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

11 July 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.

**Mozambique

Earlier today, the Secretary-General arrived in Maputo, Mozambique, from Nairobi.

Shortly after arriving, the Secretary-General met with Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi.  In speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary-General said that he was on a visit of solidarity with the people of Mozambique following the devastation caused by cyclones Kenneth and Idai.  The country barely contributes to global warming, but its people are in the front lines of climate change, he added.

From the moment the country was hit by the cyclones this past March and April, the United Nations considered Mozambique to be an absolute priority.  The Secretary-General congratulated the Government and the people of Mozambique for an extraordinary response to these natural disasters and appealed for quick delivery of the pledges made in a donor’s conference hosted in the city of Beira in May.

After a briefing by the UN country team, the Secretary-General will meet with representatives of NGOs involved in fighting discrimination against albinism. 

In the evening, the Secretary-General is to be hosted by the President at a State banquet.

Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General will fly to Beira, in the north of the country, to take stock of the recovery efforts in the areas impacted by the cyclones. 

**Central African Republic

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) reports that following fighting between criminal gangs in Bangui’s PK5 district, a quick reaction force was deployed earlier today to reinforce patrols. 

The violence was triggered by the reported attack on a trader by a criminal gang, yesterday. 

Peacekeepers fired warning shots and intervened by taking strategic positions to separate the groups and to help protect civilians in the areas.

The Peacekeeping mission is working in close coordination with Government security forces, which have also deployed personnel to the surrounding areas.  The Mission is also liaising with local peace committees and community representatives to restore calm in the neighbourhood. 

The UN mission strongly condemns the behaviour of criminal groups who endanger the security of the population in PK5.  The mission reiterates its determination to continue working with the Central African authorities to end the insecurity and ensure the complete disarmament of gangs.

**Mali

The UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that one of its mine-protected vehicles hit a mine early this morning during an operation outside Kidal city in Northern Mali.

Preliminary reports indicate that 10 peacekeepers on board were wounded, including four seriously.  They are currently receiving required medical care.  The Mission is investigating the incident and continues to monitor developments.

Also in Mali, as we have reported, intercommunal violence has increased, and nearly 600 people have been killed in the first half of 2019.

The violence is also creating unprecedented humanitarian needs.  There are 70,000 people now displaced in the central region, up from 18,000 in 2018.

The number of displaced people has more than tripled in a year across Mali, reaching 147,800 people as of today.

Some 3.8 million people are food insecure across the country, including over 548,000 who are severely food insecure and require immediate assistance.  In addition, 1.4 million people are in urgent need of health assistance and 1.3 million people in need of clean water. 

Children are also paying a high price.  Over 920 schools remain closed, affecting the right to education of more than 285,000 children.

**Burkina Faso

And now, turning to Burkina Faso, the humanitarian emergency in the country is worsening as recurrent armed attacks and insecurity continue to force people to flee their homes.

Nearly 220,000 people are now displaced.  This is 50,000 more people than in May.  Most of them have sought refuge in other communities or in displacement sites in the country’s regions of Centre-Nord, Est, Nord and Sahel.

Ongoing rains are making some roads impassable and, as a result, many of the displaced are unable to access basic services.  Many also lack shelter and are surviving in deplorable conditions.  Access to water is also difficult in many areas hosting displaced people. 

In the violence-affected regions, nearly 370,000 people have limited or no access to health services, as health centres have shut or are severely curtailing operations due to insecurity and armed attacks. 

The UN and humanitarian organizations are supporting the Government in providing emergency assistance to the affected people.  However, the persistent violence remains an impediment to an effective response. 

As of July, 44 per cent of the $100 million response budget had been provided.

**International Criminal Court

Four UN officials have welcomed the conviction of Jean Bosco Ntaganda by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; Adama Dieng, the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide; and Karen Smith, the Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect, said earlier today that the conviction sends a powerful message that perpetrators of atrocity crimes, including violations against women and children, will be held accountable sooner or later. 

“This verdict, if upheld on appeal, will set an important precedent as the first final conviction for crimes of conflict-related sexual violence at the ICC,” they added.

The four UN officials commended the survivors who bravely bore witness in this case and called for the judgement to be swiftly followed by a comprehensive decision on reparations to help the victims rebuild their lives. 

They also noted that accountability is crucial to prevent and deter violations against civilians, including women and children, and to confirm in the eyes of communities and combatants alike that no one is above the law.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a vaccination campaign conducted by the Ministry of Health, with support from UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) and Médecins Sans Frontières, has been launched in the province of Ituri.  The aim is to vaccinate 67,000 children.

Adding to the complexity of the operations, the province is also affected by the Ebola outbreak and is facing renewed violence that has led to massive displacements. 

The first sites targeted for measles vaccinations are four displacement camps in Bunia that have seen a huge influx of families uprooted by fighting in recent weeks.

Close to 2,000 deaths due to measles have been reported across DRC this year, over two thirds of them among children below 5 years of age. 

As of 23 June, nearly 115,000 cases of suspected measles had been reported, far more than the 65,000 recorded in all of 2018.

**Security Council

This morning, members of the Security Council held a briefing about their mission to Kuwait and Iraq. 

The mission visited both countries at the end of June and met with senior national officials, humanitarian partners and UN interlocutors.

This was the first visit to Iraq by members of the Security Council and aimed to demonstrate the Security Council’s support for Iraq’s post-conflict recovery and reconstruction and observe and support the efforts of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) to implement its mandate.

**Economic and Social Council

Today the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) of ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) offered major groups and other stakeholders an opportunity to report on their contribution to the implementation of the Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Today’s session had an emphasis on the systemic barriers to achieving sustainable development and strengthening the follow-up and review process to best contribute to “empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”.

The second part of the morning focused on the science-policy interface, including a briefing from the independent group of scientists on the Global Sustainable Development Report. 

In the afternoon, the Forum will review progress toward SDG 10, on reducing inequalities. 

**UNESCO

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announced today the establishment of the Global Media Defense Fund that will support the UN Plan on the Safety of Journalists.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, has warmly welcomed the establishment of the Fund at the initiative of the United Kingdom and Canada and their respective pledges of $3.8 million and of $1.8 million over five years.

**World Population Day

And today is World Population Day.  This year, this international day calls for global attention to the unfinished business of the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development.  In his message to mark the day, the Secretary-General said that despite progress in lowering maternal mortality and unintended pregnancies, many challenges remain.

“Around the world, we are seeing pushback on women’s rights, including on essential health services.  Issues related to pregnancy are still the leading cause of death among girls aged 15 to 19.  Gender-based violence, which is rooted in inequality, continues to take a horrific toll,” he said. 

**Press Briefings

And after I’m done here, you will hear from Monica Villela Grayley.

Tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing by UNAIDS (Joint United Nations Programme against HIV/AIDS).  The speaker will be Justice Edwin Cameron, a judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa.  He will speak on the subject of stigma, discrimination and decriminalization and its link to SDG 16.

**Questions and Answers

Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the United Kingdom saying that Iranian vessels tried to block one of its tankers in the Gulf?

Deputy Spokesman:  Certainly, we're aware of the positions made by either side in this case.  As you know, the Secretary-General has repeatedly called for all parties in the Gulf to avoid any escalation and to exercise maximum restraint.  He has made it clear that any confrontation… any new confrontation in the region would be a catastrophe and we are hoping that all of the nations will take steps to avoid that.  Yes, Nabil?

Question:  There are some countries, the US and others, talking about the need for safeguarding ships in the Gulf.  Does the Secretary-General believe that there is a… a need for such measures, or actions, by countries or the region?

Deputy Spokesman:  Again, our basic point of principle is we want to make sure that all of the parties avoid any actions that could escalate the situation; so we want, of course, for everyone to allow for the freedom of movement of vessels and we're hopeful that they will abide by that.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Okay.  Farhan, as you know, today is the twenty-fourth anniversary of Srebrenica genocide.  My question is since there is… this ongoing discussion in Bosnia-Herzegovina about how to cope with the genocide deniers, and since the Secretary-General has his own initiative on speech hate… hate speech, where does he stand on that?  There is a talk that by next year, European Union is for that; US is for that; many other countries… a new law to be adopted in Bosnia to punish…  lawfully punish those who deny genocide, so what are the Secretary-General's positions on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we wouldn't take an opinion on this forthcoming legislation, whether it happens or not.  I'm not going to go down that particular path.  What I can say is, of course, we are against denial of basic facts, including when genocide is committed against people.  All people deserve their basic rights, and they certainly deserve to have recognition for acts that have happened in the past against their communities.  In this case, as you know, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) formally determined that genocide had been carried out in Srebrenica, and we would refer people to the judgment of that court.  And, of course, the historical record speaks for itself.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  At the Security Council today, the Deputy Russian Envoy called for… he encouraged the UN to take a more active role in mediating the crisis, the escalation of tensions in the Persian Gulf, and he said that the United Nations can undertake steps to lower the tensions.  And now, taking in mind this new episode in the Strait of Hormuz, and the UK Defence Ministry and Washington blaming Iran for this, are there any specific steps that the UN can take to actually de-escalate the tensions in the region?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary-General and the senior officials of the UN system are in contact with the relevant Governments at various levels and we are doing what we can to make sure that all of them take steps to de-escalate tensions.  We'll continue to follow the situation as it progresses.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Has the… has anyone in the UN made any kind of inquiry or shown any kind of concern about the situation with the rapper A$AP Rocky, in Sweden who was detained… arrested and detained since late June?

Deputy Spokesman:  Detained where?

Correspondent:  In Sweden.

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll have to follow up.  I don't know the details of that case.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  This question is not intended to be specific to the US in terms of asking about the citizenship question on the census, but it has reported that the UN in the past, or UN agencies in the past, have endorsed or spoke approvingly of inquiring about citizenship within various countries' own censuses or the equivalent.  I would like to know if that's still the UN's position or specifically whether the SG has any opinion on that, or whether it's now viewed as some have contended as intended for racist, biased reasons.

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, different circumstances have different historical contexts so I'm not going to give you a hard and fast answer on this.  This is basically a question that we leave in the hands of member Governments.

Question:  Well no, I'm just asking just… reaffirmation of what the UN agencies have reportedly previously stated, which is approval of including such questions about citizenship, which a number of countries do have, Canada being an example.  I'm just asking whether that's still the UN's stated position.

Deputy Spokesman:  I think you need to do your research with the respective agencies.  I know that they look at these things on a case-by-case basis.  Yes, Nabil?

Question:  Also on the Gulf.  You said that the SG and others in the UN are in contact with several relevant parties? Can you elaborate more please, like can… can you give us any readouts or information or what countries, which level, et cetera.?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  I think you've seen some of the basic details, including in the recent briefing that the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, gave to the Security Council, and I would refer you back to what she said. 

And with that, Monica, the floor is yours.

For information media. Not an official record.