15 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.


Regarding Yemen, the Members of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) held their fifth joint session yesterday and today on board the vessel of the United Nations Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) on the high seas off Hodeidah.

Meeting face-to-face for the first time since February 2019, the Redeployment Coordination Committee members took stock of their earlier agreements on the redeployment of forces as envisaged in the Hodeidah Agreement.

After a recent uptick in ceasefire violations in Hodeidah city and governorate, the parties were keen on finding ways to de-escalate tensions.  They agreed on a mechanism and new measures to reinforce the ceasefire and de-escalation, to be put in place as soon as possible with support from the UN Mission.

The RCC members finalized agreements on concepts of operations for Phases I and II of the mutual redeployment.  Thus, the Redeployment Coordination Committee has finalized its technical work and awaits decision of the respective political leaderships to proceed with the implementation.  Agreement on local security forces, local authority and revenues remains outstanding, to be addressed at the political level.

Also today, the Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement until 15 January 2020.


Also happening this morning at the Security Council:  Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and Head of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh, or UNITAD, presented his second report.

He emphasized how his team has sought to place the experiences and voices of survivors, witnesses and communities at the heart of their work.

Two fundamental realities have been revealed, the Special Adviser told the Council:

First, there is an urgent and clear call for individual members of Da’esh to be held accountable, and for their crimes to be recognized and prosecuted as offences under international law.

Second, Mr. Khan said that they have understood the ultimate success of the work of the Investigative Team will depend on their ability to draw on their independent and impartial status to make their work the product of a partnership between all concerned.  His full report is available online.


The UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, has just concluded a five-day mission to Mali.

She stressed that a return to peace and stability were key elements to end and prevent grave violations against children.  She also pointed out that ensuring State authority and the delivery of services in every region of the country were also essential to the protection of children.

During her meetings with the Government, the Special Representative emphasized the importance of education for all children in Mali.  As we mentioned last week, over 900 schools remain closed.  More details are available online.


As announced on Friday, a high-level meeting on Ebola was held today in Geneva to take stock of the coordinated response and to mobilize additional support for the Government-led efforts to defeat the deadly disease in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The meeting was chaired by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

Yesterday, the first case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma, a city of about 1 million people south of the outbreak’s epicentre.  Almost 3,000 health workers have so far been vaccinated against the disease in Goma.

WHO’s Director General announced that he will reconvene the Emergency Committee as soon as possible to assess the threat of this development and advise accordingly.  He added that while we have better public health tools than ever to respond to Ebola, including an effective vaccine, there is a need to see an end to the attacks and other disruptions to the response.

Since January, there have been 198 attacks against the health response that have resulted in five deaths and left 58 health-care workers and patients injured.

**South Asia Floods

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, in south-east Nepal, recent heavy rainfall has reportedly killed 64 people and displaced more than 16,500 households.

Search-and-rescue operations have been stepped up, and food, water and tarpaulins are the most-needed items.

In neighbouring India, heavy monsoon rains have displaced more than 1 million people and claimed at least 10 lives.  National disaster response teams are carrying out search-and-rescue operations and some 20,000 people are sheltered in dozens of relief camps.

The United Nations offers its condolences to the Government and people of both Nepal and India and stands by to provide support if required.

Monsoon flooding has also affected Myanmar, where 21,000 people – many of whom have been affected by the conflict there – have been displaced in Kachin and Rakhine states.

The UN and our partners are working closely with local and national organizations to help those in need.


The World Health Organization and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) today said that last year 20 million children missed out on lifesaving measles, diphtheria and tetanus vaccines.

The agencies said that most unvaccinated children live in the poorest countries and are disproportionately in fragile or conflict-affected States.  Almost half are in just 16 countries - Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Together with partners, WHO and UNICEF are supporting countries to strengthen their immunization systems and outbreak response.  More information on these efforts is available online.

**Economic and Social Council

This morning, the High-Level Political Forum of ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) addressed the issue of financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), examining the opportunities for improving the composition and allocation of financing to maximize sustainable development impact at the national and global levels.  An expert panel discussed concrete initiatives and tools that could be used to promote sustainable investments where they are most needed, such as in the least developed countries.

The Forum also began its presentation of Voluntary National Reviews this morning, with a session featuring countries that have prepared their National Review for a second time.  These included Azerbaijan, Chile, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Guatemala, Indonesia and Turkey.

In the afternoon, the High-Level Political Forum will conduct a review of lessons learned on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through the Voluntary National Reviews carried out during the past four years.  In total, 102 countries have presented their reviews since 2016, with another 40 countries presenting for the first time at the Forum that is under way now.  In addition, seven countries will present their second review at this year’s Forum.


Yesterday, the heads of several UN agencies - that’s to say the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) – said in a statement that they are working to put a more unified response in place on ending the scourge of malnutrition in children.

Every year, the UN provides 10 million children suffering from acute malnutrition with services they need to recover; and two million malnourished pregnant women and new mothers with food supplementation.

The UN also supports millions more children every year to prevent malnutrition, by promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and adequate access to healthy and nutritious diet at all times.

Yet, after decades of falling, nearly 50 million children under the age of 5 are “wasted,” in other words severely malnourished, and 149 million are “stunted”.  The statement is available online.


And from Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today that a high proportion of baby foods, which are marketed as being suitable for infants under the age of six months, contain inappropriately high levels of sugar.

WHO has long recommended that children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and also says that commercial complementary foods should not be advertised for infants under the age of six months.

WHO said that good nutrition in infancy and early childhood remains key to ensuring optimal child growth and development, as well as to prevent obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.


And today, thank you to Equatorial Guinea and Lithuania, for their payments to the regular budget.  So far, 108 Member States have paid in full for 2019.

**Press Briefings

Immediately following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief you.  She will be joined by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN-Women, and Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand.  They will discuss gender equality and women’s leadership for a sustainable world.

Then at 1 p.m., there will be a briefing on “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019”, with José Graziano da Silva, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); Gilbert F.  Houngbo, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing by Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), to present the new Red Cross guidelines to help cities prepare for heatwaves - extreme weather events that are now among the world’s deadliest types of natural hazard.  That’s it from me.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Yes, yes, please?

Question:  Farhan, first, I have a follow-up on one of the items that you read out, and then I have another question.  Let’s start with the follow-up, which is on the Hodeidah and the redeployment committee meeting.  Again, you’ve put out a statement suggesting there’s progress and yet, you say implementation will be discussed later at a political level.  Surely, they all agreed to implement this in Stockholm.  That was eight months ago.  Why endless delay?  And tell me, what’s the timeline for this political decision and who’s making it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think it’s up to the parties to explain the delays in implementing the agreements to which they have agreed.  We are trying to work out any differences among the parties and in this case, we have made progress at the technical level on finalizing the concepts of operations for the two phases of mutual redeployment.  Now, the ball is again in the courts of the respective political leaderships, but at the technical level, we’ve resolved this.  And it’s a good sign that the Redeployment Coordination Committee met for the first time since February and achieved these agreements.  Now, let’s see where we can go from there.

Question:  And the… the other question is about the visit to New York of Iranian Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif with a very restrictive visa from the US, which means he can only go to this building, to UN Headquarters, to the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, and to the Residence of the Iranian Ambassador.  Does the Secretary-General and the United Nations believe that this very restrictive regime imposed on him complies with both the letter and the spirit of the UN Host Country Agreement?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretariat is aware of the restrictive travel measures recently imposed by the host country on personnel of the Permanent Mission of Iran to the UN.  The Secretariat is in close contact with the Permanent Missions of the United States and Iran to the UN regarding this matter and has conveyed its concerns to the host country.

Question:  Follow-up?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  Regarding the visit of the Foreign Minister of Iran.  Once again, if you can say Farhan, please, as precisely as possibly… possible, what is the position of the Secretary-General regarding whether he should even give an appeal to the United States to return or to reconsider the provision… returning back to the provision of the nuclear agreement?  Number one.  Number two, is the UN building and the Secretary-General to offer good services of intermediation between US and Iran in this way?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as in all cases of good offices, those are available to the parties if they both seek it.  Regarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), we have made very clear that this is a significant diplomatic achievement.  The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for all parties to abide by the terms of the agreement and has made clear that we need to keep this preserved.  Otherwise, there is the possibility, as he has repeatedly warned, of a confrontation in a region that has had far too many tensions.  Yes, James, and then… then Majeed.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  We just had Mr. Khan speaking at the UN Security Council about the accountability mechanism and he said there’s going to be a milestone coming up within two months; the mechanism will be providing tangible support, he said, for the prosecution of an individual in a Member State, but he didn’t say who or where.  Do you know which country was it?  And what is the case?

Deputy Spokesman:  If he’s not going to say it, I’m not going to say it.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, thank you.  Is there a meeting between Mr. Khan and Secretary-General you are aware of about?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary-General is currently travelling back to the United States today.  He’ll be back in office tomorrow and then we’ll put… any meetings that he has, we’ll put on his schedule.

Question:  To my question, this resolution has been passed in 2017.  It’s… it’s been a big delay in implementing the… the resolution in the term of providing support and bringing evidence about ISIS crimes and accountability for the victims.  And now, we’re talking about in two months the first tangible result.  What is the reason?  Why Mr. Khan didn’t explain why exactly the selection of the team members, the whole process is taking so long?  And has Secretary-General personally been involved in… in pushing the Member States first to give more money and to help more in this process?

Deputy Spokesman:  We certainly, including the Secretary-General, have encouraged Member States to support the work of the team of UNITAD.  Regarding Mr. Khan’s actions over this period of time, I would refer you to his fairly thorough briefing to the Security Council.  Masood?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Farhan, I want to ask a question.  There is a quote in the Israeli newspaper which says, while Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates bicker, and Yemen is being torn into pieces.  Now, add that the Stockholm process is in danger, so do you have any… any idea as to what has happened between these two Member States, who were basically friends at one point in time?  What has happened?  Are you aware of the situation?  How is it impacting Yemen?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we wouldn’t comment on media reports having to do with other Governments.  Our focus is on ending the fighting in Yemen in total and, in that regard, as you know, we mentioned Martin Griffiths’ recent travels, including to the US last week, and the work of the UN Mission, which includes the progress that I just mentioned a few minutes ago.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  First as a follow-up, did the UN verify the withdrawal of the United Arab Emirates troops from Yemen?  Was it confirmed, from the UN perspective?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have any comment to make on this.  Of course, for our purposes, what we want is to make sure that all fighting forces halt their activities in Yemen, but it’s not our role to monitor the movements of different troops.

Question:  Okay.  My question is about the report of Michael Lynk last week about the Israeli settlements’ activity, and he suggested a number of punitive measures to stop Israel from continuing with this activity of building more settlements.  Is the Secretary-General aware of this report?  Did he see the measures that he suggested?  And why the UN continues to appease Israel and give it more privilege and more posts, as a country who violates international law, day in, day out?

Deputy Spokesman:  I won’t respond to your personal views on the subject.  We take the stand of trying to support efforts to have the parties negotiate their difficulties with each other.  Regarding Michael Lynk, he is, as you know, an independent expert, and it’s up to the Human Rights Council to evaluate his recommendations.  Yes?

Question:  Will more than Minister Zarif meet with anyone from the Secretariat?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, I believe he’ll be holding some meetings here, and we’ll be able to provide details once those are ironed out.

Question:  And did the President of Taiwan meet with anyone from the Secretariat when she was here last week?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any such meetings.  Yes, Stefano?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Is the Secretary-General concerned on… especially what happened last weekend, on the spreading of racism at a very high level in the Governments around the world?

Deputy Spokesman:  You’ll have seen what the Secretary-General had to say in his recent speeches over the past year about his worries about the spread of racism and xenophobia.  He’s talked very passionately against it, and I could show you the relevant speeches, but obviously, this is something that’s been a concern of his for some time now.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, just to follow-up the question about the schedule of Mr. Zarif.  Is Secretary-General go… going to hold a meeting with him?

Deputy Spokesman:  I expect that to happen, but we’ll see whether we can confirm that.  And with that…  Oh, yes.  Yes, Linda.  And then Masood.

Question:  Thank you, Masood.  My question has to do with the detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in western China.  I was just wondering what… you know, what the SG’s involvement has been in recent weeks, or if there’s been any direct contact?  And secondly, I believe there was a letter sent by 35 or 37 UN ambassadors… UN ambassadors here at the UN, basically expressing support for the detention of these Muslims.

Deputy Spokesman:  Support?  Or the opposite?

Question:  No, no.  There was… I believe there was one letter of 22 expressing criticism, and that there was another letter, allegedly another letter, about 37 diplomats from New York, expressing support for the detention.  Yeah, it’s… right.  [cross talk]

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  I mean, I wouldn’t speak to either letter.  I mean, obviously, these letters convey the views of their respective Member States.  Regarding our own concerns about the situation, you’ll have seen what the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have said about the situation in the region and I would refer you back to that.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  Do you have any comment… and does the Secretary-General has any comment on this report that India is about to create settlements, Hindu settlements, in the Indian-occupied Kashmir?  Does… do you have any comment on that, the settlements at the same level of the Israeli settlements in Palestine?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any verification of that report.  And with that, I wish you a good afternoon.

For information media. Not an official record.