Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

10 June 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 Eri Kaneko, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Digital Cooperation

This morning, the Secretary-General received the report from the High-level Panel on Digital Cooperation.  The report was handed to him by the Panel’s co-chairs Ms. Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Jack Ma, Executive Chairman of Alibaba Group.

As you may have seen, the online conversation they had right after, in which they discussed the findings of the report which focuses on issues of human rights, human agency, trust and security in the digital age.

The Secretary-General said, “the Digital Cooperation report is the first step on how we can transform the digital era into an era of digital good for everybody”.

He added that he is enthusiastic and optimistic of the enormous potential of the digital era but also about bringing people together to address the risks of technology, and he emphasized the need for digital inclusion, noting that almost half of the world population still has no access to the internet.

And after I’m done, three of the panel members will brief you with more detail on the report, which is now online.

**DSG Travel

This evening, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, to deliver the Annual Pluralism Lecture 2019, taking place tomorrow and hosted by the Global Centre for Pluralism.  She will further meet with representatives from government and civil society, as well as faith leaders.

The Deputy Secretary-General will be back in the office on Thursday, 13 June.

**Yemen

As we told you last week, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, is in Saudi Arabia.

She held productive meetings in Riyadh today with officials from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including Ibrahim Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Abdel Aziz Hamad Aluwaisheg, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs and Negotiations of the Gulf Cooperation Council.  They discussed a wide range of regional issues, including the situation in Yemen.  Both expressed their support for the work of the United Nations in Yemen and for the efforts of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, Martin Griffiths.

Ms. DiCarlo is expected to meet with the President of Yemen, Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, later today.

**Mali

The UN Mission in Mali today said that a deadly attack took place yesterday evening in the village of Sobanou-Kou in the Mopti region.

According to preliminary information, armed men led an attack that left at least 95 people dead and many others wounded.

The Mission is coordinating its response in support of Malian authorities, and the United Nations system in Mali is mobilizing to provide humanitarian assistance to help people affected.

The Mission also provided air support this morning, in support of the Malian Government, to prevent further attacks.

We expect to have a statement from the Secretary-General on this shortly.

[The Spokesperson’s Office later issued the following statement:

The Secretary-General is outraged by reports that at least 95 civilians, including women and children, have been killed and many injured following an attack yesterday on Sobanou-Kou village, Mopti region, in central Mali.

He strongly condemns this attack and calls on the Malian authorities to investigate this tragedy and to bring the perpetrators to justice.  The Secretary-General expresses his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims, the people and the Government of Mali, and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured.

The Secretary-General appeals to all Malian stakeholders to show restraint and to refrain from retaliatory acts.  He urges the Government and all actors to engage in intercommunal dialogue to resolve tensions and differences.]

**Sudan

On Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues have noted that Sudan’s main opposition group called a nationwide civil disobedience campaign yesterday, with public transport reportedly barely functioning, and most commercial banks, companies and markets closed in the capital, Khartoum.

Of the 11 main hospitals in Khartoum, half have been closed or partially closed since 3 June.  Two major maternity hospitals in Khartoum, which provide maternal health services to approximately 2.5 million people, have also stopped providing services since 8 June, leaving some 250,000 women at risk of not being provided with maternity services.

The United Nations continues to support hospitals and health centres.  The World Health Organization is coordinating with the Ministry of Health and health partners on operational issues, including donations and distributions, ambulance services, verification of incidents, assuring security of hospitals, and providing medical supplies.  The World Health Organizations is also supporting with providing meals and transportation to health personnel.

On 7 June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs set up an emergency operation centre in Khartoum to coordinate information sharing, response, logistics, liaison and planning.

The UN calls for rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for civilians in need, the expediting of medical supplies into the country, and faster visa issuance for international staff.

**Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, visited Chimanimani district yesterday to see first-hand the impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai and the wider humanitarian and development challenges facing the country.

Ms. Mueller saw the devastating level of destruction and spoke with displaced people who have lost loved ones, their property, and livelihoods and are currently living in temporary shelter with basic services.  She also visited a school which was damaged by the cyclone, as well as a food distribution site.  She also met with the President and other senior officials to discuss humanitarian needs.

**Afghanistan

The UN Mission in Afghanistan has condemned the deliberate targeting of civilians by anti-Government elements throughout the holy month of Ramadan, urging all parties to the conflict to protect civilians from harm.

There were more than 100 civilian casualties in Kabul alone resulting from attacks by anti-Government elements using improvised explosive devices.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said that by definition these are war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.  He added that there is no justification whatsoever for any party to the conflict to attack civilians.

**Syria

On Syria, our humanitarian colleagues remain alarmed by the continued intense hostilities in the de-escalation zone in the country’s north-west.

Over the weekend, artillery shelling and air strikes continued in Idleb, Hama and Aleppo governorates.

The heightened violence has led to a higher death toll, with at least 180 people having been killed since April, as well as increasing numbers of people fleeing their homes.  Since the beginning of April, up to 300,000 people have been displaced, most moving towards Turkey’s borders.  Camps for the displaced are overcrowded, with many people forced to stay in the open in fields or under trees.

The humanitarian response continues, with tens of thousands of people being reached with food, protection, nutrition, shelter, education and clean water.

The United Nations continues to call for safe, sustained and unimpeded access to all in need.  Any evacuation of civilians must also be safe, voluntary, and to a place of their choosing.  It is imperative that any civilians who flee have the right to return as soon as the situation allows.  The United Nations calls on all parties to enable the freedom of movement for affected people.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met on Libya, and members unanimously adopted a resolution extending the arms embargo on the seas off the coast of Libya for a further 12 months.

Members of the Council were then briefed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Zahir Tanin, who updated members on the current situation in Kosovo, including the events in May which resulted in mistreatment and arrest of two staff members.

[João Miguel Ferreira de Serpa Soares,] the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and the UN’s Legal Counsel, briefed on the same incident, specifically on the topic of immunity.

**Conferences

And I want to flag two conferences for you.

In Rome, the Food and Agriculture Organization today began its symposium on “The Future of Food”, which brings together academics, policymakers, civil society and businesses to discuss topics such as hunger, obesity and how to transform our food systems.

And in Geneva, the International Labour Organization kicked off its Centenary International Labour Conference where employers, worker representatives and Governments will discuss issues such as the transformation of jobs and sexual harassment in the workplace.

You can find more about these two events online.

 **Senior Personnel Appointments

I have two personnel appointments for you.

Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Catherine Pollard of Guyana as the next Under-Secretary-General for Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance.  She will succeed Jan Beagle of New Zealand to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for her extraordinary work in management reform in the UN system and 40 years of dedicated service to the Organization.

Ms. Pollard brings to the position over three decades of experience in human, financial, information communications technology and support operations and services and has a proven record of transformational leadership in the United Nations system.

In turn, and succeeding Ms. Pollard, the Secretary-General is appointing Movses Abelian of Armenia as the next Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management.

He is currently Assistant Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management.

More on these in our office.

**Press Briefings Tomorrow

And lastly, tomorrow the Twelfth Session of the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP12) begins.  We will have a briefing on that at 11:15 a.m.

Then the guests at noon will be Representatives of The Elders, Mary Robinson and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

And that’s it for me.  Do you have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Go ahead, please.

Question:  Thank you very much.  Lately, situation in Middle East is very tense, and on the other side, US, Russia and China is feeding them with guns all the time.  Is UN going to do anything before anybody blink there and cause humanitarian disaster…

[inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  The…

Question:  …in the Middle East?

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.  The Secretary‑General has made his views clear on the state of disarmament.  He said more weapons can only cause more problems.  He’s also, especially in the regions that you’re talking about, has continuously urged dialogue to ensure that we don’t, as he says, sleepwalk into another war.

Yes.

Question:  Thank you.  Eri, just to put a little bit more light on the travelling of Under-Secretary[-General] DiCarlo to Riyadh, did she have a chance…  did…  does she has an agenda to talk about the human rights in Saudi Arabia?  As we all know, the still actual situation regarding late Khashoggi, journalist Khashoggi.  Did he…  did she and will she talk about that?

Associate Spokesperson:  Her meetings are still ongoing, so we’ll check with her team to see what issues she raises with them.

Question:  Also, what about the other condemnation to that that all world media is writing that could be happened some of these days that are heavily criticized by human rights monitoring organization?  And as you know, the Secretary‑General personally was criticized about his record on human rights.  Did he give any order to Ms. DiCarlo to specifically talk about that or talk to her?

Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, the focus of her visit is on Yemen, but let’s see what her team has for us.

Yes, please.

Question:  So, I would like to go to the issue of Libya and the resolution that was adopted today, 2420.  It is very well reported in the media that a lot of…  that parties to the conflict get weapons from countries that are a member to the Security Council.  Which steps the Security Council…  the Secretary‑General thinks that the Security Council should take in addition to just have another resolution to implement their own resolution?

Associate Spokesperson:  Right.  Well, as we just said, you know, the, as we know, the Secretary‑General believes arms are never the answer to any conflict or any situation.  But, for now, we would urge Council members and others to follow the resolutions of the Council.

Question:  But is he asking the Security Council members to send ships to…  to control or to see if weapons are being delivered to the parties?  Is he talking about specific steps?  I mean, just to say that we urge all parties to continue, it’s not going to help.  It hasn’t been helping, because there was a resolution in place…

[inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  And the resolution has been readopted, so let’s see what happens.

Margaret.

Question:  Eri, do you have anything more on this attack in Mopti?  Were there any peacekeepers hurt or how fast did they respond?  Were there patrols in the area?  Like, any more details to…  to where…

[inaudible]

Associate Spokesperson:  Our understanding they responded relatively quickly, but we’ll try to get more details.  We’re trying to, we’re still trying to get some, gather some details from the ground.

Yes.

Question:  Thanks, Eri.  Sudan’s Transitional Military Council has issued a decree demanding that UNAMID hand over its peacekeeping facilities to the Rapid Support Forces.  Can you confirm that?  And do you have a reaction to it?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the Transitional Military Council has decreed to the African Union‑UN Mission in Darfur, known as UNAMID, to hand over its premises as part of our withdrawal next year in 2020 to the Rapid Support Forces, but that is not in keeping with our existing agreement with the Sudanese Government and our insistence that the facilities be used solely for civilian purposes.

The latest special report of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Secretary‑General makes clear that the end users of all UN installations should be civilians.  It is important that UNAMID’s premises, once handed over, are used for the benefit of all the people of Darfur and to help build a sustainable peace in the local community.

Yes.

Question:  Okay.  My name is Harrison Arubu, News Agency of Nigeria.  Mine is still on the situation in Libya.  The embargo is breached by members of the Security Council themselves.  Doesn’t it…  the SG think that this is a further dent on the credibility of the Council and on the UN?

Associate Spokesperson:  I mean, the Secretary, the Security Council is the body tasked with the maintenance of international peace and security, so let’s see how this embargo shakes out.

Stefano.

Question:  Thank you.  On…  this is on Libya but is on another [inaudible].  There…  Human Rights High Commissioner just released a report where they said they are really deeply concerned for the migrants and refugees that disappears after the…  the Coast Guard, the Libyan Coast Guard, pushed them back in Libya.  So, there are numbers that they…  from people that they intercept and then they…  the people that they’re found back in the camps, and there is a suspicious that they are sold into human trafficking and those problems.

And there is also the news that there are many people that dying for disease there in those camps that they’re curable.  I mean, they can take care of easily, but they dies.

So, this is a UN report, and a part of the report, what the Secretary‑General and the UN is doing to stop this that is a crime against humanity to what’s happening in Libya, a part of all the problems that Libya has?

Associate Spokesperson:  You know, the Secretary‑General, as you know, has, we have worked on several compacts, including on refugees and migrants, which we hope will bring an end to situations as, such as the ones that you’ve mentioned.  And, as you’ve also mentioned, our colleagues in the offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Refugees have consistently been flagging this problem, and we hope that we can work with authorities to bring an end to these issues.

Erol again.

Question:  Thank you, Eri.  Just on Kosovo, as you know, by the end of last year, one of the permanent member of the Security Council, UK, was presiding with the Council, mentioned that they would like to see Kosovo discussed at the Security Council in another not open‑session format.  Can you reaffirm the position of Secretary‑General on that?

And, also on Kosovo, regarding that incident with the member of UNMIK, what does the Secretary‑General think or say on the acquisition from Kosovo side that the member of UNMIK was actually not doing only…  not…  was engaged only as a member of UNMIK but in capacity of other things for Russia?

Associate Spokesperson:  You know, on the issue of a format of meetings, we leave that to the members of the Security Council to decide.  But on the issue of the two UNMIK staff members, we’ve said what they were doing in that location at the time, and I think we’ve, an investigation is still ongoing as the Special Representative told the Council members today, so we’ll wait to see what the final investigation is.

Michelle.

Question:  Thank you, Eri.  A question on Yemen.  The Yemen…  Yemeni Foreign Minister has reportedly submitted his resignation, and it apparently has something to do with some of the officials in the Yemeni Government have criticized him for not criticizing the Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, enough.  There was also that letter, I think, last month from the Yemen Government to the SG criticizing Martin Griffiths.  Does the SG still have confidence in Martin Griffiths?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, we still have full, the Secretary‑General still has full confidence in, in his Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, regarding the situation in Yemen.

Question:  Hi.  I wanted to bring up the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth in Lisbon on June 22nd and 23rd.  We have the idea that the Special Representative for Youth will be there, and the Secretary‑General himself was also invited by the Portuguese Government.  I wanted to know if there is a…  an answer for that invitation and if we can get a statement from the Secretary‑General about the Conference.

Associate Spokesperson:  At this moment, we have no travel to Lisbon to confirm, but if we do, we will let you know.  Thank you.

Yes.

Question:  On Libya, can you clarify, you said the embargo on the ports.  Does it include east or west and south borders or just the port?

Associate Spokesperson:  Oh, on that, I’d ask you to look at the resolution closely.

Question:  So…

Associate Spokesperson:  It’s not our resolution, so we’d ask you to check the resolution.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  On the meeting of Ms. DiCarlo with the Saudi officials, did she talk about…  did she bring up the issue of Sudan given the fact that Saudi officials have influence on the Military Council there and they admit before the latest events and the massacre…?  Yeah.

Associate Spokesperson:  At this point, the meetings are still ongoing.  She just arrived and started the meetings today, so we’ll try to get more clarity on the substance of the meetings and let you know.

Okay.  Thank you very much.  Monica.

For information media. Not an official record.