Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
9 June 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I will start off with a statement on Nepal.
The Secretary-General welcomes the agreement of June 8 on a new constitution for Nepal, a major milestone in the country's democratic development. He applauds the diligent effort and constructive leadership demonstrated by Nepali political leaders in reaching the agreement. This achievement is particularly laudable as it was reached amid challenging circumstances caused by the major earthquakes of April and May.
The Secretary-General encourages all political leaders to take decisive steps to implement the agreement, work on remaining issues and complete the constitution drafting process through inclusive consultation on the broad interest of the Nepali people.
The Secretary-General remains committed to the peace process and the reconstruction in Nepal, and reaffirms the continuing support of the United Nations.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General was today in Tajikistan, where he took part in the opening of the High-Level [International] Conference on the implementation of the International Decade "Water for Life".
He told participants that water's place in the Sustainable Development Goals goes well beyond access to water. We also need to take into account critical issues such as integrated water resources management, efficiency of use, water quality, transboundary cooperation, and water-related ecosystems, and water-related disasters.
While in the capital, Dushanbe, the Secretary-General met with President [Emomali] Rahmon. Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General said that Tajikistan and the UN had a strong record of cooperation stretching back more than two decades. On human rights, he underscored the UN's support for the Government's continued engagement with the Organization's human rights mechanisms — particularly to address key human rights challenges in the country.
The Secretary-General took part in a wreath-laying ceremony for UN staff who have lost their lives in the line of duty and visited the largest dam in Tajikistan, situated in the town of Nurek.
And he also held separate talks separately with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, and he also met with representatives of civil society.
The Secretary-General should now be on his way now to Kazakhstan.
Just to flag what he raised in his meeting with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — the Secretary-General congratulated Dr. Abdullah on the realization of transition processes in Afghanistan and underscored the need to implement a range of reforms, including the rule of law and electoral issues.
The Secretary-General and Dr. Abdullah discussed the development of a comprehensive plan of action to counter violent extremism. They also exchanged views on Afghanistan's relationship with neighbouring countries.
The Secretary-General asked for Afghanistan's support in adopting and achieving the sustainable development goals.
And in his meeting with His Excellency Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Secretary-General stressed the importance of addressing the root causes on the issue of countering terrorism.
The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also discussed relations among countries in the region, including Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. And the Secretary-General emphasized the need for improved relations between Pakistan and India.
Those full readouts are available in my office.
The Security Council, as you know, is meeting on Côte d'Ivoire today. In her statement to the Council, Aïchatou Mindaoudou, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire, said that stability in the country is being progressively maintained and that the economy is growing. She also said that even as political disagreements remain, the political dialogue between the Government and the opposition parties is progressing.
The SRSG stressed that for Côte d'Ivoire, the October presidential election represents an important milestone in the consolidation of the hard-won gains of recent years. In that regard, she said she remained concerned by the lack of equipment among Ivoirian law enforcement and security institutions for the maintenance of public order.
Her statement is available online and she should be at the [media] stakeout shortly.
And on Burundi, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, in Geneva expressed alarm today at the increasingly violent and threatening actions by a pro-government militia in Burundi. He also urged the authorities to take immediate and concrete measures to rein them in.
Detailed testimonies of several refugees interviewed by human rights officers in camps in Rwanda and DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] over the past few weeks describe attacks, beating and threats.
The High Commissioner said that human rights staff in the region have received persistent allegations of collusion between members of the militia, the Imbonerakure, and the official police force and intelligence services.
Zeid also called on opposition leaders to rein in any violent elements that may be forming on their side. And his full statement is available in my office.
And today in Erbil, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O'Brien, met with Kurdistan Regional Government officials, including Prime Minister [Nechervan] Barzani, Deputy Prime Minister [Qubad] Talabani, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Planning, and other senior officials. He met with families at the Darashakran refugee and the Barhaka internally displaced persons (IDP) camps nearby. A full press release will be issued at the end of his visit.
And on Syria, in the framework of the Geneva consultations, the Special Envoy, Staffan de Mistura, met today with a delegation from The Day After Association, led by Murhaf Joueijati, and a delegation from the Cordoba Working Group, led by Mohamed Ahmed Barmou.
Both delegations shared with the Special Envoy their perspectives for a political solution in Syria and discussed the worsening situation on the ground. At the end of the meeting, Mr. de Mistura reiterated his strong conviction that [only] a political solution can address the root causes of the ongoing conflict in a sustainable manner and bring it to an end.
From Yemen, with ongoing fighting and airstrikes, over the past 48 hours, our humanitarian partners in Yemen report that many families have left the affected areas in Sana'a due to damage to homes and fear of continued airstrikes. However, figures related to displacement have not been verified.
Over the past weeks, two vessels carrying supplies to support humanitarian operations arrived at the Port of Hudaydah. These include 7,000 metric tons of food supplies and over 450 metric tons of other aid supplies. In addition, 43,000 metric tons of fuel were delivered by commercial carriers to that port as well as Salif.
Hudaydah seaport is increasingly congested, according to our partners, with long delays due to lack of manpower, fuel and sufficient telecommunications. There are currently at least six ships waiting at sea to dock and off-load, with extended delays posing risks to any perishable goods aboard those aid ships.
Onward distribution from the port remains challenging due to insecurity and restrictions on movement. One humanitarian partner reports that insecurity and fighting postponed implementation of cash transfer programming to 400 families in Hajjah Governorate.
And regarding Libya, as you know, the UN-facilitated dialogue reconvened in Morocco yesterday. The Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernardino Leon, urged participants to begin progress towards national reconciliation, saying that it is time to heal the rift that has divided and torn their country apart, and to put [it] firmly back on the path to democracy.
Speaking to the press today, Mr. Leon said that there is a general sense of hope among the participants but more time is still needed to discuss the details of the latest political draft agreement. The agreement was shared with the parties last night.
He stressed that strong support from the armed groups is needed and that a political agreement will not be successful without it.
Meanwhile, back here, the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, spoke at the eighth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Calling the Convention, which was adopted in 2006, a landmark treaty, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed that the fundamental message then and now is that all human beings are equal and that we constantly have to live up to this assertion of human dignity.
Mr. Eliasson welcomed Member States' focus on mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda. He added that this will help advance our campaign to "Leave No-one Behind".
His full remarks are available in my office.
As you know, at 12:30 p.m. there will be a press conference on this very issue right after the briefing.
This afternoon, the DSG will attend the World Cities Summit in New York, which is hosted, I believe, by Mayor [Bill] de Blasio. The theme of the Summit will be Innovative Cities of Opportunity and we will issue remarks afterwards.
And in a video message to the Special Session of the International Maritime Organization's Maritime Safety Committee, the Secretary-General said that shipping and maritime rescue services are close to being overwhelmed due to the unprecedented increase in people risking their lives at sea, fleeing war, famine, poverty and human rights abuses.
He urged the international community to develop safer and more regular migration pathways as well as to address the factors that force people to risk their lives in this way.
Also on migration, UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] says that record numbers of refugees continue to arrive in rubber dinghies and wooden boats on the island of Lesvos in Greece. So far, this year more than 100,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea.
**Questions and Answers
I believe that's it. Mr. Klein.
Question: Yes. Yesterday, you urged us to look at the details in the report on children in conflict, and in doing so, I noted a paragraph, 111, after recounting various events including the Gaza war last year, there's only a specific reference to actions that the Secretary‑General is urging Israel to take, including reviewing existing policies and practices to protect children, prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protection of hospitals and schools. Why not in a more balanced way, at least, didn't the Secretary‑General urge Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists to stop using schools to store arms, which he acknowledged was taking place earlier in the report, to stop using children as human shields, to stop the military training camps for children in Gaza and elsewhere? Why wasn't there any specific reference to urging Hamas and other Palestinians to take the kinds of steps that he urged Israel to do?
Spokesman: I think… I think that message has been… has been passed on, notably, I think, in the BOI [Board of Inquiry]. There's also been a dialogue obviously in… with Israeli… with the Israeli authorities. So I… you know, I don't think I have anything… I don't have anything to add to what was said in the report, which I think brings to light what happened to the children during the Gaza conflict.
Question: On Burundi, Steph, the opposition parties now are calling for Said Djinnit's resignation. There seems to be a loss of confidence in his continued role as the political facilitator there. Do you have any response to that?
Spokesman: We continue to fully stand behind the Special Envoy and all his efforts he has done and he continues to do in Burundi. He just arrived back in Bujumbura. I understand he will also be making his way later in the week to the African Union Summit to engage with political leaders there. It continues to be a very tense situation in Burundi. We've acknowledged and heard voices from the opposition and others, but I think it's very important that all the parties get behind the efforts of Mr. Djinnit and those efforts are supported by the subregional, regional, and other groups as well.
Question: Steph, questions are being raised about what Mr. Djinnit can really achieve. We have two very staunch opposing views. One, the Government saying the third term is non-negotiable, and you have the oppositional group saying President Nkurunziza needs to go. What reality then is Mr. Djinnit's role? What can he achieve when you have such divergent views on where this process needs to end up?
Spokesman: I think the message to the Burundian parties is for them to rise above their own interests and think of the national interests of the people in Burundi. That's what Mr. Djinnit's efforts are focused on. That's what they will continue to be focused on. Edie and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Libya's elected parliament today rejected the UN proposal to form a unity government. I wonder if… what the Secretary‑General's comment is on this, and it has also banned its delegates from travelling to Germany for further talks.
Spokesman: We've seen those… we've just seen those news reports. The Secretary‑General… we all remain hopeful that the agreement that was presented to the Libyan parties will help the Libyans end the current crisis and rebuild their country in a peaceful and unified manner. But obviously, as the day goes on, we'll hopefully get some more information.
Matthew, then Nizar.
Question: Sure. Several things but I wanted to ask about Burundi. The electoral commission has come out with this date of July 15th, and the opposition says that the conditions aren't right, particularly because the question of, like, will the current President be running at that time or not — it is not decided. You're saying people should follow Mr. Djinnit, be involved in his… in his process, but what is his position on whether Mr. Nkurunziza should be on the ballot on July 15th?
Spokesman: I think the… Mr. Djinnit's work and the Secretary‑General believes that it's urgent for the Burundian parties to reach an agreement that would lead to the right conditions for free, fair and inclusive and peaceful elections. And again, I think, calls on everyone to rise above their interests. The… it will be up to the Burundians to decide on their political future. Mr. Djinnit is working with political parties and civil society for them to create the atmosphere which… through which the political process can move forward.
Question: On this issue of the use, you'd read off Prince Zeid's statement about the youth wing of the ruling party working with police. I wanted… I've asked you several times about individual police officers. I don't know if you have an answer on the second one, but I wanted to ask you yesterday in this room, after the noon briefing the representative the AU to Somalia said 1,000 more Burundian police officers will be deployed in AMISOM beginning June 11th. So I wanted to know, does the UNSOM, the support mission of the UN, is there any human rights due diligence component in that?
Spokesman: I will check with the mechanics of our relationship with on UNSOM with the AU mission in that regard.
As for the person you… you… you raised, that person does not have a job at the UN. Again, I'm sure people from Burundi, police officers from Burundi, and all over the world apply for jobs at the UN. People are screened and screened appropriately. But the person you mentioned does not have a post.
Question: But do you have… the UN has a relationship with the Italian programme that trains them. Is that the case? And do you have any comment on putting the…
Spokesman: Obviously what… I think it's important that people raise these human rights concern, but it's a decision made by the Italian Government.
Question: Stéphane, people who are leaving Hudaydah and other seaports coming to Djibouti complain that everyone, even those who are travelling… they have visas or any nationalities are treated in Djibouti like they are refugees and they are registered there as refugees. Also, they cannot leave the seaport and the camps where they are received unless they have a local sponsor or an embassy to sponsor them. This is making their life very difficult and many people are stranded there for weeks until their formalities are processed. Why is it so?
Spokesman: I will check. I had not heard those reports. But obviously, people who are being displaced because of conflict such as the one we see in Yemen need to be treated with dignity and according to relevant… the relevant international laws.
Question: Is there any update on the progress on Geneva whether it going as planned…
Spokesman: As far as we're concerned, it's still going. Obviously, we're… you know, we're following what is being said publicly throughout the region, but so far we remain… we remain on target for the date of the 14th of June.
Abdelhamid, then Anna, then Evelyn.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I'm going back to the report of children in armed conflict. And as we know, Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, has recommended to the Secretary‑General to include Hamas and Israel. She recommended that. However, the Secretary‑General did not take that recommendation. First, is it common? Is there a precedent that the Secretary‑General does not take the recommendation of those working for him and recommend that? And if so, what explanation… he should give an explanation so it becomes convincing why he didn't follow the recommendations of those who are working for him.
Spokesman: I will answer your question without confirming the premise of your question. Your question, which I've never confirmed here, which I don't think anyone has confirmed. Obviously, like you, I've read what's… what is being written about this whole process with great interest. I think what is clear is that the recommendation of Ms. Zerrougui or any RSG is exactly that. It is a recommendation to the Secretary‑General whose name is on the report. The recommendation of a SRSG is part of a wider process of consultation, of decision‑making, and it remains… the final decision remains with the Secretary‑General. So this is what happened in this case, and this is what happens in a number of cases. There's… there is a discussion. People have a right to disagree. People have different opinions. I think, as I said yesterday, this was a… this was part… this report is the result of a large consultative process. It was not an easy decision report to draft and to issue, but the Secretary‑General stands by it, as does the Special Representative. So it's part of a process, and I don't think it's… it's surprising.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have two questions. The first one is about Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who has been convicted for ten years and to public flogging of 1,000 lashes...
Spokesman: We are…
Question: …just for maintaining a blog.
Spokesman: We understand. On that our colleagues in the political affairs and human rights are looking into these reports into what actually was decided by the court. So as soon as we have something to share on that, we will.
Question: This also caused diplomatic havoc — for example, Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström called this medieval. Is Ban Ki-moon going to make a statement as well?
Spokesman: As I've just said, we're checking the reports and we will get back to you.
Question: Okay. And the second question is about Sudan. Especially the horrific situation in the capital, Khartoum, where a racial situation is escalating and the students have been targeted, the Darfuris — 200 people were detained and the rhetoric is really reminiscent of the rhetoric that's been used in Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. And there are calls for killing students, burning them in their rooms, and so on and so forth. Is UN going to address this somehow, this situation? And…
Question: And which way is this going to go?
Spokesman: I will look into these reports. Obviously, as a matter of principle, we believe in the rights of people to be able to demonstrate freely if the Government should allow them to do so.
Question: Just a little follow‑up. In 1999, an independent report which was commissioned by Kofi Annan found that UN and Member States let down Rwanda in deplorable ways… so we should hope…
Spokesman: Thank you for your statement. I'm well aware of that report. Carol, and then Evelyn, and we'll go that way, on round 1 still.
Question: Stéphane, I just want to follow up on Edie's question about Libya, because the draft was circulated yesterday, and you mentioned a general sense of hope. Can you clarify how… how was it received?
Spokesman: The Libyan draft?
Spokesman: I won't characterize it because I don't have any firsthand information, but obviously we're keeping a close eye on these discussions. Evelyn.
Question: Yes, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are pleading with the Secretary‑General as he goes through Central Asia not to mention human rights in general but to point out some of the political prisoners and the legislation against LGBTs and the… some of the other abuses that… there's a long list, and not letting human rights monitors into the country.
Spokesman: I think the… the Secretary‑General is raising the issue of human rights in all his discussions. The issue of rapporteurs and the need to allow rapporteurs in in every country is a critical one and one that I know he has raised and will continue to raise, and as much as we can share details with you, we will.
Yes, go ahead.
Question: Thank you. I have a question about the report children arms conflict about Iraq in paragraph 74 clearly state that the Shiite militia [inaudible] — they are engaged in killing and also detaining young boys and children. My question is why they are not included in the index? And can you… make more clear like what is the standard to include those groups in…
Spokesman: Again, I think the… as I said yesterday, in a different part of the report, it's important to focus not just on the list but the report as a whole. And I think the body of the report plays a critical role in shedding light and bringing attention to gross violations of human rights on children caught in armed conflict. So I think the report… the report does that.
The criteria of the report, the general guidelines, are outlined in the 2010 report and I can give you those… I can share those with you.
Question: Is it about like the number of…
Spokesman: I would encourage you to look at the criteria.
Luke and then we'll go to round 2.
Question: Thanks, Steph. Scheduling question. Pretty simple, I guess. The SG has attended matches of the men's World Cups in South Africa and Brazil. The women's World Cup is in neighbouring Canada this month and next month. Any plans to do the same?
Spokesman: Not that I'm aware, unfortunately, because I would go with him.
Question: Yes. My question is on this report which we are discussing — Israeli Defense Forces targeted UN schools and killed 44 children. What is it… and… and so on and so forth. What is it that forced Israel… Secretary‑General's hand to take Israel off the list? What is it…
Spokesman: First of all, you know, Masood, we had… we had an extensive discussion yesterday. It's not a matter of who's taken on or off the list. There is a list. It's published in the report and that's the only list that matters.
Question: Yeah but…
Spokesman: Again, I think the report lays out clearly in black and white what happened in Gaza and what happened to the children of Gaza during the Israeli operation there. I think… there's no question about that. In addition, we also had the board of inquiry, which also laid out the facts as the board found them. So I really… I don't have anything more to add than what I've said yesterday.
Who hasn't asked… alright. We'll go to round 2. Go.
Question: Back to Burundi — the Burundian electoral commission has allowanced July 15th or is proposing July 15th as the new date for the presidential election. Given the Secretary‑General's support for the EAC [East African Community] communiqué calling for a six‑week delay, do you believe that is a sufficient delay?
Spokesman: I would… in as much as I would like to answer you, I will let Mr. Djinnit answer you because I know he just got back to Bujumbura and I don't want to preempt…
Question: You have promised Mr. Djinnit before and you've never presented him.
Spokesman: I've made a lot of unfulfilled promises — thank you for pointing that out and I will continue to try through no fault of my own.
Carol, then Anna…
Question: Do you have any news about who is going to lead the external independent…
Spokesman: No, we are hard at work on it… I would very much like to announce something on the soonish end. But I won't make any promise that I will break. Anna.
Question: Yeah. Thank you, Stéphane. I wanted to ask a question about sexual violence in the territories that are controlled by Da'esh. UN Special Envoy on sexual violence Zainab Bangura said this war is being fight on the bodies of women where girls, for example, are being sold just for a pack of cigarettes, and everybody from the experts know that these girls are being used as a bait to attract foreign fighters, so if this stopped, then it would be easier to deal with Da'esh and to stop its activities. What practically UN is going to do about this important issue?
Spokesman: Well, I think, as you rightly pointed out, Ms. Bangura continues to highlight the plight of sexual violence, of women, working with Governments and groups as she is able to. Obviously, the fight against Da'esh is a multidimensional one, one that involves a security response but also one that needs to address the root causes of how young people are recruited, how young men and young women are recruited and what Governments… the source countries in a sense, the Governments of source countries can address… can do to address the issue of the growing number of young people that are going.
Question: Just a little follow‑up. It has also been reported that the UN technical team is going to visit this territory in order to deal with this issue. Do you know when this is going to happen?
Spokesman: I will check.
Question: What kind of issues are going to be addressed?
Spokesman: Mr. Lee and Masood.
Question: I wanted to ask about the Geneva talks on Yemen scheduled to begin on June 14th. The Houthis and others, other political parties in Yemen, are asking to know both what… who… whether all the political parties that took part in the national dialogue are invited, what the allocation of seats are and what the agenda are. It seems that the UN should at least make public…
Spokesman: Those discussions are going on between the Special Envoy and the various parties. Obviously, when the talks start, it will be… things will be clearer. And when we get closer to the date, things will be clearer.
Question: When you say with the parties, obviously, it's hard to believe that a political party that took part in the peace and partnership agreement wouldn't want to go it Geneva.
Spokesman: No, I…
Question: …who won't go.
Spokesman: This is a Yemeni‑led process facilitated by the UN, and these discussions are still ongoing.
Question: One kind of substantive question. Is it viewed as basically President [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi representing the forces of law and order and opposition groups or is it viewed as all of the political parties coming together and deciding how you know to pick up where they left off in March?
Spokesman: It's bringing together the Yemeni political parties without any precondition to restart the political process.
Masood, then Britney, then Abdelhamid.
Question: Secretary‑General met with Pakistani Prime Minister in Dushanbe today.
Question: I just want to know whether the Kashmir issue was brought up because…
Spokesman: I don't know if you came in late. I read out… I read a readout…
Question: Yeah. And the readout…
Spokesman: It talked about the relations between India and Pakistan.
Question: Was the Kashmir issue…
Spokesman: As I said, they discussed the issues of… between India and Pakistan. Britney.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. It seems the majority of the UN press corps is taking sort of a "no Jews no news" approach to the Palestinian situation and the fact that the Palestinian situation in Yarmouk is much worse than the Palestinian situation in Gaza. So I'm wondering how many of the people fighting in Syria, how many groups fighting in Syria are on that list?
Spokesman: I'm sorry. I really… I don't think I heard your question.
Spokesman: I don't… I'm sorry I don't think I heard your question…
Question: You can't hear me?
Spokesman: I can't hear you and I'm not sure I understand the question.
Question: My question is with this argument going back and forth about Israel being put on the list, what about all the multi-fractions fighting in Syria like Da'esh and others over the Palestinian situation in Yarmouk, the desperate situation in Yarmouk?
Spokesman: I think… I'm not going to comment on the first part of your question because that's really not for me to comment. I think people are here, journalists are here express their…
Spokesman: …express their questions and opinions in their questions in a way that is an open and free debate which I strangely enjoy. I would… I would look at the report. It's fairly transparent and the list is… is extensive. So I don't know what else to tell you. Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you. I'm going back to the same report. I'm sorry.
Spokesman: Don't be sorry.
Question: I hope you endure with our questions. Doesn't the UN lose some of its moral edge when they talk about major crimes committed against children? According to the Secretary‑General, he said at least 540 Palestinian children were killed, okay, and between 1… the age of 1 week and 17 years. You talk about these crimes and there is no accountability. And the Secretary‑General always takes pride of pressing this idea of accountability. So don't we… I mean, the UN and the Office of Secretary-General, doesn't he feel he's losing some moral ground when he talks about the crime and the accountability…
Spokesman: I don't agree with you, because I think the words you read out are the word of the Secretary‑General. I think a large part of accountability comes with shedding light on what's happened, whether it's for children in Gaza or in any other part of the region and of the world. And this report is an important step in getting accountability. So on the contrary, I don't believe the Secretary‑General loses any moral authority. Somebody's telling me to stop. Okay. So the… our guests are there. So they're being very patient. And I will be back tomorrow.
Spokesman: Sorry? As soon as it's out I'll share with you.
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