21 January 2020

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.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Trip Announcement, not surprising:  The Secretary-General will arrive in Davos, on Thursday morning to attend this year’s World Economic Forum.  The Secretary-General will deliver a special address on the State of the World on Thursday afternoon.  While in Davos, the he will take part in an event in which he will ask young global shapers for their solutions to global challenges.  This event, which will be livestreamed, kicks off the UN's seventy-fifth anniversary initiative, which will see people from all walks of life join the biggest-ever global conversation on how to build a better future for all.  The Secretary‑General will also attend the launch of a scheme by the Global Compact, which encourages businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, to bolster ambition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  He will also hold a number of bilateral meetings with world leaders on the margins of the World Economic Forum.  And we expect the Secretary-General back in New York on Friday night.


This afternoon, at 1:15 p.m., the Secretary-General will speak at the opening of an exhibit commemorating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.  He is expected to reflect on his own visit to Yad Vashem two years ago, where he said he was shocked once again by the ability of anti-Semitism to reinvent itself and re-emerge time and again over millennia.  The Secretary-General will pay tribute to Zoltan Matyash, a Holocaust survivor who will attend the opening of the exhibit.  As survivors grow older, the Secretary‑General will stress that it is essential that we keep their memories alive and carry their testimony forward in new ways for new generations.  And you are, of course, all invited to attend that opening.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

This afternoon, the Deputy Secretary-General will be travelling to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to deliver a keynote speech on “Africa Rising:  The Role of Business and Entrepreneurship in overcoming the Complexities of the Continent”.  And her remarks will be delivered at the Harvard Business School.

**Middle East

Back here, Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning on the situation in the Middle East.  She told Council members that the Secretary-General has been clear in calling on all leaders to exercise maximum restraint and has emphasized that the world cannot afford another conflict.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she said, is not immune to tensions in the region.  At the same time, the effects of its persistence are felt far beyond Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Ms. DiCarlo said that the UN has continued its engagement with all Palestinian factions on the holding of long-overdue presidential and legislative elections and expressed the Secretary-General’s hope that the Palestinian elections will be scheduled.  She reiterated that all settlements are illegal under international law, noting that the annexation of some or all of Area C would deal a devastating blow to the potential of reviving negotiations and advancing peace.

Ms. DiCarlo emphasized the continued urgency of resolving the Israeli‑Palestinian conflict on the basis of United Nations resolutions.  She stressed the crucial necessity of dialogue and diplomacy in the region.  Also briefing was Ursula Mueller, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and she briefed the Council on her recent six-day trip to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  And we briefed you extensively on that trip yesterday.


The UN and its humanitarian agencies are supporting the Government-led response efforts to the heavy rain, snowfall and avalanches in Pakistan.  The UN and its partners are providing food items, winterized tents and warm clothing, blankets and non-food items, in addition to heavy machinery to clear snow, dewatering pumps and power generators.  Authorities also have sought support from the humanitarian agencies for rescue and relief operations.  As of yesterday, 105 people have been reportedly killed as a result of the weather conditions in northern and south-western Pakistan and nearly 1,300 houses were reportedly damaged.  Rescue efforts are ongoing and major highways and roads are being cleared in the affected provinces; however, access to remote areas and villages is extremely limited.  Similarly, heavy snowfall, flooding and avalanches impacted 11 of 34 provinces in Afghanistan last week.  The UN and humanitarian agencies are supporting the Government-led response and assessment in the impacted areas.  Many areas are still inaccessible, so the scale of the impact is not fully clear yet.  In accessible areas, emergency shelter, warm clothing, food and non-food items, as well as hygiene kits are urgently needed.

**Hunger Map

Today, the World Food Programme (WFP) unveiled the “HungerMap LIVE”, a new tool that monitors food security in more than 90 countries and that also issues predictions for areas where data is limited.  The HungerMap presents data collected on a continuous basis, along with metrics on conflict, climate shocks, population and weather.  WFP’s goal is to present food security assessments that are cheaper, faster, and more importantly, that help its staff, partners and global policymakers deliver better services to the people who need them.  This is also another tool to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 — zero hunger by 2030.  And you can take a look at this very neat map on the web.


And in Geneva tomorrow, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director‑General, Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], will convene an Emergency Committee meeting on the coronavirus.  The Committee will ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and what recommendations should be taken to manage this.

**Noon Briefing Guests Today

In a short while, I will be joined by Elliott Harris, who, as you know, is the Chief Economist of the United Nations and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Marta Roig, the Chief of Emerging Trends and Issues in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Development Section.  They will brief you on the launch of the “World Social Report 2020:  Inequality in a Rapidly Changing World”.  Before we get to them, I will try to answer some questions.  Erol?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  All right.  Regarding this Libya agreement in Berlin, obviously, it's a huge success for the German diplomacy, so if you allow me or remind me a bit of the preparing of the Dayton Peace Accords where the UN was passive, has… had a passive role, but still was participating.  What was the exact role of the UN at the Berlin process?  And who is going to monitor the ceasefire from the point of view of UN?

Spokesman:  Well, the meeting was organized, and I would say, very well organized and hosted by the Germans under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  They worked very closely with all those parties that were invited, a number of national Governments, as well as with United Nations through the head of the UN Mission on the ground, Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé, who worked very closely with German authorities.  And this was… I think what was very much appreciated is that this international conference was fed into the Libyan‑owned and the Libyan‑led process, which is being facilitated by the United Nations.  And as we talked about, they would be… we hoped there would be a number of other meetings on the different tracks that Mr. Salamé has outlined.  We were, obviously, encouraged by the calls of the Lib… the participants in the Berlin Conference for a full‑fledged ceasefire.  We are working actively to try to support such calls, and we urge all Member States to put pressure on both sides to make sure that the guns fall silent.  Right now, as we understand it from our colleagues on the ground, Mr. Salamé is back in the Mission area.  He's back in Tripoli.  There is… a fragile truce is holding in Tripoli.  We are, obviously… we have some capacity to report back, as we've always had, on violations.  But, what the future will look like, obviously, there will be a discussion in the Security Council this afternoon.  As we mentioned, the Secretary‑General will be briefing in closed consultations.  And we will see what decisions and endorsements the Security Council takes.

Question:  [Inaudible] so just a… UN… Okay.  UN does play an active role, as you said, and participating in monitoring of the ceasefire.  Is that fair to say?

Spokesman:  There is… the UN has some capacity to report back on ceasefire violations.  There is… and this is part of its mandate but… and it's outlined in the Secretary‑General's latest report.  There is no massive UN capacity at this… you know, to do full‑scale monitoring.  And again, what our capacity are outlined in our mandate and in the report.  Mr. Salamé, meanwhile, is trying to convene the Libyan Joint Military Committee in the coming days to try to initiate discussions that we hope would lead to a permanent ceasefire, and we're also working on the Political Dialogue Forum, as well.  Edie?

Question:  Steph, what is Geir Pedersen doing in terms of trying to de‑escalate the situation in Idlib?

Spokesman:  Mr. Pedersen is continuing to consult with all the parties.  He will be in Moscow later this week to meet with the Foreign Minister and the Minister for Defence, and he intends to travel to Damascus next week.  And then he expects to report back to the Security Council on 29 January.  Carla?

Question:  Thank you.  There was a very, very challenging Arria Council meeting yesterday in, I guess it was the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber or… questioning the credibility of a recent report by the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons].  Do you have any word or can you say anything about where this is likely to lead, the questioning of the credibility of the organization?

Spokesman:  I think that's a question best left to journalists like yourselves and analysts to see… to predict.  I can only speak for the facts as we have them, and that's it.  Okay.  I will get our guests.  Please stay on for Elliott Harris.  I'll be right back.

For information media. Not an official record.