22 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.

**Noon Briefing Guests Today

Good afternoon.  In a short while, I will be joined by Alain Noudéhou, the Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan; along with Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the UNICEF Representative in South Sudan; and […] and Kamil Kamaluddeen, the UNDP Resident Representative.  They will be here to brief you on the humanitarian and development situation in South Sudan.

**Trip Announcement

I have a trip announcement.  On Monday, 25 November, the Secretary‑General will be arriving in Berlin, Germany, to take part in the 14th UN Internet Governance Forum, hosted this year by the Government of Germany, and held under the theme “One World.  One Net.  One Vision”.

On Tuesday, the Secretary‑General will join Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, at the Forum’s opening ceremony.  In his remarks, the Secretary‑General is expected to emphasize the importance of the Internet Governance Forum, which gathers thousands of members of governments, civil society and technology specialists dedicated to finding better ways to ensure a free, secure and open Internet.  He will also advocate for universal and affordable access across the Internet by 2030 — world in which greater access to technology does not lead to an increase in political and social divisions or undermines human rights.

The Secretary‑General will also have bilateral meetings with the President of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier; Chancellor Angela Merkel; as well as other senior German officials.  He is also scheduled to visit a school founded in 2015 to provide technology education to refugees.

And also while in Berlin, on Monday night, as has been reported, the Secretary‑General is scheduled to host an informal dinner with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

**Michael Haddad

Earlier this morning, the Secretary‑General met with Michael Haddad, a Lebanese endurance athlete and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.  Mr. Haddad’s work focuses on advancing and accelerating climate action across the Arab region and around the world.

Mr. Haddad, who is paralyzed from the chest down, is planning to walk 100 kilometres across the North Pole to highlight the need for urgent action on climate change.

During their meeting, the Secretary‑General gave Mr. Haddad a UN flag to take on his journey.

With the window of opportunity to respond to the climate emergency closing rapidly, the Secretary‑General said afterwards that we need urgent and transformational change to combat this existential threat.

He added that Mr. Haddad’s extraordinary resolve and determination should be an inspiration to us all, voicing hope that this journey will encourage ambitious climate action around the world.


At 3 p.m. this afternoon, he will speak at the start of the Peacebuilding Commission on the 2020 Review.  The Secretary‑General is expected to say that the human and financial cost of focusing primarily on crisis response is unsustainable.

He will stress the importance of reorienting our work around prevention, on rebalancing our approach to peace and security, and on connecting our work across peace, sustainable development and human rights pillars.

Those remarks have been shared with you under embargo.

**Security Council

And, as you heard this morning, the Security Council met on Yemen, with the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, telling Council members that the momentum to reach a political settlement has been building.

He noted that we are now beginning to see the kind of leadership that creates peace, pointing to the example of the Riyadh Agreement signed on 5 November between the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council.  To reach that Agreement, leaders from opposing parties sat down together and agreed to work for a greater cause.

He said that, in the last two weeks, there reportedly have been 80 per cent fewer air strikes in the past two weeks than in the same time frame before that, with entire 48‑hour periods without air strikes for the first time since the start of the conflict.  On the Stockholm Agreement, Mr. Griffiths, who was speaking via videoconference, said that he sees continued positive signs in Hudaydah, with fuel ships having entered the port and a crisis having been averted.

Also addressing the Council was Ursula Mueller, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who said that, every month in Yemen, some 250 humanitarian partners work with the UN to assist more than 13 million people.  She said the humanitarian operation in Yemen is the world’s largest and is being carried out in an extremely challenging environment.  This afternoon, at 3 p.m., Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, will brief the Council for an open meeting and he told me, as we said, that he will brief you afterwards, so that might be about 5:30 p.m. or so.

**Middle East

Staying in the region, UNHCR tell us that it estimates that some 3.8 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, as well as internally displaced people and refugees of other nationalities, need additional assistance this winter.

For many of the Syrians, this is the ninth consecutive winter they will have spent displaced.

Preparations for assistance began in September and support will continue until March of next year.


The World Food Programme (WFP) says it will need $196 million next year to assist the growing number of people leaving Venezuela, as well as Colombian returnees.

WFP said the scale of the challenges in Colombia and Ecuador is such that the Governments need the support of the international community to assist with the influx of migrants and their needs.

UN staff in the region report that six out of ten migrants do not know where their next meal will come from, and with the number of people on the move going to increase, additional support is needed.

More on WFP’s website.

**International Organization for Migration

The International Organization for Migration reported earlier today that 95,600 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through 20 November, roughly an 8 per cent decrease from 104,535 arriving during the same period last year.

Arrivals this year to Greece and Spain are at 53,163 and 22,544, respectively, accounting for 79 per cent of the regional total, with the balance arriving in much smaller numbers to Italy, Malta and Cyprus.

Deaths recorded on the three main Mediterranean Sea routes through 20 November are at 1,091 individuals — about 51 per cent of the deaths confirmed last year.

**World Health Organization

Lastly, a new study by WHO says the majority of adolescents worldwide are not sufficiently physically active, putting their current and future health at risk.

According to WHO, more than 80 per cent of school‑going adolescents globally did not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day — including 85 per cent of girls and 78 per cent of boys.

The study — which is based on data by 1.6 million 11‑ to 17‑year-old students ‑ finds that, across 146 countries studied between 2001‑2016, girls were less active than boys in all but four, and those four are Tonga, Samoa, Afghanistan and Zambia.  And on that note, Mr. Bays.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have two questions on very different subjects.  First question is something I don’t think you’ve announced from the podium, but Egypt and Spain selected to co‑lead a review of the UN’s global counter‑terrorism strategy.  Choosing Egypt for this role, a country that uses trumped‑up terrorism charges to target political opponents as part of a campaign of repression, can you explain that?  Amnesty International says this puts Egypt in a perfect position to delete the provisions protecting an individual’s human rights from the UN’s counter‑terrorism strategy.

Spokesman:  I have to check how that appointment came about.  I had not heard, which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  Let me… I’ll check.

Question:  …  if you can find us more on that.  The second subject that I wanted to talk to you about, or ask you about, was to get some more details on the Secretary‑General’s meeting with the King of Jordan, King Abdullah, because you’ve put out a readout and I have it here, "The Secretary‑General reiterated his appreciation for Jordan’s generosity in hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the region and for its long‑standing robust partnership with the United Nations.  The Secretary‑General and the King discussed regional developments, including the Middle East peace process and issues of common concern."  There was no detail, no specifics there and what’s really interesting is they last met on the 24th of September.  Then you put out a readout saying, "The Secretary‑General reiterated his appreciation for Jordan’s generosity in hosting one of the largest refugee populations in the region and for its long‑standing robust partnership with the United Nations.  The Secretary‑General and the King discussed the Middle East peace process and UNRWA, as well as broader regional dynamics in the Middle East."  Did they have the same meeting twice?

Spokesman:  No, we’re just trying to save money on readouts.

Question:  But the serious question.  Can we start having readouts that make some sense that aren’t just full of generalizations and specifics?  And if you want to save money, then stop doing the readouts if they’re going to be this useless.

Spokesman:  They discussed, I mean, discussed issues in the region, notably Iraq, Syria.

Question:  What did they discuss about those?  I mean, these are…  they’re totally pointless.  You could save money by actually making the person who does these readouts redundant, because there’s no use to us as journalists.

Spokesman:  James, we try to find a balance between what’s of use to you as journalists and what is proper for us to put out.  Sometimes, the balance doesn’t tilt in your way.

Question:  But could you have a word with whoever does the readouts, because honestly, they are, they are completely hopeless.

Spokesman:  Understood.  Thank you.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Thank you.  One more question about generalization.  I really didn’t know that James is going to ask this question, but mine is on a different subject, and on generalization, which obviously, we are growing unsatisfied with that.  Two days ago, it was Child Day.  It was actually Convention on the Child Rights Day.

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  And the Secretary‑General put the statement on there and as you know, although the convention was adopted 30 years ago, in the meantime in ‘90s, in Sarajevo, only there were 1,600 to 1,800 kids, children, killed.  In Kosovo, in 1999, 1,300 children were killed.  Now, I wonder why the Secretary‑General didn’t use that opportunity to reflect on that, because we have the situation and obviously, the history repeat, and having these kinds of statements, and not addressing in a proper way I would say the occasion, that’s my question actually.  I will stop here.

Spokesman:  I’m not sure…  it didn’t sound like much of a question.  You know, the Secretary‑General…

Question:  My question is why…

Spokesman:  We have highlighted, the Secretary‑General has highlighted in numerous remarks the fact that children all too often bear the brunt of the conflicts going on around the world, either as victims or as child soldiers, as we regularly report through the Children in Armed Conflict Report.  Different speeches demand different, require different…  different occasions require different speeches.  The fact that you found that his remarks on the, the Convention on the Rights of the Child were too general, I hear you, but I think the Secretary‑General has spoken out very clearly on numerous occasions on the fact that children do bear the brunt of the conflict.

Question:  Just a short follow-up.  Regarding this, as I’m preparing the story, I talked to the professor of human rights at Columbia and she told me, she will…  her name will appear in my story, that one of the tactics of human rights is to "blame and shame."  And obviously, since Secretary‑General was somehow criticised for his human rights records, and how he’s addressing that, do you think, to reiterate my question, that he should use these opportunities…  still, we are around…

Spokesman:  Erol, we could have a longer discussion on this.  I would, before you go down that road, I would…  I would encourage you…

Question:  …  to ask question…

Spokesman:  I would encourage you to read the…

Correspondent:  I read all of them, believe me.

Spokesman:  Just can you…  let me, let me finish.  I would encourage you to read the numerous reports on country‑specific human rights situations that the Secretary‑General reports to every year, to the General Assembly, as he’s mandated to, to read the Report of the Children in Armed Conflict, to read his reports of, to the Security Council.  The report, the Secretary‑General reports facts and he does so repeatedly.

Question:  Why he doesn’t like to blame and shame?

Spokesman:  I think, I think that’s a mischaracterisation.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Thank you.  On these disappearances in Kashmir, like 8,000 families in Kashmir are now calling that most of their loved ones have disappeared in occupied Kashmir.  Now, what they’re saying is they should at least know where their loved ones are.  They’re not one or two, but 8,000 families.  So what is the Secretary‑General going to do?  Is he going to talk to the Indian authorities about this situation that exists?

Spokesman:  You know, the, the High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed her concern on the situation, and the Secretary‑General has had, on a number of occasions over the last months, conversations with the leaders of both India and Pakistan to try to move the situation forward in a positive, in a positive way.

Correspondent:  This particular situation has been highlighted by most of the other groups, like the Amnesty International, and so on and so forth.  They have been saying that again and again and nothing is being done about these disappearances or deaths.

Spokesman:  Everyone has a different role to play in this.  Yes, Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Stéphane.  Has the Government of Pakistan approached the United Nations or any of its agencies to fight this terrible, poisonous smog that has descended on parts of its territory, which is poisonous?  And also, it has shut down schools and brought cities to a close and impacting on health of the people.

Spokesman:  I mean, we…  we are seeing throughout the world in different places smog growing, growing concern with smog and air, air quality.  It is, as the Secretary‑General often states, the climate emergency is also about health.  And we’re seeing, as I said, in various places, because either of ongoing brushfires, which are burning longer and hotter than they used to be, the continuing use in parts of the world of coal.  There are many reasons for this, and this has been one of the focuses of the Secretary‑General, as you know, on fighting the impact of climate change.  Carla.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  In 2018 alone, almost 5,000 children in North Korea have died as a result of the sanctions, and 72 pregnant women have died as a result of the Security Council sanctions.  And the Sustainable Development Goals, which the UN boasts about, cannot possibly be met by the North Koreans because what is being done is the destruction of the economy.  What does the Secretary‑General have to say about this, because the Security Council isn’t above the law.

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s position is that we have a humanitarian programme in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is, unfortunately, underfunded.  We are working within the resources that we have, in the way that the Government allows us to work.  On the broader issue of sanctions, I think the Secretary‑General has been clear on warning the Security Council on the humanitarian impact of sanctions.

Correspondent:  But the, the Security Council isn’t listening.

Spokesman:  I’ve said what I’ve had to say.  Yes, Sato-san.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Pope Francis is about to touch down in Hiroshima, Japan, so, among the backlash to the nuclear disarmament.  What does Secretary‑General expect Pope Francis’ message from Hiroshima?

Spokesman:  Well, I mean I think the, the Pope’s message is that we expect to be clear, on the need for, to see a world without nuclear weapons.  I think the impact of that visit will be very strong, very symbolically strong.  The Secretary‑General himself has gone there and delivered the same message.  The more voices we have that move in the same direction, the better.  Yes, Abdelhamid, and then I’ll go get our guests.

Question:  Thank you.  Mr. Mladenov asked twice the Israeli authorities to investigate two killings, the Sawarka family and Mohammad Badawi, a young man who was shot for no reason in the city of Hebron.  First, does he trust the Israeli investigation, when there was about 300 killed on the return, march of returns, and only one case was investigated, who…  a young man, 14, was shot and killed, and the Israelis sentenced him to community service.  That’s the only case.

Spokesman:  I mean, I think we would have to see, we would have to see…

Question:  So two cases here…  does he trust the Israelis?

Spokesman:  We would have to see the investigation before expressing any sort of opinion on it.  Mr. Bays, and then I will really go get our guests.

Question:  Yes, just a question because we were just listening to the US special envoy on Syria.  A question about the oil resources of Syria, because the US has not been particularly clear about this.  President Trump repeatedly says that the US is "keeping the oil", seem to be from the special envoy and also from comments recently from the Pentagon, that the oil money is going to the SDF.  Is the UN trying to get some clarification on, on where the oil revenue is going from the US?  And is, does the, does the UN have concerns about the legality of all this?

Spokesman:  I mean, I think there, there is, in broad terms, there is a body of international law that deals with such things as natural resources, but I think that’s a question best saved for Mr. Pedersen in a few hours.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.