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

9 August 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.

Good afternoon.


Today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, said this is an opportunity to acknowledge the diversity and wealth of knowledge that indigenous peoples possess, and to recognize the richness they bring to humankind.

In her opening remarks at an event held by DESA here in New York, she said that indigenous women and men are advocating for sustainable livelihoods from one generation to the other, defending biodiversity and the integrity of ecosystems and raising the alarm over the growing impacts of climate disruption.

She also stressed that almost half the world’s estimated 6,700 languages are in danger of disappearing.  Most of these belong to indigenous peoples.  With every language that disappears, the world loses a wealth of tradition, knowledge and cultural heritage, she said.

Her full remarks are online.


In a message to the Nagasaki Annual Peace Ceremony, the Secretary-General paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the nuclear bombing of that city that took place on this date in 1945.

He said he was profoundly moved when he took part in the ceremony last year, noting that the testimony of the hibakusha touched his heart, along with their devotion to ensuring that the great tragedy that befell Nagasaki is never visited upon any other.

The Secretary-General pointed out that the nuclear danger persists, calling on the international community to join forces to safeguard the security benefits that existing treaties bring to all of us.

He stressed that the only true guarantee against the use of nuclear weapons is their total elimination.  This remains the United Nations — and the Secretary-General’s — highest disarmament priority.

The message was delivered by Izumi Nakamitsu, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs.


And some positive developments from Yemen:  Our friends at the World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed what it called important and positive steps taken by the Sana’a-based authorities on safeguards to ensure humanitarian food assistance reaches the most vulnerable children, women and men in areas of Yemen under their control.

WFP said it will resume food distributions following the Eid al-Adha festival for the 850,000 people in Sana’a City who have not received food rations from WFP for the last two months.

WFP is also beginning to roll out a smartcard-driven beneficiary management system, registering 9 million people in areas of Yemen controlled by the Sana’a-based authorities.  These vital measures provide for the protection and privacy of the people WFP serves and the independence of humanitarian operations.


Today, the Greek Cypriot leader, Nicos Anastasiades, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akıncı, met under the auspices of the Special Representative/Deputy Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar.

According to the UN Mission, UNFICYP, the two leaders had a sincere and constructive exchange of views and decided to continue engaging in the efforts undertaken by the UN Special Envoy on the Cyprus dispute, Jane Holl Lute, to finalize the Terms of Reference that would enable structured and results-oriented negotiations.

The two leaders also announced their readiness to hold a tripartite meeting with the Secretary-General after the General Assembly in order to plan the way forward.

More information online.


Earlier this morning, the World Health Organization provided an update on Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  According to WHO, the virus’ transmission continued this week with similar intensity to recent weeks, with an average of 86 cases per week.

There are currently no confirmed cases outside of the DRC.

In the 21 days from 17 July through 6 August 2019, a total of 257 confirmed cases were reported, with the majority coming from the health zones of Beni and Mandima.

No new confirmed cases have been reported in Goma city since the last report, with a total of four confirmed cases.

**UNHCR Rohingya

UNHCR said today that, as of Wednesday, more than 500,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who are currently in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh have been registered in a joint effort between the agency and the Bangladeshi authorities.

For many of these refugees, this is the first time they have an identity card.

The registration will help ensure the accuracy of data on refugees in Bangladesh, giving national authorities and aid agencies a better understanding of the population and their needs.  It will also help humanitarian organizations plan their programmes and target their assistance where it is most needed.

**Briefing Schedule Next Week

Just a note to remind you that Monday is an official UN holiday in observance of Eid al-Adha.  UN Headquarters will be closed, but we will be available as we usually are over email and by phone.

And from Tuesday to Friday next week, my office will not hold daily noon briefings, but I understand Monica will be here.  The office will be staffed, and we will be able to answer your questions.  We will be posting highlights on the web.

Also, I want to remind you and especially for you to remind all of your colleagues coming during the General Assembly that the deadline to apply for media accreditation for the High-Level Week is 2 September, so please tell your colleagues to apply now and not wait until 1 September or not wait until 3 September and to do it way before the 2nd.


And lastly, I wanted to bid a farewell to one of the most beloved people among the press corps:  Widad Franco.

After nearly 15 years of working with NHK here, she is seeking her fortunes elsewhere.

On behalf of all of us in my office, we have long admired and appreciated her hard work and dedication, not to mention the extreme patience she has shown to all of us.

We wish her a lot of good things for the next step of her life!

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you very much, Steph.  And many of us here definitely echo what you said about Widad.  We will miss her, too. 

Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on this humanitarian rescue ship that's now been eight days in the Mediterranean with no country in Europe willing to take the 121 migrants on board?

Spokesman:  I mean, this is an issue that our colleagues at IOM and UNHCR have been leading on, but I can tell you that I have no doubt the Secretary‑General would want to see a country living up to its, to their obligations and showing solidarity with those on board.  I think the longer people stay at sea, the greater risk they have in terms of health, and it is important that these people be, their dignity be respected.

Yes, sir. 

Question:  A follow‑up.  Following the passing of the law in Italy that for any boats to help refugees at sea will be fined up to 1 million euros, which, of course, will be extremely prohibitive for small fishing boats, that they might see people in distress even, and this is quite contradictory with international law of the seas.  What is the situation from the UN position?  And are they just observing the situation…

Spokesman:  I think, I would refer you to what UNHCR has been saying for the past few days and longer on this, and they speak for the UN in terms of refugee issues.


Spokesman:  Thank you, Stéphane.

Question:  Stéphane, recalling Secretary‑General's statement of peace and calm and talks, the thing is, both the countries have broken off diplomatic relations with each other.  They're now on the verge of, I mean, you know, cursing each other.  And it seems that they're all…  and you know more than anything, they are trigger‑happy at this point in time.  So, what is it that the Secretary‑General can do?  Has the Secretary‑General decided that he will talk to the…  both the leaders of India and Pakistan? And I know that he's on vacation, but he, can he come out from his vacation and talk to these…

Spokesman:  First of all, the Secretary‑General has been kept informed, very much informed of what is, of what is going on and what the contacts that the UN has had via the Permanent Missions, both from the Indian Permanent Mission and the Permanent Mission of Pakistan.  I think our statement yesterday was quite clear and extensive, and that continues to be our position.

Question:  Well, you are noting the deterioration of diplomatic relations.  There are no links, the channels are being closed.  Any channels we are talking are being closed.  How is the Secretary‑General going to communicate to these leaders?

Spokesman:  As I just said, contacts have been had with the Permanent Missions from both countries. 

Iftikhar, and then we'll move on.

Question:  Just to follow up on this, has any progress been made, been made in the context…

Spokesman:  Your microphone, sir, please.  Sorry.

Question:  Has any progress been made in the contacts the UN is having with the public officials of Pakistan and India, at least towards easing the situation in India and occupied Kashmir?

Spokesman:  I can't say.

Question:  In the light of…

Spokesman:  I can't say I have any updates to bring to you on that front. 


Question:  Thank you.  As you mentioned the upcoming UNGA, it reminded me of the amount of journalists we will have here and do you already have an expectation where they will be placed this year?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that discussions are being, not to use the same language we use for every crisis, but discussions are being had between our colleagues in the Department of Global Communications and UNCA to find the appropriate solution.

Question:  Which are the options?

Spokesman:  It's not something, it's not something I'm involved in, but I think they're looking at different locations that will hopefully work.

Question:  Do you think it includes, the options include this bunker thing?

Spokesman:  No, I don't think anybody wants to send you three floors underground.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Yes, sir, in the back.

Question:  Thank you.  So, the US Ambassador to Berlin today doubled down on the threat of the US to relocate thousands of troops to Poland, possibly from Germany.  This is seen as a move which might provoke Russia.  I just wonder if the Secretary‑General has a stance on that. 

Spokesman:  No, I mean, I haven't seen the comments made by the Ambassador, but, let me look into it, but I don't have a comment at this point. 

Yes, sir.

Question:  A question regarding the new US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft.  Has the Secretary‑General issued a statement on her welcoming her?  And will he meet with her, because it's been vacant for eight months…

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  …this particular important position?

Spokesman:  First of all, we're aware, the Secretary‑General very much looks forward to meeting with Ms. Craft, to welcoming her here and, obviously, most importantly, to work very, very closely with her on the very important relationship between the United States and the United Nations.  And I think he's excited and looks forward to working with her and having the same sort of positive and productive relationship he's had with her predecessor.

We are waiting to set a date for the presentation of credentials, which is the first official step, which will happen, I've no doubt, well before the General Assembly gets under way.

That was it? Okay.  Pre‑emptive answers.  That's what I try to do.

Yes, sir.  Yep.  Go ahead, Masood.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, have, has, have you noticed the change in Kashmir, all the…  in… the leadership of the Kashmiris have been arrested and incarcerated or are in jail, and Indian army has been increased from 500,000, another 25,000 army to bring there.  So, is there anything that is left to repress the Kashmiris?  So, where is, where does the Secretary‑General, where does the Secretary‑General begin to talk to…

Spokesman:  Listen, I think, I would encourage you to reread the statement which we put out yesterday, which very much addresses our concern about the situation inside Kashmir.

Question:  Yes.  We do.  I know.  But the thing is, but that is all the talk.  What is going to happen in real sense? I mean, does…  I mean, we all want talk and peace and everything else, but this is not happening.

Spokesman:  Listen, what we are saying publicly is also being transmitted privately through the Permanent Missions to both India and Pakistan.

Yes, Madame.  Welcome back.  Haven't seen you in a while.

Question: [inaudible] So the Secretary‑General was instrumental in decriminalizing drugs when he was Prime Minister of Portugal.  I wonder if he's made that framework available to any of the other Member States or if any other Member States have inquired about that model.

Spokesman:  I don't know if they've inquired about that model, but they should inquire, if they're curious, they should also inquire with the Government, the present Government of Portugal, I would assume.  But I don't have any information to answer your question in a substantive manner.

Monica Grayley, up to you.

For information media. Not an official record.