29 May 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Good afternoon, everyone.  The Secretary-General addressed the students at RWTH Aachen University in Germany this afternoon, and he gave the students an overview of the challenges facing the world, focusing on climate change and the impact of new technologies.  He told the students that he was encouraged by the youths’ engagement on climate change, an issue that his own generation had failed to deal with properly.  Looking at the fourth industrial revolution, the Secretary-General told the students that new technologies that are developing rapidly will likely destroy many jobs, but also create many jobs – which, however, will be different types of jobs.  Societies will need to adapt to ensure that no one will be left behind, he added.  He reiterated his call for a total ban on autonomous weapons.  Taking a human life cannot be done without human responsibility, he said, and it undermines international law and the rules of war.

The Secretary-General also called for a strong and united European Union to be present on the global stage as a positive force.  Unfortunately, he said, it is too often missing in action, especially concerning political issues.  He then spoke to the Charlemagne Prize Forum on Europe — a group that brings together leading Europeans in Government, civil society and the media.  In a few hours, the Secretary-General will participate in the Charlemagne Prize Open Air Event in Aachen.  And tomorrow, the Secretary-General will officially receive the 2019 Charlemagne Prize and deliver a keynote address.


Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, is briefing the Security Council this morning in closed consultations.  He will discuss the latest developments regarding the political process and the implementation of resolution 2254 (2015).  Mr. Pedersen intends to talk to you at the stakeout once those consultations have finished, and that could happen in the next few minutes, so he may be going to the stakeout fairly shortly, prior to what we had earlier said at 12:30 p.m.  We will try to let you know.

**Central African Republic

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, reports that three suspects, who were allegedly involved in the attacks against villages in western Central African Republic, were detained on 24 May and handed over to authorities in Bangui on 27 May.  Following a joint mission by MINUSCA, the Central African Government, the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States on Saturday, a MINUSCA Joint Protection Team was deployed to Paoua on 27 May to conduct field missions to the areas affected by the killings.


We had a question yesterday on Colombia.  Regarding that, one thing I can say is that [the Secretary-General has welcomed, in his reports, steps taken by the Government to advance the peace process, and has also drawn attention to areas of concern, such as the killings of social leaders in conflict-affected areas.]  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, and President Ivan Duque discussed yesterday in Bogota points of progress and challenges in the implementation of the peace agreement.  Mr. Ruiz Massieu, in comments to the press, welcomed the President’s commitment to consolidate peace.

Today, in a meeting in New York with Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo echoed that message of encouragement.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

You will have seen that yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Mohamed Khaled Khiari of Tunisia as Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations.  Currently Director‑General of Americas, Asia and Oceania in the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Khiari brings over 35 years of experience in diplomacy and foreign affairs to this post.  We have lots more about Mr. Khiari on our website.


A team of experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Pakistan following an HIV outbreak in Sindh Province, where more than 600 cases — more than half of them being children under the age of five — have been identified so far.  The outbreak was first reported on 25 April, with a major HIV screening programme having started three days later.  Prior to this outbreak, there were just over 1,200 children diagnosed with HIV and receiving antiretroviral treatment in the whole of Pakistan.  The WHO-led team will try to ascertain the source of the outbreak and control it, as well as provide its expertise in the areas of HIV testing, paediatric HIV treatment and family counselling.

**Peacekeepers Day

While we marked it last Friday here at United Nations Headquarters, today is the International Day of Peacekeepers.  In a message, the Secretary-General said that it has been 20 years since the Security Council first mandated a peacekeeping mission to protect civilians.  He noted that peacekeepers protect people from violence every day, often at great cost.  The Secretary-General once again paid tribute to Private Chancy Chitete, a Malawian soldier who died in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while trying to save the life of a fellow peacekeeper.  The full message is online.

**No Tobacco

Ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Friday, the World Health Organization is highlighting the damage tobacco causes to lung health.  This year’s theme is: “Don’t let tobacco take your breath away”.  Over 40 per cent of all tobacco‑related deaths are from lung diseases like cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and tuberculosis.  In 2017 alone, tobacco killed 3.3 million users and people exposed to second-hand smoke from lung-related conditions, including:  1.5 million people dying from chronic respiratory diseases, 1.2 million deaths from cancer and 600,000 deaths from respiratory infections and tuberculosis.  WHO is urging countries to fight the tobacco epidemic through full implementation of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and policy measures like reducing demand for tobacco through taxation and creation of smoke-free places.

**International Telecommunication Union

Today the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) launched a report which outlines how artificial intelligence is being used to optimize television and radio broadcasts.  According to the report, AI is now being used to search through vast archives and automatically target content to specific audiences.  It is also generating access services such as captioning, audio description, text to speech and signing, far faster and far more accurately than could be achieved in the past.  The report was published on the margins of the AI for Good Global Summit, which is taking place in Geneva.  You can find the full report online.

**Press Encounter Today

Like I said, we do expect Mr. Pedersen to be going to the stakeout fairly shortly and, at around 12:45 p.m., Ambassador James Jeffrey, the United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIK/Da’esh), will brief you also at the Security Council Stakeout.  And of course, after I’m done, you will hear from Monica Villela Greyley.  Are there any questions for me?  If not, we'll go to Monica.  Thanks.

For information media. Not an official record.