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

21 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.

**Trip Announcement

I’ll start off with a trip announcement.

The Secretary-General will depart New York on 26 June for a visit which will take him to Japan and the United Arab Emirates.

His first stop will be in Osaka in Japan, where he will attend the G20 [Group of Twenty] Summit.  He will speak at a session on climate change, environment and energy, and will participate in sessions on topics including the global economy, innovation and inequalities.  He will also take part in a leaders’ side event on women’s empowerment.

While at the Summit, the Secretary-General will have a number of bilateral meetings with world leaders who are in attendance.

On Sunday, 30 June, the Secretary-General will arrive in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.  There, he will attend the Climate Preparatory Meeting, which seeks to galvanize momentum and support for the solutions needed to tackle the climate emergency, ahead of the Climate Action Summit he is convening in September.  He will deliver opening remarks at the start of the meeting and participate in a leaders’ roundtable on raising ambition in advance of the September Summit.

The Secretary-General will also have bilateral meetings with senior United Arab Emirates Government officials and visit the Noor Abu Dhabi Solar Plant.  He will be back in New York on Monday, 1 July.

**Climate Change

Also, on a climate related note, I was asked before the briefing for a reaction from the Secretary-General to the results of the European Union Council related to climate change that occurred yesterday, and I can say that the Secretary-General is of course disappointed by the lack of consensus on climate action within the European Council, but he is encouraged that 24 countries have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.

He strongly hopes that this will soon drive the whole of the European Union, looking towards his Climate Action Summit in September and the review of the nationally determined contributions by 2020.


The Secretary-General, as you know, was in Geneva today, where he spoke at the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conference.  The Secretary-General said that the ILO is not just celebrating a centenary this year, but it is also building upon a legacy of achievement guided by a vision of social justice through dialogue and international cooperation.

He congratulated the ILO on adopting a Convention on violence and harassment in the world of work, and on its Centenary Declaration, which puts people at the centre of economic and social policies.

The full remarks are online.

And a reminder that, on Sunday, the Secretary-General will attend the World Conference of Youth Ministers in Lisbon, in Portugal, and he will be accompanied by his Youth Envoy, and we will give you copies of those remarks.

**Sea Trust Fund Meeting

Back here, this morning, the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance convened a meeting to take stock of assistance through the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse.

The Under-Secretary General of the Department, Jan Beagle, chaired the meeting, and said that the projects implemented through the Trust Fund have “helped elevate the voices of victims through reinforced community networks”.  Victims “have also learned new skills and trades which has supported reintegration into their respective communities without fear of retribution or stigma”, she said.

In the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 440 victims and affected community members have benefited from income-generating projects, and similar initiatives are under way in the Central African Republic and in Liberia.

Ms Beagle thanked the 19 Member States who have so far donated to the Trust Fund, bringing its total to $2 million, and that includes some $400,000 received from payments withheld from UN personnel against whom allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse have been substantiated.  Ms. Beagle encouraged further donations to the Trust Fund to provide further assistance and support.

Also in attendance were the Victims’ Rights Advocate, Jane Connors; the Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui; and the Assistant-Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Miroslav Jenča.

We will have an update to share with you a bit later on after the meeting concludes.

**Economic and Social Council – Humanitarian

I also want to flag that, on Monday and Tuesday in Geneva, the UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock and his deputy Ursula Mueller will be scheduled to participate in the ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

Mr. Lowcock will participate on discussions about international humanitarian law, the transition from relief to development, and ending sexual and gender-based violence in humanitarian crises, and that will be on Monday.  He will speak at the official opening the next day.

Ms. Mueller will take part in high-level panels on preparedness and response to weather-related disasters and engaging communities for an inclusive and effective humanitarian response.


And also on travels of senior officials, in Mali, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and Pedro Serrano of the European Union will wrap up their joint visit today.

Yesterday, they travelled to the Mopti region, where they met with authorities and civil society actors working on intercommunal reconciliation.  They were accompanied by the head of the UN Peacekeeping mission, Mahamat Annadif, and they also visited UN and European Union-supported infrastructure projects.

In Bamako, they met with the Government, signatory armed groups, political parties and women leaders, and exchanged views on the need for continued progress in the implementation of the peace agreement.


Senior personnel appointment:  today, the Secretary-General is appointing Yacoub El Hillo of Sudan as his Deputy Special Representative in Libya, where he will also serve as UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.

He succeeds Maria do Valle Ribeiro of Ireland, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her outstanding contribution and dedicated service in supporting the implementation of the UN’s mandate.

Mr. El Hillo brings to the position a wealth of experience in the field and at Headquarters.  Most recently, he has served as the Resident Coordinator in Liberia, and also served as the Deputy Special Representative and Resident Coordinator for the peacekeeping mission in Liberia.

**Central African Republic - Security Council

Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council heard from Mankeur Ndiaye, the head of the UN mission in the Central African Republic.  In his statement to the Council, he condemned persistent violence and issued a strong call to armed groups to abide by the security arrangements they committed to when they signed the peace agreement in February.


I want to flag, on Yemen, the World Food Programme (WFP) has begun partially suspending food assistance operations in areas of the country under the control of the Sana’a-based authorities.

At this stage, the suspension will take place in Sana’a city only, affecting 850,000 people.  WFP will maintain nutrition programmes for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers throughout the period that its aid is suspended.

WFP says this decision was taken as a last resort after lengthy negotiations stalled on an agreement to introduce controls to prevent the diversion of food away from some of the most vulnerable people in Yemen.

WFP’s priority remains to feed the hungriest people, but, as in any conflict zone, the agency says that some individuals seek to profit by preying on the vulnerable and diverting food away from where it is most needed.

The agency has been seeking the support of the Sana’a-based authorities to introduce a biometric registration system that would prevent diversion and protect Yemeni families and ensuring that food reaches those who need it most.

WFP says it will continue to seek cooperation from the Sana’a-based authorities and remains optimistic that a way forward can be found and is ready to immediately resume food distributions once an agreement is reached on an independent beneficiary identification exercise and the rollout of a biometric [registration system].


On Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, by April this year, some 3.2 million people were internally displaced by conflict and drought.  This is on top of the than 900,000 refugees — mostly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea — who are also living in Ethiopia.

While we welcome the Government-led efforts to find durable solutions, the implementation of a plan for the return of internally displaced people since early May has not been consultative and well planned in some areas.

The UN and humanitarian partners continue to help those returning home and to work with authorities to ensure that returns are voluntary, safe, dignified and well-informed.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Ethiopia, which seeks $1.3 billion, is 28 per cent funded.


On Syria, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Panos Moumtzis, today said he is shocked and appalled by reports of a strike in Idlib which killed a female patient and three paramedics in an ambulance.

Since 1 May, stepped up fighting in the area has driven more than 320,000 people from their homes in the southern part of the de-escalation zone.

He expressed his outrage at the ongoing violence, stressing that the parties to conflict have an obligation to protect civilians and the principles of distinction and proportionality enshrined in International Humanitarian Law.

He also paid tribute and respect to humanitarian workers in Syria who risk their lives on a daily basis.


In Cameroon, over the past year, the number of people in need of aid in the country’s north-west and south-west has increased eightfold.

According to our humanitarian colleagues, more than 1.3 million people currently need humanitarian assistance in that region.

A year ago, that number was estimated to be at 160,000.

Also on Cameroon, the UN Children’s Fund highlighted the impact of the crisis on children, noting that half of those in need are boys and girls.

In the impacted region, over 80 per cent of schools have been closed, in part because of a ban on education by non-State armed groups.  At least 74 schools have been completely destroyed.

According to UNICEF, more than 600,000 children are out of school, in some cases, for the past 3 years.

The humanitarian appeal for Cameroon is only 18 per cent funded.


Speaking of money, we say thank you to our friends Botswana for their payment to the regular budget, which brings us up to 105.


After you are done with questioning me, we will be joined by Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, who is here to brief you in advance of the annual UNRWA Pledging Conference, which will take place here on 25 June in which the Secretary-General will participate.

And on Monday, we will be joined by Luis Alfonso de Alba, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate.

**Questions and Answers

Khalas.  Mr. Bays and then Ms. Lederer. 

Question:  By his own account on Twitter, President Trump launched air strikes on Iran and then called them off when there was an estimate that 150 people could die.  What is the Secretary‑General's reaction?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General's message to all the parties involved is to avoid anything that would escalate the situation further and, as he put it, to have nerves of steel.

Question:  And can I have a follow‑up question to try…  update us on the Secretary‑General's personal diplomacy on this issue.  Who's he been speaking to?  When did he last speak to President Trump?

Spokesman:  The, there have been contacts at various levels to the parties involved, working contacts, and at other levels, and I will leave it at that for the time being.

Question:  Who has the Secretary‑General himself…

Spokesman:  I will leave it at that for the time being.  Yes, Edie.

Question:  I was going to ask something similar, but since the Secretary‑General will be going to the G20 where President Trump will be, is there any possibility of their meeting there?  And in addition to the message that basically nothing should be done to escalate the situation, is there anything more that the United Nations can do at this point to try to defuse tensions?

Spokesman:  Well, the, sorry, on the G20, the bilateral schedule is being worked out.  We will update you as they are confirmed.  But, as always, the Secretary‑General will use every possible opportunity to pass the same message to all the parties, which is to avoid any…  any escalation.  The Secretary‑General and his staff are following this very closely, and, as I said, contacts are being had and passing, really, I would say, the same message in public as we are in private.  Masood.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Follow‑up on Edie's question.  My question is, is there any new ideas that the Secretary‑General has that he can share with us about avoiding this conflict, which is…  seems to be on again/off again now that President Trump decided not to go ahead with it, but it seems that this sort of [inaudible] still hanging over it.  So, does the Secretary‑General have any new ideas?  Can he share any new ideas with us?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General firmly believes in the need for dialogue between the parties involved as probably the best way to defuse, to defuse tension and to avoid any escalation.

Yes, sir.  Sorry, and then we'll move to, then we'll move that way.

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  So, the US, it seems that the US has called for a meeting in the Council on Monday to share information about the incident in the Gulf.  And the Iranian Mission also sent a letter to the SG, included information about where the location of the drone was shot.  So, have you received any information or counter‑information from the US on the location?  And can the UN confirm if the drone was shot inside or outside…

Spokesman:  No, we have…

Question:  …of the territories of Iran?

Spokesman:  We do not have, we have neither the mandate nor the forensic capability of doing that.  I'm not aware of a letter from the United States.  We have, as you know, did receive the letter from the Iranian Government, from the Foreign Minister.  And that letter has, obviously, we're looking at it and has, was promptly circulated to the Security Council as was requested of us.  Yeah, James.

Question:  Yeah, thank you so much.  In a minute, we've got the UNRWA Commissioner‑General speaking to us, and it's about this meeting next week in New York.  Of course, at the same time, there's another meeting in Bahrain.  We're probably going to be comparing the two of them.  Can you just remind us who from the UN is going to be going over to Bahrain?  And is it a big delegation or just one person and…

Spokesman:  The…  sorry, go ahead.  I didn't mean to cut you off.

Question:  Any details you can give us about, is it, like, a plenary?  Are they going to be speaking?  Do they have any bilaterals arranged?

Spokesman:  Jamie McGoldrick, who is based in Jerusalem and deals with humanitarian development issues, will be there to represent the United Nations. 

As to the format of the meeting, that's a question really to the organizers, and I would refer you to what Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov[, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process,] himself said yesterday in public in the Security Council about, about the meeting.

Did you have a second part to your question or no?  I think I've answered what, to my, best of my ability.  Masood.

Question:  Sir, on this, Mr. Khashoggi's situation, has the Secretary‑General or anybody from the United Nations spoken to the Saudi authorities since then?  And have they had any sort of conversations with them? Can they share that conversation with us?

Spokesman:  I have nothing to report on that more than, I think, the, that the issue had come up, as you may recall, I think, in a meeting between the Secretary‑General and the Crown Prince more than a year ago, but I have nothing more to say.

I will go get our guest.

For information media. Not an official record.