18 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.

**Mandela Day

Good afternoon, everyone.  We’ll start off now and then we’ll go to our guest from UN Environment after that.  Today is Nelson Mandela Day, and the Secretary-General has paid tribute to the lifetime of service he gave to South Africa and the world.  The Secretary-General said that Nelson Mandela exemplified courage, compassion, and commitment to freedom, peace and social justice.  He added that Mr. Mandela’s calls for social cohesion and a culture of peace are particularly relevant today, with hate speech casting a growing shadow around the world.  The Secretary-General said that, with the multilateral system under strain and human rights under siege from many quarters, we should be guided by Nelson Mandela’s courage and wisdom to stand up for the values and principles of the UN Charter.  As happens every year, the UN calls on people and organizations around the world to mark Nelson Mandela Day by making a difference in their communities.  Here, in New York, staff members and diplomats are volunteering to support social justice by cooking for and serving disadvantaged people in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a neighbourhood that Mr. Mandela visited when he came to New York for the first time in 1990.


Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy for Yemen, briefed the Security Council by videoconference from Amman and said that the way forward there is clear and supported by international consensus: to implement the Hodeidah Agreement and with that experience engage swiftly the parties on a settlement.  He congratulated both parties on their meeting this week under the leadership of General Michael Lollesgaard, which he said was a notable success.  The Special Envoy said that, in recent days, he met with President [Abdrabuh Mansur] Hadi and visited Sana’a and met Ansar Allah leaders, and said he was able to discuss ways to advance the implementation of the Stockholm agreement, as well as the political process.

Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said that, as he has previously reported, conditions for most people in Yemen are getting worse, not better; and if the current trajectory continues, we should all expect they will continue to get worse.  He said that the fighting rages on.  Since June, Mr. Lowcock noted, 120,000 more people have fled their homes, bringing total displacement this year to more than 300,000 people — on top of the millions forced to flee in previous years.  David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), discussed the suspension of food aid to Sana’a and said that he was assured early this morning that an agreement is within reach; and he is hopeful that we can use this positive momentum to resolve these outstanding issues in the coming days, if not hours.


The Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Jamie McGoldrick, and other senior UN officials in the region called on Israeli authorities yesterday to halt plans for demolitions in the Sur Bahir area of the Jerusalem Governorate.  The senior UN officials join others in the international community in calling on Israel to halt plans to demolish these and other structures and to implement fair planning policies that allow Palestinian residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the ability to meet their housing and development needs, in line with its obligations as an occupying Power.

**Central African Republic

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), reports that some 450 combatants from five armed groups have been disarmed and demobilized in the west of the country, since the signing of the peace agreement in February this year.  This includes elements from the Front Démocratique du Peuple Centrafricain (FDPC) and the Union des Forces Republicaines (UFR).  The disarmament of members of armed groups allows for the creation of mixed special units that will bring together the ex-combatants, who have already gone through disarmament and demobilization, together with the country’s armed forces, the gendarmerie and the police.


Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a public health emergency of international concern.  The declaration followed the fourth meeting of the Emergency Committee for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Committee said recent developments in the outbreak, including the first confirmed case in Goma, justified its decision.  As Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus explained, this declaration means it is time for the world to take notice and redouble efforts to work together with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to end this outbreak and build a better health system.  The Committee issued recommendations on the following:  how to strengthen the response; how neighbouring countries can prevent the spread of the disease; and how the international community can support the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The Committee and WHO do not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade, which they believe can hamper the fight against Ebola by affecting the movement of people and supplies.  The recommendations will be reviewed in three months by the Emergency Committee.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that, in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, more than 10 million people are suffering from severe food shortages following the worst harvests in 10 years due to prolonged dry spells, heatwaves and flooding.  This is according to a recent joint assessment carried out in May by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The UN and humanitarian organizations continue to respond to the humanitarian needs of civilians, including in the areas of health, water and sanitation, food and nutrition.  The 2019 Needs and Priorities plan is asking for $120 million to target 3.8 million people — primarily children under five and pregnant and lactating women.  With the plan being only 16 per cent funded, there is an urgent need for funds to prevent a further deterioration of an already serious food security situation.


In a statement we issued yesterday evening, the Secretary-General recalled with sadness the 298 victims who lost their lives on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 five years ago.  He acknowledged the important work of the independent Joint Investigation Team to establish accountability and called on all Member States to fully cooperate with the investigation pursuant to a Security Council resolution to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims and their families.


The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that, last year, 10.5 million refugees received health care through public programmes, or with the assistance of UNHCR and other partners.  The “Annual Public Health Global Review”, published today by UNHCR, shows that among progress made in 2018, mortality rates among refugee children under the age of five continued to decline.  Efforts also continued last year to promote and facilitate access to comprehensive reproductive health services, including maternal, newborn health and family planning.  The report also highlights significant progress made on the inclusion of refugees into national health systems, with some countries also making notable efforts to expand opportunities to include refugees in health insurance schemes and other pillars of social protection.  With 84 per cent of refugees hosted in developing regions where basic services are already strained, UNHCR calls for more support of national health systems to ensure refugees and their local host communities can access life-saving and essential health care.  The full report is available online.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today released a report that says the world is off track to meet most of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals related to hunger, food security and nutrition.  FAO analysed major global data from up to 234 countries and territories and found that hunger is on the rise, with 820 million people being undernourished today.  It also found that small-scale food producers earn about half of what larger food producers earn, that 60 per cent of local livestock breeds are at risk of extinction in 70 countries and that one third of fish are now estimated to be overfished.  You can find that report online.

**Noon Briefing Guest

In a short while, I will be joined by Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UN Environment, on the side-lines of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development and ahead of the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit in September, she will brief on biodiversity and nature-based solutions for climate action.  And following that we will also hear from Monica Villela Grayley.  Before we get to them, any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Two questions for you, the first one is on Ebola.  Given now the status of this outbreak being changed to an international emergency, what support can WHO be given by the wider UN?  The last time we had the operation of a mission, UNMEER [United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response]… are there contingency plans for that?  Can you perhaps outline some of the measures that other UN agencies the Secretariat will do to support the WHO?

Deputy Spokesman:  We will support them in whichever way that we can.  And as you know, on the ground in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is an UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, which can help to make sure that the areas that they are going about their work in will be secure and that transport of necessary medicines and other aids can be accomplished both peacefully and swiftly.  The World Health Organization, when it announced yesterday that there was a global health emergency of international concern, outlined the steps that different countries can take, and so I would refer you to their overall report that they came out.  At this stage we are not calling for the creation of new bodies, but we will continue to review the situation and see what the needs are.

Question:  And my second question on a different continent, the dispute between Japan and South Korea seems to be getting worse, not better.  How concerned is the Secretary‑General about this, given these are both important countries with regard to the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and what is his message to the two Governments?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, these are countries that are able to deal with each other in an amicable and bilateral way.  We are simply urging them to continue to do so, and we are hopeful that any differences will be resolved.  Mr. Sato?

Question:  Hello, Farhan.  My question is about the climate change.  In preparation for climate change summit during the GA, SG had sent a letter to G20 leaders and also SG seem to send a letter to all the Member States to make sure, enhance their efforts to climate change, so do you have any more information about the SG's letter to all the Member State leaders?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, this is an effort to make sure that there will be a continued and commitment to dealing with the problems of climate change and to realizing the goals of the Paris Agreement.  But, as you know, some of this also is a way to make sure that there will be a high level of participation at the climate summit when it starts in September, but also that when they come, it will be an occasion not simply for speeches but for concrete ideas on how to act and how to move forward.  And so, we are hoping that that will be achieved.  And with that let me get to… oh, sorry, one more, Mr. Bukaty?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  May I ask you, please, could you please uncover what kind of message the SG is going to send to Minister [Javad] Zarif during their meeting today?

Deputy Spokesman:  We will wait for the meeting to happen; but, as you know, the Secretary‑General has made it repeatedly clear his view that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a very important achievement and it has helped to achieve a balance of stability in the region.  And we are hoping that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action can continue to be implemented, that parties will adhere to it, and that everyone will take steps to avoid any escalations in the region.  And with that, let me get to our guest here.

For information media. Not an official record.