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

11 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Disabilities

Good morning.  Earlier today, the Secretary-General spoke at the Twelfth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  He stressed that disability inclusion is a fundamental right, and that realizing the rights of persons with disabilities is a matter of justice, as well as a common-sense investment in our common future.

“When we remove policies or biases or obstacles to opportunity for persons with disabilities, the whole world benefits,” he said.

The Secretary-General acknowledged that we have a long way to ensure full accessibility, including in the UN.  With this in mind, he announced the launch of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, which seeks to raise the standards of the UN’s own performance on disability inclusion across the board.

“It is very simple:  We can no longer be a platform for change when persons with disabilities cannot access that platform to speak,” he said.  His remarks are available to you.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding an open meeting today on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

Speaking on behalf of the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, was Reena Ghelani, the Director of Advocacy and Operations in OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

She told Council members that alarming numbers of people go missing in armed conflicts – whether they are captured and held incommunicado, are victims of extrajudicial executions or merely fleeing violence.

Ms. Ghelani stressed that, as the Secretary-General said in his report on the issue, parties to conflict must respect and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, which prohibits enforced disappearances.

**Mali

In a statement we issued after the press briefing yesterday, the Secretary-General expressed his outrage at reports of an attack in central Mali that resulted in the killing of at least 95 civilians and many injuries as well.

He called on the Malian authorities to investigate this tragedy and to bring the perpetrators to justice.  He also urged the Government and all others to engage in intercommunal dialogue to resolve tensions and differences.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that a majority of the victims of Sunday’s attack in Mopti in Central Mali were women and children, while a number of civilians remain missing.

The UN Mission has deployed a human rights fact-finding mission comprised of human rights officers, UN police and forensic and ballistic experts, and it continues to assist the Malian prosecutor in launching an investigation.

**Botswana

The Secretary-General joins the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and the acting Executive Director of UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS), Gunilla Carlsson, in warmly welcoming the landmark decision by Botswana’s High Court to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations.

Botswana is the ninth country in the past five years to have decriminalized consensual same-sex relationships.  Consensual same-sex sexual relationships remain criminalized in at least 67 countries and territories worldwide.

**Yemen

The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, met yesterday with the President of Yemen, [Abdrabuh] Mansour Hadi, and that meeting took place in Riyadh, in Saudi Arabia.

During the meeting, Mr. Hadi and Ms. DiCarlo discussed the work of the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the way forward for implementing the Stockholm Agreement and for returning to dialogue to reach a political solution to the wider conflict in Yemen.  And that [is] based on the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative and its Implementation Mechanism, the National Dialogue Conference outcomes and all relevant Security Council resolutions.

The discussions were productive, with Ms. DiCarlo thanking the President for his Government’s commitment to the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.

**Sudan

Turning to Sudan, our colleagues at UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) said today that at least 19 children have been killed and dozens injured in the country since 3 June.

The Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, is calling for an end to the violence.  She said that she is gravely concerned at the impact of the continuing violence and unrest in the country on children and young people, especially the reported use of excessive force against peaceful protestors.

UNICEF has received information that children are being detained, recruited to join the fighting and sexually abused.  Many parents are far too scared to let their children leave the house, fearful of violence, harassment and lawlessness.

UNICEF is continuing to work to help children in the face of unrest, providing millions of children, including those who have been displaced or are refugees, with vaccines, safe water, treatment for severe acute malnutrition and psychosocial support.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., there will be a briefing here by Maria Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility and others, on the ongoing Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (COSP12).

Then at 12:45 p.m., there will be a briefing by Navid Hanif, Director of the Financing for Sustainable Development Office in DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs).  He will brief on the launch of the World Investment Report [2019].

**Questions and Answers

And before I turn things over to Monica [Grayley], I’m turning things over to you.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Steph, as you mentioned, the Security Council just adopted a very important resolution of missing persons in armed conflict, and as you know, beside hundred of thousand that are missing, as it was mentioned, tens of thousands are still missing in the countries of Western Balkans, starting with Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, etc.  What is… will the Secretary‑General… is the Secretary‑General ready to move… step forward, beside what he mentioned in his report, and ask for responsibilities for… from the countries who are not doing enough?  Because families are kept waiting; they’re suffering, etc.

Spokesman:  The fact that people remain missing after a conflict is not only a national tragedy for these countries but, obviously, a personal one for the families, and it’s incumbent on the authorities in those countries to do their utmost to try to solve the issue.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  What about responsibility?

Spokesman:  Well, I think, as I said, it is their responsibility.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you.  On Friday, Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov tweeted a statement in which it was interpreted as interference in the internal affairs of the Palestinian Authority.  He criticized what he called, like, corruption.  First, is that within his mandate to talk about internal issues?  Second, there are many cases of corruption, including the Prime Minister of Israel.  Had he ever issued a statement criticizing similar cases within Israel?

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Mladenov spoke out within the remit of his mandate.

Question:  But this is a clear case of internal interference.

Spokesman:  You have your opinion.  I think I’ve answered your question.  [cross talk]

Question:  I can read it for you.

Spokesman:  No, I know.  I’ve read it as well.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Yeah, thanks, Stéphane.  You mentioned Yemen, Hudaydah, the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.  I know it gets a bit complicated when we’re talking about phase 1, phase 2, etc., but where are we up to now in terms of the redeployment from the ports and the city by the Houthis?

Spokesman:  We are at the situation where we last left the situation.  There has been no movement since we last reported it, I think, a few weeks ago.

Question:  When [Lieutenant General Michael] Lollesgaard spoke to us?

Spokesman:  That’s correct.  That’s my understanding.

Question:  No change since then?

Spokesman:  Not that I’m… I know of, but I know not all, and we will get an update.  Ms. Landry?

Question:  Stéphane, do you have an update on the Bahrain conference, whether the UN will be going?

Spokesman:  No.  I will share an update as soon as I’m able to share one.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Just to follow up, Steph, when it come to… when it comes to responsibility, indeed, I mean, we had ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal] for Former Yugoslavia, had the… we do have a now residual mechanism.  And I’m saying that, in previous times, we had very active statements from the Secretary‑General, etc.  If these situations turn to ongoing in this direction that the responsibility is really not taken by the countries, as you mentioned, will the Secretary‑General step up and say something on that?

Spokesman:  I mean, I think our position is that those countries in every corner of the world, whether it remains… [cell phone alarm sounds].  Am I saved by the bell?  [laughter]  Our position is very clear, that in those countries throughout the world, where there remain questions about the fate of people, whether they’ve been detained, whether they’ve been killed, missing people in conflict, the responsibility to shed light on the situation lies with the national Governments.  And we will do, of course, whatever we can to assist.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Round 2.

Question:  To… back to Yemen, the Security Council issued a press statement expressing support of Mr. Griffiths.  You know Saudi Arabia has been asking to remove him from his office.  So, do we understand that now the Security Council is standing behind Griffiths and not accepting the Saudi call for his removal?

Spokesman:  I think that would be… I don’t interpret resolutions, but if I were, that would be my interpretation.  I think, as we’ve said, Ms. DiCarlo had very good meetings with various people in Saudi Arabia, and I think there is clear support for the work of Mr. Griffiths.  It’s important that that support now translate into moving the process forward, and Mr. Griffiths will be briefing, I think, the Security Council, I believe, on Friday this week.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yes, thank you, Steph.  On the Bahrain conference, one purpose is to abolish UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees).  Is anyone from the UN going to speak to UNRWA ahead of time, during, afterwards like in the SG’s office…

Spokesman:  Is anyone from where?  Sorry.

Question:  I beg your pardon?

Spokesman:  Is…

Correspondent:  UNRWA.

Spokesman:  I would like to have the person who asked the question repeat it.  Did… you said who should speak to UNRWA?

Question:  I’m saying, is anyone going to speak in defence of UNRWA, before the conference, during the conference, after…?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Well, I think there is a…  First of all, we… our support for UNRWA is unwavering, whether it’s from here, whether it’s the Secretary‑General, I think the Commissioner‑General himself was very eloquent in his defence of UNRWA during a recent Security Council meeting.  My understanding is that there will be a pledging event very soon here at Headquarters, which the…

Question:  The same day as the Bahrain…? [cross talk]

Spokesman:  Yes.  In which Secretary‑General will most likely attend.  And, as I told Carole, as soon as I have an update on whatever level of participation at the Bahrain conference, I will share that with you.  Madame?

Question:  Do you have any updates regarding Sudan?  And did Ms. DiCarlo speak with the Saudi officials about the issue… Sudan issue, especially the… given the fact that they are close or in good relations with the Military Council?

Spokesman:  On Ms. DiCarlo’s meeting, I shared what I have.  We are, obviously, continuing to follow with great concern the situation on the ground in Khartoum, whether… as the Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, expressed concerning the children.  We would want to see an immediate end to the use of excessive force, a restarting of the political dialogue.  We would also call for the authorities to stop arresting and detaining people who have themselves a significant role to play in those negotiations, as well as a full restoration of the Internet and other means of communications.  We continue to call on all concerned to resolve and work together to ensure peaceful civilian‑led transition and sustainable peace throughout the country.

Correspondent:  Follow‑up?

Spokesman:  One second.  Sir?

Question:  Yes.  Two quick questions.  First of all, it was suggested at least, I believe, by Germany at the… at a Security Council meeting that the date of the UNRWA pledging meeting here at Headquarters – I believe is on 27 June – be moved so it doesn’t conflict with the Bahrain conference date.  Has there been any follow‑up…?

Spokesman:  I don’t have the exact date in my head, but I will check the official date.

Question:  As to whether they conflict or not with Bahrain?

Spokesman:  I will check… we don’t control the Bahrain event.  I will check on the official date of the UNRWA conference.  [He later said that the UNRWA pledging conference would take place on 25 June.]

Question:  Okay.  And the second…

Spokesman:  Evelyn, I know.  I’m just saying, I will check.  Thank you.

Question:  The second question is, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the report yesterday or statement yesterday by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) chair as to Iran’s increased uranium enrichment that may go beyond the limits set in the nuclear deal?

Spokesman:  I mean, we’ve… he has seen the statements by Mr. [Yukiya] Amano.  The IAEA is clearly in the lead on dealing with those issues for the UN system, and he fully supports the work of the IAEA.  And he also continues to believe that everything should be done to try to support and salvage, in a sense, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).  Erol?

Spokesman:  Yeah.  Did the Secretary… Under‑Secretary‑General DiCarlo have the chance to tackle the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia?

Spokesman:  I’ve shared what I’ve been able to share with you.  Sir?  And that will be the last question.

Question:  Yes.  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question is situation in Venezuela.  At this point, last week, you read a report of the 4… more than 4 millions migrants from Venezuela, and the Special Envoy for the UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency), she was visiting the refugee camps in Colombia.  And she says that the situation there is a situation of life or death.  So, my question is, does the Secretary‑General agree with this characterization?  And what is his message at this point with the situation that is still increasing in this regard?

Spokesman:  Well, we think at the heart, there needs to be a political solution, that serious political discussions need to be had for the internal process and that, obviously, whatever the international community can do to support those Venezuelans who have fled, whether refugees or migrants, and support the countries which are hosting them is critical.

Thank you very much.  Monica, you’re up.

For information media. Not an official record.