Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 May 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
We will start today with the Secretary-General, who is now on his way back from Europe. He wrapped up a visit to Brussels today.
This morning, he met with Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel. Speaking to the press afterwards, he thanked the Belgian Government for their contributions to the UN, including its support of efforts to promote peace in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He then met with the European Commissioner for Migration and they discussed the plight of migrants risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean and how to address this problem in a comprehensive manner.
The Secretary-General also received an honorary degree from the Catholic University of Louvain. He said that this year's seventieth anniversary of the United Nations is a good moment to reflect on the past, but even more importantly, a time to have a conversation about what we can do to build a better future. His remarks are available online.
Back here, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will brief the Security Council in its consultations this afternoon on the humanitarian situation in Syria. That's expected to be her last scheduled briefing to the Security Council as Emergency Relief Coordinator, and Ms. Amos is expected to speak to you at the stakeout afterwards.
This morning, the Security Council held consultations on the work of the sanctions committee dealing with resolution 1718, which concerns the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and the work of the Sudan sanctions committee.
On Yemen, as we told you, late yesterday, the Secretary-General spoke by phone to President Hadi of Yemen and expressed his concern about the escalation of fighting on the ground and air strikes since the end of the humanitarian pause. The Secretary-General reiterated his firm belief that there is no military solution to this conflict.
The Secretary-General recalled that he had asked his Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to redouble his efforts to consult with the Yemeni Government, Yemen's political groupings and countries in the region with the aim of convening the Yemeni consultations in Geneva at the earliest possible date — opportunity rather.
He appreciated President Hadi's reaffirmation of his commitment to the UN-brokered negotiations and full support for, and participation of his Government in, the Geneva consultations. The Secretary-General hopes that the consultations could resume as early as possible.
I know we have been asked repeatedly about the Special Envoy's whereabouts, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. I can tell you he will be heading to Sana'a by the end of this week for consultations with the parties on the ground. After that, he intends to travel to Riyadh to meet with President Hadi and other key officials.
On Iraq, our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report that since 15 May, more than 85,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have fled Ramadi District, which is an increase of over 18,000 people since 26 May. More than 180,000 families have been displaced from Ramadi since 8 April.
Conditions in locations where internally displaced people are concentrated are cause for concern. At a site outside of Abu Ghraib District in the Baghdad Governorate, sanitation facilities are inadequate and a high incidence of diarrhoea is affecting children under five, according to a humanitarian assessment conducted earlier this week.
The UN and its partners continue to provide shelter, water and sanitation, and food assistance in all areas where displaced people are concentrating.
More information is available from OCHA.
The Deputy Secretary-General spoke at the annual Economic and Social Council Partnership Forum on the post-2015 development agenda earlier today. Speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, Mr. Eliasson stressed that no single entity, nation or organization can solve global problems alone. He said the world needs a new model for problem solving today — one that puts problems at the centre and mobilizes all actors to achieve change.
The Deputy Secretary-General urged the international community to establish inclusive partnerships at all levels — local, national, regional and global — in order to achieve ambitious agendas, including on climate change and sustainable development.
The partnerships will only work if they are transparent, inclusive and accountable, in line with the values and principles of the UN, he added.
On Burundi, the Head of the Political Affairs Department, Under-Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, met with the chargé d'affaires of Burundi this morning.
Mr. Feltman underlined that the Government must take concrete steps to prevent and investigate political violence and killings, as well as violence targeting journalists and other civil society representatives.
He added that there must be more security of the electoral process; security for political and civil society actors; disarmament of armed civilians; strengthening of the national independent electoral commission (CENI); and provisions for the vote of refugees. He also stressed that respect for the Arusha Agreement is key.
Mr. Feltman underlined that the risk of escalation of violence remains and recalled that the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, arrived in Bujumbura today.
In the country, the consultative political dialogue resumed today, under the facilitation of Said Djinnit, the UN Envoy, with all parties being represented.
In a phone call yesterday to the President of [the United Republic of] Tanzania, President [Jakaya Mrisho] Kikwete, the Secretary-General had expressed the hope that this dialogue will be resumed soon and said it was vital that Burundian stakeholders take concrete steps to de-escalate tensions and create an enabling environment for credible legislative elections to take place.
In Mali today, a convoy of the UN Mission in the country hit a mine on the road between Teherdge and Timbuktu. Three peacekeepers were injured, according to the Mission.
The Mission strongly condemns this terrorist act and stresses that mines affect UN personnel and civilians without distinction.
And from South Sudan, another report of peacekeepers being injured; the UN Mission reports new firing outside of its compound in Malakal. One peacekeeper was injured.
The Mission is deeply concerned that despite the reassurances given by both parties such an incident occurred this afternoon, and reiterates its strong call upon all the parties to respect the sanctity of UN installations and staff.
The situation in Mali was also discussed today at a press conference in Geneva by the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Robert Piper.
Mr. Piper said that conflict and displacement have escalated dramatically in the Sahel in the past year. In a little over 12 months, the number of people displaced by conflict — both internal and fleeing across international borders — rose from 1.5 million to 3.6 million people.
More information online with the press conference which was held in Geneva.
Turning to Cyprus, in a statement issued a bit earlier today, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser, Espen Barth Eide, welcomed the latest steps taken by the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders towards fulfilling their joint vision for a united federal Cyprus.
Mr. Eide said both leaders have underlined again their shared will and determination to reach a comprehensive settlement. They have agreed to five concrete steps moving forward, including to work towards opening more crossing points. They have also agreed to make a strong joint appeal on the crucial humanitarian issue of missing persons.
Mr. Eide's statement comes after two weeks of meetings between negotiating teams from both sides. The outcome of their negotiations was then presented to the leaders, and more meetings are expected in June and July.
From Geneva, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, continued his meetings within the framework of the Syria Geneva Consultations today.
Today he met with Dr. Aref Dalila, who shared his views on the situation in Syria and the evolution of the ongoing conflict. They also discussed ways to support Syrian sides in launching a political process.
Mr. de Mistura met with a delegation of Security Council members from Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Spain and Venezuela. They discussed the ongoing political efforts and possible role for the UN.
At the end of today's meetings, the Special Envoy pointed out that the absence of a political solution is complicating the conflict in Syria. He stressed that what is critically needed now is action on the basis of a convergence among all actors before it is too late.
I would also want to flag a new partnership signed today in Budapest between the FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Union of Wholesale Markets aiming at developing best practices for reducing food waste.
Roughly one third of the food produced globally for human consumption — that is approximately 1.3 billion tons, metric billion tons, every year — is lost or wasted, mostly in cities.
The new collaboration aims not only to cut down on food losses and waste, but also to enhance producers' access to markets, improve food handling, and make fresher, safer produce equally available to city consumers.
More information on the FAO's website.
Matthew, I think it was you who asked about who is handling our financial disclosure forms. After a rigorous procurement competition in 2013, the UN selected the firm of KPMG to serve as its external reviewer.
**Noon Briefing Guests
I will be joined in a short while by Jean-Paul Laborde, the Head of the Counter-Terrorism Directorate, to brief you on the latest report.
And immediately after that, we will have Jean-Victor Nkolo, who will be joined by Ahmad Alhendawi, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Youth to brief you.
And lastly: a special shout-out to Matthew Carpenter, I believe it is his last noon briefing today, after a long presence in this briefing. Matthew, I think you are the best dressed correspondent at the UN in this briefing room. We will ask Fashion TV. Matthew, we wish you good luck in the next step of your professional endeavours.
**Questions and Answers
With that, Mr. Klein, Nizar, Mr. Lee, and Luke. Go ahead.
Question: On Burundi, can you clarify what the desired outcome is? You talked about dialogue. Other than tamping down — excuse me — the violence obviously. The political outcome, is it to sway the President not to seek a third term? Is it to buy some kind of power sharing arrangement? What…
Spokesman: I think…
Question: What is the outcome…
Spokesman: The outcome we wish is for a peaceful political process in Burundi in which the Burundian people can choose for themselves their political leader. It will be up to the Burundian people themselves to make those choices. What we want is to ensure that there is an atmosphere and an environment that is conducive to free and fair elections.
Question: There are negotiations going on in Muscat in Oman. I wonder what the United Nations is doing with regard to that. Are you liaising with them? Is there any effort being put in order to expedite such negotiations?
Spokesman: We're aware of what is going on. I will have to check if we are actually represented there.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you about — you gave yesterday the readout — the Secretary-General — the readout of his call with President Hadi. So I wanted to ask you, is the readout by — on the Saudi press agency which says that the Secretary-General expressed the support of the UN for the President, his legitimate leadership, and sincere and wise efforts in leading the political process to achieve Yemen's security and stability. And is that — is that what he expressed?
Spokesman: Well, I think what he expressed is what I said. Obviously, each party is able to — and is free to give its own readout. I don't see anything particularly in what you've mentioned that contradicts…
Question: The wise efforts is what I'm asking —
Spokesman: What I've said: obviously President Hadi is a key player in what is going on and is a key player in the solution.
Question: And also on — thanks for this answer on KPMG and I'm sorry to have to ask a follow-up, but I've seen the bidding. I don't know how extensive the submissions were, but I know that it runs out and it, on paper, expired April 2015. It was a contract to run to do this programme from April 2013 to April 2015. So now that we're in May, is there a new one? Was it just extended?
Spokesman: I can find out.
Question: Thanks, Steph. The UN has partnered with FIFA through the years on sporting initiatives, on development projects in World Cup host countries, and I have two questions. The first, was the UN contacted by the US Department of Justice at any point regarding interactions with FIFA? That, again, is not any sort of implication of wrongdoing, just…
Spokesman: Yeah —
Question: Were they ever contacted?
Spokesman: Obviously, we're watching what's going on in Zurich and other places very carefully. The UN has had a number of different kind of one-time partnerships with FIFA through World Cups and other events where the UN — UN agency — various UN agencies. Those have all been around getting — ensuring that the UN's messages on peace, on tolerance, are seen and heard within these major sports events. They've all been, obviously, pro bono agreements, and I'm not aware that we have been contacted in any way, shape, or form as part of the ongoing — the ongoing investigations of FIFA.
Question: And my second question, I guess, the SG has praised FIFA for spreading the power of sport, the power of sport for change. Is there a sense in his office that for future, one-off partnerships as you call them, that maybe this message should be spread through more grassroots efforts instead of relying on the FIFA brand to spread…
Spokesman: I think we are very much committed to using sport to spread the message on development, on tolerance and other important issues as we have. It is not an exclusive partnership that we have with FIFA. We work both in terms of the organizers of these events, because that's what you need to do, and of course, a lot with grassroots and other civil society organizations through the office of Mr. Lemke, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on sports, peace and development. So it's not as if the UN or its agencies are only working with FIFA. We work with many different sports federations, both on the global level and on the local level.
Go and then the gentleman in the back. And then we'll move to my left.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Regarding Yemen, could you tell us if Mr. Cheikh Ahmed has already been in Tehran since he was assigned or if he has any plan to visit there in the near future —
Spokesman: I believe he has already been in Tehran. We flagged it, yes.
Question: Do you have any full information on the incident in South Sudan where the peacekeeper was injured? Do you have any nationality or any detail?
Spokesman: No, we just got the information shortly before the briefing. I know there's interest. We'll try to get more detail as the afternoon rolls on. You need to press the button.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any plans to reinvigorate the peace process in South Sudan to find a political settlement?
Question: No, reinvigorate.
Spokesman: Obviously, we are — it's something that IGAD [Intergovernmental Authority on Development] continues to be in the lead. We are supportive of that process and I think it is clear to everyone who has seen what has been going on in South Sudan, the violence on the daily basis, the horrendous impact on access to food that we've been flagging, the fact that more than 100,000 people are still being sheltered in UN civilian compounds shows the immediate need for both the President and the opposition to sit around the table and put their differences aside and agree on a political settlement.
Question: So this is going to be my last noon briefing question.
Spokesman: Never say last.
Question: Never say last. Okay. A recent report by the Secretary-General after civil war in Syria for five years says that the people in Syria are losing hope. And I was wondering, what does the Secretary-General have to say to the Syrian people as representing the UN system about the hope that they are losing after this brutal five-year process?
Spokesman: I think — you know, the Secretary-General has very much in his heart the suffering of the Syrian people. He has spoken out repeatedly about what is going on in Syria. We have been talking about it here. Valerie Amos has been one of the most eloquent people in talking about the suffering of the Syrian people. He understands why they may, in fact, feel that way, and that is one of the main motivators to why we keep pushing the political process. The political solution is the only solution. And in the face of long odds, we're continuing on that road and we're continuing with those efforts.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The 139 graves uncovered in people smuggling camps in northern Malaysia appear to hold only one body each; the Malaysian minister said it's not together but one by one they find the grave [inaudible]. And the 17 members of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), they will meet on this issue with the support of the United Nations on Friday, but I'm wondering if Bangladesh is invited or not as Bangladesh is not member of ASEAN.
Spokesman: That's a question for ASEAN. It's a meeting — we may have people there but it's a meeting organized by ASEAN. The issue of migration that we've been seeing in that part of the world is one that demands a regional solution. I think all the countries that are implicated, whether they're origin countries, transit countries or destination countries, need to sit around the table and come up with a solution.
Nizar, then Mr. Lee.
Question: Yeah. The Israeli Justice Minister has presented a law that will convict any child throwing a stone at Israeli occupation soldier to five-year, full five-year jail sentence. How does the United Nations view such a law?
Spokesman: I haven't seen that report. I will take a look.
Evelyn, then Matthew.
Question: I was a bit confused about your — what you said about FIFA. What are you going to do now and in the future? Still have the partnership —
Spokesman: Well, I think obviously we're very much taking a look at the existing partnerships and how the situation evolves, but I think it's early days, but we're keeping a close eye on it.
Question: Great. Thanks a lot. I want to ask you about Gambia and also about fraudulent degrees, not related. On Gambia, there's a report out that since the attempted coup at the cusp of the year, President Yahya Jammeh has arrested not only the accused coup plotters but also their family members, including a child and elderly people, and so it's pretty well documented by Human Rights Watch. And I know that DPA [Department of Political Affairs] was — Mr. [Mohamed Ibn] Chambas maybe did go at one point. Mr. Feltman was going to go. What follow-up has there been since by the UN on non-retaliation after the coup, and what's the response of children being arrested…
Spokesman: I will take a look at those reports. Obviously, we stand against any sort of extrajudicial arrests and harassment, especially of minors, but I will see what else we can say in terms of the political involvement.
Question: Okay. Thanks. And on the degree question, there's been a pretty… an exposé and now prosecution in Pakistan by a company called Axact, with an A. Basically they were selling degrees purporting to be based in the US and it's given rise to secondary investigations all over the world, and so I wondered since — given that the UN system there's such a focus on qualifications and degrees for promotions, has anyone — has this given rise to any review within the UN system itself on reliance on such degrees for this?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any. I would assume that everyone who works here is truthful in the academic credentials they have.
Question: No, some — some people claim to have been victimized —
Spokesman: I understand ‑‑
Spokesman: I understand. I'm not aware of any.
Spokesman: I will go get…
Question: One last question? The Foreign Minister of Yemen today, Riyadh Yaseen, today said that the whole purpose of Geneva conference on Yemen will be to find out the mechanism how to implement 2216.
Spokesman: I think the goal of Geneva is for the Yemeni parties to gather around the table without preconditions and to stop the suffering of the Yemeni people. We're seeing — I mean, we've been talking about this daily, flagging it: a lack of access to health care, to food, to shelter, no fuel to distribute what little aid there is, rising temperatures in the middle of summer, destruction of civilian infrastructures. Every day that there is no political solution, every day that there is no pause, more people die and more people suffer.
Question: Is your Envoy sending the same — conveying the same message to the Yemeni Government?
Spokesman: What the Envoy wants to do is do exactly that, bring people around the table and find a political solution.
I will go get Mr. Laborde, and then after that, we will have Ahmed and Jean-Victor. I will be right back.
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