues.  I don't…

Correspondent:  I cannot put that in the story.

Spokesman:  I don't mean to be smug.  We have… the process is not completely done.  So, Mr. Nimetz's good offices, his mandate continues.

Question:  When is going to be done, that you are going to…?

Spokesman:  I can only speak for the present.

Question:  Okay.  And another one, if I can.  All right.  Regarding that G‑77 that you mentioned, there is an article in the media reports that the… in continuation, that the third‑world countries are not well represented at the UN, and they are somehow blaming the chief… I mean the… the UN Secretary‑General.  In fairness, to Mr. [António] Guterres, they were blaming Mr. Ban Ki‑moon and Kofi Annan, et cetera.  So, what say you on that criticism?  How you respond?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General has made the greatest effort to have a geographical balance, to have gender balance in his senior ranks.  And I think, if you look at the… at the total… at the numbers of… the members of his Senior Management Group, you will find a broad geographical balance.  Masood, then we'll come back.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On this… President [Donald] Trump's threat to Turkey that devastated economically, do you have any comments on that at all?

Spokesman:  No, sir.

Question:  Okay.  Another question I'm going to ask you, it was about Rohingya.  Are… has the Special Rapporteur not been allowed… will not be… will he or she be allowed to go back to the Rohingya to… to… what do you call… Myanmar crit… deal with the Rohingya question?

Spokesman:  We very much hope that she will be allowed to visit the country when she needs to.  Yes, Fathi?

Question:  I'm sorry.  It's a follow‑up, and I'm not sure if you already answered that.  Over the weekend, the Houthis have accused General Cammaert that he has a special agenda, that he wants to… to bring into the situation in Hodeidah and in Yemen, which is… carried an accusation for the UN.  Any comments from the Secretary‑General on this?

Spokesman:  The only special agenda that General Cammaert has is the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, is to bring calm to Hodeidah, to create a humanitarian space in which our colleagues can do their work, and help the Yemeni people, who have been suffering so horribly for so long.

Question:  Any developments on completing the manpower needed for General Cammaert to undertake his…?

Spokesman:  No, sir.  I gave…  I think you were still here.  I gave an update on him but no update besides what I've already said.  Monica, it's Monday, and it's your turn.

For information media. Not an official record.