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28 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.

**Noon Briefing Guest

In a short while, I will be joined by Frank Laczko, the Director of the Global Migration Data Analysis Centre at the International Organization for Migration (IOM).  He will brief you on the launch of a new report titled “Fatal Journeys”.

**Group of 20 Summit

The Secretary-General, as you know, is in Osaka, Japan, today, where he is taking part in the G20 Summit.

This morning, he held a press conference in which he stressed the importance of taking climate action and implementing the 2030 Agenda, while noting that we are lagging behind on both fronts.

On climate change, the Secretary-General emphasized the need for carbon neutrality by 2050, and for more ambitious nationally determined contributions.  He appealed to G20 leaders for a much stronger commitment to climate action, including putting a price on carbon and ending fossil fuel subsidies.

On sustainable development, the Secretary-General emphasized the need to step up the mobilization of resources and the private sector, as well as to enhance international solidarity.

The Secretary-General also held meetings with President Xi Jinping of China and with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

With the Chinese President, the Secretary-General discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), climate change and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

In his meeting with Prime Minister Abe, the Secretary-General congratulated Japan on its successful presidency of the G20, and also underlined the importance of continued Japanese leadership on climate change.

**Climate Change

On climate, today the World Meteorological Organization said today the Earth is set to experience its five warmest years on record from 2015-2019.  Increasing greenhouse gas concentrations will fuel the global heat — and accompanying ice melt, glacier retreat, sea level rise, ocean heat and extreme weather for generations to come, the agency said. 

This warning comes ahead of this weekend’s meeting in Abu Dhabi, which intends to galvanize initiatives that will be announced at September’s Climate Action Summit, which the Secretary-General is organizing.  And as we mentioned, both the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General will be in Abu Dhabi.

Also on climate, the UN Bonn Climate Change Conference wrapped up today.  The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) Executive Director Patricia Espinosa said that while Governments have made progress in several important areas, there are still outstanding issues that need to be resolved before the next Conference of the Parties in Chile in order to ensure that ambition is raised so that the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided.

**Yemen

The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is scheduled to visit Russia at the beginning of next week and then head to the United Arab Emirates and the Sultanate of Oman with the aim of pursuing his efforts to move the peace process forward in Yemen.

The Special Envoy is committed to reaching a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen and is encouraged by the commitment of the parties and stakeholders to engage with him.

Also on Yemen, a new report of the Secretary-General on the impact of conflict on children in Yemen paints a devastating picture of the violations affecting boys and girls over the past five years.

With over 7,500 cases, the most prevalent violation documented by the UN was the killing and maiming of children.  The report also documents high levels of recruitment and use of child soldiers. 

Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, described the sufferings of children in Yemen as “simply appalling”.  She called on all parties to the conflict to actively engage in peace negotiations and to place the protection of boys and girls at the core of the discussions.  The full report is available online.

And the annual report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict is scheduled for publication in the last week of July.

**Ebola

The World Health Organization (WHO) this morning gave an update on Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

According to the organization, there’s been good progress in enhancing the UN system-wide scale up and implementing ongoing strategic adjustments.

There was a decrease in cases this week compared to last week, but the lack of funding to keep supporting the Government-led response is still a great concern. 

WHO’s current funding needs are $98 million, of which $43.6 million has been received, leaving a gap of $54.4 million.

Also, good news in Uganda:  There is currently no active transmission of Ebola.  WHO said that there are no new cases since the first case was identified on 11 June with a family that travelled from Democratic Republic of the Congo.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Also from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have more details today about the wave of violence affecting people in the north-east of the country. 

According to a preliminary investigation carried out by the UN Joint Human Rights Office, at least 117 people have been killed in the province of Ituri between 10 and 13 June. 

Some of the victims were beheaded.  Homes and warehouses were looted and burned down.  The ferocity and scorched-earth nature of the attacks suggests the assailants wanted to prevent survivors from returning to their villages.

Most of the victims belonged to the Hema community.  The attackers are reported to be unidentified individuals from the Lendu community.

The motives of the perpetrators of these latest attacks are unclear.  But the information gathered so far seems to indicate that beyond intercommunal conflict, there appear to be additional political and economic motives underlying the assaults. 

Our human rights colleagues are calling on authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough, impartial, independent and transparent investigation and to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

**Libya

From Libya, our humanitarian colleagues say that the number of people displaced by the Tripoli clashes in Libya has surpassed 100,000. 

In total, 105,000 civilians have now fled their homes, according to the International Organisation for Migration, due to the ongoing fighting in and around Tripoli, as well as the deteriorating conditions along the front-line. 

The availability of food and other basic commodities is restricted in these areas, either as markets have closed or as civilians are unable to access them safely.  Water and electricity outages remain.

**Mali

This morning in the Security Council, the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping mission in Mali was renewed for a year, until 30 June 2020.

Noting the situation in Central Mali, the resolution also urges Malian authorities to take expedited action to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to protect civilians; to reduce intercommunal violence; and to ensure that the perpetrators of violations are held accountable. 

**Press Briefings

A reminder that at 1:15, the Permanent Mission of Japan and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) are holding an event here at Headquarters on vaccine hesitancy and online misinformation about measles vaccines and others.  You are all invited.

Monday at 3 p.m., there will be a briefing by Ambassador Gustavo Meza-Cuarda, the Permanent Representative of Peru and President of the Security Council for the month of July, already. 

**Pride March

But before June comes to a close, as you may know, this year, we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which took place here in New York, a milestone in the movement for LGBTIQ+ rights. 

Earlier this week, Free and Equal, the UN’s Global Campaign Against Homophobia and Transphobia, co-hosted 3 events at the World Pride Human Rights Conference, here in New York.

And this weekend, UN-GLOBE, a staff group fighting for the equality of LGBTIQ+ employees of the UN, has invited all staff to participate in the Pride March in New York City.  And we hope everybody enjoys the weekend. 

**Transitions

And lastly, as time passes, there are arrivals and departures to note. 

Today, I want to take a minute to take a minute to note the departure from the press corps of four amazing women: Seana Magee, of Kyodo; Farnaz Fassihi, of the Wall Street Journal; Irina Andreeava, of RIA Novosti; Marie Bourreau, of Radio France and Le Monde

They may be succeeded, but they cannot be replaced.  It’s been a great pleasure for myself and my office to work with them day in day out.  You are all truly great journalists, and please don’t forget us too quickly. 

And lastly, on the arrival side, we have two new Associate Spokespeople in our office, Stephanie Tremblay and Antonio Ferrari.  Drop by.  Start bugging them and annoying them.  And you're all welcome. 

On that note, Seana.  One last dig.

Correspondent:  I'll take the question.

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Correspondent:  Are… sorry.  I'm a little choked up.  Thank you so much.  I will miss you, too.  Please stay in contact.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the SG have any comments on media reports that Iran has sent in a letter of complaint to the Security Council over what they call a violation of airspace in the latest incident?  Is there anything new…?

Spokesman:  No, but we checked as of about a half an hour ago.  I think the letter had not been received, at least formally.  As soon as it is, we will confirm it to you.  And, obviously, if the letter is meant to be circulated to the Security Council, we will do so promptly.  Edie?

Question:  I noticed that you said that the Secretary‑General discussed the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) with President Xi.  Can you give us any details?  And are there any plans for the Secretary‑General to talk to President [Donald] Trump?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General had… so, I… let me take it back.  On President Xi, no, I don't have any more details, but, obviously, for the Secretary‑General, China has a very important role to play in ensuring the… in working towards a diplomatic solution to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  The Secretary‑General had a number of informal discussions with other world leaders at the summit, and then he will have more bilaterals tomorrow.  Yes, ma'am… sir.  Sorry.  Go ahead, yeah.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Just to mention, the Secretary‑General, during the… his visit in Osaka, we received two short or medium‑length, I would say, readout, his meetings with Prime Minister Abe and President Xi of China and specifically mentioned advancement towards the climate action.  Now, yesterday, you said that he will be also somehow lobbying or, to use other words, towards those who are somehow obstacles for climate action, including probably US.  I haven't heard precisely actually whether he's going to meet anybody from the US and to talk about it.

Spokesman:  The… I think I would refer you to what the Secretary‑General said in his press conference, and we shared… his press encounter, and we shared that transcript.  The G20 is a very important opportunity for the Secretary‑General to talk to world leaders about the need for bold climate action.  The group of 20 represents the vast, vast majority of climate emissions, and so, if action is going to be taken in reducing emissions, in getting to a carbon neutral by 2050, it is exactly this group of leaders.  And that's his message that he is presenting to them.

Question:  Contact with US?

Spokesman:  As I said, there may have been… there was some… a number of informal discussions during a side event, and the Secretary‑General is passing that message on to all he talks to.  Yes, sir?  [Cell phone ringing]

Question:  Good afternoon.

Spokesman:  Let's wait.  Go ahead.

Question:  Question on… you mentioned MINUSMA.  The peacekeeping mandate was extended for another year.  Have they released any figures? Would the budget be increased beyond the $1 billion?  And another question is, are they going to take into some consideration… there's been some concern that the police and the military in Mali, they're saying they're not being protected as adequately as the Blue Helmets are.  I guess they're saying their facilities for the Blue Helmets are more fortified versus theirs, and they're being more exposed to violence.

Spokesman:  I mean, they… you know, we will do whatever we can to assist the Malians, but there are two separate mandates, and the UN doesn't have any authority or direct control over the Malian armed forces or police service.  As for the budget, I don't have any details offhand, but I do know there are negotiations going on right now in the Fifth Committee regarding the peacekeeping budgets and peacekeeping operations as a whole.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On Monday, the Iranian ‑‑ I believe it was ambassador ‑‑ mentioned that there were a number of sanctions put on Iranians, one of which… one of whom is Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif.  I understand that, as a result of sanctions against Venezuelan Foreign Minister [Jorge] Arreaza, he's unable to come to the United Nations.  Does this mean that Zarif will be unable to come to the United…

Spokesman:  I don't know.  First of all, I can't predict.  I don't know the nature… the exact nature of details of those bilateral sanctions.  I know, as a matter of principle, there is a Headquarters Agreement with the host country, with the United States, which is there in part to facilitate the travel of officials who intend to business with the UN, but I can't predict what may or may not happen.  Welcome.

Question:  Thank you.  Alan Bulgati with the RIA Novosti.  I'm the successor of Irina Andreeava.  Thank you, sir.  As you know… as all of you know, President [Vladimir] Putin met with President Trump on margins of G20.  And, according to Putin's Spokesman, Mr. [Dmitry] Peskov, Trump has shown his readiness to start or maybe to restart the dialogue with Russia on strategic stability and disarmament.  Well, what's the opinion of Secretary‑General on that? Thank you.

Spokesman:  Well, the progress and dialogue between the United States and the Russian Federation on issues of non‑proliferation and disarmament are critical to setting the stage globally, and we do hope that these discussions bear fruit.  And I would refer you again… in addition to what the Secretary‑General himself said a few hours ago in Osaka on this.

All right.  Hasta… oh, Monday… oh, we do have… if you don't mind waiting two seconds.  We do have a guest from the migration office, who is here.

For information media. Not an official record.