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

23 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 Eri Kaneko, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Secretary-General Travels

Just a reminder that the Secretary-General will depart this evening for a three-country trip that will take him to France, Japan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

His first stop will be France, where he will attend the G7 Summit in Biarritz.  He will participate in sessions on climate biodiversity and oceans, on fighting against inequalities and on the partnership with Africa and the Sahel.  He will also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders on the side-lines of the Summit.

He will then travel to Yokohama, Japan, on the evening of Tuesday, 27 August, to participate in the seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).  There, he will speak at the opening session, at a special conference on peace and stability in the Horn of Africa and the neighbouring region, and at a thematic session on climate change and disaster risk reduction.  He will also meet with the Japanese Prime Minister, as well as with other leaders attending that Summit.

Then, on Saturday, 31 August, the Secretary-General will arrive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a three-day visit to take stock of and mobilize additional support for the response to the Ebola outbreak.  In the province of North Kivu, he will meet with Ebola survivors and health workers during a visit to an Ebola Treatment Centre and also assess the implementation, by the UN peacekeeping mission there (MONUSCO) and its Intervention Brigade, of its mandate to protect civilians and support the authorities of the DRC to consolidate peace and stabilize the country.  In Kinshasa, the Secretary-General will meet with the President, other senior government officials, members of the opposition and representatives from civil society organizations.

He will be back in New York on 3 September.

**Security Council

In a briefing to the Security Council yesterday afternoon, the head of the Office for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, warned Member States that the recent collapse of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty removed one of the few constraints on the development and deployment of a destabilizing and dangerous class of missiles.  She added that the end of the INF Treaty should not be the catalyst for renewed and unconstrained competition in missile development, acquisition and proliferation.

In her remarks, Ms. Nakamitsu echoed the Secretary-General’s call for all States to avoid destabilizing developments and to urgently seek agreement on a new common path for international arms control.  Increased attention by the Security Council to these challenges could give impetus to these efforts, she concluded.

**Memorandum of Understanding — Rwanda-Uganda

In a statement issued yesterday evening, the Secretary-General welcomed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Presidents [Yoweri] Museveni of Uganda and [Paul] Kagame of Rwanda.  The agreement, signed in Angola on 21 August, aims to normalize bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Secretary-General encourages the parties to implement the agreement in good faith, with a view to restoring friendly relations and cooperation between the two neighbouring States, in the interest of peace, stability and sustainable development in the region.

The Secretary-General also recognized the important role of the Presidents of Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in facilitating the signing of the Memorandum.

The Secretary-General stands ready to support the momentum generated through this and other initiatives to advance peace, cooperation and integration in the region.

**Sudan Floods

On Sudan, since the beginning of July, the country has been hit by heavy rains and flash floods that have affected nearly 194,000 people.  As of today, 54 people are reported to have died, mainly because of collapsed roofs and electrocution.  More than 37,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged in 15 of the country’s 18 states.

Critical infrastructure, such as water points, schools and latrines, have been damaged and some roads have become impassable, cutting off entire villages and communities, especially in the worst-affected state of White Nile.

With the rainy season expected to last until October and more rainfall in the forecast, our humanitarian colleagues say affected people urgently need emergency shelter, food, health services and clean water and sanitation.

**Central African Republic

The World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for additional funding to respond humanitarian needs in Central African Republic.  Almost 3 million people require humanitarian assistance in the country, ranking it the third largest humanitarian crisis in the world, after Yemen and Syria.

According to the agency, more than 600,000 people are displaced and more 500,000 fled to neighbouring countries.

The expansion of WFP’s response will include scaling up its general food distributions and nutrition activities to include targeting children up to the age of 5 and also pregnant and lactating mothers in order to tackle childhood malnutrition at its source.  This means that a further $35.5 million is needed by the end of this year 2019 to achieve WFP’s target of more than doubling its support across the country by December 2020.

**UNICEF

Today, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) said that more than 1.9 million children have been forced out of school in West and Central Africa due to an upsurge in attacks and threats of violence against education across the region.

According to a new report, as of June 2019, 9,272 schools were closed in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger and Nigeria as a result of insecurity, tripling the number recorded at the end of 2017.

This report warns that deliberate targeting of schools, students and teachers is sweeping across the region, denying children their right to learn, and leaving them and their communities in fear for their lives and futures.

The full report is online.

**IOM

And we have an update today from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on migrant arrivals to Europe.

According to IOM, over 45,500 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea since the beginning of the year.  This represents about a 30 per cent decrease from the nearly 65,000 that arrived in Europe in the same period last year.

In 2019, most of the migrants and refugees landed in Greece and Spain, with a smaller number of people arriving in Italy, Malta and Cyprus.  The number of deaths at sea has also decreased compared to the same period a year ago.  Eight hundred fifty-nine people have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, compared to 1,558 last year.

IOM warns that the true number of lives lost during migration is likely much higher because of the challenges of collecting information about these people and the contexts of their deaths.

More information is available online.

**International Day for Remembrance of Slave Trade and Its Abolition

Today is International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), this observance is intended to inscribe the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples.

The Secretary-General said the transatlantic slave trade is one of the most appalling manifestations of human barbarity.  On his Twitter account, he recalled that more than 15 million people were victims of this despicable crime for over 400 years.

The Secretary-General also highlighted that their memory must be honoured and the fight against racism and prejudice must be continued.

And that’s it for me.  Does anybody have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Masood.

Question:  Thank you.  Yeah.  On this humanitarian situation, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister has written to the same, Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for, what do you call, and on Humanitarian Affairs, so he has sought that either, that there should be an access to the Indian‑occupied Kashmir by this, and he has been denying that.  Is there any way that that can be done or have, do you, are you aware of any moves that can be made to ‑‑ what do you call ‑‑ force India to allow this visit by a humanitarian team to visit the occupied Kashmir?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’re aware that our human rights [colleagues] are in touch at various levels with the Indian Government.  So, we would hope that these contacts would continue for, to allow for access.

Question:  Yeah, but let me just follow it up.  The fact remains that there has been no… India is not allowing the Indian access.  That was sought by the Human Rights Council long time ago, like…

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  …when I say long time ago, about four or five months ago when they had issued the initial report, which India has repudiated.

Associate Spokesperson:  So, we hope that, in light of the current situation, these negotiations can move forward to allow for access.  Thank you.

Does anybody else have a question?

Question:  Hi, Eri.  Could you just sort of give us some expectations of the SG’s trip to the G7 in France, particularly now that we’re seeing reports that it will not conclude with an agreement, a joint communiqué, due to the “America first” position in the room?  What is the expectations given some of the, the issues that will be presented there?

Associate Spokesperson:  So, as I said earlier, the Secretary‑General will participate in sessions on climate change, Africa, and inequalities.  And there, of course, you know, he will be in meetings with world leaders, and he will stress the need for political will, for example, ahead of his climate action summit.  But while he’s there, you know, he will, he’s also at the G7 to listen, and he hopes to listen to the views of the world leaders on all of the topics of the day, you know, not just climate change, sustainable development, but also issues such as trade or arms control and disarmament.

And we welcome the Presidency of the G7, President Macron, stressing the importance of multilateralism ahead of the G7, and the Secretary‑General hopes that the G7 will be a forum for world leaders to get together to move ahead with addressing the challenges of the day.

Maggie.

Question:  Do you have any bilaterals the SG’s going to have at the G7 that you can share with us now?  Does he have anything scheduled with President Trump?

Associate Spokesperson:  At the moment, we’re still working out his schedule, but he, his meetings will start on Sunday, and we hope to have more information for you by then.

Masood.

Question:  Yeah.  Over this joint front that is being created by Poland and United States against Iran, do you have any…

Associate Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, could you repeat the question?  Sorry.

[cross talk]

Question:  …the Secretary‑General’s opinion…  a Coalition front against Iran that has been formed in Warsaw, do you have any, Secretary‑General has any opinion on that?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’re not involved, but as you’ve heard him say to you himself, he urges for maximum restraint, and he hopes that leaders can get together to talk about that to move that ahead.

Yes.

Question:  How you doing?  The latest about Syria, what’s going on in Syria right now, do you have any update or something?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not…  we don’t have anything on the humanitarian situation today, but you will have seen his earlier statement from, I suppose, earlier this week where he calls for, where he expresses his concern and says that he’s still deeply troubled by the situation in north-west Syria, especially concerning the prospect of an offensive deeper into Idleb.  His concern, obviously, is also about the suffering of human, of humans, and he would hope that the call…  sorry.  He would hope that the September 2018 Memorandum of Understanding on Idleb will be upheld.

Correspondent:  Thanks.

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question: Alan Bulkaty with RIA Novosti.  I’m sorry.  Do you have any updates on the inquiry, so‑called Inquiry Board, I mean the personnel, the mission, the agenda, what objects to be observed by this mission, when the mission is going to start?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you today, but my understanding is that the preparations are still under way, and we hope to have something for you shortly.

Is that it?  Okay, great.  Thank you.  Have a great weekend.

Monica, over to you.

For information media. Not an official record.