8 July 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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Good afternoon, everyone.  The Secretary-General is traveling out of New York as we speak, and he is on the way to Nairobi, Kenya, where he is scheduled to speak at the opening session of the African Regional High-level Conference on Counter‑Terrorism and Prevention of Violent Extremism Conducive to Terrorism.  While in Nairobi, he will meet with the President of Kenya and participate in a town hall meeting with youth involved in programmes to prevent violent extremism.  Later this week, the Secretary-General will go to Mozambique to take stock of the recovery efforts in the areas impacted by cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which hit just a few weeks apart earlier this year.  He will visit both the capital, Maputo, and the city of Beira, which is still recovering from the impact of the two cyclones.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

And speaking of Mozambique, I have a personnel announcement to make.  Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Mirko Manzoni of Switzerland as his Personal Envoy for Mozambique.  In this role, Mr. Manzoni will provide good offices support in facilitating the dialogue between the Government of Mozambique and RENAMO [Mozambican National Resistance] and towards the signing and subsequent implementation of a peace agreement between the parties.  Mr. Manzoni has more than 20 years of experience in the diplomatic and humanitarian fields and has, in fact, served as Ambassador of Switzerland to Mozambique since 2014.  We have more on this in our office.

**Economic and Social Council

The Integration Segment of the Economic and Social Council is taking place today, one day before the start of the High-Level Political Forum.  The theme of the Integration Segment is “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality".  The Secretary-General joined the Integration Segment this morning to present the annual overview report of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).  The Secretary-General said that his aim is for each CEB member to leave their sessions with a shared understanding and vision of the immediate priorities of the United Nations system, with clarity about each entity’s respective contribution, and with the conviction to lead courageously.  His remarks are online.

And tomorrow, the High-Level Political Forum will begin, gathering countries and leaders from civil society, business, the UN System, specialized agencies, academia and other stakeholders to review progress made towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  The theme this year is “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality” and 47 countries will present their Voluntary National Reviews.

**Deputy Secretary-General Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is in Niamey, Niger, where yesterday she spoke at an event marking the entry into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area and the beginning of its transitional phase to full operationalization.  She said that, with the signing of the Agreement by Nigeria and Benin at this Summit, it is deeply gratifying to see that the African Continental Free Trade Area market will bring together almost all African Union member States.  She said that the African Continental Free Trade Area would be the world’s largest free trade area, encompassing 54 countries and 1.2 billion people.  And she added that it will bring the promise of trade-led economic growth closer to reality for Africa’s entrepreneurs, industrialists, investors, innovators and service suppliers.  The Deputy Secretary-General promised that the entire United Nations System will continue to support African countries as they accelerate the continent’s development.  Her full speech is online.  While in Niamey, the Deputy Secretary-General also had bilateral meetings with the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Niger and Nigeria, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the President of the African Development Bank.  The Deputy Secretary-General will be back in New York tomorrow.


Our human rights colleagues have issued a new report on the situation in Indian-Administered Kashmir and Pakistan-administered Kashmir between May 2018 and April 2019.  The report says the number of civilian casualties reported over that 12-month period may be the highest in over a decade.  The full report is available on the website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.


As of today, the outbreak of cholera in Yemen has reached over 460,000 suspected cases this year, including approximately 200,000 children.  This exceeds the 380,000 total suspected cases in all of 2018.  So far this year, 705 deaths have been recorded from suspected cholera – versus 75 deaths in the same period last year.  Recent flash flooding has accelerated the spread of cholera across the country, which has also been exacerbated by poor maintenance of waste management systems and lack of access to clean water for drinking or irrigation.  This year, the UN and partners are running nearly 1,200 cholera treatment facilities around the country.  However, funding remains an urgent issue.  The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan requires $4.2 billion to deliver humanitarian assistance to more than 20 million people this year.  As of today, only 32 per cent of those requirements have been met.


The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that at least seven children have been killed in an attack this weekend on the village of Mhambel in north-west Syria.  UNICEF’s Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, issued a statement saying that these deaths add to the mounting number of child casualties caused by intensifying violence over the past few weeks.  According to UNICEF, at least 140 children have been killed in north-west Syria since the beginning of the year.  Ms. Fore urged the parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them to ensure that children in the northwest and across the country are protected from the ongoing violence.

**Children and Armed Conflict

Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, is travelling to Mali today for a five-day mission.  She will meet children released by armed groups and undergoing reintegration programmes; members of the Government; the diplomatic community; UN partners; and civil society.  Her goal is to assess the impact of conflict on children, engage and advocate to improve the protection of boys and girls.  During her visit, she will also take part in a national launch of her new initiative “Act to Protect Children Affected by Conflict”.  In other news from the Children and Armed Conflict office, a new action plan was signed last Friday between an armed group from the Central African Republic and the United Nations.  The Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique (FPRC), which is part of the former Séléka coalition, and also a signatory to the Peace agreement, has formally committed to ending and preventing grave violations against children.  This includes the release of all children recruited and used by the armed group.  This is the second Action Plan signed by a member of the ex-Séléka coalition.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Now turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have a new update on the humanitarian situation in the Province of Ituri.  As you are aware, the situation has been deteriorating, following an upsurge in violence last month that has led to massive displacements.  More than 730,000 people are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance, including over 300,000 displaced people in Djugu, Irumu and Mahagi territories.  The UN and humanitarian partners are scaling up their response, but humanitarian access remains a serious challenge due to insecurity.  In total, the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for the Democratic Republic of the Congo is seeking $1.65 billion to assist 9 million people.  It’s only 24 per cent funded.


Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that directors from UN aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), representing the Interagency Standing Committee, have wrapped up a five-day visit to Nigeria.  Now in its tenth year, the crisis in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States in north-east Nigeria is not abating, with 7.1 million people in need of life-saving assistance, including nearly 3 million people who are food insecure.  Since January, some 134,000 people have been displaced by continued clashes between the Nigerian security forces and non‑State armed groups.  The 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria is seeking $848 million to support 6.2 million people and is 32 per cent funded.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) welcomed today the adoption of a road map to facilitate the integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants to Latin American and Caribbean countries.  The road map was adopted during the Fourth International Technical Meeting of the Quito Process, held in Argentina.  Eduardo Stein, the Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, said that the continuing exodus of Venezuelans surpasses and exceeds the capacities and resources of governments in the region.  More details are available online.


The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is releasing its Global Study on Homicide in a high-level event that is taking place here at Headquarters.  According to the report, 464,000 people around the world were killed in homicides in 2017.  While the study shows that overall homicide numbers have gone up in the past quarter of a century, due to the increase in global population, the global rate of homicide has declined.  This Study also states that homicide kills far more people than armed conflict and organized crime is responsible for 19 per cent of homicides.  You can find more information online.

**Noon Briefing Guest

And tomorrow, the guests at the Noon Briefing will by Liu Zhenmin, Under‑Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Francesca Perucci, Chief of the Statistical Services Branch in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  They will brief you on the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals Report.  Are there any questions for me?  Yes, Ibtisam?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Farhan, on Yemen, so, could you say more if you are able to access the areas… I mean, regarding cholera… and get people help?  And also on Yemen, I think two weeks ago, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that they are reducing their operations due to… because of the food and the aid doesn't get to the parties or the people in need.  Is this… is this still the case, or you have any updates on that?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding the suspension, yes, that suspension is ongoing.  I believe the World Food Programme is in dialogue with the local authorities to see whether it can get the sort of access that it needs.  And, as you know, one of their crucial concerns was to have a system of biometric identification so they can be sure that the food that they're delivering goes to the people who need it and is not diverted.  And so, it's trying to see that those concerns will be met.  Until that happens, that suspension continues.  Regarding the situation on the ground, I can tell you that the UN Mission [to Support the Hodeidah Agreement] (UNMHA) has confirmed that no building actively operated by the UN has been used for any kind of military operations in Hodeidah.  And the UN has duly notified all relevant actors about what premises are utilised by the UN in Hodeidah and in other parts of Yemen.  We call on all parties to respect and protect UN premises, property and personnel.  We reiterate the impartial, neutral and independent character of our operations.  And of course, we call on all parties to de‑escalate and adhere to the ceasefire.

Question:  Just a follow‑up to clarify.  So, did the World Food Programme suspend all of its operations or just in specific areas…?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, in specific areas.  I'd refer you to the information that they put out at the time.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Iranian Government announced today that it had… it was enriching uranium to 4.5 per cent, breaching the 3.7 per cent in the JCPOA nuclear deal.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.  The Secretary‑General is aware of this announcement that Iran may have begun enriching uranium beyond the 3.67 per cent limit set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  If confirmed, such action by the Islamic Republic of Iran would neither help preserve the plan nor secure tangible economic benefits for the Iranian people.  He encourages the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue implementing all its nuclear‑related commitments under the JCPOA as the participants continue to seek ways to overcome the considerable challenges the country faces.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Thank you.  Farhan, just first follow‑up on Edie's question.  Just as a reminder, can you tell us actually what is… beside this threshold of 3.75 [per cent] of enriching uranium, what is actually level of the enriched uranium that is needed for producing nuclear bomb or so?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that's part of an agreement to which the United Nations is not a party.  I would refer you to the text in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Question:  I have another question, if I may.  Okay.  As you know, bearing in mind that the Secretary‑General possess a tremendous experience as the head of the UNHCR and what is going on in the southern border of USA with Mexico.  Does he think that probably the complementary organization like the UN or agencies like UNHCR or Red Cross should visit and do something with the situation that is developing down there?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that's an issue, as you know, for the UN refugee agency itself, but it's made aware its own concerns, as has, by the way, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, who has said something today about the situation on the ground, and we'd… I'd refer you to what they've been saying.

Question:  Can I also follow up on that?  It looks like what… whenever it's needed or when you are asked about what is the position of the Secretary‑General, you routinely refer to the statements of Michelle Bachelet, which is head of the UN Commission of Human Rights, and also… that's my question.  Why?  And also, how come that UN Secretary‑General, who was the head of the UNHCR and who was very much in… in… in complementary action with the previous Secretary‑General, doesn't have anything to say on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  He has said quite a bit.  Beyond that, of course, it's perfectly reasonable that I refer to the people who are speaking out on these issues in their official capacities right now.  We speak for the entire UN system.

Question:  What about Michelle Bachelet?

Deputy Spokesman:  You’ve got to give space for other questions.  Michelle Bachelet said something today on this, and I'd refer you to what she said.  Erol, please.  There's other people asking.  You've taken up five questions.  Yes?  No, Stefano first and then you.  Yes.

Question:  Thank you.  I was actually going to ask about Michelle Bachelet.  She says that she's shocked by the condition of the family… the migrants, especially the separation of children, and the condition in general.  And my question was if this statement of… of Bachelet, if she, you know, talked about this with the Secretary‑General before about this clear position that she was going to take about the condition of the migrants in the southern border.  She's talking specifically on the migrants in the hands of US authority.  So, there's been a communication between Bachelet and the Secretary‑General on this statement that came out today?

Deputy Spokesman:  I wouldn't say about any particular discussions.  As you know, the Secretary‑General is in regular contact with all of the senior officials of the system.  Regarding Ms. Bachelet, she is, in particular, speaking about the need for all states to comply with the relevant conventions dealing with the treatment of refugees and migrants.  Yes, Nabil.  Oh, sorry.  You first and then Nabil.

Question:  Thank you.  Do you have Ms. Bachelet's statement?  And could you summarize it for us from the podium?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the statement is available on the website.  So, I'd refer you to that, but the basic point is that she has made it very clear that several UN human rights bodies have found that the detention of migrant children may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that's prohibited by international law.  And she also made it clear that any deprivation of liberty of adult migrants and refugees should be a measure of last resort.  Nabil?

Question:  So, a follow‑up on Erol's question.  When you refer us to Ms. Bachelet's statement, does the statement reflect the UN position… the Secretariat position?  Because we sometimes ask you about the SG's position, and we need to know if he has a position or no on a certain issue or not.

Deputy Spokesman:  On an issue like this, this is an issue that involves the treatment of refugees, the treatment of migrants and their basic rights.  And so, it's an issue, ultimately, that involves several different branches of the UN family, the ones dealing with human rights, with migrants and with refugees.  And so, all of them have relevant things to say, and we support them all.  Yes, Maggie?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Does the SG have any reaction to the conviction of Bosco Ntaganda today at the ICC [International Criminal Court] on, I think, 18 counts of crimes?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, this is part of the work, as you know, of the International Criminal Court, and it's important that the institutions like the International Criminal Court can help ensure that there will be accountability for the serious crimes that were committed in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Question:  And can I just ask you one second question?  On Yemen, the UAE [United Arab Emirates] announced that they're going to draw down their troops in Yemen.  Have they notified the… I haven't seen anything on Mr. [Martin] Griffiths' Twitter feed reacting to it or anything.  Has the UN been notified about it? And they're saying they're pursuing a "peace first" not a "military first" policy.  Is that something you find promising?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we would welcome any signs of de‑escalation of the conflict in Yemen, but I don't have any official confirmation or official notification on… to provide.  Yes, yes, Ibtisam?

Question:  I would like to go back to the issue of refugees and migrants on the US‑Mexico border, and the question is, do you… why don't we hear from the SG a clear statement on the issue?  You said that he supports different statements, but he himself did not say a clear… didn't give any clear statement, especially we're talking about an issue that has been going on for a long time, and it's getting worse.  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has repeatedly affirmed the need for all refugees and all migrants to be treated with respect for their dignity and their basic rights, and he does so in this case.  Regarding the specifics of this case, different officials from different parts of the UN system have their own particular expertise in the human rights and refugee‑based issues.  But, ultimately, it's up to all countries to abide by the relevant international conventions and to make sure that the basic safety and dignity of all of the people who are moving across borders are respected.  Oscar?

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  To follow up on Michelle Bachelet on her report or her visit to Venezuela recently and she says that there a high level of human right violations in the country.  And, basically, she says as well that she's planning to establish a human rights office in the region to [inaudible] the reality in the country.  So, at this point, does the Secretary‑General has any different position?  And is he maybe going to really be intervening directly on that situation at this point?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you've seen the statement we put out about a week ago regarding the Norwegian initiative concerning Venezuela, which the Secretary‑General has supported, and we continue to support that diplomatic initiative.  Regarding human rights, of course, it's important that Michelle Bachelet had the ability to conduct her trip and that there's now going to be a presence of her office there.  And, of course, the Human Rights Council is now looking at the report that she has delivered to them about the situation on the ground.

Question:  The claim… the claim, though, of Venezuelans are always asking for international help on this crisis, but it seems like it's a claim on the desert that nobody is listening to it and is a blind situation that nobody wants to see it.  So, why the position still the same and no change at all in these all now human rights violations arising in Venezuela?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no, no.  I don't think that that's the case.  Like I said, there is an initiative by Norway on this, and the Secretary‑General has welcomed that, and we are very supportive of that.  And we certainly hope that the parties will work through that particular mediation to resolve their differences.  Yes, Nabil?

Question:  On Libya, do you have any update on this… the migrants who survived the air strike in Tajoura centre in Tripoli?  And I think the Government also sent a letter to the Secretariat asking for an independent investigation or international investigation.  Have you received the letter?  And what's the response on it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, I would refer you to our statement from last week where we were supportive of the idea of an investigation into what's happened.  We'll see what the next developments in that process are.  But, I would also refer you to the Security Council statement to the press from last Friday, which also expressed the sentiments of the Security Council.

Question:  And the survivors, do you have any update on the situation?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe we're looking to the conditions of the survivors of that attack.  I don't have any detailed update to give you on their situation.  Stefano?

Question:  Yeah.  And on Libya, the… there are reports the… the… the head of the Government there in Tripoli has already say that he already talked to the UN about the idea to close those camps where there are the migrants at the moment detained after what happened.  So, I will… you know, con… good.  I mean, looks like a good idea if they look more… sometimes they look like a lager more than a camp.  But, the point is, what it means close those camps, then what it means… what will happen to those migrants?  So, in the discussion, there is this.  And then just a follow‑up on the discussion before about Bachelet and so on.  Can we… at this point, if we understood well, can we every… anytime Bachelet or Filippo Grandi or any head of those agency come up with a strong statement… like, today, for example, she was referring to United States, how United States was treating migrants.  Can we, in this case, acknowledge the fact that the Secretary‑General agrees definitely with what they say?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I think the thing is that the Secretary‑General supports the work of his senior officials.  Their views are theirs, but he supports the work that they do in their respective capacities.  And regarding your earlier question on Libya, the basic point is we need to see what sort of fair treatment can be given to the people who had been in the Tajoura centre, and we need to make sure that wherever they will be that they can now be placed in a condition of safety, which is not clearly the condition they were in at the centre that was struck last week.  Have a good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.