31 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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

Good afternoon and happy Halloween, everyone.

**Secretary-General Travels

The Secretary-General today spoke at the start of the sixth Istanbul Mediation Conference and said that mediation is one of our most important tools to reduce and end conflict.  He said that the tragedy in Syria is a clear illustration of the importance of political solutions to conflict, adding that Wednesday’s first meeting of the Constitutional Committee was a landmark but also “in itself a clear success of mediation”.  The Secretary‑General hopes that this will be the first step towards a political solution that will end this tragic chapter in the lives of the Syrian people and create the opportunity for all Syrians to return to their places of origin, in safety and in dignity, to end their status as refugees.

The Secretary-General said that mediation cannot wait for a military stalemate or a request for help.  Rather, he said, “There is a need for mediation at all stages of the peace continuum, from prevention to peacekeeping, peacebuilding and development, including between parties to protracted conflicts.”

On the sidelines of the conference, the Secretary‑General met his High‑level Advisory Board on mediation and reviewed political situations around the globe with them.

In the afternoon, the Secretary‑General visited the UN Technology Bank for Least Developed Countries.  Inaugurated in 2018, the bank was created by the General Assembly to improve the least developed countries’ scientific research and innovation base, promote networking among research institutions and help the LDCs to access and utilize critical and appropriate technologies in the effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Secretary‑General met with the bank’s staff and toured an exhibit of companies showcasing innovations by companies that have partnered with the technology bank to deploy SDG [Sustainable Development Goals]‑related technologies in a number of key sectors, including water, agriculture health and waste management. 

The bank, the Secretary‑General said, is already having a very important role in supporting the least developed countries to have access to new technologies, and to be able not to be left behind in the implementation of Agenda 2030.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with President Erdoğan before heading to Thailand.


The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said today that it has consistently called for the protection of peaceful protestors and the need to address their legitimate demands in the country.  The Mission continues to condemn in the strongest terms the loss of life, the many injuries and the destruction of property.

After visiting the demonstrators, the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, said that violence only breeds more violence.  She emphasized that a public national dialogue can bring Iraqis together to draw a roadmap towards a more inclusive, stable and prosperous Iraq.

She added that today, the United Nations stands by Iraq’s side and is ready, if called upon, to bring together all parties and move forward on a roadmap that meets the legitimate demands of the Iraqi people.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council held a closed meeting on the International Court of Justice, whose President briefed you in this room earlier this week.  This was followed by consultations on Guinea‑Bissau.

This afternoon, the Council is expected to renew the mandate of the UN‑African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID, for one year.

This will be followed by a meeting on Kosovo.


Our humanitarian colleagues say that, this morning, a 6.5‑magnitude earthquake struck Mindanao in the Philippines.  The area had experienced a powerful 6.6‑magnitude earthquake just two days ago that caused the death of 8 people and injured nearly 400 others.

National authorities are leading response efforts and conducting search‑and‑rescue operations.

Humanitarian organizations, including UN agencies and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and others are helping to assess the extent of damage and needs in affected areas.


The Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, has wrapped up a three‑day visit to Somalia, calling for stepped up efforts to protect children in the country.

She commended the Federal Government’s commitment to speed up the implementation of UN action plans to end and prevent the recruitment, use, killing and maiming of children.

Ms. Gamba said that the situation of children affected by armed conflict in Somalia is ruthless, with the country having the highest total number of grave violations against children, mostly committed by Al‑Shabaab.

You can read more about her visit online.


Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall since early October has affected more than 100,000 people, displaced 14,000 and caused at least 29 deaths in Kenya.

Floods have damaged infrastructure, including roads and bridges, while access to food, education and healthcare has also been hampered.

The heavy rains follow a period of prolonged drought which saw the number of severely food insecure people in Kenya rise to 3.1 million.

The United Nations is assisting the Government‑led response to distribute food to displaced people in Wajir county after trucks carrying emergency supplies were unable to reach people in need due to a collapsed bridge.

**Southern Africa

A record 45 million people across southern Africa will be severely food insecure in the next six months.

That’s according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), who are calling for funding to prevent a major hunger crisis and for stepped up investment in long‑term measures to combat the impact of climate shocks.

The agencies said that there are more than 11 million people now experiencing “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity in nine southern African countries.

They also noted that Southern Africa’s temperatures are rising at twice the global average, with the region home to six of the nine African countries set to be hardest hit by adverse weather in the coming years:  the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

You can read more about this online.

**World Cities Day

Today is World Cities Day.

With over half the world’s population now living in cities, urbanization is one of the world’s most transformative trends and a critical tool for sustainable development if done right.

In a message, the Secretary‑General stressed that much of what will be needed to house and serve this increasingly urban world has yet to be constructed, and even some new cities will need to be built.

This brings enormous opportunities to develop and implement solutions that can address the climate crisis and pave the way towards a sustainable future, he added.

This year, World Cities Day — under the theme “Innovations and a Better Life for Future Generations” — will be the culmination of Urban October, a month that started with World Habitat Day and provides an opportunity for the world to reflect on our common urban future.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

For press conferences, tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Reem Abaza, will be here to brief you. 

Immediately after that, at 11:30 a.m., there will be a briefing by the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Coly Seck, who will discuss the activities of the Human Rights Council.

Then after my briefing, at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Karen Pierce, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom and President of the Security Council, will be here to brief on the Council’s programme of work for the month of November.

That’s it for me.  Are there any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Yes, Mr. Sato. 

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Chilean President just announced the possible alternative for COP25 is Madrid in Spain.  Do you have any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  What I can say on that is that, at this stage, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is working with the Chilean government and with others to determine what kind of alternative venue we can have.  We've been supporting the UNFCCC on this, and, ultimately, they will present the options for an alternative venue to the board of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  So, we're awaiting that moment.  Until then, we wouldn't be able to confirm the latest news, although it's a positive sign that many different governments are signifying that they're willing to be helpful to find a way to make sure that the 25th Conference of Parties goes ahead.


Question:  Thank you.  So, it appears that DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] fired two missiles.  Does the Secretary‑General think there should be another Security Council meeting or what to do to stop the firing? Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we are aware of the latest development.  The Secretary‑General hopes for the swift resumption of working‑level talks between the United States and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as well as for the resumption of inter‑Korean dialogue. 

As for the Security Council, it's up to the members to determine what further steps are needed.

Yes, Maria. 

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  So, more than four months ago, in May, there was an incident in Kosovo.  The topic came up because Security Council is going to discuss Kosovo today.  The incident in which two UN employees, including a Russian citizen, were detained.  And, at that time, UN declared an investigation of this case.  So, I wonder if there was any update on this investigation. 

And, just recently, on October 16, there was a very similar police raid, Kosovo's police raid so also a question of whether the UN employees are safe right now and UN Secretariat can ensure their safety.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding the need for an update, you're in a bit of luck because today, in fact, later today, there'll be a briefing at the Security Council in the afternoon with the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General.  And he'll provide an update on the results of the investigation into the 28th of May incidents that you were mentioning.  So, wait for that.  I'm not going to get ahead of that point, but you will get an update at that point. 

And, regarding the safety of UN personnel, of course, in Kosovo, as elsewhere across the world, we continue to take regular steps to ensure the safety and security of all our personnel.

Yes, Edie. 

Question:  Two of my questions got asked, but a follow‑up on the May 28th incident.  Is that briefing going to be in public, and are we going to get the results?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I believe the briefing to the Council is an open meeting this afternoon, so I believe you'll get some details at that moment.

Yes, Ibtisam.

Question:  Farhan, could you elaborate a little bit about the visit of the representative of the Secretary‑General in Baghdad and her talks with the demonstrators there?  And, also, do you have any updates regarding humanitarian situation in Yemen? Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding Iraq, I had mentioned at the start that the Special Representative, Ms. Hennis‑Plasschaert, met with demonstrators.  And she emphasised the importance of a public dialogue to bring Iraqis together and the UN's willingness to help.  There's a full press release from the UN Mission, UNAMI, that has further details about her discussions with the demonstrators and the message that the Mission is putting out.

Question:  Yeah, I saw the press release.  So, when you are talking about the UN willingness to help or… could you… what do you exactly mean? Do you mean in… if there be elections soon that… or which role do you see that the UN could play?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, ultimately, we want the Iraqis themselves to agree on a road map towards a more inclusive, stable and prosperous Iraq.  And what we're willing to do is if the parties call upon us to do this that we would help them with the road map so that all of the various parties could feel that their legitimate demands are being met.

Regarding Myanmar…

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh, sorry.

Question:  Yemen.

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh.  On Yemen, yes, our humanitarian activities are continuing.  In recent days, the UN Mission in Hudaydah has pointed to the cooperation that they've been getting with the parties who are forming joint commissions to deal with various issues so… although there's nothing in particular to say about the flow of humanitarian aid, it's a positive sign that, in places like Hudaydah, we have the parties cooperating and working together to resolve outstanding issues.


Question:  Sorry, Farhan.  Today was the formal implementation of legislation approved by India's Parliament in early August that removes Indian‑controlled Kashmir's semi‑autonomous status and began direct federal rule of the disputed area.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment, as this does away with Kashmir's flag and Constitution?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, just to reiterate our basic concerns that the Secretary‑General has previously expressed his concerns about the situation in Kashmir.  As you know, he has met with representatives of India and Pakistan at their request to discuss the situation.  He has appealed to both sides to deal with the issue through dialogue, and, as we've made clear and, particularly, as the High Commissioner for Human Rights has made clear, the situation in Kashmir can only be solved with full respect for human rights. 

Have a good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.