The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
Good afternoon. As you will have seen, the Secretary‑General has strongly condemned the military escalation and fighting in and around Tripoli, including yesterday’s aerial attack by a Libyan National Army aircraft against the airport in Tripoli. The Secretary‑General continues to urge the immediate halt of all military operations in order to de‑escalate the situation and prevent an all‑out conflict, while emphasizing that there is no military solution to the Libya conflict. The Secretary‑General said his Special Representative in Libya, Ghassan Salamé, stands ready to facilitate dialogue.
And a short while ago, in a statement issued from Tripoli, Mr. Salamé reiterated that he is determined to hold the National Conference at the earliest possible date, as it remains a historic opportunity. At the same time, he said, we cannot request a Conference against the backdrop of artillery bombardment and air raids, which could compromise the ability of all those who expressed willingness from all over the country to attend, safe and free to voice their opinions. Mr. Salamé said he would work to the fullest extent of his ability for the Libyan National Conference to take place as soon as possible once success requirements are re‑established.
And the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, joined the Secretary‑General in reminding all parties to the conflict in Libya of their obligations under international law to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure. She urged all parties to take measures to ensure civilians do not — once again — bear the brunt of the fighting, highlighting in particular the need to ensure the protection of extremely vulnerable people, including refugees and migrants.
The humanitarian community is also expressing deep concern about the increasing humanitarian impact of the violence. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 4,500 individuals have been displaced from the affected neighbourhoods to comparatively safe areas in Tripoli, Bani Walid and Tarhuna. Concerns remain for civilians caught in conflict‑affected areas, who are unable to leave their homes during the ongoing fighting. Humanitarians are working to ensure preparedness for potential additional needs. This includes ongoing relocation of vulnerable refugees and migrants from detention facilities in conflict‑affected areas. Advocacy continues for the relocation of all refugees and migrants currently in detention facilities in conflict‑affected areas.
The World Health Organization (WHO), for its part, reports that among the dead are two doctors who had been providing critically needed services to civilians in Tripoli. The Agency reiterates that targeting health‑care workers and health facilities is against international humanitarian law. A $202 million appeal for the humanitarian response for Libya this year is just 6 per cent funded.
Turning to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen for the Secretary‑General, said today he was deeply saddened to hear of the tragic deaths of civilians, the majority of whom were young female students attending school in an area of Sana’a on 7 April. He said this loss of life shows the terrible impact that the conflict continues to have on society’s most vulnerable and on the country’s infrastructure as well as essential services. Mr. Griffiths strongly urged all parties to make every possible effort to put an end to civilian suffering and allow young Yemenis to grow up in peace and safety. He said only an inclusive political solution will end this cycle of violence and destruction.
And yesterday, as you will have seen, we issued a statement on the recent developments in Sudan, in which the Secretary‑General said he is following closely the demonstrations in the country and appealed to all actors to exercise utmost restraint and avoid violence. He called for full respect for human rights, including the freedom of assembly, the freedom of expression, as well as the release of detained protestors. The Secretary‑General called on the Government of Sudan to create a conducive environment for a solution to the current situation and to promote an inclusive dialogue. He also affirmed that the UN stands ready to support any efforts agreed by the Sudanese to peacefully resolve the crisis.
We also have an update from our humanitarian colleagues on the response to Cyclone Idai. In Malawi, UN agencies and partners have reached approximately 90,000 households with relief assistance including food, water and sanitation, health, nutrition, shelter and protection. Assistance has also arrived in the country to support shelter and displacement tracking, coordination, early recovery and logistics. Approximately $19.3 million of the $45.2 million required for immediate assistance in Malawi has been mobilized so far.
In Mozambique, more than 756,000 people have received food assistance since Cyclone Idai made landfall last month. According to the Government, almost 161,000 people are sheltering in 164 sites. The World Food Programme (WFP) has deployed nutritionists in the four priority provinces and devised a six‑month plan to treat at least 100,000 children and women for moderate acute malnutrition. At least 593,000 people have received the oral cholera vaccine, representing 73 per cent of the total target. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the Mozambique Humanitarian Response Plan for Cyclone [Idai], which is seeking $282 million, is currently just under 21 per cent funded.
And I want to flag that the Secretary-General will speak at the closing session of the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Youth Forum at around 5:45 p.m. this evening.
The Secretary‑General will reiterate that young people have a partner in the UN, one that shares their concerns about unemployment, climate change and access to the basic needs such as quality education and health care. He will also highlight the UN Youth Strategy, which launched last September, to ensure that the Organization responds better to the needs of young people and includes their contributions to making the Sustainable Development Goals available for all.
In particular, he will highlight the UN’s commitment to improve the conditions of young women who are too often discriminated against in every sector, from health and education, to access to the labour force and financing. And he will also appeal to youth to keep contributing their ideas, energy and creativity and continue engaging with the UN.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, between yesterday and today is in Lebanon, where she met the President and the Prime Minister of the country and also addressed the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development and met with Resident Coordinators from the region.
And back here, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, briefed the Security Council this morning. He stressed that today there is an unprecedented stigmatization of refugees and migrants in the media and in politics, and that this should concern us all as it is creating a toxic environment that makes it increasingly difficult to tackle this issue.
Mr. Grandi told members of the Council that they have a critical role in addressing the refugee crisis and urged them to focus on three areas: solving security crises; providing support to countries hosting refugees; and removing obstacles and providing solutions for refugees who wish to return to their home countries or start a dignified life elsewhere. He also emphasized that countries should not take for granted the generosity of host countries and called for more support for countries like Bangladesh, Lebanon, Peru and Colombia, who have received millions of refugees in the past months. He added that this support is key to preserving stability in these regions. Mr. Grandi is expected to be at the stakeout at around 1 p.m.
A couple of notes more. More than 175 million children — around half of the pre‑primary‑age children globally — are not enrolled in pre‑primary education, missing a critical investment opportunity and suffering deep inequalities from the start. That’s according to a new UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] report released today. The report reveals that children enrolled in at least one year of pre‑primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in schools, less likely to repeat grades or drop out of school, and therefore better able to contribute to peaceful and prosperous societies.
Also on education, the World Bank and UNICEF yesterday announced a new commitment to promote education, skills and training for young people in developing countries with the global goal of boosting their employment prospects. The partnership will align $1 billion in World Bank investments with Generation Unlimited, a new global initiative currently hosted by UNICEF, which aims to prepare the world’s 1.8 billion young people for the transition to work by connecting secondary‑age education to employment and entrepreneurship.
Tomorrow — scheduled as of now in terms of press briefings, but things may change — at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing here sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the UN on Amnesty International’s 2018 annual global report on death penalty developments and statistics from across the world.
At noon, I should be joined by Ramiz Alakbarov, Director of UNFPA’s [United Nations Population Fund] Strategy and Policy Division. He will brief reporters on UNFPA’s State of the World Population 2019 report.
Immediately after that, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the PGA [President of the General Assembly] and the Director [General] of the ILO [International Labour Organization]. Monica [Grayley] will tell you more about that.
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**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes. Sorry, Stéphane. Just to clarify, as things stand today, are the 14‑16 April dates for the Libya conference still firm? Or, given that the language seems to be shifting to appropriate date, as soon as possible…?
Spokesman: Yes, I would interpret Mr. Salamé’s statement, which we just got a few minutes ago in Arabic, which we did a rough translation of, as shifting dates and, I think, as reaffirming his commitment to hold the conference. But I think, as most people would understand, it’s hard to hold a conference while the bullets are whizzing.
Question: So, we could probably expect a formal change being notified at some point soon?
Spokesman: Indeed. Evelyn and then Masood?
Question: Thank you. On Yemen, has anyone spoken to Saudi Arabia for resuming bombing everything that moves, that I thought had stopped after…
Spokesman: The discussions with all sides involved in the conflict are continuous.
Question: Has the SG spoke to anybody…? Thank you.
Spokesman: I have nothing to report on the SG’s personal contacts. But Mr. Griffiths remains in the region. Masood‑ji?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Stéphane, on this situation in West Bank, where it… the… between the… and during the ensuing election, it has been threatened that Mr… that the… Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu will annex the West Bank also and that… that, in the… in the past, we’ve seen, despite all the caveats on this occupation… occupation, I mean, building on the occupied territories, it will happen, and it continues to happen.
Spokesman: What is the question, Masood?
Question: What do you think can the Secretary‑General do to prevail upon Israel to — what do you call? — at least, you know, to vacate the…
Spokesman: Well, I think the… I commented on that yesterday. So, I would refer you to my answers yesterday. I think the Secretary‑General’s position on the need for the parties to negotiate directly to find a just and durable solution to the conflict has been stated over and over again, and that continues to be the underlying message of all the contacts we have with all the parties involved.
Question: Does the Secretary‑General believe that two… a two‑State solution is still viable?
Spokesman: Indeed. Yes?
Question: I also wanted to find out, because this has been asked… this question has been asked by Pakistani Prime Minister…
Spokesman: Please put your microphone closer so I can hear you.
Question: Okay. Sorry, sir. Pakistani Prime Minister also said that India is going to annex Kashmir like… like Israel is doing in case of West Bank. Do you have any comments…?
Spokesman: I haven’t seen those comments, and we tend not to comment on things that have not yet happened. Yes, sir?
Question: Can you give us a sense of whether there’s a defined threshold that needs to be reached in cases of massive detentions based on religion and ethnicity before they become part of the Secretary‑General’s mandate to actively address? Is this a purely discretional…?
Spokesman: What is the context of the question?
Question: It’s regarding the Xinjiang region of China.
Spokesman: I think the… first of all, our human rights colleagues are engaged in this, and I would refer you to the readouts of the Secretary‑General’s meetings on China.
Question: I understand that his envoys have spoken about it, but is there a part of his mandate, a threshold that needs to be reached before he speaks about it?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General has spoken out about human rights in China, as he has all over the world.
Question: About this specific issue, though?
Spokesman: I think he has. Yes?
Question: Do you have any reaction from the Secretary‑General about the increasing level of Venezuelans leaving the country? And now they are under re… under resort of the criminals and smugglers to be able to move to other countries around the continent and besides that, of course, the human trafficking is increasing — in a really huge number, in that regard.
Spokesman: The exploitation of migrants by criminal groups is something that has been a concern of the Secretary‑General for quite some time, which he has spoken about. As to the situation in Venezuela, there will be, as far as I understand it, a humanitarian briefing tomorrow in the Security Council. Mr… the Secretary‑General will be present. Mr. [Mark] Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, will provide the briefing on behalf of the UN, and we’ll have an up… that will give you a good update on the humanitarian situation in Venezuela. Masood?
Question: Yes, sir. Just a follow‑up. Does the Secretary‑General plan to have any conversation with the Saudis about the situation in Yemen, which is going back to where…?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General has had numerous conversations…
Correspondent: But they’re not… I’m sorry.
Spokesman: Let me find a full stop in my sentence before you ask a follow‑up. The Secretary‑General has had a number of conversations with the leadership in Saudi Arabia and other interested parties. Mr. Griffiths is continuing to shuttle around the region in order to get the parties to focus on a political solution, including on the implementation of what was agreed upon in Sweden around Hodeidah. Yep?
Question: I just wanted to get a sense, is it a discretionary threshold?
Spokesman: I’m not aware of a hard number, in the short answer to your question. Monica, après vous. Sorry, après moi.