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

26 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.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

Just as a reminder, the Secretary-General is off to Osaka, Japan, where he will attend the G20 Summit.  The Secretary-General is expected to 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 hold bilateral meetings with world leaders in attendance.

In a letter to G20 leaders ahead of the Summit, the Secretary-General said that, four years after the landmark agreement on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we have to accelerate efforts towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address our changing climate.  The Secretary-General called on leaders to exercise their leadership in three areas:  first, he encouraged G20 members to take the lead in implementing policies that promote not only rapid and robust growth, but also equitable growth; second, he stressed the need to increase the flow of public and private finance towards investments aligned with the SDGs, in part by shaping incentives so that private capital flows towards sustainable development; and third, he emphasized the need to seize the opportunities of the rapidly advancing digital revolution, while cautioning that digital divides can also grow rapidly.  We will share the full letter with you shortly in a note to correspondents.

And then on Sunday, the Secretary-General will be in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to attend the Climate Preparatory Meeting, which seeks to galvanize momentum and support for the solutions needed to tackle the climate emergency, ahead of his Climate Action Summit that he is convening in September in New York.

**Anti-Semitism

Before heading off to Japan, the Secretary-General spoke at an informal meeting of the General Assembly on combating anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and hate.  He said that anti-Semitism has not been extinguished, far from it.  In the United States, Europe and elsewhere, attacks on synagogues, graveyards and individuals continue to make many Jews feel unsafe.  This intolerance is also being directed at other faiths, as well as migrants and refugees, he said, with social media accelerating the rapid spread of bigotry.  The Secretary-General stressed that we need to treat hate speech as we treat every malicious act:  by condemning it and refusing to amplify it.  The Secretary-General added that we also need to invest in social cohesion so that all members of society can feel that their identities are respected.  He pointed to the recently launched UN strategy to combat hate speech and the High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation as examples of the UN combating intolerance online and offline.  “I guarantee you that I will continue to call out anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of hatred — loudly and unapologetically,” he said.  His full remarks are online.

**Yemen

A note from our Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who is today in Saudi Arabia, in Riyadh, where he met with Yemeni Vice-President Ali Mohsen.  Their meeting discussed steps needed to move forward with the peace process in Yemen, and they reiterated the importance of achieving sustainable and speedy progress in implementing the Stockholm Agreement.  Mr. Griffiths said he was encouraged by the openness and flexibility of the Government of Yemen and its continued commitment towards achieving peace.  He said that he is determined to advance the peace process, based on the National Dialogue Outcome, the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and related Security Council resolutions and to restart possible consultations with the parties.

**Iran

Back here, Rosemary DiCarlo, the head of the Political and Peacebuilding Affairs Department, briefed the Security Council this morning on the implementation of resolution 2231 (2015), concerning non-proliferation and Iran.  Ms. DiCarlo said that the Secretary-General is concerned about recent developments.  He regrets that the United States recently decided not to extend waivers with regard to trade in oil with Iran and not to fully renew waivers for non-proliferation projects in the framework of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  She also said that the Secretary-General also regrets Iran’s announcement on 8 May that it would not commit itself to respecting the JCPOA limits on its enriched uranium stockpile and heavy water reserves at the current stage, and its subsequent announcement on 17 June that Iran may surpass on 27 June the limit on its enriched uranium stockpile set under the JCPOA.  Such actions are not in the interests of the participants of the Plan and may not help preserve it, she said.  The Secretary-General encourages Iran to continue implementing all its nuclear-related commitments despite the considerable challenges it faces.  Recent events in the Gulf are a reminder that we are at a critical juncture, Ms. DiCarlo said.  She added that the Secretary-General calls on all Member States to avoid actions that may result in a further deterioration of the current situation.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Also happening this morning, the Security council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the sanctions on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The resolution reiterated the need for the Government to swiftly and fully investigate the 2017 killing of the two members of the Group of Experts, Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp, and four Congolese nationals accompanying them, and to bring those responsible to justice.

**Syria

Yesterday afternoon, Mark Lowcock, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefed Security Council members on the continuing violence in Syria, telling the Council members, “we have repeatedly asked you to make this stop.  It has not stopped, or even slowed.”  Instead, he said, over this last weekend of 21 to 23 June, we received reports of air strikes affecting more than 55 communities in Idlib, Hama and Aleppo, and artillery shelling affecting more than 21 communities in these governorates.  Mr. Lowcock provided details about the deconfliction system under which the parties are provided with the coordinates of medical facilities, and other humanitarian sites, to help these parties take precautions to spare them.  He said that more can be done to strengthen the system, but the critical question is what those receiving information on the location of medical facilities are doing with that information.  Tomorrow, the Security Council will receive a briefing from Special Envoy Geir Pedersen, who will brief via video from Geneva.

**Mali

Following up on Mali:  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports today that intercommunal violence and floods in the Mopti region are aggravating an already precarious humanitarian situation for over 50,000 internally displaced people.  There are also concerns that the increasing number of displaced people in Mopti may overwhelm existing response resources.  There are over 210,000 people facing food insecurity.  Only 2 per cent of the communities have access to safe drinking water.  Government authorities, civil society organizations and UN agencies in Bamako and Mopti are working to address the most urgent needs of the more than 120,000 displaced people currently registered in the country.  Meanwhile, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has enhanced its presence in the Mopti region to better protect civilians from attacks.

**Human Rights Bodies

You will recall that, yesterday, the Secretary-General met with the 10 Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies that are in New York for their annual meeting to discuss their work.  A note we issued afterward said that, together with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General’s office is attempting to mitigate the impact on the work of the treaty body system of budget reductions adopted by the General Assembly in 2017, which are further compounded by the financial crisis facing the Organization.  The Secretary-General reaffirmed the importance of the crucial human rights work done by the treaty bodies and emphasized it is crucial for human rights and victims around the world that the committees can count on necessary support and resources to fulfil their mandate.

**UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Today, it’s the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has released the World Drug Report 2019.  This report reveals that 35 million people around the world suffer from drug‑use disorders, while only 1 in 7 receives treatment.  According to the report, improved research and more precise data have revealed that the adverse health consequences of drug use are more severe and widespread than previously thought.  The report also estimates the number of opioid users at 53 million, up 56 per cent from previous estimates.  It says that opioids are responsible for two thirds of the 585,000 people who died as a result of drug overdose in 2017.

**UN Charter

Today is the International Charter Day because, on this date, 74 years ago, the UN Charter’s was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco.  It came into force on UN Day, 24 October 1945.  There is an event, in the GA Hall, at 3 p.m.  And the Special Adviser for the UN75 commemorations, Fabrizio Hochschild, will present the Secretary-General’s plans to observe this emblematic date.  This will be followed by a symbolic ceremony for Ambassadors' signatures as a gesture of renewed commitment to the Charter.

**Press Briefings

In a short while, I will be joined by David Shearer, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).  Following his briefing, Chantal Line Carpentier, Chief of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) New York Office, will be here to brief on the launch of the 2019 edition of the report:  “Made in Africa: rules of origin for enhanced intra-African trade”.  Then at around 2:45 p.m., the Permanent Representatives of the United Kingdom and Peru will brief at the Security Council Stakeout.  They will provide with an update on the UN Security Council visit to Colombia.  And you already know tomorrow at 11 a.m., the President of the General Assembly will brief you.  And now I will take your questions.  Erol Avdovic?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you very much, Monsieur Dujarric.  Couple of question.  Does the Secretary‑General, in the light of the speech delivered previously by Rosemary DiCarlo, thinks that the real solution for this heated crisis in Persian Gulf would be the return to the resolution 2231 (2015)?  To start with that.

Spokesman:  First of all, there needs to be a de‑escalation of the tensions that we see.  And the Secretary‑General, as he has said in the past, as Ms. DiCarlo said, clearly thinks that the JCPOA was a very important diplomatic achievement, and he… obviously, I think we would all benefit by all the parties recommitting themselves to that.

Correspondent:  And if I may… and although the US seems that it's not very much in favour in that… as one of a permanent member would be kind of… not to say obstacle, but put it whatever you want.

Spokesman:  I'm not sure I heard a question there, but it's more of an analysis.  I mean, we're not in the… the Secretary‑General, I think… I would encourage you to read the support that he submitted, which is publicly available, and Ms. DiCarlo's statement, which I think clearly outlines the Secretary‑General's position.

Question:  What does the Secretary‑General, in that light, also have to say in regard of those calls saying that the US and other countries should not sell the… or send the weapons to Saudi Arabia and to the region?

Spokesman:  I think in terms of what the… if you're talking about the situation in Yemen, I think, as we've said, the people of Yemen don't need more weapons.  They need peace.  Mr. Abbadi and then…

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  As you said, the Secretary‑General has called in on Member States to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.  How does he specifically suggest doing that?

Spokesman:  I think it's a commitment both at the policy level and a commit… and a financial commitment to ensuring that those policies can be well financed.  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  Thank you.  I wanted to redirect a question I had for Monica [Grayley], if the Secretary‑General has any reaction to the High Commissioner report for… the High Commissioner for Human Rights report on the crisis in Venezuela?

Spokesman:  I mean, the Secretary‑General, I think, is very pleased with the way the mission unfolded.  He's been very supportive and has done whatever he can to ensure that the mission went ahead, and I think the mission by the High Commissioner for Human Rights was a very important step, indeed.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Yesterday was the last day that the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea gave Russia to fulfil its ruling, which came in 25 May.  It ruled to free the Ukrainian… 24 Ukrainian sailors that are still held in Moscow.  And Russia, in this period, in this one month, has not done anything.  It didn't provide a report, which the international tribunal forced it to do.  So, what is the reaction… what is the reaction?

Spokesman:  I think the tribunal's ruling, I would say, speaks for itself.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Sorry.  Thank you.  I'm… at the G20, what will the main thrust of the SG's address be, since I imagine the US will be talking about Iran again?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, I think I outlined in the beginning what… that's okay.  I'll… I went in fairly much detail.  I'll give you my notes.  Mr. Avni?

Question:  Speaking of the Law of the Sea, does the UN… does the UN have any independent way to test whether the… who committed those attacks on four ships in the Gulf?

Spokesman:  We… unless… I mean, I don't know what part of the UN you're referring to.  If you're referring to the Secretary‑General, we do not have a mandate unless requested… I mean, for this type of action, we would need a mandate from a legislative body, notably the Security Council.

Question:  Does he have any…?

Spokesman:  And I think members… a number of Member States presented the evidence they have to the Council.  And they have, I think, pretty fairly extensive technical capacity… capabilities in that regard.

Question:  Regardless of who committed it, does he consider the attacks a violation of freedom of navigation…?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General is very attached to the issue of freedom of navigation and I think… and clearly has condemned these attacks.  Mr. Klein?

Question:  Yes.  I may have missed it, but will the Secretary‑General be discussing, either in meetings in Japan or bilateral meetings or in forums, any human rights concerns?  And, for example, if he's planning to meet with Chinese President Xi [Jinping], will he urge President Xi to invite the High Commissioner for Human Rights to observe… to visit and observe for herself the detention camps of where the Uyghurs are being held?

Spokesman:  There are ongoing discussions between the Chinese Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as far as I'm aware, in order for the High Commissioner to secure a visit in a way that is acceptable to her.  The Secretary‑General fully supports the High Commissioner's efforts.  As to the situation in Xinjiang, the Secretary‑General, as we've said, has already raised this with the Chinese authorities.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  There are more pressing issues, but usually the 26 June is also a day of commemoration for the victims of torture.  Has that changed?

Spokesman:  I'm not aware that it's not.  I'm not aware that it's changed.  The fact that I didn't mention it doesn't mean that it's not.  I'm not the end all and be all of international days.  Benny?

Question:  On Manama, there's a conference on the Palestinians happening there.  As far as I remember, the UN was not… is not represented there, or is it?

Spokesman:  As far as you remember incorrectly, we did…

Question:  [Nickolay] Mladenov is there?

Spokesman:  With due respect, Benny.

Correspondent:  Don't respect me, please.

Spokesman:  Sorry.  Let's get back to the issue at hand.  No, the UN… the Secretariat is represented by Jamie McGoldrick, who is in charge of development of humanitarian issues.  And I expect to… maybe to get something more from them hopefully tomorrow, and he's there.

Question:  Any comment on the mere conv… convening of such an event, which is unprecedented…?

Spokesman:  I would refer you back to what the Special Coordinator, Mr. Mladenov, said in his remarks to the Security Council not too long ago on that very issue.  I shall get our guest… Mr. Erol, and then get our guest.

Question:  Thank you.  Just one, because it's a very important question by Monsieur Abbadi before to Monica to check the position of the Secretary‑General and to think about.  Since the Security Council's reforms are in deadlock, does the Secretary‑General think that during his mandate would be proper to think about amending or changing the UN Charter when we have a day of UN Charter?

Spokesman:  The Security Council reform, I mean, depending on how it goes, would most likely lead through… have to go through some sort of Charter amendment.  This is an issue that the Member States have to decide for themselves.  I mean, the… I think successive Secretaries‑General from the time I've been here — and I feel sometimes I've been here for a very long time — have all supported the idea of Security Council reform, have all called for Security Council reform.  But, there are certain things in this building and most things in this building are firmly in the hands of the Member States.  This is a Member State‑driven organization.  The Member States that sign on to the Charter, it is for them to make the hard decisions and is for them to move that process forward.  The Secretary‑General has called for that process to move forward, but it is for them to do that work.

Question:  So, it's more Secretary than General?

Spokesman:  It's not Secretary or General.  I think today's a good day to reread the Charter and to see where the authority of the Secretary‑General is and the authority of the Member States.  Changing the Charter is for those who signed it, i.e., the Member States.  On that note, I shall get the Special Representative.

For information media. Not an official record.