17 September 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, in a short while, we will be joined by the Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Climate, Luis Alfonso de Alba, who will be here to brief you on all of the summits that are taking place during the General Assembly, which is just around the corner.

**Secretary-General’s Remarks

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the annual international prayer breakfast before the start of the General Assembly and at a wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate the 58th anniversary of the death of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.  The current Secretary-General said that Mr. Hammarskjöld shaped the United Nations into an active force in making and keeping peace.  Antonio Guterres said that one of Dag Hammarskjöld’s most important qualities was his ability to take a step back – and to project his vision into the future.

Mr. Guterres will also speak this afternoon at 3 p.m. at the opening of the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly.  He is expected to once again congratulate Professor [Tijjani] Muhammad Bande on his election as General Assembly President.  The Secretary-General will also spotlight the crucial role of the General Assembly as a unique and indispensable forum where the world can come together to advance on sensitive and important issues.  We will share those remarks, and my understanding is that the new President of the General Assembly will also have a press stakeout in the afternoon, outside of the General Assembly.


The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned today’s Taliban attack on an election rally in Parwan.  This attack showed despicable disregard for civilian life and fundamental right to participate in democratic processes.  This was from the Mission, in a tweet.  The Mission also stressed that such attacks, with scores of civilian casualties, are a violation of international law.  And we expect a statement from the Secretary-General shortly on this.  Also this morning, the [Security Council] adopted a resolution extending UNAMA’s mandate, decided to extend UNAMA’s mandate until 17 September 2020.

[The Spokesman later issued the following statement:  The Secretary-General strongly condemns the suicide attacks today at an election campaign rally in Parwan Province and a public square in Kabul, Afghanistan, which caused numerous civilian casualties.  He expresses his deep sympathies to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Afghanistan.  The Secretary-General underscores that all Afghan citizens — whether voters, candidates or election‑related staff — have the right to be free from fear, intimidation and violence.  Attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.]

**Senior Personnel Announcements

And a couple of staffing announcements for you.  The UN Development Coordination Office announced today that the Secretary-General has appointed two new UN Resident Coordinators in Moldova and Syria, and that’s following the confirmations from those Governments.  Simon Springett of the United States will be the new Resident Coordinator in the Republic of Moldova and Imran Riza of Pakistan has just begun his new role as Resident Coordinator in Damascus.  Resident Coordinators boost development coordination among UN agencies, funds and programmes to support countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  As we have announced previously, we remain with full gender parity among all our Resident Coordinators covering 162 countries.


On Syria, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that unexploded war ordnances continue to put civilians at risk of injury or death, particularly in areas where people have already been uprooted.  In the past three days alone, unexploded remnants of war have killed more than seven civilians, including four children, and gravely injured eight more.  More than 10 million people across Syria are believed to live in areas contaminated by landmines and unexploded ordnances.  It is estimated that 2 out of 3 survivors of an explosive hazard incident in Syria will sustain a life-long impairment.  We call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to allow the clearance of unexploded remnants of war, to safely conduct risk education and ensure the safety of humanitarian staff conducting clearances.


And just to flag that, in Ukraine, the UN and our humanitarian partners are urgently calling for $52 million to address the most acute and time-critical humanitarian needs ahead of winter in which temperatures reach between ‑15 and ‑20°C.  The funding drive comes as the UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019, launched at the beginning of the year and requiring $162 million, is only 32 per cent funded so far.  Nearly $16 million of the funding required is for protection, including for mine‑risk education, victim assistance, marking of mined areas and demining before areas get covered in snow.  About 2 million people live in areas under Government control, contaminated by landmines and explosives.  The funding will also give 80,000 people living within 5 kilometres of the “contact line” in eastern Ukraine access to health care through mobile medical teams or by giving them cash for transportation to health centres.


And just to flag, that at 1 p.m. this afternoon, at the UN Bookshop, diplomats and authors Rebecca E.  Webber Gaudiosi, Jimena Leiva-Roesch and Ye-Min Wu will present their book called Negotiating at the United Nations.  The authors will be giving practical advice on how to negotiate at the UN, just in time for the General Assembly.  They will focus on the impact of information technology, on negotiation dynamics and what it means to be a woman negotiator at these United Nations.  We'll take a few questions, and then we'll go straight to our guests.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  Thank you very much.  I know the Secretary‑General has been appealing to all the parties concerned in case of conflicts, whether it be in Middle East, whether it be in India and Pakistan, that to exercise maximum restraint and that they should talk and all, but nothing seems to be moving or happening.  Is he going to take any proactive role as to go and visit with these leaders and try and impress upon them how necessary it is to maintain international peace and security is primary object?

Spokesman:  I think he very well knows what his obligations are.  The messages he gives both privately and publicly are exactly what you say, to exercise maximum restraint, to encourage political dialogue.  The Secretary‑General is not looking for any travel or showy travel for… without… without purpose.  He remains fully engaged on all of the issues you've enumerated.  Yes, ma’am?

Question:  [Inaudible] but sometimes you have to take extraordinary measures?

Spokesman:  I've answered your question to the best of my ability.  Madame?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Can you tell us how many Member States will be attending the Climate Summit on 23 September?

Spokesman:  Our next guests are, Mr. de Alba will have all those, hopefully, will have those numbers.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Hi.  My question is about yesterday meeting in Ankara about the fifth Astana meeting.  Is there any comment about that Constitution that is being in, forming… or they're working on it, I guess.  Do you have any comments about this latest development?

Spokesman:  No, obviously, we have been following the developments that took place yesterday at the trilateral meeting.  Our Special Envoy, Mr. [Geir] Pedersen, has been actively engaged to, working to facilitate a package agreement on the composition, and relating to the… to the Constitutional Committee.  And he's expected to have consultations with the Government of Syria very soon, and he remains confident that it's possible to conclude an agreement on a package in the near future.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On $50 million humanitarian aid for Ukraine, just to clarify, this is the money that are expected to come from Member States into the pooled fund, right?

Spokesman:  Yes, it's for part of humanitarian appeals, yep.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  Okay, thank you.  Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features.  We just sat through a fascinating presentation about migration statistics, but I have a question concerning the US, [they] did not participate in the migration compact that is a very significant document.  And at the same time, the United States Administration has declared its contempt for migration, contempt for asylum‑seekers.  We've had, so far, seven migrants killed during their custody with the United States Government.  I'm really curious why the United Nations doesn't condemn the United States' treatment of migrants and asylum‑seekers as you try to support the migration compact.

Spokesman:  Look, the Secretary‑General's position on this is the same for every country, is that the issue of migration is one that needs to be solved collectively, the compact being one… one example, and to take the… the management of migration away from criminal enterprises and into the hands of Governments and public policy, and we would encourage all governments to participate.  All right.  I will go get our guests.  Evelyn, if you have a quick question?

Correspondent:  Yeah, just housekeeping.  There's a reception, 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., in the UNCA room for fellows from various outfits at the UN, including the Dag Hammarskjöld, so please come.

Spokesman:  We love receptions.  It's part of negotiating at the UN.

For information media. Not an official record.