The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. As you know, the Secretary-General is in Washington, D.C., today. He was scheduled to have meetings — which I think took place — with John Bolton and National Security staff at the White House this morning, and this afternoon at 2 p.m., he will be meeting the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo. We expect a camera spray at the top of that meeting in Washington. We expect the Secretary-General back here tomorrow. On Friday morning, I wanted to let you know that the Secretary-General will lay a wreath in tribute of the UN staff who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash last Sunday. That event will take place at 11 a.m. in the Visitors’ Lobby, and you’re of course all welcome to join.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
I have a senior personnel appointment for today. Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon is being named as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. Mr. Onanga-Anyanga brings with him extensive experience in the United Nations, having served most recently as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). He was also the Coordinator at UN Headquarters of the response to the Boko Haram Crisis and Head of the UN Office in Burundi. Lots more information in our office.
Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General met with the Foreign Minister of Colombia, Carlos Holmes Trujillo García. They discussed the situation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The Secretary-General took note of the explanations provided by the Foreign Minister with respect to the objections by President Duque of its Statutory Law. The Secretary-General stressed the importance of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and he reiterated the concerns expressed previously by the UN with respect to the uncertainty surrounding the adoption of the Statutory Law and his hope for swift actions to ensure that this legal foundation is put into place as soon as possible, ensuring the rights of victims and legal security for all concerned parties.
And you just heard… as you know, the Security Council just finished its closed consultations on Yemen; the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, briefed Council members on the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement. He informed Council members that we’re still working with the parties to make the redeployment in Hodeidah a reality.
And today, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, and the African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail Chergui, concluded a joint two-day visit to Libya. The joint United Nations-African Union delegation held meetings in Tripoli with the President of the Presidency Council, Fayez Serraj, as well as Khaled al-Mishri, the President of the High Council of State, and other members of the Government of National Accord. They were also briefed on security arrangements in Tripoli and met with a women’s group. Today, Ms. DiCarlo and Ambassador Chergui, accompanied by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Libya, Ghassan Salamé, travelled to Benghazi, where they met with the Commander of the Libyan National Army, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. The joint visit was in support of UN-led efforts aimed at reaching a political settlement, leading to the unification of the country’s institutions, the holding of national elections, and the enhancement of security, stability and living conditions for the Libyan people.
And the third Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region is going ahead, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that humanitarian needs inside Syria remain at record level, with 11.7 million people in need of some form of humanitarian aid and protection. The United Nations Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock warns that without an immediate and substantial injection of funds, life-saving provisions of food, water, health care, shelter and protection services will likely be interrupted. The UN is urgently seeking increased funding to help people in need through a $3.3 billion appeal for the response inside Syria, and for a 5.5 billion refugee and resilience plan for the neighbouring countries.
The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said reduced assistance due to funding cuts means that refugees are forced to make agonizing choices every day, such as taking children out of school to work or reducing meals. He said it is essential that the international community stays the course in supporting the millions of Syrian refugees who live in neighbouring countries and still require protection and assistance. Despite generous funding by donors in 2018, only 65 per cent of the $3.4 billion required for the inside-Syria plan was actually received.
**United Nations Environment Programme
And at the UN Environmental Assembly in Nairobi, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released today a report which warns that damage to the planet is increasingly threatening people’s health. The agency’s Global Environmental Outlook says that unless we drastically scale up environmental protections, cities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century. The report also warns that pollutants in our freshwater systems will be a major cause of death by 2050 and will impact male and female fertility, as well as children’s neurodevelopment. UNEP said that we are at a crossroads and called on countries to implement innovative policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and waste. You can find the full report online.
And our colleagues at the Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) are expressing concern that new HIV infections are not declining among people who inject drugs, despite a decline in new infections globally. A new UNAIDS report also shows that 99 per cent of people who inject drugs live in countries that do not provide adequate harm reduction services, which include needle and syringe programmes, drug‑dependence treatment and HIV treatment and testing. In a press release today, Michel Sidibé, the UNAIDS Executive Director, said that ensuring access to health and social services with dignity and without discrimination or criminalization can save lives and drastically reduce HIV infections.
And you may have seen that yesterday evening, we issued a statement by the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, on the draft reforms to the Laws on National Reconciliation in Guatemala. Mr. Dieng urged members of the Guatemalan Congress to reject the draft legislations on this law, saying that approval would grant amnesty with retroactive effect to all those convicted or awaiting trial for international crimes committed during the country’s civil war. These crimes include genocide and crimes against humanity. His statement is online.
A couple more things to flag, a lot of stuff today. In Iraq, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said it is rehabilitating 15,000 houses in West Mosul as part of an effort to rebuild more than 30,000 homes — the largest such project in the country. Some 90,000 people will be able to return home to 29 neighbourhoods that were hardest hit during the effort to liberate the city from Da’esh. UNDP is involved in some 800 other projects in Mosul, to rehabilitate the city.
And our humanitarian colleagues report that flooding in Malawi and Mozambique has affected nearly 843,000 people and caused at least 60 deaths, according to preliminary reports from the respective Governments. Both the Malawian and Mozambican Governments are leading humanitarian responses. The Malawian Government has appealed for support with emergency relief items, including tents, foods, medicines and helicopters for rescue operations and delivery of assistance. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says a humanitarian response, search and rescue efforts and rapid needs assessments are underway in Malawi. And in Mozambique, the flooding has affected more than 103,000 people, and the Government there and humanitarian partners are providing assistance to affected people.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF) report that some 260,000 children in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are suffering from severe and acute malnutrition in need of lifesaving treatment. Violence and insecurity between 2016 and 2018 caused large‑scale displacement in Kasai; although pockets of insecurity remain, thousands of families who had fled the region have now returned to their communities.
After you’re done with me, and after you’re done with Monica [Greyley], there will be a briefing here sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, as part of the Commission on the Status of Women meetings, with Natalia Mokriak and Olga Oprysko of the Azov Sailors Women’s Platform. Khalas. Carole? Sorry.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, can you give us more details on Yemen? What meetings are planned with General [Mark] Lollesgaard or Martin Griffiths to try to get the Hodeidah agreement implemented? And what… is there a sense at the UN that this agreement is unravelling?
Spokesman: No, I would not use the term "unravelling". I think patience and determination are really the name of the game. I think no one expected this to be easy. This is the first agreement reached by the parties since the start of the conflict. Mr. Griffiths, General Lollesgaard are determined to help the parties reach an agreement to implement what was actually agreed to, to implement it on the ground, and we continue our efforts and speak to whoever we need to speak to to do that. Madame?
Question: Can you give us specifics on…?
Spokesman: I cannot. Yeah.
Question: Is the Redeployment Commission meeting?
Spokesman: We usually get updates when they meet. So, I would… as soon as we have confirmation of a meeting, we will share that with you. Yep and then…
Correspondent: Thanks, Stéphane. We have… oh. Go ahead. Evelyn can go. You can go.
Spokesman: All right, Evelyn. Go ahead. Everyone's so polite here.
Question: I know. Right? On Iraq, when you mentioned… well, whatever you mentioned, the…?
Spokesman: I thought it was fascinating.
Question: Yeah. No, no. The new [inaudible]. Has there been any accountability on the Yazidis that they had…? They've talked about it.
Spokesman: Well, you know, the… there is a Commission that was impanelled by… to do its work and to collect evidence, and they're going about their work.
Question: They're doing it. You think they are?
Spokesman: There… crimes have clearly been committed, and accountability will have to be had.
Question: And anything new on when… on UNAIDS, on the sexual harassment controversy?
Spokesman: No, I have nothing to share. Yep, and then…
Question: Thanks, Stéphane. Venezuela has been without electricity since Thursday, and we know the… it's been reported at least 15 deaths. They're using the sewage water to try to get some water for their homes. At this point, what is the Secretary‑General idea of what could happen, how organisations and the special group that was assigned and is based with the OEM and other organizations that we have in the area for Venezuela will be able to assist in some matter? At this point, it seems to be more a humanitarian crisis within the country. And then the second part is, what is the sense of the office of the… good offices of what could happen in terms of any dialogue, especially now that the DA of Venezuela has said that the responsibility of this blackout is part of [Juan] Guaidó's investigation… new investigation against him? So, is he worried that they're trying to now use the blackout to try to go against members of the opposition?
Spokesman: Sure. Let me try to address the various issues you've brought up. We, of course… the Secretary‑General is very concerned about the humanitarian impact that the blackout has had. We're following it… we're following closely. We're also concerned about the reports of incidents of looting and violence that we've seen. We have offered to step up our support to address the emergency situation, and as a matter of course, our team on the ground is in touch with Government officials. You know, on the broader political point, I have nothing new to announce on the good offices. The Secretary‑General's offer still stands, but our call to all actors, both domestic and non‑domestic, both national and non‑national actors, is to do whatever they can to help lower the tensions in Venezuela. Madame?
Question: Can I just follow up on that? I just want to…
Spokesman: Go ahead. Everybody's yielding to everybody. Yeah.
Question: Clarification on when you said you've offered your support, is this an offer in light of the blackout and what… what do you think…?
Spokesman: It's an offer in light of the current humanitarian situation in [Venezuela].
Question: Any details on that?
Spokesman: No. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On the global environment report, has there been a reaction from the Secretary‑General to that report? And we have seen many similar reports before. Does… is this one any scarier than the previous ones? And do you expect it to change the way the UN is addressing climate change, especially considering we are not on track to meet SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] climate goals?
Spokesman: I think it's… listen, I think we have… the report just adds to the scientific knowledge that we have already. Right? And it's a very important report. I think it's also very important to put the impact of climate change in the context of health and the impact that it has on health, which is very real and which we see today, whether it's on issues of air quality or long‑term health impact. We hope that this report, along with others, will give national actors, political actors, business community even more impetus to join the fight against the impact of climate change. Thank you. Monica, it's time for you.
Correspondent: Last question, please.
Spokesman: Uh, we'll do a last question. Yeah. I didn't see that…
Question: Freedom of speech in Venezuela in following up… the freedom of speech in Venezuela… in following this, the blackout in Venezuela now is a word who to blame on these matters. So, a journalist, Luis Carlos Diaz, he was arrested in… he was in indictment of… he's conducting or being part of this blackout in Venezuela. So, there's any… any… anything from the UN about…?
Spokesman: I mean, the report that I saw was that he was then released, which is good news, but it is very important that journalists be allowed to do their work free of harassment, free of arrest, so that they're able to exercise their rights to report. Thank you.