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

12 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.

**Secretary‑General’s Travels

This morning, in Paris, the Secretary‑General addressed the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference and reiterated the organization’s central role to bring the world together.  He highlighted, among others, UNESCO’s work to address ethical issues in science and technology, as well as its fundamental role to coordinate and monitor global efforts to promote education.  The Secretary‑General also met some of UNESCO’s young staffers and representatives and reminded them that they are agents of change in international organizations.  Last night, immediately after his intervention at the Paris Peace Forum, the Secretary‑General had a bilateral meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.  Their conversation focused on the need to redouble global efforts to fight climate change.  He then attended a dinner, hosted by the French President, for Heads of State and heads of international organizations participating in the Paris Peace Forum.  The Secretary‑General is now on his way back to the United States.

**Deputy Secretary‑General’s Travels

Speaking earlier today at the opening of the Nairobi Summit, the Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, called on participants to reignite, accelerate and keep the promise made 25 years ago at the landmark International Conference on Population and Development.  Amina Mohammed presented the United Nations commitments to fully implement the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action, adding that its goals have never been more relevant for people, especially women and girls.  The Deputy Secretary‑General said that the Nairobi Summit is an opportunity to mobilize the needed political and financial momentum to succeed.  With the full commitment of each of us, she said, we can ensure that women and girls are truly at the heart of sustainable development.  The Nairobi Summit continues until 14 November.  The remarks of the Deputy Secretary‑General have been shared with you.


The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Ján Kubiš, met today with President Michel Aoun, along with Ambassadors representing the members of the International Support Group for Lebanon.  Special Coordinator Kubiš calls upon the leadership of Lebanon to urgently nominate the Prime Minister‑designate, start the mandatory process of parliamentary consultations and maximally accelerate the process of the formation of the new government of personalities known for their competence and integrity, trusted by the people.  He said that such a Cabinet, formed in line with the aspirations of the people and supported by the broadest range of political forces through the Parliamentary vote of confidence, will also be in a better position to appeal for support from Lebanon’s international partners.

Mr. Kubiš underscored that the national interest and unity of Lebanon must be put above any other considerations.  Continuous protection of peaceful protesting civilians by the security forces, maintenance of law and order and the functioning of the state and its economy without using force or violence is the paramount responsibility of the leadership of Lebanon and its security forces.  The UN remains committed to supporting Lebanon, its political independence, non‑interference into internal matters, unity, stability, security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.


The Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis‑Plasschaert, met today with the heads of Iraqi unions and syndicates.  They discussed the current political situation in the country, including the ongoing demonstrations and possible solutions.  Yesterday, Special Representative Hennis‑Plasschaert was received by Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani in Najaf.  Ms. Hennis-Plasschaert thanked His Eminence for the warm, welcome and frank discussion.  His Eminence issued a statement afterwards stressing his position on the demonstrations and reforms and welcoming the UN “Next Step” plan for the way forward.


UN humanitarian workers remain gravely concerned over the safety and protection of some four million people in north‑west Syria, including some two million internally displaced people, following a recent intensification of air strikes and shelling in the area.  Thirteen communities have been impacted by shelling and five by air strikes.  Since the end of April, over 400,000 women, children and men have been displaced by the violence in north‑west Syria, many of them multiple times, and over 1,000 have lost their lives, many of them children.  Of the 2.7 million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance in the area, 76 per cent are women and children.

The UN continues to respond to needs throughout the north‑west.  Some 1.1 million people were reached with food aid last month, as deliveries have been scaled up to meet the high levels of need.  At the same time, efforts to deliver critical winter items are ongoing, particularly for those in displacement camps and informal settlements.  The UN reminds all parties of their obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including facilitating access to those in need in a regular, sustained and impartial manner, in line with international humanitarian and human rights law.


In a new report, the UN today warned that the prevalence of adult obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean has tripled since 1975, affecting one in four adults in a region where hunger has grown once again, reaching 42.5 million people.  The report — jointly released by the World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) — calls on countries to develop urgent actions to address both obesity and malnutrition in the region.  According to the report, the most significant increase in adult obesity in the region was observed in the Caribbean, where the percentage quadrupled, rising from 6 per cent in 1975 to 25 per cent — in other words, from 760,000 people to 6.6 million people.  At the same time, every year 600,000 people die in Latin America and the Caribbean due to diseases related to poor diets, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.  You can find the full report online.


Today is World Pneumonia Day and UNICEF reported that this disease claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year, or one child every 39 seconds.  According to the agency’s new analysis, most deaths occurred among children under the age of two, and almost 153,000 within the first month of life.  Sounding the alarm about this forgotten epidemic, six leading health and children’s organizations are today launching an appeal for global action.  In January, the group will host world leaders at the Global Forum on Childhood Pneumonia in Spain.  More children under the age of five died from the disease in 2018 than from any other.  You have more information online.

**Universal Postal Union

The Universal Postal Union (UPU) announced today the launch of a new digital financial services project with postal operators in eight countries through its Financial Inclusion Technical Assistance Facility.  According to the organization, the UPU’s vast physical network has already made it an engine for financial inclusion, but there is potential to reach many more people digitally who currently have no access to financial networks.  You can find more information online.

**Press Briefings

Like I said, immediately following my briefing, Reem Abaza, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will brief you.  And before we get to Reem, are there any questions for me?  Yes, Nabil?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  We've seen that the UN's proposals, maybe, or position on the situation in Iraq was very detailed.  The UN Mission in Iraq proposed, like, a road map maybe for the Government, but we did not see the same approach in Lebanon.  Why we see this big gap between the UN's approach in Iraq and what's been said by the Secretary… the Secretary‑General's representative in Lebanon?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, the two situations are different, and they have different issues that need to be addressed.  But beyond that, I don't really agree with the fundamental premise that we're doing very different things.  There has been an extensive comment… I just mentioned some of what Mr. Kubiš said today, but if you look at the full press release from the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, you'll see that there is quite a lot of detail in terms of what he's saying following his meeting today with President Aoun.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Two questions.  First, does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to Israel's killing of an Islamic Jihad leader and the subsequent rocketing of southern and central Israel?

Deputy Spokesman:  Just on that, I can say that we are concerned about reports of casualties on either side, and beyond that, we are monitoring the situation very closely.

Question:  And does the Secretary‑General have any comment on Turkey's decision to send its foreign fight… foreign fighters for the Islamic State and other extremist groups back to their home countries or countries of origin?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you're aware, regarding the situation of foreign terrorist fighters in Syria, the Security Council itself has pronounced itself on how the issue of the foreign terrorist fighters needs to be addressed, and we believe that all countries should implement the relevant Security Council resolution.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yeah.  Do you have updates on the Rohingya refugees of Myanmar who are living in Bangladesh and India, please?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we've made clear our concerns about there being the right conducive conditions for their return to Myanmar.  Those do not currently exist, and what we've been doing is trying to provide them with humanitarian assistance in the places in and around Cox's Bazar where they've been located, and you've seen the periodic updates we have had.  I don't have anything new on that for you.  Joe?

Question:  Yes, first a follow‑up to Edie's question, and then I have another question.  On the follow‑up, you said that there were concerns expressed by the Secretary‑General for casualties on both sides.  Would that concern extend to the terrorist leader of Islamic Jihad, who had reportedly been planning rocket attacks against Israel at the time that he was targeted?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, no.  I'm expressing concerns about any civilians caught up in the fighting.

Question:  Okay.  And then my question is, you had the readout of the Secretary‑General's meeting with President Macron, and I think you mentioned climate change came up.  There's nothing mentioned, unless I missed it, concerning immigration, asylum and, particularly, President Macron's recent rather hard‑line position on asylum.  Did that subject come up?  And, if not, given the Secretary‑General's background in the area… field of refugees, why not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding the meeting with President Macron, the details I have to share are what I've said.  Obviously, there were a range of topics discussed, but I don't have the ability to specify all of the various topics.  Like I said, the main one was climate change.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Under an October 2018 interim order by the ICJ [International Court of Justice], the US is obliged to remove any impediment arising from the sanction measure announced on 8 May to the free exportation to Iran of medicine and medical devices.  But now we are witnessing 15 Iranian children suffering from TB have died as soon as manufacturer has stopped delivering indispensable wounded dressing due to US sanction.  What is SG's position in this humanitarian issues and ignoring court order by a permanent member of Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  As a rule, we encourage all Member States to comply with the decisions reached by the International Court of Justice.  Yes, Oscar?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Farhan, my question is about the situation in Bolivia.  As President Evo Morales, when he resigned, he claimed that he was a victim of military coup, and the lead… opposition leader, he says that there was not, because military didn't intervene with the force, with tanks and soldiers and all this.  So, does the Secretary‑General has any comments on this?  It is a coup or it's not a coup in this situation in Bolivia?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, that's not really an issue for us to define.  The situation on the ground is fluid, and as we made clear, including in our statements on Sunday, we're deeply concerned about the situation there.  We are reaching out to national and international interlocutors to help calm down the situation.  The most important thing right now is to prevent further escalation and to take every measure to create the conditions for peaceful, credible, transparent and inclusive elections as soon as possible.  With that, come on up, Reem.

For information media. Not an official record.