17 April 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.


All right.  Good afternoon.  I’ll start with Libya.  We can report that throughout the night, Tripoli witnessed the heaviest fighting since the outbreak of clashes, with indiscriminate rocket fire on a high-density neighbourhood in the Libyan capital.  At least five civilians have been reportedly killed and several others injured.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Libya, Ghassan Salamé, condemned in the strongest terms the overnight shelling, recalling that responsibility for actions that may constitute war crimes lies not only with the individuals who committed the indiscriminate attacks, but also potentially those who ordered them.  In a statement to the media yesterday, Mr. Salamé renewed his call for international unity to spare Libya from the devastating consequences of a civil war.

In the past 24 hours we’ve also seen the highest single-day increase in displacement, with more than 4,500 people displaced, and that’s according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  This brings the total number of people forced out of their homes to 25,000.

Wherever access allows, humanitarian partners continue to respond to the rapidly increasing needs through the provision of humanitarian support.

However, according to our humanitarian colleagues, yesterday’s request for a temporary ceasefire to allow for the safe and voluntary exit of civilians from the conflict areas did not materialize.  Civilians trapped in conflict areas are reportedly running low on basic food items as well as fuel and experiencing prolonged electricity and water cuts.

The humanitarian community continues to call on all parties to meet their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Yesterday, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners relocated another 150 vulnerable refugees who were detained in the Abu Selim detention centre — close to the ongoing clashes — to UNHCR’s Gathering and Departure Facility in the centre of Tripoli.  Efforts are under way to bring more vulnerable individuals to safety.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

And we have seen the reports of a ferry accident on Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General will be writing to President [Felix] Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to express his condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of the country.

The United Nations stands in solidarity with the Government as it responds to this incident, and is ready to help with the response, as requested. 


Turning to Sudan, and back here, the Joint Special Representative for the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) Jeremiah Mamabolo, briefed the Security Council this morning [via VTC] on key developments on his mission following the 12 April removal of President Omer al-Bashir.

He said that changes at the federal level have an obvious impact on Darfur, including protests and violent acts; he assured the Council that in the midst of all these developments, the UN-AU Mission has remained vigilant, maintaining a robust posture particularly in the Jebel Marra area of responsibility, where the peacekeeping Mission has troops.

Also briefing the Council was the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, who noted that well before the latest developments in Sudan, humanitarian needs in Darfur and other parts of the country were already growing due to the economic crisis.

She said that the direct impact on humanitarian operations from the recent political events has so far been limited, and regular operations have continued, but she expressed concern about the protection of civilians, particularly in Darfur.

**Horn of Africa

And, turning to the Horn of Africa, around 23.4 million people are currently food insecure in the Greater Horn — including 10.7 million people across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda’s Karamoja region — that’s according to the Food Security and Nutrition Working Group, which is a regional platform co-chaired by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

At a press conference in Nairobi earlier today, the Group said that although the food insecure population is lower than numbers observed during the 2017 drought, there is a high risk of a worsening situation due to the forecast rainfall deficits and a delay in the start of the March-to-May long rains.

WFP (World Food Programme) says it is closely monitoring conditions in case of a new regional drought and is coordinating with governments and humanitarian responders.  The agency is ready to respond if needed but would rely on increased donor support to do so.  More information available online.


And in Afghanistan, a new UN report has found that, although there has been a reduction in the number of torture cases since 2016, there are still many detainees who continue to say they have been subjected to ill-treatment.

The joint report by the UN Mission in Afghanistan and the UN Human Rights Office found that nearly one-third of the more than 600 detainees who were interviewed provided credible and reliable accounts of having been tortured.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that while the Government’s policies to combat torture and ill-treatment has led to some progress, they are far from sufficient.

For his part, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Afghanistan, said that respect for the rule of law and human rights is the best way to create the conditions for sustainable peace.


And turning to Iran, following days of heavy rain and flash flooding that impacted large parts of Iran, three UN inter-agency missions visited Lorestan, Golestan and Ilam provinces last week to assess the humanitarian impact.

The missions reported extensive damages to crops, basic infrastructure and people’s livelihoods.  A mission to Khozestan is under way.

The UN is mobilizing support in coordination with the international community.  The UN has also provided emergency health supplies, emergency shelter kits and household items.

On 10 April, at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) had airlifted essential medical supplies, including trauma supplies and cholera and non-communicable disease kits.


In Geneva, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has called for action to better manage electronic waste, also known as e-waste, so it can be turned into a source of decent work.

The organization says the world produces as much as 50 million tons of e-waste a year.  However, only 20 per cent is formally recycled, even though it is valued at $62 billion dollars.  E-waste is also becoming an increasingly important resource for informal workers who recover, repair, refurbish, re-use, repurpose and recycle electrical and electronic equipment.

The agency called for an increased promotion of management of e-waste as well as infrastructure to manage in ways that create decent jobs.  It also urged the protection of people working with this material, which is toxic, hazardous and negatively impacts the environment.

**Digital Health Technology

And the WHO, the World Health Organization, today released new recommendations on ways that countries can use digital health technology to improve people’s essential health services.

WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros [Ghebreyesus], said digital technologies are an essential tool to achieve universal health coverage, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable.

The guidelines also stress that people must be assured that their own data is safe and that they are not being put at risk because they have accessed information on sensitive health topics, such as sexual and reproductive health.

**Noon Briefing Guest

And tomorrow my guest will be Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Steph.  When do you expect the Security Council to discuss the Secretary‑General's report on Cyprus, which he submitted yesterday?

Spokesman:  Yes, it went to… advanced copies to Council members yesterday.  I think we'd have to look at the Council calendar, but we hope they can discuss it as soon as possible.

Question:  Could it be this month?

Spokesman:  I think that's a question for the presidency, but, usually, it's not long after it's been distributed.  Masood?

Question:  Okay.  Stéphane, in Libya, it is being said it has become a full‑blown… full‑blown civil war.  Is it… can that be described as a full‑blown civil war?  And what is the situation now?  Do you have any idea?

Spokesman:  Well, Masood, with all due respect, I just… I think I just started with a long description of what the situation is now in Tripoli, which includes the indiscriminate firing of heavy weapons, including rockets, into residential neighbourhoods, which is, to state the obvious, completely unacceptable.  It puts civilians at risk.

Question:  So, you're not saying it's a full‑blown civil war.

Spokesman:  That's not the terminology we're using, but we're not… I'm not really, right now, focused on terminology.  We're focusing on trying to get those who are controlling the weapons to stop so we can at least get a humanitarian pause.  James?

Question:  Yeah, a follow‑up on Cyprus.  Cyprus, clearly… peace efforts are one of the things that disappointed the Secretary‑General early on in his tenure.  Does he now feel the time is ripe for a new effort to push for peace?

Spokesman:  I would not describe that in the way you've described it, and I don't want to get ahead of the Security Council, which just received an advanced copy of the report.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions.  The first one is about the poorest country in Arab world.  It's about Yemen.  Multiple cases of cholera had been reported.  They say over 2,000 cases every day.  100,000 people are involved and so on and so forth.  Is it considered epidemics yet or not?  Do we have the numbers?  And what's being done by UN structures there to prevent a disaster?


Spokesman:  I mean, we have reported on the numbers almost two or three times a week from here.  The UN is very, very focused on trying to get the cholera outbreak under control.  It's not the first time that we've seen it in this current conflict.  The ongoing fighting, the lack of progress on the political track is, of course, very much hampering our humanitarian efforts.  Your next question?

Question:  The next question is again about Libya.  Ghassan Salamé was supposed to chair a National Reconciliation Conference this week, and he told, actually, that this attack was supposed to undermine it, but the conference still will take place.  Do we have a time frame about that conference?

Spokesman:  No.  What Mr. Salamé said is that there's no way to hold the conference while the guns are being fired.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Evelyn, and then we'll come back to this hemisphere.

Question:  Thank you.  Uganda has offered a safe haven for ex‑President [Omer al] Bashir.  Is that something the UN would get involved with?

Spokesman:  No.  Not that I'm aware, and I've just seen the press reports.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Nicaragua, does the SG have a message or a call on the… new rallies are happening today against the Daniel Ortega Government, a movement that is going forward despite the fact that they were not given an official authorization to be able to conduct the rally, and that has increased the prospect for tensions and possibly new violence or a crackdown against this opposition movement.  So, I wondered if there’s any message from the SG on that.

Spokesman:  You know, it’s very important, as a matter of principle, that people be allowed to exercise their rights to demonstrate freely and peacefully.  The Secretary‑General has said in the past and we continue to say that we stand ready to support Nicaraguans in their effort to promote a peaceful and prosperous country, where human rights and the rule of law are upheld.  I think we have always called for an inclusive political dialogue in order to try to get out of this current state.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you, sir.  On… the latest figures online available on Israeli incarceration of children is 219.  Can you confirm that?

Spokesman:  Not at the top of my head, but I can try to get numbers for you.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Monica, your turn…  Your time has come.

For information media. Not an official record.