The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**United Nations Staff Day
Good afternoon. Today, is a very special day as we observe the United Nations Staff Day. The Secretary-General presided this morning over a wreath‑laying ceremony and memorial service honouring civilian and military personnel who have fallen in service to the United Nations, and this serves as the opening of Staff Day. In his remarks, he recalled that it is our duty to remember and commemorate our fallen colleagues. So far this year, we have lost 25 civilian staff members, 43 peacekeepers and 4 UN police officers. The Secretary-General expressed his sympathy to their families and friends who feel their loss so keenly. He remembered the sacrifice made by our fallen colleagues in working to make the world safer and more dignified for those less fortunate than themselves. The Secretary-General also stressed that United Nations staff are working on the front lines of the most pressing challenges: addressing acute humanitarian needs, keeping the peace, defending human rights, feeding the hungry and helping build resilience to climate change. His remarks have been shared with you.
I want to give you an update on our relief work in the Bahamas. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) today said it is providing 1,000 tarpaulins to replace roofs stripped from homes by Hurricane Dorian on the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama. IOM stressed that the priority right now is the search and rescue operations. After everyone has been rescued and the wounded safely evacuated, the agency will focus on providing temporary shelter for those who lost their homes. We believe that about 70,000 people are currently homeless in the Bahamas. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is focusing on providing clinical care, food supplies, safe drinking water and sanitation to survivors. However, the agency warned that, due to floodwaters and potential contamination with sewage, the risk of diarrhoeal and water‑borne diseases is high. It added that many medical facilities in Grand Bahama are flooded and patient evacuations will be needed. WHO will be working with the Government to provide medical supplies and emergency physicians as needed.
And an update on another operation following a cyclone, and that was the cyclones that hit Mozambique, Idai and Kenneth, and the impact of those cyclones continues to be felt in Mozambique. The storms impacted over 2.2 million people and left over 1.6 million people severely food insecure. To help boost food production, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with support from IOM, has started to distribute seeds and farming tools to approximately 11,000 families impacted by Cyclone Idai and living in resettlement sites. Families who experienced crop damage and loss of food, or seed reserves and livestock have been prioritized. Households headed by women and other disadvantaged groups were also given priority.
The Deputy Secretary-General arrived in Rwanda today, where she participated in a “Kwita Izina”, or ceremony for the naming of gorillas. She gave the name “Courage” to a gorilla as part of the ceremony. Over the weekend, she will travel to India to attend the fourteenth Conference of Parties for the Convention on Desertification.
**Noon Briefing Guest
And on that note, after I’m done, Ibrahim Thiaw, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, will be briefing you by video link from India.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and the Assistant Secretary‑General for Peacebuilding Support, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, will be in Ethiopia from 8 to 11 September. They will see the response to the displacement crisis and the Government’s effort to find durable solutions for the millions of internally displaced people in the country. Mr. Lowcock and Mr. Fernandez-Taranco will be joined by the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, for a visit to Chitu Kebele in the Gedeo zone, one of the areas most impacted by intercommunal conflicts. They will meet with people who have returned to their places of origin and need urgent assistance. They will also hold talks with authorities and aid partners on how to step up support for these people. Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that over eight million people in Ethiopia need food, shelter, medicine or other emergency assistance.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
I want to flag a human rights report from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the UN recorded fewer human rights violations in the first half of the year. With over 3,039 violations documented, the joint UN human rights office report noted what they described as an encouraging improvement in the country, especially since last year’s elections. However, while this year’s numbers are lower, the number of human rights violations committed until June remains higher than two years ago. The report released today states that majority of violations documented were committed by agents of the State, including the extra-judicial executions of at least 245 people. Violations committed by armed groups accounted for 41 per cent of all those documented.
And Jan Kubis, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met today with President Michel Aoun of Lebanon. He said afterwards that he was grateful for an open discussion with President Aoun on the recent security developments and the role of different actors and forces. Following the Baabda economic meeting, he said, he was glad to confirm the UN’s commitment to support reforms necessary for Lebanon to deal with the economic emergency. I take your questions now. Sherwin?
**Questions and Answers
Correspondent: Maybe I missed it. Former President of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, has died.
Spokesman: Yes. The Secretary‑General will be sending a letter to the Government of Zimbabwe offering condolences to the Government and people of Zimbabwe on the death of former President Mugabe. He also offers his condolences to his family and loved ones. President Mugabe's role in securing the independence of Zimbabwe and the fight against apartheid are key parts of his legacy.
Question: If I could follow up, how would you characterize… having served under a number of Secretaries‑General, Steph, the relationship that Robert Mugabe had, certainly in the latter part of his life, with the various leaders of the United Nations?
Spokesman: The… President Mugabe was very often here at the General Assembly and always had meetings with the various Secretaries‑General. I think, from our standpoint, President Mugabe also made notable contributions when chairing organizations such as the African Union, SADC [Southern African Development Community] and was a regular participant, as I said, in meetings and conferences here at the UN. I would add that the United Nations remains strongly committed to supporting Zimbabwe in its efforts to promote inclusive stability, sustainable development, democratic governance and human rights. Go ahead, Abdel… go ahead.
Question: Thank you. Today, Israel shot and killed two Palestinians, one of them [a] 17‑year‑old, and injured 66, 38 of them by live ammunition. Why the slow killing of the Palestinian every week became no news for the UN? No one pays attention. Nobody issues a statement. It just becomes one line in the monthly report of [Nickolay] Mladenov. In fact, in his last report, he started by "one Israeli was killed", and then he went to two Palestinians here, three Palestinians there, but he started with the word "one Israeli killed" in his… yeah.
Spokesman: I personally had not seen that report. I will check. As you know and as you mention, we report very regularly to the Security Council on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and with an enumeration of the civilians that are killed during those time, and I think we make no secret and no… we never hide any of these incidents as far as we… when we're aware of them. Ms. Lederer?
Question: Thank you, Steph. Yesterday, in regard to the Bahamas, you gave an update from the World Food Programme on the ready‑to‑eat meals and the two logistics hubs that they were planning to set up. What's happened with that? And is any food getting to the people, especially in Abaco and Grand Bahama?
Spokesman: Those operations are under way. I'm trying to get some more information from WFP. As soon as I have it, I will share it with you. All right. We will go to our guest.