THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
FULL TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS ENCOUNTER
New York, 16 August 2017
 

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for your presence.
 
It is good to see all of you again.  I hope you managed to get some time away.  But as you know, our world has been far from quiet. 
 
There is much anxiety around the globe.  In particular, tensions related to the Korean peninsula are at levels not seen in decades.
 
We remember the enormous suffering caused by the Korean War that began 67 years ago.  More than three million people were killed – with a civilian death rate higher than World War II.  The Korean peninsula was left in ruins.  Many nations were directly engaged and experienced heavy losses. 
 
We need to heed the lessons of history – not to repeat the mistakes. 
 
The Security Council was united in adopting resolution 2371 on 5 August. 
 
This resolution sends an unambiguous message regarding the peace and security obligations of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. 
 
It is obviously my role as UN Secretary-General to support the comprehensive implementation of Security Council resolutions, namely this last one.  I call on all Member States to fully fulfill their related obligations.
 
But all concerned parties should also recognize that the unified adoption of resolution 2371 represents an opportunity for diplomatic engagement and renewed dialogue to solve this crisis. 
 
There are many possible avenues for this dialogue – from various bilateral formations to the 6-party talks. 
 
As tensions rise, so does the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation or escalation. 
 
That is why it is so important to dial down rhetoric and to dial up diplomacy. 
 
For my part, I want to repeat that my good offices are always available – and I conveyed this message yesterday to the representatives of the 6-party talks.    
 
I will remain in close contact with all concerned parties and stand ready to assist in any way.
 
Consistent with resolution 2371, through words and actions, the international community must send a clear, coherent message to the leadership of the DPRK:  fully comply with international obligations, work towards reopening communication channels and support efforts to deescalate the situation.  
 
I welcome the continued critical engagement by Member States and support the call of the Republic of Korea to the DPRK to engage in a credible and meaningful dialogue. 
 
This includes through confidence-building measures to defuse tension and to enable steps aimed at the de-nuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
 
The solution to this crisis must be political. The potential consequences of military action are too horrific to even contemplate.
 
Thank you.  I am available for a few questions.
 
Questions and Answers:
 
Question:  Hi. Mario Villar with EFE. On Venezuela, Secretary-General, you have been insistent on dialogue in this situation, but that doesn't seem to have worked so far. What is your message to the Government right now?
 
Secretary-General:  Well, it's a very clear message that Venezuela needs a political solution based on dialogue and compromise between the Government and the opposition.  I recognise the efforts [of] international facilitators and regional leaders that are assisting the Venezuelan Government and the opposition in trying to advance political negotiations. I strongly support those efforts. I've been in close contact with all of them, and I urge the Government and the opposition to restart negotiations because I believe that only solution is a political solution based on those negotiations.
 
Question:  Any critics to the Government's repression of the demonstrations? We haven't heard very much from you on that side.
 
Secretary-General:  Well, I think that it is very clear that Latin America has successfully struggled over the last decades to free itself from both foreign intervention and authoritarianism, and I think this is a legacy that must be safeguarded.
 
Question:  Secretary-General? Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Thank you for speaking with us today. Just a follow-up on Venezuela: The US President, Donald Trump, has threatened a possible military intervention to help solve this crisis. What's your response to that?  And also, has Nicolás Maduro become a dictator?  And a follow-up on North Korea: Ahead of the joint military exercises next week between the US and South Korea, which North Korea tends to see as an escalation of tensions, what's your message to the North Korean leader and President Trump ahead of those exercises?
 
Secretary-General:  First of all, in relation to Venezuela, I would repeat what I clearly said. Latin America has successfully managed to get rid of both foreign intervention and authoritarianism, and this is a lesson that is very important to make sure that this legacy is safeguarded and namely in Venezuela, both aspects of it.
 
And in relation to the need of the escalation, it is clear, but I think it's important to recognise that everything started with the build-up of a potential nuclear capacity and of a number of missiles to be able to deliver that capacity. And so, I think that it is essential that the Security Council resolutions are implemented. And based on that implementation, I hope that this will lead to a process leading to clear de-escalation of all sources of tension in the region.
 
Question:  Thanks, Farhan. Secretary-General, Sherwin Bryce-Pease. What is your reaction to President… I'm afraid it's another President Donald Trump question. What is your reaction to the President's remarks yesterday that appear to have given a moral equivalency between neo-Nazi, racist hate groups and those that gathered to protest their bigotry? What will you say to the President of the United States today?
 
Secretary-General:  Well, I do not comment on what presidents say. I affirm principles. And the principles I affirm are very clear. Racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or Islamophobia are, as I mentioned yesterday, poisoning our societies. And it is absolutely essential for us all to stand up against them everywhere and every time. And I think that, speaking as Secretary-General, I should speak for the whole world, but speaking as a European, if there is something I am proud as a European is the contribution that Europe gave to all civilisation with the values of Enlightenment:  Tolerance, the respect for the other, the importance of recognition of diversity. And to be able to stand for these values and to… at the same time, to condemn all forms of irrationality that undermine those values is essential, at the present moment, be it in the United States or everywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, these demons are appearing a little bit everywhere.
 
Spokesman:  Herman.
 
Question:  [in French] Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, une question en français: le rapport des experts sur la RDC fait des révélations accablantes, impliquant même le gouvernement. Vous allez rencontrer dans quelques heures le ministre des Affaires étrangères ; quel est votre message ? Et serez-vous prêt pour un éventuel report des élections puisqu’apparemment, c’est le plan B, vu la situation ?
 
Secretary-General: [in French] Je dois vous dire que j’ai envoyé hier au Conseil de sécurité le résumé de ce rapport  - le rapport sera envoyé, et aux familles que je salue et que je recevrai aussi en leur témoignant toute ma solidarité, et aux pays concernés. C’est clair dans ce rapport que les deux experts sont des victimes innocentes, ils n’ont rien fait qui puisse contribuer à ce crime intolérable et c’est naturellement mon intention de tout faire dans les contacts, et avec le gouvernement du Congo et avec le Conseil de sécurité, pour que les criminels soient punis.  Et je suis prêt à discuter, et avec les uns, et avec les autres, les formules pratiques de travail, de follow-up pour permettre que cette accountability, cette prestation de compte, soit garantie. Après les consultations que je ferai avec le Congo et avec les membres du Conseil de sécurité, je présenterai des propositions adéquates.
 
Last question.
 
Spokesman:  Yeah, Richard?
 
Question:  Mr Secretary, we don't see you often. I guess I want to know, how much pressure do you get from the US Government to not speak? We've… this has happened with your predecessor, but also, what is it like in these unprecedented times for you to represent the United Nations with a totally different US President who means a lot in what the US Government offers to the UN? I know you don't want to quote what he has said, but this has to affect you and the institution. What is the impact?
 
Secretary-General:  Well, I've received no pressure at all not to speak. We had, in a previous meeting, discussed, which I read, probably too much of a low profile, and I said that I was going to correct that. I believe this stakeout is the proof that I am doing it. And there is nothing that will influence me not to affirm the values that I consider the essential values of the Charter and the essential values of our common civilisation.  [Cross talk] And, whenever necessary, I will say whatever I believe is necessary, independently of the fact that that might be not pleasant for the President of this country or any other country.
 

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE U.N. SYSTEM
WEDNESDAY, 16 AUGUST 2017
 
U.N. ENVOY BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL ON KOSOVO
  • This morning, the Security Council held an open meeting on the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).
  • The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Zahir Tanin, said that discussions are still underway to form a new government in Kosovo, with the transition phase having proven very challenging.
  • He also pointed to an important development in the region, which was the initiative of the President of Serbia for an internal dialogue on Kosovo. The Special Representative said that, as history teaches, pursuing fair, difficult, and often painful compromise demands strong leadership, adding that such leadership is required from all, if we are to reach lasting peace, in the interest of all who live in the Western Balkans region.
  • In the afternoon, the Council will hold consultations on Syria.
WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME BEGINS DISTRIBUTIONS FOLLOWING MUDSLIDES IN SIERRA LEONE
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) is distributing food assistance to 7,500 people affected by the massive mudslides and flooding in Sierra Leone that have killed scores of people and left many more homeless and in desperate need of assistance.
  • Hours after Monday’s mudslides around Freetown, WFP began distributing initial two-week rations of rice, pulses, vegetable oil and salt to the hardest-hit communities of Regent, Sugar Loaf and Mortomeh around the capital. 
  • The assistance will be provided to both survivors of the mudslides and households hosting them, as well as rescue workers and mortuary attendants.
  • The experience of Sierra Leone’s Ebola outbreak has prepared the humanitarian community to offer a swift, joint response to this current emergency. 
  • Beyond delivering food assistance, WFP is working closely with the government and other partners in search and rescue efforts, notably by providing logistics, geo-spatial mapping of disaster areas and other support.
COLOMBIA: EXTRACTION OF ARMAMENT AND AMMUNITION IN FARC-EP CAMPS CONCLUDES
  • The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia and Head of the UN Mission in the country, Jean Arnault, announced yesterday that the process of extracting all the armament and scrap ammunition in the 26 camps of the FARC-EP had concluded.
  • Mr. Arnault said that the material transported in the containers consists of 8,112 guns and almost 1,300, 0000 incinerated cartridges.
  • He added that to date, the destruction of all the unstable material found in all 26 camps, including anti-personnel mines, grenades, homemade explosives, gunpowder, among others, was also completed.
  • The Head of the UN Mission also emphasized that the extraction process included 16 aerial-ground movements, and 10 terrestrial movements accounting for more than 50 flight hours from the three UN mission helicopters, and almost 11,000 kilometres travelled.
D.R. CONGO: EMERGENCY FOOD OPERATION LAUNCHED IN KASAIS
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) and its partner World Vision have launched an emergency operation to provide food assistance to 42,000 people in the Kasai and Kasai Central provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
  • Where safe access is possible, WFP plans to assist 25,000 displaced persons in Kasai Central and 17,000 people in the Kasai province in the coming days.
  • However, WFP urgently requires US$17.3 million to support scale up of its operations to assist 250,000 vulnerable persons in these provinces from September to December 2017.
  • In order to meet the huge needs of the displaced people in hard-to-reach areas, the WFP-led UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) has expanded its support since June, positioning an aircraft in Kananga in Kasai Central on a permanent basis and starting three weekly flights to Tshikapa, Kasai.
  • Scores of people have fled their villages due to the conflict that broke out in the Kasai region in August 2016. According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), there are some 1.4 million internally displaced people across the Kasai provinces. In addition, more than 31,000 people have fled the region into neighboring Angola.
  • With up to 3.8 million people displaced in total, the DRC is home to the largest population of internally displaced people in Africa. The sharp deterioration in people’s food security is mainly attributable to displacement caused by an upsurge in conflict and pest infestation in crops across the country.
  • Meanwhile, in the province of Tanganyika, authorities have started relocating all displaced persons from Kalemie to Mwaka and Kabulo temporary sites, further away from the city. 
  • Humanitarian actors, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), continue to advocate for the application of the Kampala Convention in all actions related to management of internally displaced people, including those housed in the sites around Kalemie.
  • They note the commitment of the Government of the DRC as articulated in a speech yesterday by the Minister of Solidarity and Humanitarian Affairs on his vision for humanitarian action and the speedy transposition of the Kampala Convention, which was ratified by the Government of the DRC on 8 July 2014, formally into the national law.
  • Civilians, displaced by violence, should not be considered a security threat, but a population in need of protection and assistance.
SOMALIA: U.N. HEALTH AGENCY CALLS FOR SUPPORT TO STEP UP RESPONSE TO MEASLES OUTBREAK
  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is appealing for $6.8 million to scale up its response activities to the current measles outbreak in Somalia
  • Somalia is currently facing its worst measles outbreak in 4 years, with over 14,823 suspected cases reported this year. The situation is especially critical for millions of under-vaccinated, weak and hungry children who are more susceptible to contracting infectious diseases. More than 80 per cent of those affected by the current outbreak are children under 10 year of age.
  • The funds would be used to conduct a measles immunization campaign that would reach 4.2 million children. The campaign is set to start in November.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: U.N. MISSION TO ALLOCATE $3 MILLION FOR QUICK IMPACT PROJECTS
  • The UN Mission in the Central African Republic announced today that it will allocate $3 million for quick impact projects in the country in 2017-2018. With this contribution, the Mission will have spent $10 million on these projects since 2014.
  • More than 200 projects have been implemented by the Mission across the Central African Republic. Used to build trust between the Mission and the population, quick impact projects focus on the protection of civilians, social cohesion and the restoration of State authority.
U.N. TREATY TO TACKLE MERCURY POISONING ENTERS INTO FORCE
  • The UN Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into force today.
  • The Convention commits its 74 Parties to reduce the risks to human health and the environment from the harmful release of mercury and mercury compounds.
  • Parties to the treaty are legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout its lifecycle. This includes banning new mercury mines, phasing-out existing ones, and regulating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, manufacturing processes, and the production of everyday items such as cosmetics, light bulbs, batteries and teeth fillings.
  • Entry into force celebrations are taking place in various parts of the world, including today in Beijing, China.
SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS HORST KÖHLER OF GERMANY PERSONAL ENVOY FOR WESTERN SAHARA
  • The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, announced today the appointment of Horst Köhler, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.
  • The new Personal Envoy succeeds Christopher Ross of the United States who completed his assignment on 30 April 2017.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Ross’ tireless efforts and dedication to facilitate negotiations between the parties in order to achieve a just, durable and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
  • Mr. Köhler brings more than 35 years of experience in government and international organizations. He also served as State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Finance (1990-1993) before being appointed President of the German Savings Bank Association (1993). 
  • Mr. Köhler graduated from the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen with a Diploma in Public Economics and Political Sciences in 1969.  He also obtained his doctorate degree in Economics in 1977 and has been an Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen since 2003.
  • Born in 1943, Mr. Köhler is married and has two children.
FRANCE, GHANA LATEST MEMBER STATES TO PAY U.N. REGULAR BUDGET DUES IN FULL
  • France and Ghana have both paid their regular budget dues in full, bringing the total number of UN Member States which have done so to 123.