29 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.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Intolerance and Hate-Based Violence

You will have seen the Secretary-General’s tweet yesterday, or rather, on Saturday night following the attack on the synagogue in California, and I have a further statement on hate-based violence and it reads as follows:

Around the world, we are seeing a disturbing groundswell of intolerance and hate-based violence targeting worshippers of many faiths.  In recent days alone, a synagogue in the United States and a church in Burkina Faso have come under attack.  Such incidents have become all-too-familiar:  Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Jews murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Christians killed at prayers and their churches often torched.  Houses of worship, instead of the safe havens they should be, have become targets.  Beyond the murders, there is a loathsome rhetoric:  xenophobia, aimed not only at religious groups, but also at migrants, minorities and refugees; assertions of white supremacy; a resurgence of neo-Nazi ideology; venom directed at anyone considered the “other”.

Parts of the Internet are becoming hothouses of hate, as like-minded bigots find each other online, and platforms serve to inflame and enable hate to go viral.  As crime feeds on crime, and as vile views move from the fringes to the mainstream, the Secretary-General is profoundly concerned that we are nearing a pivotal moment in battling hatred and extremism.  That is why the Secretary‑General has set in motion two urgent initiatives:  devising a plan of action to fully mobilize the United Nations system’s response to tackling hate speech, led by his Special Representative on Genocide Prevention, Adama Dieng; and exploring how the United Nations can contribute in ensuring the safety of religious sanctuaries, an effort being led by his High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Angel Moratinos.

The world must step up to stamp out anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred, persecution of Christians and all other forms of racism, xenophobia, discrimination and incitement.  Hatred is a threat to everyone — so it is a job for everyone.  Political and religious leaders have a special responsibility to promote peaceful coexistence.  The Secretary-General will count on the strong support of Governments, civil society and other partners in working together to uphold the values that bind us [as] a single human family.  And that statement, in the Secretary-General’s name, is being issued as we speak.


As you know, the Secretary-General returned from Beijing, China, late Saturday evening.  Before leaving China, he took part in Leaders’ Roundtable Sessions [as] part of the Belt and Road Forum.  He delivered the keynote speech at a session on the topic of promoting green and sustainable development to implement the 2030 Agenda.  He noted that addressing the deepening climate crisis requires action that is rooted in solutions that are sustainable and aligned with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.  The Secretary-General stressed that the green economy is the future as it fosters prosperity, creates decent work, addresses root causes of conflict and contributes to the full enjoyment of all human rights — civil, political, economic, social and cultural.

**Middle East

Back here, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, told the Security Council this morning that the continuing absence of a political solution to the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict undermines and compounds our efforts.  She said the United Nations has repeatedly warned that the conflict cannot be managed in perpetuity.  The status quo will only lead to further deterioration of the situation, radicalization on all sides, more suffering and conflict.  Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo urged a renewed focus on the prospect of two peaceful and secure states living side by side in harmony, adding that only determined action by the parties themselves can salvage the two-State solution.  She also welcomed the non-governmental organization EcoPeace for joining the Security Council debate, noting that their commendable efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian collaboration around shared environmental challenges are exemplary.


Turning to Libya, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is concerned that access to food is becoming a greater challenge for civilians, refugees and migrants in conflict areas of the capital, Tripoli.  We continue to call for unconditional access for all humanitarian partners to respond to the urgent needs of conflict-affected populations.  We are also gravely concerned about the new reports of indiscriminate shelling of residential areas and airstrikes affecting the civilian population.  We remind all parties [of] the imperative of protecting all civilians and we call on Libyan authorities to uphold protection of civilians and human rights.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that shelling and air strikes, including on residential areas, continued over the weekend.  One child was killed and three children were injured in air strikes over the past three days — that’s according to our health sector partners.  Overall, 96 civilian casualties, including 22 fatalities, have been verified since the start of hostilities.  An unknown number of civilians remain trapped in their homes by front‑line fighting, including the urban refugees and migrants, with access to food is becoming an increasing challenge.  Our colleagues report that over 42,000 people have now been displaced as a result of the fighting.  The UN and our humanitarian partners continue to remind parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to avoid civilian harm and call on all parties to avoid using explosive weapons in populated areas, given their likely indiscriminate effect.

**Cyclone Kenneth

Turning to southern Africa, at least five fatalities have been reported in Mozambique and more than 18,000 people have been displaced and are sheltering in accommodation centres as a result of Cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall in the country late last week.  At least 3,380 houses have been destroyed and schools and health facilities have been damaged — that’s according to our humanitarian colleagues.  In the Comoros, more than 41,000 people have been affected, while four people lost their lives and 182 suffered injuries related to the cyclone.  The UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, yesterday unlocked $13 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to provide life-saving food, shelter, health, water and sanitation assistance to people impacted both in the Comoros and Mozambique.  The UN and our partners are continuing to support the Government-led humanitarian responses to both [Cyclone] Kenneth and Cyclone Idai.  As you will have seen, in a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General extended his condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims and the Government and peoples of Mozambique and the Comoros.

**Sexual Violence

Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, today commended the Security Council for adopting resolution 2467 (2019) on conflict-related sexual violence.  She said the resolution represents a powerful new instrument in the fight to eradicate this heinous crime, significantly strengthening prevention through justice and accountability, and affirming, for the first time, that a survivor-centred approach must guide every aspect of the response of affected countries and the international community.  Critically, she said, resolution 2467 (2019) affirms that a survivor-centred approach is required to address conflict-related sexual violence in all UN peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building initiatives, including in the context of security and justice sector reform efforts, as well as [in] negotiations of peace agreements and ceasefire verification mechanisms.  The full press release is available.

**Antimicrobial Resistance

Earlier today, the Secretary-General received a report compiled by [the] UN, international agencies and experts today, demanding immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis.  The UN Ad Hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, who released the report, says that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050.  Currently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug‑resistant diseases.  The world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective.  The report recommends prioritizing national action plans, stronger regulatory systems, investments in research and urgently phasing out the use of critically important antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture.  More information on the World Health Organization (WHO) website.


And speaking of WHO, Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], the Director-General of WHO, is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He was the Town of Butembo in North Kivu on Sunday, one of the areas affected by the Ebola outbreak.  He met personnel involved in the response, and you will recall that, on 19 April, Dr. Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, an epidemiologist deployed by WHO, died during an attack on a hospital in Butembo.  Dr. Tedros said on Twitter that he was moved to meet brave colleagues who have remained strong after their colleague’s death.  He reaffirmed that WHO will not be intimidated, and will finish the job, adding that engaging and working with communities is vital to fighting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He has warned that the Ebola outbreak will only be contained if the response is allowed to take place without violence.  WHO remains committed to supporting the Ministry of Health to end the outbreak as soon as possible.


And from Colombia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that more than 300,000 Venezuelan children need humanitarian assistance, including health, education and protection services.  The agency says that, while Colombia has been very generous in welcoming its neighbours, the international community should step up support, as many Venezuelans are living in vulnerable host communities with overstretched resources.  UNICEF is seeking to increase its current response budget from $5.7 million to $29 million.  This will help, among others, to vaccinate more than 30,000 children and provide water.


Today, the UN Resident Coordinator in Iran, Ugochi Daniels, presented the Iran Flood Response Plan to the donor community in Tehran in a meeting hosted and co‑chaired by the Iranian Government.  The Plan seeks $25 million to cover the emergency and early recovery needs of 115,000 highly vulnerable people in the most hard-hit Provinces of Golestan, Khuzestan, Ilam and Lorestan.  The UN has allocated $2 million from the Central Emergency [Response] Fund to respond to the urgent needs.


Tomorrow, a couple of things to flag:  at 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing here on the upcoming “Play it Out” concert to beat plastic pollution, which will be held in Antigua on 1 June.  And Monica [Grayley] will tell you more about that, because it’s about the President of the General Assembly and I don’t want to steal her thunder.  And also, tomorrow, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) will be hold its fifteenth Rafael M. Salas Memorial Lecture at the Economic and Social Council Chamber, and that’s at 10 a.m.  This year’s lecture will be delivered by Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, and a former colleague of ours.  The event seeks to honour the memory of UNFPA’s first Executive Director and the important contributions he made, and this is leading up to their anniversary celebration.

**Honour Roll

Two more Member States:  We say thank you to Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia for paying their budget dues in full, which brings us up to?  Which brings us up to…?  No.  Is there another trial?  [Fifteen?]  You're pathetic.  Eighty-eight.  Fifteen?  Come on.  All right.  You were the closest.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  With regard to the Secretary‑General's statement on hate‑based violence, he mentioned that those with extreme views and ideology find themselves on the Internet.  Does he refer to specific social media platforms, or is he referring to Dark Web, which is…?

Spokesman:  No, I think you don't need to go deep into the Dark Web to find hate.  It is found on many social media platforms, and I don't think there is one that has not been touched by this type of heinous language.  Carole?

Correspondent:  Stéphane, Friday, you mentioned that you might have more to say today about the Secretary‑General's talks with President Xi [Jinping] in China and whether or not the plight of the Uyghurs was raised during those conversations.

Spokesman:  Sure.  I think, as we've been saying, the Secretary‑General discussed all relevant issues with the Chinese authorities.  He did just that, and that includes the situation in Xinjiang, and this follows several other contacts in the recent past on this same issue that he's had with Chinese authorities.  The Secretary‑General's position on this has always been the same in private as it is in public, and those are based on three indivisible principles:  the full respect for the unity and territorial integrity of China; condemnation of terrorist attacks, as no cause or grievance can justify them; and that human rights must be fully respected in the fight against terrorism and in the prevention of violent extremism.  Each community must feel that its identity is respected and that it fully belongs to the nation as a whole.  Yes?  Go ahead.  Go ahead.  Carole and then Michelle.

Question:  Well, basically, did… the message… what was the message on the re‑education detention camps?  Should they be shut down?  Was there a discussion about Michelle Bachelet and her multiple requests to be able to visit the region?

Spokesman:  I think what the Secretary‑General told his Chinese interlocutors is that he fully stands by the initiatives of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet.  His message was exactly that, the three points that I made — that human rights must be fully respected in the fight against terrorism and the prevention of violent extremism; that each community must feel that its identity is respected; and that it fully belongs to the nation as a whole.  He made three points, which he's made in public and he's made them in private as well.  Michelle?

Question:  Was he satisfied by the response he got from the Chinese?

Spokesman:  I think I'll… I'm not going to… it's not for me to speak on behalf of the Chinese authorities.  This is part of a dialogue that the Secretary‑General has had with Chinese authorities in the past and that he will continue to have.

Question:  But, I'm not asking what the Chinese said.  I'm asking, was he satisfied?

Spokesman:  I think I've answered the question.  Pam?

Correspondent:  Thanks, Stéphane.  All of the discussions this morning on the…

Spokesman:  I mean, I would add there was a very cordial… it was a very cordial discussion that they had and frank.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  The discussions, Stéphane, this morning on the universal health coverage will be highlighted in September.  Will the Secretary‑General play any role in this, and what role will he play when it comes up during UNGA [United Nations General Assembly]? Thank you.

Spokesman:  The issue of universal health coverage is one that the Secretary‑General strongly supports.  He participated, I think, not too long ago in a meeting on Tokyo on this, and this is part and parcel of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Question:  Does he have a particular role?

Spokesman:  That's… I'll get you a bit more information.  Yeah?

Question:  Stéphane, what's your comment on the statement of the Israeli ambassador… I mean… the part where he was… that were related to some facts that his Government is basically not committed to the UN resolution and does not see settlements as illegal and sees settlements as part of the Israeli territories?

Spokesman:  I haven't… I wasn't… I didn't have… I don't… I trust what you're telling me.  I didn't see the statement, but, regardless, the Secretary‑General's position remains unchanged, and it's reflected in what Ms. DiCarlo said on the need for the parties to engage for a two‑State solution.  The Secretary‑General's views on the settlements remain unchanged.  They're based on UN resolutions, and our position is unchanged, and our message will be unchanged.

Question:  He… with regard… are you going… is there… there was supposed to be a list that published… regarding settlements and trade and settlements?

Spokesman:  Yeah, this is something that the High Commissioner for Human Rights has been tasked to do by the High… Human Rights Council.  I don't have a calendar on when that will come out, but you can check with our human rights colleagues.  Carole?

Question:  Moving on to Libya, can you update us on what Ghassan Salamé is up to?  The last we heard, he had meetings in Paris, and then he was moving on from there, and he's trying to get a ceasefire going before the start of Ramadan.  Where do things stand?

Spokesman:  Things stand, unfortunately, that the parties… the fighting is continuing.  We're seeing the violence in Tripoli.  We're seeing the lives of civilians put at risk.  We're seeing the indiscriminate use of heavy artillery.  Mr. Salamé is continuing his contacts, both locally and internationally, in trying to achieve a cessation of hostilities.  Monica…?

Correspondent:  I had another question.

Spokesman:  You had another question.  Well, do you still have it?

Correspondent:  I do.

Spokesman:  Then let's go.

Question:  Western Sahara.  There's a vote tomorrow at the Security Council on MINURSO [United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara].  Can you update us on what the Special Envoy, [Horst] Köhler, is doing?  Are the preparations for the third round moving ahead?  What can you tell us?

Spokesman:  I don't… I will have… honestly, I… there are a lot of issues I try not to speak on off the top of my head.  Western Sahara is one.

Question:  Can you check?

Spokesman:  I… that I can do.  Okay.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.