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

25 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.

**UN Relief and Works Agency

The Secretary-General this morning spoke at a pledging conference for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, otherwise known as UNRWA.  He told diplomats at the meeting that, for nearly seven decades, UNRWA has faithfully and effectively fulfilled its mandate to assist Palestine refugees until a just and lasting solution is found.  He said that millions of children have benefitted from an UNRWA education.  He added that UNRWA’s innovative health-care services maintain high standards and are remarkably cost-effective; its emergency and social services address the fundamental needs of millions; and, in Gaza alone, 1 million Palestine refugees depend on the agency for food.

If we are proud of these accomplishments, he said, we need to support them in concrete ways.  Given what is at stake at the human level, at the political and security level, and at the multilateral level, we must rise to the challenge and empower UNRWA to continue its important and impressive work, he said.

The Secretary-General noted that UNRWA has taken extraordinary reform and cost-control measures to reduce inefficient spending, and over the past five years, UNRWA has saved $500 million through these internal measures.  His full remarks are online.

Following today’s meeting, at 1 p.m., Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner General for UNRWA, will speak to you at the Security Council stakeout.


I have a readout from yesterday’s meeting between the Deputy Secretary-General and His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Yesterday, the Deputy Secretary-General met with His Excellency Yemi Osinbajo, Vice-President of Nigeria.  The Deputy Secretary-General thanked the Vice-President for the visit, conveyed the Secretary-General’s greetings and expressed appreciation for the ongoing collaboration between the UN and Nigeria.

The Deputy Secretary-General and the Vice-President exchanged views on the strengthening of the solid relationship between the United Nations and Nigeria on issues ranging from sustainable development, sustaining peace, preventing crisis, addressing violent extremism and other challenges, especially across the Sahel and West Africa.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held an open meeting on South Sudan.

Addressing Council members, David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), said that the peace agreement continues to progress and that the ceasefire is holding in most states.

Mr. Shearer noted that the drop in political violence has meant that hundreds, if not thousands, of people are alive who otherwise would not be, and more than half a million people have returned to their homes.  He said that the desire for peace is palpable and that there is a fierce aversion to any renewal of fighting.

The Special Representative said that, while disappointing, the postponement of the formation of a transitional government will give time to resolve outstanding issues that might otherwise derail the peace deal.

The African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the UN have been working collectively to support the process and are strongly unified in our position that the six-month extension must be the last one.

Also speaking at today’s meeting was Andrew Gilmour, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights.  He called on South Sudanese parties to abide by and implement their commitments to end hostilities and stop conflict-related sexual violence.

David Shearer, the Special Representative, will be our guest tomorrow at noon.


Also in the Council this morning, the members of the Security Council members adopted a resolution that will transform 15 years of peacekeeping in Haiti into a new political mission.

On 16 October, the BINUH mission – Bureau Intégré des Nations Unies en Haïti – will be established as a special political mission for an initial period of 12 months to advise the Government of Haiti to promote and strengthen political stability and good governance.

Among other things, the mission will provide assistance with the planning and holding of elections; will work to reinforce the capacity of the Haitian National Police; improve prison management; and strengthen the justice sector.


Turning to Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that civil unrest in the country continues to impact aid operations.

The continued Internet blackout continues to hamper aid operations, with humanitarian partners encountering delays in the processing of visas, travel permits, and other clearances for both personnel and supplies.

There has been an uptick in security incidents affecting aid workers and facilities, with 20 incidents of looting recorded since April.

Since January, there have been over 100 security incidents – including robberies, arrest, arson and harassment – in Darfur affecting humanitarian operations.

The $1.1 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for Sudan is just 26 per cent funded.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

And our colleagues at UNHCR (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) said today that about 7,500 Congolese refugees have arrived in Uganda since the beginning of June.  Facilities to assist refugees are overstretched and UNHCR warns that the pace of new arrivals generates needs that far outstrip what humanitarians are able to deliver.


And on Yemen, we are told that the number of people in the country affected by recent torrential rains and flooding has increased to nearly 80,000 in over 10 governorates.

The rains have now subsided, but thousands of people need shelter, food and other items.

Humanitarian agencies are working with local institutions to assess needs in the southern governorates and are also planning to help 28,000 internally displaced people in Hajjah Governorate.


And you just saw earlier today the press briefing by the head of UN-Women that just launched a new report to put forth a policy agenda to end gender inequalities within families.

**Day of the Seafarer

Today is one of my favourite days of the year – it’s the Day of the Seafarer.  This year’s theme, “I Am on Board with Gender Equality”, focuses on the importance and value of women within the professional ranks of the maritime world.

The theme is also in line with this year’s theme for World Maritime Day:  “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”.  More information online.

**Human Rights Bodies

A couple of events to flag:  This afternoon at 4:45, the Secretary-General will meet with the 10 Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies who are in New York for their annual meeting to discuss their work.

They meet once a year to share observations on positive and negative trends, improve their cooperation and share good practices and working methods with the aim of harmonizing them and improving their collective efficiency and effectiveness.

There will be a more detailed note to correspondents issued right after that meeting.


Tomorrow in the General Assembly Hall, the Secretary-General will deliver remarks at a meeting organized by the President of the General Assembly on combating anti-Semitism.

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow after our briefing, there will be a press briefing here by Chantal Line Carpentier, the Chief of the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) office here in New York.  She will brief you on the launch of the 2019 edition of the report entitled:  “Made in Africa:  rules of origin for enhanced intra-African trade”.

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Stéphane, yesterday, during a press conference of the Iranian ambassador, one of the things that he said… and it seemed… he said that, basically, if the threatening posture of the United States is somehow not there, they’re willing to talk under the auspices ‑‑ I mean, that’s what I came out with ‑‑ with Secretary‑General being arbiter.  But it seems as though, given the situation now with President [Donald] Trump threatening total annihilation of Iran, what do you think… is the Secretary‑General going to take the trip to Saudi Arabia and UAE (United Arab Emirates) and Israel to bring down the tensions? Is there a possibility?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General, through the contacts we’ve had at various levels, has delivered the same message, and that is one for… appealing for all sides to exercise maximum restraint, to avoid any action that would escalate an already tense situation.  That continues to be his message, both publicly and privately, to all the parties.

Question:  One of the things that he predicated it was that, if the tensions can be reduced, if the threatening posture of these countries is… and in the meanwhile, Mr. [Michael] Pompeo has visited Saudi Arabia; he’s visited UAE and so forth, and it continues that… is there any time that the United States… I mean United Nations Secretary‑General is going to go and meet with…

Spokesman:  I mean, the Secretary‑General’s position is clear.  As I’ve said, we are in contacts with various parties at different levels, and we are passing along the same message.  When… if I have something else to announce, I shall.  Evelyn and then Rami.

Question:  On the same subject, is there any comment from the UN on Mr. [Javad] Zarif being part of the… the… sanctions on… on Mr. Zarif, who has certainly been a diplomat in this place quite… for a long… for a long…

Spokesman:  No, nothing to add to what I’ve already just said.  Rami?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Agnès Callamard is in Geneva.  She’s been speaking to the press ahead of her briefing to the Human Rights Council tomorrow.  She says that the Secretary‑General has hidden behind protocol rather than push for an investigation into the death of Mr. [Jamal] Khashoggi.  She says that he could have acted as a mediator early on in the process to help the Turkish investigation and that he’s decided not to do so.  Do you have any response to her criticism?

Spokesman:  I don’t want to get into a reactionary mode with the Special Rapporteur.  The Special Rapporteur has an independent mandate.  We fully respect her mandate and the mandate of all Special Rapporteurs who play a critical role in the UN’s human rights machinery.  We’ve always encouraged countries to… Member States to not only respect them but to cooperate with them.  The Secretary‑General’s position has been the same.  It has been very clear.  He has always condemned the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and has called for a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation.  And as for any sort of international criminal investigation, he has shown the way… he has suggested and stated clearly that the only way to effectively pursue such an investigation would be through a resolution of the Security Council under the appropriate measures.  I don’t think the Secretary‑General has hidden behind anything.  Madame?

Question:  Julia [inaudible], New York.  For 13 days, we have been seeing migrants on board of the NGO ship Sea Watch left in the Mediterranean Sea because the Italian Government refused to allow them into its territorial waters and the port of Lampedusa.  And today, the captain of the ship threatened to bring the migrants to Italy even without authorization from Italian Government.  And single individuals on board asked the European Court to intervene.  So, is the Secretary‑General concerned about the situation that is deteriorating every day?  And, in his view, is the Italian Government violating the Geneva Convention on refugees?

Spokesman:  A couple of things.  One, I think my colleagues at UNHCR have spoken out very forcefully on the situation, and they are the voice of the UN when it comes to refugees and the need for Member States to respect the rights of refugees and to ensure that they are treated humanely.  The Secretary‑General has and continues to be concerned with the plight of refugees and migrants, of human beings, of men, women and children, who are trying to seek a better life, who are… put their lives often in the hands… are forced to put their lives in the hands of smugglers and criminal gangs.  And he has repeatedly called and continues to call for Member States, first of all, to engage with the UN and with each other through the global migration pact, through the global pact on refugees, as well, and to learn to figure out how to manage the situation, so that the situation is managed by Member States and not left to the hands of criminals.  Masood and then – sorry – we’ll go to Carmen.

Question:  Yeah, Stéphane, don’t want to belabour the point, but I want to ask you specifically, when is the Secretary‑General… can we expect the Secretary‑General to undertake a trip to these… this region in order to… you know, because it seems that it is… suddenly flare up, and as you know, what happened in Gulf War II, it will be absolutely no turning back… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  We are fully aware of the gravity of the situation, fully aware of the tensions in the region.  The Secretary‑General will not engage in travel for the sake of travelling.  What he is interested in is in real diplomacy, and that’s what he’s engaged in.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  Housekeeping matter.

Spokesman:  Housekeeping.  Knock on the door.  Yes, ma’am.

Question:  There’s no microphone here.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  And this one is stuck.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  And please, at what time is the meeting tomorrow at the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  9 a.m.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You’re welcome.  Monica, on that note, it’s all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.