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

Good afternoon, everyone, and I would like to welcome, in the back of the room, the members of the 2019 UN Programme for Training Palestinian Journalists.  Welcome.


You all have seen that over the weekend we’ve issued a couple of statements on Bolivia.  In light of the developments there, including the resignation of President Evo Morales, the Secretary‑General reiterated his appeal to all Bolivians to refrain from violence and to the authorities to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, Government officials and foreign nationals.  He also called for respect for State and local institutions, as well as the inviolability of diplomatic missions.  Both statements were sent to you.

**Secretary-General in France

The Secretary‑General arrived in Paris, where he is now delivering remarks at the Paris Peace Forum.  In his remarks, he will outline five areas where we are seeing a growing fissure in today’s world.  He will say that in a troubled and fractured world, now, more than ever, we need strong multilateral institutions adapted to the challenges of today and tomorrow.  And he will add that we need to show greater global solidarity in a world where people are yearning to be heard.  Following the speech, the Secretary‑General will have a bilateral meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.

Tomorrow, he will address the opening of UNESCO’s [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] general conference in Paris before heading back to the United States.

**Deputy Secretary-General in Kenya

The Deputy Secretary‑General is in Nairobi today, where she visited a primary school that is using technology in an innovative manner to promote education and fight food insecurity.  Amina Mohammed said the project implemented at the school reaffirms a virtuous farm‑to‑school‑desk circle that includes work for nearby farmers, engages cooks and ensures children have the food and nutrients they need to focus on learning and have energy to play.

The Deputy Secretary‑General is in Kenya to represent the Secretary‑General at the Nairobi Summit, opening tomorrow, and marking the twenty‑fifth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development.  At a reception organized today by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ms. Mohammed said that the Summit is a unique opportunity to help lift up women and girls, their families and communities, and create a better world with rights and choices for all.


The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), in a statement over the weekend, discussed the demonstrations in the country and said that an accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in the last 16 years is clearly perceptible.  With rising numbers of deaths and injuries, a climate of anger and fear has set in.  The UN Mission said that the Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests.

Following consultations with the parties, UNAMI spelled out the key principles all parties should uphold in the coming days:  to protect the right to life above all; to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression, as granted in the Constitution; to practice maximum restraint in the handling of the protests; to deliver full accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims; and to act in keeping with the law, including in regard to public and private properties.  The Mission also detailed immediate and medium‑term measures for all Iraqi parties to follow.

**Republic of Korea and Japan

The Assistant Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, is beginning a visit today to the Republic of Korea and Japan.

While in the Republic of Korea, Ms. Mueller will hold a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and meet with other Government officials, including from the Ministry of Unification and the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

In Japan, the Assistant Secretary‑General will meet with Government officials to discuss Japan’s key role in international humanitarian affairs and as a donor to humanitarian action worldwide.  She will also hold talks with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Japanese NGOs [non-governmental organizations].

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the peacekeeping mission, Leila Zerrougui, and the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, have welcomed the signing of an Action Plan by the Congolese National Police to fight sexual violence.

The goal of the Action Plan is to eradicate sexual violence committed by Congolese Police, as well as to contribute to the prevention and response to sexual violence in the DRC.  The Action Plan also reaffirms the engagement of the Government of the DRC to ensure that there can be no impunity for these grave crimes and stresses the responsibility of commanders to prevent and sanction sexual violence perpetrated by national police.


In an op‑ed published in the Miami Herald this weekend, Josette Sheeran, the Special Envoy for Haiti, said that there have been no confirmed cases of cholera in the country for the past nine months.  Reaching this critical milestone was possible through an innovative plan that ensured a unified response, she added.  The Haitian Ministry of Health and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] deployed a network of rapid response teams, staffed entirely by Haitians, which demonstrated that cholera can be brought under control by intervening directly through an effective alert‑response system at the community level.

In addition to this, improved laboratory capacity in the country now ensures that up to 98 per cent of suspected cases are tested.

**Central America

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today welcomed the commitment by six Central American countries and Mexico to strengthen their efforts to prevent forced displacement in their region, in line with the Global Compact on Refugees.  The commitment was made in Mexico City during a regional meeting of the Global Compact.  The participating countries — Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama — pledged to promote coordinated responses over the short, medium and long term.  This includes investing in addressing and mitigating the humanitarian consequences of internal displacement, which has so far forced some 320,000 Hondurans and Salvadorans to abandon their homes.  There is also a focus on increasing the protection and help for displaced people, with solutions such as internal relocation or resettlement.  More information is available on UNHCR’s website.


Today, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) launched a new $7.1 million project supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to make forest data more accessible, transparent and available.  This project aims to help developing countries to meet the Paris Climate Agreement’s enhanced transparency requirements.

Efficient monitoring and reporting on forests and land-use change is essential for tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and as countries adopt climate change‑mitigation and adaptation measures.  The project will directly benefit 26 targeted countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America and more broadly some 185 countries and territories that are part of the global network of National Correspondents for the Global Forest Resources Assessment.  More information is available online.


The World Health Organization (WHO) launched a new report that studied the link between arts and health.  According to it, engaging with the arts can be beneficial for both mental and physical health.  From before birth to the end of life, the arts can positively influence health, the report says.  For example, young children whose parents read to them before bed have longer night‑time sleep and improved concentration at school.  The full report is available online.

**Press Briefings

And tomorrow following my briefing, Reem Abaza, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will be here to brief you.  With that, are there any questions for me?  Yeah?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Let me address the elephant in the room — not literally, but Bolivia and the changes that’s happening.  The Organization for the Americas have audited the elections, and they found out that there were inconsistencies and violations, and that’s probably one of the reasons that ca… led President [Evo] Morales to step down.  Now, with this developing situation and the storming of the Venezuelan embassy in La Paz, what is the Secretary‑General’s view of this evolving crisis?  And how can the UN be of any assistance to the Bolivian people at this critical time?  Because there is a vacuum in the leadership, constitutional takeover in that country.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Well, as we made clear, the Secretary‑General has urged all concerned to refrain from violence, reduce tension and exercise maximum restraint.  Our main priority really is the stability of the country at this time.  The Secretary‑General’s called on all actors to abide by international law, notably fundamental human rights principles.  And we, through various channels, not just the Secretary‑General but various officials at the UN, have been in touch with counterparts trying to see what can be done to deal with the situation.  In line with that, as I’ve pointed out, we’ve called for respect for State and local institutions, as well as the inviolability of diplomatic missions, such as what you’ve been referring to just now.  And, again, once more, we do appeal to all actors to commit to achieving a peaceful resolution of the current crisis, and that is our priority in the days ahead.  Yes?

Question:  Just an operations question.  What is the story with the solar power in the UN roof?  Are we going to be able to utilize that to power the escalators?  Are the escalators ever coming back on?

Spokesman:  The issue with the escalators, as we pointed out, is an issue having to do with our budget.  We are using solar panels.  As you know, India had donated that, and we’re very appreciative for the donation, but when it comes to our cost‑cutting measures, we’ll keep reviewing them and probably bring more services online once the money comes in.  And, with that, I wish you a good afternoon.

For information media. Not an official record.