8 November 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.

**Secretary-General in Paris

Good afternoon.  Some travel to announce.  The Secretary‑General will be travelling to Paris where on Monday, 11 November, he will address the Paris Peace Forum.  The Forum, in its second year, intends to generate innovative and cooperative solutions to improve global governance and foster peace.  In his remarks, he is expected to emphasize the importance of multilateralism to solve today’s challenges and foster sustainable development.  He will also call on the international community to use the UN’s seventy‑fifth anniversary as an opportunity to renew its commitment to collective action.  Following his presentation at the forum, the Secretary‑General is scheduled to have a bilateral with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron.  And on Tuesday, he will deliver remarks at the UN’s… UNESCO, ahead of its General Conference.  He will highlight UNESCO’s important role to promote multilateralism and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  In this context, he will also put a particular emphasis on the role of youth as key partners and agents of change.


Turning to Syria, the Special Envoy for Syria briefed the press in Geneva a bit earlier today on the work of the Constitutional Committee and its Small Body, and he said he had witnessed very positive discussions and lots of courage from all parties to genuinely listen to each other.  Now, he said, the groups are going back to their constituencies to reflect on proposals that have been made.  They will reconvene in Geneva in two weeks, on 25 November.  The Special Envoy said the success of this first meeting was in the ability for the participants to discuss very difficult subjects respectfully, and he hoped that they will continue to do so in the next meeting.  He told the press that they would have been surprised at how much the parties agreed upon.  Mr. Pedersen added that the UN continues to call for a ceasefire and all the other issues, such as detainees, to be solved.


Turning to Yemen, according to preliminary reports, in Al Mukha, in Taizz Governorate on the western coast of the country, a hospital has been badly damaged by air strikes on 6 November.  The hospital, which is run by Doctors without Borders, has been forced to close, and a large warehouse of medical supplies has been destroyed.  The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said that hundreds of thousands of people who need emergency assistance, including hundreds who need life‑saving surgeries each month, will not get the help because of these air strikes.

**South Sudan — Humanitarian

From South Sudan, the Humanitarian Coordinator there, Alain Noudéhou, today called for $61.5 million to save lives and help people in the midst of heavy flooding, which has devastated one third of all counties in the country.  To that end, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, will allocate up to $15 million from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to urgently scale up responses to flooding.  The funds will be used to help the 620,000 people most affected by providing emergency shelter, health care, food, water, hygiene and sanitation, as well as other support.  And, in addition, $10 million is being allocated from South Sudan’s Humanitarian Fund for immediate assistance in the worst‑hit area.

**United Nations Office of Counter‑Terrorism

Just to flag that in Budapest, Hungary, the UN Office of Counter‑Terrorism has concluded its fifth regional conference, focusing this time on Prevention of Radicalization to Terrorism and looking at Regional Policy Responses and Risk Mitigation.  The conference, co‑organized with the Government of Hungary, brought together over 200 participants who discussed ways to address terrorist narratives, the risks posed by returning foreign terrorist fighters and engaging youth in preventing and countering violent extremism conducive to terrorism.


I wanted to flag a report published by UNICEF and UNHCR which says that an estimated 60,000 young refugees and migrants, who arrived in Italy between 2014 and 2018 as unaccompanied children, still require support to ensure their successful transition into adulthood.  The report, which is also co‑authored by the International Organization for Migration, says that as these children turn 18, the potential loss of support — due to an artificial, age‑based distinction — will put them at additional risk of social isolation, violence, abuse and an uncertain future.  The report includes a set of recommendations for the Italian authorities and the European Commission to better [assist] these young men and women by increasing services promoting social inclusion, protection, access to psychosocial support, health care and education, among others.

**World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is aiding flood‑hit populations across Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean region.  The impact of successive storms, cyclones and heavy rains has been severe this year, and, in the wake of heavy flooding, the agency is upping disease surveillance actions and providing critical supplies to hard‑hit populations.  According to WHO, over a million people have been affected by floods in Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.


Couple of things I wanted to add:  I had been asked earlier about the issues discussed in the Secretary‑General’s meeting with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister yesterday and I can say that the Secretary‑General is pleased that there’s been progress in the cooperation between the Venezuelan authorities and the United Nations on humanitarian issues.  It is important to note that there are very real humanitarian problems and that the UN is focused on solving these problems.  The Secretary‑General also supports the work and the statements of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Venezuela.

**Noon Briefing Guests Today

In a short while, I will be joined by Luis Carrilho, the UN Police Adviser; along with Irene Gaga, the Police Adviser from the UN Regional Office in Central Africa; and the Police Commissioner for South Sudan, Unaisi Lutu Vuniwaqa.  And they will be here to brief you on Police Week, which ends today.  What?  Take the escalator.  Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Yemen and the MSF hospital, is there any indication of who was responsible for the air strikes?  And do you know if there’s going to be an investigation?

Question:  Well, we have no way of determining, obviously, which, where the planes came from.  Lise Grande’s focus unfortunately is on the humanitarian impact.  We do know it was an air strike.  And, as far as an efficient UN investigation, I’m not aware one will be initiated, but I know our concerns have been brought clearly to all the parties involved.  Yep.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  A follow‑up on Edith’s question, you just said that the UN has no way in knowing where these planes came from.  What about support from several Member States who have military presence in the area…

Spokesman:  As I said, our concerns have been brought to all the parties.

Question:  And on what basis, then, if UN lack such capability that the UN went as part of an investigating the attack on Aramco in Saudi Arabia?  I recall that you said that the UN does not have any forensic abilities and…

Spokesman:  Well, that was a… each mandate… each mandate is different.  Obviously, we have, as you know, there’s a Board of Inquiry going on in Syria.  There are different mandates, and the attack on Aramco was specific.  It was covered by, at the request of the Saudi authorities.  Experts from both the, the Iran sanctions, they’re both, having to do both with Iran and Yemen, some experts coming from the Security Council and others from Secretariat or dispatched, but they’re two separate things.

Question:  And just a final follow‑up:  is the UN experts in military affairs, whether through peacekeeping or in the field, etc., are aware that there is commercial companies now that they can provide satellite services and…

Spokesman:  As I said, we don’t have the mandate at this point.  Maggie?

Question:  Steph, you were asked earlier this week about the potential deportation of the Human Rights Watch official from Israel, and you said you didn’t have the details of the ruling.  Do you have any update…?

Spokesman:  Yes, we’re obviously, we’ve been following the case of Omar Shakir, the Human Rights Watch expert facing deportation in Israel.  I can tell you that we regret the decision of the Supreme Court of Israel to allow the Government to deport him.  The Secretary‑General, as he has often said, supports the important work done by human rights defenders around the world and wants all to allow them to continue.  Okay, I will.  Señor?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  In recent military operations in Colombia with the Government army against the illegal military, I mean illegal armed groups, and eight kids died, a child died on this bombing attack from the military.  And the Government of Colombia is accusing these illegal armed groups of using a child as a human shields.  And was the Secretary‑General concerned on this and what your comments are about it?

Spokesman:  As I’ve said, we are very concerned about any extrajudicial killings, and we hope that these cases will be fully investigated.  Okay, I will get our guests.

For information media. Not an official record.