13 February 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.

**Security Council

Good afternoon.  The Security Council held an open meeting this morning on Iraq.  In her first briefing as the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the Council that, although there had been a smooth transition of power to Adel Abdul-Mahdi as Prime Minister, the Government remains incomplete with four ministerial positions still vacant.  She noted that long Government‑formation processes are not new, nor are they unique to Iraq, but stressed that in the context of Iraq, where there is real urgency to complete the process to consolidate the security gains achieved, to focus on rebuilding the country, and to ensure a high-quality provision of services for their citizens.  Ultimately, the Special Representative said, the people of Iraq are bearing the burden of the political stalemate.  Her full remarks are online.

Just as a reminder, yesterday the Security Council held an open meeting on Ukraine with Miroslav Jenča, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, said that the Minsk Agreements remain the only agreed framework for a negotiated settlement in eastern Ukraine.  Also at briefing the Council was Ursula Mueller, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who said that civilians continue to pay a high price, with more than 3,300 civilians killed and up to 9,000 injured since the start of the conflict in 2014.


Yesterday afternoon, we announced that the Secretary-General appointed Dr. Shannon Hader of the United States as the Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of Programme for UNAIDS.  She brings to the position more than 20 years of international experience in global health — from responding to HIV and infectious diseases to strengthening health systems.  She has served in key health leadership roles emphasizing accountability, scale and impact for sustainable responses.  Her full bio is online, and the Secretary-General extends his appreciation to Tim Martineau, who had served as Acting Deputy Executive Director.


On Senegal, the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mohamed ibn Chambas, has condemned the recent violence in the eastern part of the country — which, according to local authorities, has caused the death of two people, injuring several others.  Mr. Chambas also called on presidential candidates and their supporters to reject violence and to respect their commitments to ensure a participatory and peaceful vote on 24 February.

**International Labour Organization

Our friends at the International Labour Organization (ILO) today released its World Employment and Social Outlook, which says that 3.3 billion people employed globally last year had inadequate working conditions.  The report also found that, while there’s been progress in reducing unemployment, the quality of work is not improving in many parts of the world.  The ILO said that millions of people are forced to accept inadequate working conditions without social protection or labour standards, and some 700 million people cannot make a decent living despite being employed.  The report also notes that the gender gap in the workforce remains with only 48 per cent of women working compared to 75 per cent of men.

**World Radio Day

Today is… it’s related to your work, though without pictures.  Yes.  World Radio Day.  There you go.  This year’s theme is “Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace”.  In his message, the Secretary-General said that even in today’s world of digital communications, radio reaches more people than any other media platform, and added that for the UN, especially for UN peacekeeping operations, radio is a vital way of informing, reuniting and empowering people impacted by war.  The message is online.

**Honour Roll

Today say thank you to our friends in Moscow as the Russian Federation has paid its dues in full.  The total is now 44.

**Guest Tomorrow

Tomorrow my guest will be Maria do Valle Ribeiro, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and also Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations in Libya.  I pause.  I take a question.  Michelle?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  First of all, a procedural question.  Are you expecting Martin Griffiths to be in New York on Monday for the Security Council briefing?

Spokesman:  It's a very valid question.  We will check with his staff ASAP.

Question:  Thank you.  And in the Philippines, Maria Ressa, the chief executive of Rappler, has been arrested.  Would the Secretary‑General like to comment on that?

Spokesman:  We've seen the press reports.  We're trying to get a bit more details into the case.  But, obviously, the Secretary‑General, as you know, has always stood strong for freedom of the press and for Governments to allow journalists to do their work in a way that they're un-harassed, but we will check on the particulars of this case.

Question:  Does the UN have any concerns about freedom of the press, in particular in the Philippines?

Spokesman:  Again, we're looking at the case.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Are you issuing any statements regarding this terrorist attack in Sistan Province in Iran, where a suicide bomber attacked a bus?

Spokesman:  I will look.  I don't have anything on that today.

Question:  On these recurring attacks in northern Syria against the refugees, the… especially with the recent one killing more than 60 or about 60 people, do you have a statement on that?

Spokesman:  Well, we've seen those reports.  We continue to express our concern at the suffering of the people in Syria, including internally displaced people.  It is clear that all the parties must ensure and do whatever they can to protect civilians and to protect civilians' infrastructure.

Question:  Do they merit an investigation, such attacks by…?

Spokesman:  Any death of civilians needs to be fully investigated.  Ms. Lederer?

Question:  A couple of questions.  First, was the United Nations invited to send any observer to this Middle Eastern meeting on the… on… on the Mideast in Warsaw?

Spokesman:  No.  I'm not aware that we were… I mean, I… we do not have any observers there, and I'm not aware if we were invited or not.

Question:  And is there any update in Yemen on the prisoner talks or on this tentative compromise and a resumption of the meeting?

Spokesman:  No, nothing… no updates we've received.  Yes, James?

Question:  Egypt.  Amnesty International reporting a rise in the number of executions, six within the last two weeks.  How concerned is the Secretary‑General?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has… his position has remained unchanged, that he stands against the use of the death penalty.

Question:  It comes at a time when there are efforts to extend the term of the president so that President [Abdel Fattah al] Sisi could potentially serve to 2034.  Does he think this is a regrettable move?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to comment on something that's ongoing and has not yet happened.  Michelle?

Question:  Does the Secretary‑General feel, though, that events in Egypt which had after [Hosni] Mubarak turned towards a road of democracy are now turning back to dictatorship and repression?

Spokesman:  Again, I've had what I've had… I've said what I've said on Egypt.  Yes, Michelle?

Question:  On Venezuela, yesterday, the Foreign Minister was in here doing a press conference, and he said that, in his meeting with the Secretary‑General, they discussed a deepening cooperation between Venezuela and the UN, but then he then said that they didn't discuss the UN coordinating any delivery of aid.  So, in what areas did they discuss deepening cooperation?

Spokesman:  I really don't have anything to add on the meeting.  The UN, as we've said before, through the agencies that are present on the ground, are looking at ways of scaling up their activities.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Thank you.  My question is on Macedonia.  How… are we going to call it:  North Macedonia, Macedonia, Former Republic of Yugoslavia?  The Government of Macedonia or North Macedonia said that they formally notified the UN.  How are we going to proceed with this?

Spokesman:  Yes, we're going to proceed along careful procedures.  We are tantalizingly close to getting all the procedures… the administrative procedures being done for the Prespa Agreement to come fully into force.  I expect to have something more official to say later this afternoon.  We're waiting for, shall we say, the official pieces of papers to get to the right people.  Why not, James?

Question:  Can I take you back a couple of days to your trip to Addis Ababa and the Secretary‑General's trip there?  The family photo there, he stood next to President [Omar Hassan A. al-]Bashir.  I mean, he could have stood, one assumes, anywhere with the African president.  So, is the UN in any way re‑evaluating its view of President Bashir, who was indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court]?

Spokesman:  No, there's no re‑evaluation.  The seating was done according to protocol dictated by the hosts.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.