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

24 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Noon Briefing Guest

Good afternoon, everyone.  In a short while, I will be joined by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba.  He will brief you on the forthcoming Climate Meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi from 30 June to 1 July.  Before we get to him, I will read out a bit from the rest of the system.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

First of all, the Secretary-General is on his way back to New York from Lisbon, Portugal, where he spoke at the World Conference for Ministers Responsible for Youth that took place there yesterday.

He told the young participants that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Climate Agreement, agreed four years ago by all Member States, offer a way to address the serious global challenges we face.  But he added that it is clear that without the impatience, the drive, the creativity and the innovation of today’s young people, we will not succeed.

From climate action to plastic pollution, from the clean energy revolution to gender equality, the young generation is stepping up to the challenge, he said.

The Secretary-General said that next year will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations.  Global cooperation needs rejuvenation to better tackle the threats to the future, he said, adding that he wants to hear from the youth about how they would like to see the UN improve.  His remarks are available online.

**Ethiopia

In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned the killing of the president of the Amhara National Region, the chief of staff of the Ethiopian National Defence Force and two other senior civilian and military staff in Ethiopia during the weekend violence.  He called on all Ethiopian stakeholders to demonstrate restraint, prevent violence and avoid any action that could undermine the peace and stability of Ethiopia.

The Secretary-General welcomes the commitment of the Prime Minister and Government of Ethiopia to ensure that the perpetrators of these actions are brought to justice.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Government of Ethiopia in its efforts to address ongoing challenges.

**Mauritania

Yesterday, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), congratulated the Mauritanian people for holding a peaceful presidential election on 22 June.

Mr. Chambas reiterated the appeal of the Secretary-General to Mauritanians to resolve any dispute through the established legal channels.

The Special Representative urged all candidates to be patient and to let the Electoral Commission conduct the electoral process in full compliance with the Constitution and laws in force in Mauritania.

**Haiti

A new report on events that took place in the Port-au-Prince neighbourhood of La Saline late last year highlights concerns about human rights abuses committed against local residents, and the alleged involvement of some agents of the State.

The report, produced by the UN Mission in Haiti and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, calls on authorities to ensure that those suspected of being responsible for the violence, including those with public functions, are brought to justice, in accordance with international standards.

Another conclusion of the report is that living conditions in La Saline have worsened since the attack.  Access to drinking water, health care and education is now more difficult.

The report recommends appropriate measures to ensure the safety and dignity of the victims and witnesses who have filed complaints in relation to these events, with special attention for children and victims of sexual violence.

**Sudan

On Sudan, the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in Darfur, or UNAMID, and the UN Country Team have jointly expressed their deep concern over the looting and destruction of World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision offices and property in Graida, in South Darfur, last week.

They said these are senseless acts of aggression on aid workers who are in the area to provide relief and support to the most vulnerable people.  They urged the Government of Sudan to take immediate action to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that there have been 20 incidents of looting, mostly in Darfur, since April.

In some cases, this has led to the suspension of humanitarian activities due to the looting of critical supplies and to allow time to negotiate for the safety and security of aid workers.

**Peace Operations

The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, is on a visit to South-East Asia.

Today, he was in Singapore, where he met with the Senior Minister of State for Defence.

Mr. Lacroix’s next stop will be Indonesia, where, tomorrow, he will represent the Secretary-General and speak at the opening of the Regional Conference on preparing modern armed forces for peacekeeping operations in the twenty-first Century.

While in Indonesia, Mr. Lacroix will hold talks with Government authorities, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Commander of the Armed Forces and the Chief of National Police, and thank them for the country’s commitment and contributions to UN peacekeeping.  He will also meet with the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Committee of Permanent Representatives.

**Human Rights

This morning in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, spoke at the opening of the forty-first session of the Human Rights Council.

She presented an overview of upcoming issues in this new session of the human rights body.

Ms. Bachelet pointed out the detention of over 55,000 suspected Da’esh fighters and their families in Syria and Iraq, held in what she described as deeply substandard conditions.  She urged authorities to ensure due process for all detainees, and emphasized how “accountability, with fair trials, protects societies from future radicalization and violence”.

She concluded by reminding Member States to “stand for a world based on hope and dignity”.  Her full remarks are available on the Human Rights Office website.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

Yesterday Qu Dongyu of China was elected Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. 

He will succeed Brazil’s José Graziano da Silva and will start on 1 August 2019.

Qu Dong Yu is currently the Vice Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of China.  You can read more about him online.

**Press Briefings

Like I said, after I’m done with my part, we will hear from Luis Alfonso de Alba and, after that, the spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly, Monica Villela Grayley.

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing here by UN-Women on the launch of their flagship report entitled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019:  Families in a Changing World”.  Speakers will include UN-Women’s Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

And then at around 1 p.m., Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), will make remarks at the Security Council stakeout.  He will brief following the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly for the Announcement of Voluntary Contributions to UNRWA, which takes place at 10 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council.

**Questions and Answers

That’s it from me.  Are there any questions?  Yes, please.

Question:  You didn’t mention the attack yesterday on Abha airport in Saudi Arabia, where the Houthi militia claimed responsibility for it.  Don’t you think, Farhan, that this offensive deserves a strong condemnation from the United Nations, especially where there was civilian loss of life from the latest attack and where civilians also have been injured?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what I can say about that is we are concerned over the recent escalation of violence in different parts of Yemen and the missile attacks against civilian infrastructure in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  Such escalations imperil the prospects for peace.  We urge all parties to refrain from any further incidents.  We reiterate the UN’s commitment to advance the peace process through the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary‑General for Yemen, and we urge both parties to re‑engage in the political process and on the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the election of a new mayor of Istanbul?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we don’t normally comment on municipal elections, and we don’t have anything in particular to say about this case.  As you know, the UN did not have any involvement in the arrangement of the elections.

Question:  And, on a second thing, there are media reports that the Iranians are threatening to attack or down more drones sent by the United States.  Does the Secretary‑General have any new message to the parties?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has made clear his concerns, both about the recent incidents and also the rhetoric from various quarters.  And he’s made it clear that it would be a catastrophe to have any escalation in the Gulf region.  He has urged all sides to show nerves of steel, and he is continuing to maintain that, and he wants to make sure that they take steps to avoid any further sorts of provocation, one way or the other.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Follow‑up on the election.  The election in Mauritania, they finish yesterday.  What reaction come from the UN about the one winner yesterday?

Deputy Spokesman:  I just read a note on Mauritania about that, and we had a Note to Correspondents about this.  Just to recap, we did congratulate the Mauritanian people on a peaceful presidential election, and we want to make sure that the parties resolve any dispute through the established legal channels.  Yes, Michelle?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  On Myanmar, there’s a big blackout there in Rakhine and Chin States, which the UN Special Rapporteur has expressed concern about - and to quote her, she says, “I fear for all the civilians there.”  Does the Secretary‑General share these concerns?  Has he spoken with anyone in Myanmar about this?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you’re aware of the concerns we’ve expressed in the past about the situation in Rakhine State, and we continue to hope that there will be conditions set that would allow for the peaceful return of the Rohingya to that state.  Regarding the current conditions, obviously, we’re aware of the concerns expressed by the rapporteurs, and we want to make sure that freedom of expression and freedom of opinion is upheld.

Question:  Can I just… sorry.  Just a second question on the G20 with the Secretary‑General being there.  Who’s he planning to meet with?

Deputy Spokesman:  We’ll have some more details down the line.  As you know, we haven’t formally announced anything on this.  Once we have something to announce, we’ll let you know.  Ibtisam?

Question:  Hi, Farhan.  Thanks.  I have two questions.  The first one, regarding Yemen, do you have any updates about the humanitarian aid and whether you… because Mr. [Mark] Lowcock talked about maybe the UN has to review its operation due to problems with aid and achieving people.  So, could you update us on that?  And the second question is on Sudan.  Any updates?  Have you been following what’s happening there, etc.?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  We’re following the situation in Sudan.  I don’t have any particular update to provide on that for now, but we’ll keep checking with our colleagues about the situation on the ground there.  Regarding Yemen, you’re aware that the World Food Programme (WFP) did suspend some of its activities in the capital, Sana’a.  This is a temporary measure.  What we’re hoping for is that we can get progress on the system of biometric registration that the World Food Programme wanted to put in place to ensure that there is no improper diversion of food aid.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  When it comes to Secretary‑General initiative on hate speech, how does he envision or whether this is incorporated in this initiative for somebody when found sort of guilty or complicit in that to be responsible?  Because it looks to me like all that very good or excellent initiatives like responsibility for protect, we never found anybody responsible for protecting civilians.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the important point is… with our initiative is to find ways to get the Member States and the international community as a whole to do more to deal with the threats posed by hate speech.  I would urge you to look at the recommendations that Adama Dieng has put out and which he presented to the Member States last Tuesday.

Question:  But there’s a follow‑up just…  Exactly, that’s the part of problem because the Member States are inhibiting somehow the responsibility for the hate speech.  Some Member States.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we’re in early days about this yet.  This was presented to them on Tuesday, and we’re trying to build support among them.  But, ultimately, as with all UN initiatives, we do need the support of the Member States for them to be fully successful.  Carole?

Question:  Farhan, on the Bahrain conference, which is opening this evening and tomorrow, can you talk about what the UN expectations are?  You will be… you have someone attending at conference.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  We do have our Humanitarian Coordinator from the ground there.  And I would refer you to what Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator, said in his remarks at the Security Council last week in terms of our expectations.  For now, at this stage, we’ll wait and see what transpires.  And with that…

Question:  Just one more.

Deputy Spokesman:  Sure.

Question:  Just to follow up that, I believe my colleague James Bays asked that day the Secretary‑General, why not blame and shame somebody on this issue of hate speech to start with and to put more seriousness in that?  It’s very serious problem along the border.

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General made clear that he’s all too well aware that that would be the one thing that people would focus on.  Right now, the one thing we want them to focus on is uniting behind an effort to ensure that nations can collectively combat hate speech.  Yes, please?

Question:  Sorry, Farhan.  Let me come back to the attack yesterday on Abha airport.  Expressing concern where a civilian has died from this attack, do you think it’s enough from the United Nations?  Why we don’t hear, like… like, clear condemnation from the UN?  And are there any measurement or, like, let’s say measurement from the UN will be taken to stop this attack which will threaten the civilians’ life?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you heard what I had to say on that, and that is my response.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Sorry.  Just a quick follow‑up on Carole’s question.  The White House actually released details of their plan for this Bahrain conference over the weekend.  Does the Secretary‑General have any specific response to that, which has come after Mladenov’s address to the Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, we’re waiting to see what happens, what transpires, at Bahrain.  But, beyond that, our initial reactions to this overall effort was the views conveyed by Mr. Mladenov at the Security Council on Thursday.

And, with that, let us turn to our guest.

For information media. Not an official record.