24 October 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.

**UN Day

Happy UN Day to you all!  Today marks the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter.  With the ratification of its founding document by the majority of its signatories, the UN officially came into being 74 years ago.  24 October has been celebrated as UN Day since 1948.  To mark the day, the Secretary‑General is delivering remarks at the UN Day Concert.  This year, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra will play in the General Assembly Hall.  He is expected to highlight that, at a time when inequality, discrimination and dehumanization are growing around the world, celebrating our diversity and recognizing how much we share with our fellow women and men is more important than ever.

Next year’s commemoration of the seventy‑fifth anniversary of the UN will feature a large and inclusive global conversation on the role of global cooperation in building the future we want.  Starting in January 2020, the United Nations will hold dialogues around the world and across borders, sectors and generations.  The aim is to reach the global public; to listen to their hopes and fears; and to learn from their experiences.  The Special Adviser for the Preparations for the Commemoration of the Seventy‑Fifth Anniversary, Fabrizio Hochschild, will be joining us shortly at the briefing after you are done with me.

**Green Climate Fund

Today, the Secretary‑General also thanked countries who made new pledges to the Green Climate Fund, which now stands at $7.4 billion.  In a video message to the Green Climate Fund Pledging Conference in Paris, the Secretary‑General also appealed to participants to provide resources for developing countries, especially those which are on the front lines of climate change.  An ambitious replenishment will enable the Fund to continue to promote adaptation, resilience and carbon‑neutral development in developing countries.  The Secretary‑General also sent a message to the Sustainable Development Forum taking place in Beijing in which he stressed the need to act quickly to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and to focus on helping those who are most vulnerable.


Mark Lowcock, the Under‑Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, is continuing his visit to Nigeria.  Today, he represented the Secretary‑General at the official handover of the UN house in the Nigerian capital Abuja.  During the two‑day visit to Nigeria, Mr. Lowcock is also discussing the humanitarian situation in the north-eastern States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.  The UN and its humanitarian partners, in support of the Government of Nigeria, are working together to provide assistance to reach 6.2 million people in those places.

**Security Council

Back here, in the Security Council, Council members met on Sudan and South Sudan, as well as the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei, otherwise known as UNISFA.  Briefing Council members, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said the continuing partnership between Sudan and South Sudan, notwithstanding the recent change of government in Khartoum, presents a unique opportunity to move the political process forward on the border issues.  However, he noted that such positive developments have not been extended to the settlement of the final status of Abyei, with no meetings of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee having taken place in nearly two years.  Also speaking at today’s meeting by videoconference was the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who provided an update on the encouraging signs of progress on the relations between Khartoum and Juba.  This afternoon, the Council will hold an open meeting followed by consultations on Syria.


Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall this month has reportedly displaced more than 200,000 people in Ethiopia, most of them in the country’s Somali region.  Humanitarian partners are supporting the Government, but damaged infrastructure is obstructing access to those in need.  Nearly 8 million people in Ethiopia will continue to need humanitarian assistance for the remainder of the year, but the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan for $1 billion is only 61 per cent funded.  The Government of Ethiopia and aid partners are facing the triple challenges posed by drought in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country; flooding; and the significant humanitarian and recovery needs of internally displaced people, returnees and host communities.

**Nitrogen Management

In Sri Lanka today, countries adopted the Colombo Declaration on Sustainable Nitrogen Management, which seeks to halve nitrogen waste by 2030.  While nitrogen is an essential element for the survival of all living things, its overuse has negative impacts on the planet, biodiversity and is a contributor to the climate crisis.  As part of the Declaration, which was developed with the support of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), environment ministers of more than 30 countries also endorsed UN plans for a campaign on sustainable nitrogen management called “Nitrogen for Life” to raise awareness of the issue.


Just briefly, today, also, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a four‑year Global Strategy for Sustainable Energy.  The strategy promotes the transition to clean, renewable energy at refugee camps and hosting sites, including for individual households, communal areas and support facilities.  According to UNHCR, [more than] 90 per cent of refugees in camps have limited access to electricity, making it difficult for them to cook, keep warm, learn, work or find their way around at night, while also exposing them to various protection and health risks.  More information on UNHCR’s efforts on sustainable energy can be found online.

**Radio Frequencies

And what we found to be probably the most interesting though somewhat obscure story from today, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today called governments to protect radio frequencies allocated to Earth observation services which are vital for weather forecasts and long‑term climate change monitoring.  WMO says there is growing alarm within the meteorological community that the increasing competition for bandwidth, including from the next‑generation mobile phone data service, like 5G, may be to the detriment of established applications relating to Earth observation satellites, radiosondes, aircraft, radar and other observing systems.  Timely weather warnings have led to a reduction of the loss of life during recent decades.  These improvements are directly related to the use of radio frequency feeding directly into weather prediction systems.  The call is being made ahead of the World Radiocommunication Conference, which starts on Monday.  The conference, held every three to four years under the auspices of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), reviews the regulations which govern the use of radio‑frequency spectrum and satellite orbits.

**United Nations Events

Today is, not only UN Day, we also mark World Development Information Day, established to draw the attention of the world to development problems and the need to strengthen international cooperation to solve them.  It is also the beginning of Disarmament Week, which calls for abandoning the use of force in international relations and seeking security in disarmament.  And, finally, Global Media and Information Literacy Week begins today.  Led by UNESCO, the week will be marked by events around the world under the theme “Citizens Informed, engaged and Empowered.”

**Press Conferences

After Fabrizio [Hochschild], there will be a briefing here by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the [Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967], and that is Michael Lynk.  Tomorrow at 1 p.m., the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard.

**Financial Contributions

And we say thank you to our friends in Benin, who have paid their budget dues in full, which brings us up to…  Forget it.  If you can't guess that today's UN Day, I'm not playing any more games with you.  No, 133.  Abdelhamid, if you have a question, you may ask.  But if… okay.  Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Steph, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on Evo Morales' claim of victory in the Bolivian election, given concerns voiced by the opposition?

Spokesman:  We are obviously watching the situation in Bolivia.  I think, as with any election, it is important that any dispute, any challenge, be done through the established electoral and constitutional channels.  Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  As you recalled, today's… today is UN Day, and I would like to ask this question.  To what extent is the Secretary‑General satisfied with the implementation of the provisions of the Charter by Member States?

Spokesman:  That's not a question but a…

Correspondent:  It's a question.

Spokesman:  No, it's a theme for a lecture.  I, I know it's a question.  I was just trying to figure out how I'm going to answer the question by delaying my answer.  Listen, I would refer you to the Secretary‑General's speech at the General Assembly, I think, which he expressed his worries at the state of the world today and his call for a recommitment to multilateralism, his concern, also, about the lack of trust in institutions, and that it really ties into what you'll hear from Mr. Hochschild in a few minutes about the theme of this, the commemoration of the seventy‑fifth anniversary, which is really looking at what UN we want for the next 100 years.  Masood‑ji.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Stéphane.  After giving a rather profound statement on Kashmir on August 8th, the Secretary‑General has since then not said anything about it.  Eight million Kashmiris continue to be incarcerated in their homes, which is the longest period of incarceration I can ever… come to memory.  And why, when is it that the Secretary‑General is going to talk to the Indian Prime Minister as to what to offer [as a] way forward on this issue?  It's not only India and Pakistan.  It's the Kashmiris who are being incarcerated.  So, when is that going to happen?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General, as we've said, has discussed the issue of Kashmir with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India, during the General Assembly and before.  He has called and will continue to call for the situation to be resolved through dialogue and that any solution be rooted in the respect for human rights of the people who live in Kashmir.  So, that continues to be his position, and he will engage whenever he can, but that is the most I can tell you for today.

Question:  Is he going… is he going to go himself engage… this is a tragedy of humongous proportion, what is happening there.  Is he himself going to engage himself with the Indian leadership?

Spokesman:  I've just said that he has raised the issue with both the Indian leadership and the Pakistani leadership.  Abdelhamid.

Question:  I have two questions, one on the UN Day.  The UN has been based on three pillars:  development, human rights and peace and security.  Can the SG be kind and give grades of this, I mean, out of hundred, how much the UN achieved in these three fields: development, human rights and peace and security?  That's one.  Can I…?

Spokesman:  You know… No, go ahead, I'm… these are all very deep questions.  The bottom line is, I think, the perfect world that we would like to see, as outlined in the Charter, still remains very much a work in progress.

Correspondent:  Good answer.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  Your second question.

Question:  My second question, we asked you, Stéphane, about the… Heba al‑Labadi, who is on a hunger strike for the fourth week, we asked you about the 500 fanatics who invaded the Al Aqsa Mosque on Sunday, this… the confiscation of 700 acres from the cit… village of Qaryout, and the 70 people who were wounded on the last Friday March of Return.  And you said, I get back to you.  We are waiting for you to come back with some information.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  In terms of the incidents that we saw on the Gaza border, as we've always said, that Israel must calibrate its use of force and use lethal force only as a last resort and only in response to imminent threats or serious injury.  And it is important that Hamas ensure that protests at the fence remain peaceful and prevent any provocations.  On the issue of the land that was taken, that's an issue that Mr. Mladenov, I think, will raise during his next Security Council briefing.  Maria.

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  I was going to ask about visas, but your introductory remarks made me change my mind, as today is the UN Day…

Spokesman:  Now you all realize it's UN Day.  Yeah.

Question:  Usually the birthday is not only the day for celebration but a day for elevating our results, striking the balance.  And I see that a lot of my colleagues have questions about UN achievements.  So, do you think that SG is planning to have a press conference in [the] foreseeable future to evaluate the results with journalists together?

Spokesman:  I think we may have something with the media not too, hopefully soon with the Secretary‑General.  You know, and what, and I don't want to take away from what Fabrizio will say, but what is important is the Secretary‑General doesn't want the seventy‑fifth to be a party.  Right?  He doesn't want it to be a celebration.  He wants it to be a commemoration and an intellectual discussion and dialogue about the UN listening, but I know Fabrizio will go into much more detail on that.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Yes.  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions, one global, one local.  Which do you prefer first?

Spokesman:  Let's go from the, you know, whatever.  Go, you choose.

Question:  Okay.  Follow‑up on Mr. Abbadi's question, obviously a global one.  What is the reform that the Secretary‑General, current reform that the Secretary‑General is diligently working on right now as his utmost, sort of like, to be achieved?

Spokesman:  Listen, the Secretary‑General is working on many fronts, but I think one that is critical to the day‑to‑day operating of the UN is to ensure the structural reform in terms of how the UN budget is established, the financing and issues related to that, and we've made progress on that.  As you know, this is the first year we can do a budget year by year, but there are other structural reforms that would help for better management of the resources that are entrusted in us.  Your second question?

Question:  Yeah.  Just short follow‑up on this.  He undertook many steps, including cutting of escalators, working hours and the buffets and the et cetera, but what about, did he consider… ever consider to cut the working of those entities or agencies within the UN who are really not producing a sort of tangible results?

Spokesman:  There's been no discussion of putting staff on furlough or closing down parts of the Secretariat.

Correspondent:  [Inaudible] and the real one just in Balkans, there is a crisis… a refugee crisis in northern Bosnia and north‑west Bosnia in the… beside the border of Croatia.  Many refugees are living in not very good sanitary and healthy conditions.  Somebody's calling that Bosnia and if not another Mediterranean Lampedusa.  Does the Secretary‑General have…

Spokesman:  We've seen the reports, but that's a question you should address to UNHCR at this point.  Mario.

Question:  I was wondering if the SG has any comment on the removal today of the remains of dictator Francisco Franco from the monument of the…

Spokesman:  Not that I'm aware of.  Walter?

Question:  Stéphane, it's also been 75 years that those countries who did not sign the Charter of the United Nations are still considered enemy states, and that includes the second and the third largest contributor to the United Nations.  Is this ever going to change?

Spokesman:  You know, any change in the Charter is up to the Member States.  Stefano.

Question:  Yes, as a follow‑up, still Mr. Abbadi's questions, important question.  The first call of United Nations, when it was born, was to prevent third World War.  Does the Secretary‑General think that the United Nations is equipped the way it's structured today still to be successful in this, because actually in 75 years was able to prevent that?

Spokesman:  Well, if we've been able to prevent it, then I would say that the structure has worked so far.  There are, obviously, changes that always need to be discussed, notably among Member States, notably Security Council reform.  But I would refer you to what I just, the answer I gave to Abdelhamid about this continues to be a work in progress.  Masood, and then we will… one more question, then we'll go to Fabrizio.

Question:  On this situation in Syria, since… because… when is this Constitutional Committee going to meet, especially when the situation on the ground has changed…

Spokesman:  We, I'm not aware of any change of the date of the meeting of the Constitutional Committee, which was scheduled to start, I think, in Geneva around the 30th of October, but there's no change.  And that was a day we announced quite a while ago.  Yes.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question, Stéphane, is, was the Secretary‑General concerned when the Amazon rainforest is still going on, on fires every day?  And according to different environment organizations, they said that part of the contribution for this deforestation in the region is because the industries of KFC and McDonald's for the meat production in the region and all these situations in the Amazon.  So, what is the concern from the Secretary‑General about it?

Spokesman:  The concern that we have for the well‑being of the world's largest forests continues, whether it's in the Amazon region, whether it's in parts of Equatorial Africa or in Asia.  Those concerns remain, and I think there's a global responsibility to ensure that those are maintained in the most sustainable possible way.  I will get… no, I will get Mr.  Hochschild.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.