Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 July 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
In just a few minutes, I am going to be joined by John Ging, the Operations Director for OCHA [Office of the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs], who will be here to brief you on his recent trip to Nepal. And then after you're done with me and John Ging, there will be a press conference here by the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia, which is being chaired by the European Union.
I will start off with a statement by the Secretary-General on South Sudan, whose Independence Day, as you know, will come tomorrow. And this is in the first person in the Secretary-General's words.
Four years ago, I stood in Juba with masses of proud citizens and watched the flag rise for the first time over the newest member state of the United Nations, South Sudan. I will never forget the sense of joy and hope. Those memories are all the more painful to recall today as we mark the fourth anniversary of a country where hope is in short supply. The South Sudanese people face suffering, unconscionable levels of violence and unspeakable sexual abuse. Instead of the progress and development for which we all hoped and in which the international community invested, more than 1.6 million people have been displaced, including over 150,000 now seeking refuge in UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] protection sites. Some 4.6 million face severe food insecurity and over 600,000 have been forced to flee into neighbouring countries.
The violence that has ravaged South Sudan over the past 18 months proves that there can never be a military solution to this conflict. I, therefore, call on all leaders of South Sudan — particularly President [Salva] Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar — to prove their leadership by investing in a political solution and immediately concluding a comprehensive peace agreement. At the same time, the international community must take decisive steps to help end the fighting. Political leaders on both sides must make unequivocal public statements that the targeting of civilians will not be tolerated. All parties to the conflict must know that those responsible for serious human rights violations will be held accountable for their actions.
Brave and dedicated humanitarian workers and United Nations staff continue to operate in dangerous and dire conditions. I demand that the parties respect international humanitarian law and ensure unfettered access to those in need. I reaffirm the commitment of the United Nations to support a political solution in South Sudan while continuing to make every effort to provide vulnerable populations with protection and humanitarian assistance. I commend the efforts by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development and the African Union to prevail upon the parties to forge a political solution. It is important that we show the parties a single way forward, with the full support of the region and the international community. Peace, development and human rights are the birth-right of all the people of South Sudan. The promise of a new nation that they celebrated four years ago must finally be redeemed. That statement is online.
I have another statement on the talks between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives, saying that the Secretary-General welcomes the direct talks held yesterday between Afghan Government and Taliban representatives in Pakistan. He reiterates his support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. He expresses his appreciation for the commitment of the parties and the constructive role of the host, Pakistan.
And there is also a statement from the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMA) in Afghanistan also supporting the talks and the Special Representative, [Nicholas] Haysom adds that the Afghan people want an end to the pervasive violence that continues to affect every aspect of their lives. He added that the talks should be recognized as an outcome of recent efforts aimed at rebuilding relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. That statement is on UNAMA's website.
The Secretary-General is, as you know, currently in the Norwegian Arctic zone, on board the research vessel RV Lance. In the run-up to the Paris Conference, the Secretary-General is receiving briefings from scientists and observing first-hand the effects of climate change on the region, which he previously visited in 2009. The visit today includes an excursion to a Norwegian glacier, Blomstrandbreen, to see the dramatic changes to the ice, as well as briefings at the Kings Bay Marine Lab and the Svalbard Satellite Station.
And the Secretary-General will leave New York on Saturday, 11 June, for the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This Conference will gather high-level political representatives, including Heads of State and Government, and Ministers for Finance, Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, as well as all relevant institutional stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and business sector entities. It will result in an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome, which should constitute an important contribution to the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda.
The Secretary-General will address the opening of the Conference on Monday [13 July], and participate in several side events organized by UN-Women, the Global Financing Facility (GFF) and the World Bank, among others. While in Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General is also scheduled to meet with the Ethiopian Prime Minister [Hailemariam Desalegn], as well as several other Heads of Governments and States and senior officials attending the Conference. And you received a full briefing on the Conference yesterday from the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.
Meanwhile, back here, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke about the Srebrenica genocide at the Security Council meeting a short while ago. He said that the genocide there was one of the darkest chapters in recent history, noting that the United Nations has acknowledged its responsibility for failing to protect the people who sought shelter and relief in Srebrenica. The Deputy Secretary-General said that since then, the UN has worked in many ways to implement the recommendations made in subsequent reports that identified the mistakes by both the Organization by the wider international community.
He also said that the Security Council has a central role to play, adding that we see today how situations can deteriorate and get out of control when the Security Council is divided. The carnage in Syria has undoubtedly taken a toll on the reputation and standing of the Council and of the United Nations. The Deputy Secretary-General also said that he will travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina to represent the Secretary-General at the commemoration on 11 July, marking 20 years since the Srebrenica genocide, and to honour the victims. Also speaking at the meeting was the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein, and as you know, the draft resolution, put to the Council, failed to pass.
At 3 p.m., Sigrid Kaag, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, will brief the Security Council on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006). And she is looking forward to speaking to you at the stakeout afterwards.
And in a statement, Stephen O'Brien, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, voiced his continuing worries about the humanitarian situation unfolding across Yemen, where more than 3,260 people have been killed and nearly 1.3 million people have been displaced since March. He noted reports in recent days of attacks on a kindergarten housing refugees in Aden and markets in Lahj, Amran and Hajjah, and firing of rockets fired in civilian neighbourhoods in Aden. If these reports are verified, they give an indication of a clear disregard for human lives by the parties to this conflict and the emptiness of statements of concern.
Mr. O'Brien calls on all parties to agree to an immediate and unconditional humanitarian pause across the country. Civilians must be allowed to move to safer areas without fear of attack and humanitarian agencies must have safe and unhindered access so that they can treat the wounded, and deliver life-saving treatment and supplies in any areas where fighting is ongoing. He added that without full, immediate and unimpeded access to ports, and sufficient funding, aid agencies cannot provide the critical help that tens of millions of people need. And that statement is online.
And we also issued a statement yesterday afternoon on behalf of the Secretary-General, condemning the recent violent attacks by Boko Haram against civilians in Nigeria and some neighbouring countries.
And on Gaza, Pierre Krähenbühl, the Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [in the Near East] (UNRWA), said that, one year after the devastating Gaza conflict that claimed more than 1,500 civilian lives, the root causes of the conflict remain unaddressed. He said that 315 days after the ceasefire took effect, not a single totally destroyed house, of which there are over 12,000, has been rebuilt. This leaves some 120,000 people homeless. Coming in addition to high levels of unemployment and lack of prospects for Gaza's youth, this situation represents a time-bomb for the region, said the Commissioner-General
Mr. Krähenbühl called for a lifting of the blockade, ensuring rights and security for all, allowing increased exports from Gaza to stimulate economic recovery and freedom of movement for civilians. While some steps have been taken in recent weeks, he said, they fall far short of what is needed to bring about fundamental change in the lives of the population. His full statement is available on the UNRWA website.
**Democratic People's Republic of Korea
And our colleagues at the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, warned today that children are already suffering as a result of drought in some parts of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and many more may be at serious risk of malnutrition and disease if this continues. UNICEF personnel recently met with local health officials in impacted provinces who confirm reports of significant increases in diarrhoea among children, with the absence of rain threatening access to safe water and sanitation. Rainfall figures and information from humanitarian agencies says the Government indicated that parts of the country are already facing serious drought. More information on UNICEF's website.
And today we say thank you to our friends in Accra, as Ghana becomes the 105th Member State to pay its regular budget dues in full. And thank you again to our Ghanaian friends.
Tomorrow, a press conferences — ahead of Friday's International Ebola Recovery Conference, hosted by the Secretary-General, at 3 p.m. in this very room, there will be a press conference by Dr. David Nabarro, Special Envoy on Ebola, and Sunil Saigal, the Principal Coordinator of Ebola Response for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) — 3 p.m. here.
**Outer Space Affairs
Tomorrow, you, members of the press, are invited to visit the opening day of a new exhibition entitled "My Planet from Space: Fragility and Beauty" in the Visitors Lobby of the General Assembly building. Through satellite images and videos, the exhibition demonstrates the beauty and fragility of our planet and the challenges posed by climate change. The exhibition has been coordinated and produced by the European Space Agency and realized in close partnership with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, which is based in Vienna. Representatives of those bodies and the curator of the exhibition will be present throughout the day tomorrow to give visiting press a tour of the exhibit and to answer questions. If you have questions and need more information, there are flyers in my office. And that's it. Nizar?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane, thank you. There are reports coming from Hadramawt Governorate in Yemen that 350 soldiers — 100 at least of them — perished after attack by Saudi Air Force by mistake, they have mentioned. Others say it was a mutiny against [Abd Rabbuh Mansour] Hadi. Do you have any statement on that? And what's happened regarding truce or a pause in fighting over the rest of the Ramadan?
Spokesman: I think as you can see, as we all can see, and as most unfortunately the civilians trapped in this conflict can see, we have yet to see a humanitarian pause. We've yet to see a cessation of the violence. I think the… I would refer you to the very strong words of the UN humanitarian coordinator, Mr. O'Brien, who underscores a continuing suffering of the Yemeni people and again calls on all the parties to declare a unilateral humanitarian pause. On the first part of your question, I have no specific information on that incident. Yes, Mr. Ali?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. On Afghan talks, did the UN have any contribution in promoting this high‑level contact between Afghan officials and the representatives of the Taliban?
Spokesman: My understanding is these were hosted by Pakistan, and we are, of course, through the UN Mission in Afghanistan, very much supportive of those efforts. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: [Inaudible] …20 years ago. I'll start again. Sorry, about that. He said the deeper lessons for the UN are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. Our inability to anticipate events so prevalent then is still with us today. For preventive diplomacy, the General Assembly awarded only about less than $2 million for the Political Affairs department. Is the Secretary‑General concerned about this?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General would be keen to see, obviously, more resources given to our preventive diplomacy efforts. We are doing quite a bit with the resources we have been granted, and I think, as the High Commissioner said and, you know, to an extent, echoed by the Deputy Secretary‑General, I think the events in Srebrenica and the mistakes that were made still remain, as High Commissioner said, very relevant today. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Two questions about the Srebrenica and Bosnia. The first one is, as you know, the UK resolution has failed past the Security Council. What's the UN position about… any comments from the UN about this? And the second one, 7,000 victim… 7,000 Bosnians are still missing from the 1995 events. What does the United Nations has done so far to help the especially families of those victims who are missing to have an answer for their loved ones? Thank you.
Spokesman: Yes, the resolution failed to pass. As you noted, I think listening to the speeches that were delivered, I think we did see from all parties a solidarity with the victims of Srebrenica. The Security Council is obviously master of its own work. And I think the Secretary‑General has always said and has always encouraged that there would be unity of the Security Council, and as we said, we can see what happens when there is unity on the Council. And I think he's always deplored when we have seen a lack of unity on the Security Council, especially on the issues of peace and security. It is critically important for the families of the victims to have some sense of closure, if that word is even appropriate. And I know we are doing all we can to support the victims. There continues to be work on trying to find remains, and we would call on all the parties involved to support those efforts. And that also involves obviously all the work done by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Stefano?
Question: Yes. On Srebrenica, well, at least… even if the resolution didn't pass, at least we heard the voice… the word "genocide" repeated many times by the Deputy Secretary‑General, and also by the High Commissioner for Human Rights. But, in reading and listening and reading the statements, at least for me, I want to just give you some of the same. There is a kind of imbalance in the sense that the Deputy Secretary‑General's statement looks like, you know, there was a horrible mistake done by the UN, but we learned and also we clarify… we find out what happened, and we learned from those mistakes. It looks from the statement of… of Hussein is instead a little bit more… I would say not little bit, actually much more pessimistic, and it sounds like that the mistakes that were done can happen again. And I want to know, what is your impression about it? You always have… the Secretary‑General, he has something to do with this imbalance.
Spokesman: I think the work of analysing speeches is best left to journalists. I think both the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Deputy Secretary‑General, I think, spoke very strongly on the genocide that happened in Srebrenica. I think both the High Commission… they come from… you know, from slightly different perspectives. I would not… I think both… I think the Deputy Secretary‑General, I think, in his words said, yes, we have learned from our mistakes, but if you look at the speech, he clearly states that there are many challenges that plague the UN in Srebrenica remain very true today. So, it is, I think… the speech is one about recognizing the genocide and also about remaining vigilant in order to prevent future genocides. Yes? And then Evelyn.
Question: Stéphane, could you please elaborate on what is standing or what are the obstacles regarding the rebuilding of Gaza, why it's not happening one year after?
Spokesman: I think the challenges are multifaceted. One is the continued closure of Gaza. Obviously, we continue to call both on Israel and Egypt to be much more open in order to let people and goods in. We have a reconstruction mechanism which was agreed upon in Cairo, which is working, but obviously, we'd like to see a lot more construction materials go in, clearly. There's also the political situation within Gaza, and I think, the lack of movement on the peace process itself between Israel and Palestine, and of course, the lack of funding. I think there is a tremendous lack of funding… of realization of the cash that was promised at the Cairo summit that has not come into being.
Question: Sorry, a follow‑up question. Is there a list then of the countries that promised to donate…?
Spokesman: There is. I can give you… not off the top of my head, because the space in there is rather limited, but there is a website run by the World Bank which shows you the pledges and all of that, so I'll find that for you and share that with you. Evelyn, Joe, then Matthew.
Question: Listening to the Srebrenica debate today, I wonder, do you think that the Dayton Accords need to be looked at again? Because the Republika Srpska seems to have veto rights over anything that happens in that triumvirate government. And just secondly, an aside, in your office, can one find out how many days and how many countries the [Secretary-General] has travelled to?
Spokesman: Sure. I think we keep pretty good track of that. You know, obviously, I think it's important on all the political leaders in Bosnia Herzegovina to work collectively and to live up to the accords that were signed. Mr. Klein, Mr. Lee, and then we'll go to round two.
Correspondent: Okay. In your response to the prior question on Gaza, you enumerated a number of factors, if you will, holding up reconstruction. I didn't hear you call out Hamas and their continued stockpiling or re-stockpiling of rockets and other weapons, some of the rockets being used recently launched against Israel. And the fact is that, in an interview just last month, Palestinian Authority President [Mahmoud] Abbas himself said that Hamas was not living up to its agreements with the Palestinian Authority and disrupting attempts to establish, not only the unity government, but to rebuild Gaza. So I'm wondering why you left that out.
Spokesman: Joe, I think the list… the list… I did not claim the list to be exhaustive. The rocket firing has been condemned and condemned clearly by the Secretary‑General. But, I did mention the political situation within Gaza, as well.
Correspondent: Well… but you didn't… you focused in part on the continuing what you call blockade, although humanitarian aid even went into Gaza during the war last year, and it's been opened up since for reconstruction materials, but you… but…
Spokesman: As I said… as I said, Joe, the list was not exhaustive. The issue of rockets have been condemned…
Correspondent: No, it's not just the rockets, if I may, because the issue of the blockade is linked to Israel's concerns about smuggling of arms that has been continuing from Iran and other sources.
Spokesman: I think we could debate this for quite a while. I think all of the issues which I enumerated which, again, are not… is not an exhaustive list are all interlinked. The bottom line is that we need to see progress for the sake of the people of Palestine, for the sake of the people of Israel, on the peace process and that the parties need to return to the negotiating table. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. In the Srebrenica debate just now, Prince Zeid said the UN must be resolute. Had this been in the case in Sri Lanka in 2009 or now in Sudan, Syria, Central African Republic or even Burundi and Myanmar, the consequences would have been different. I have questions about a number of those countries, but I wanted to ask you, on Burundi, where he says "even Burundi", I wanted to know, one, does the UN have any response now that the ruling party has announced its whopping win on 29 June? And, two, people are coming forward with names of victims and names of alleged killers, including victim Serge Bizimana, and they say police officer [inaudible] killed him. They have a picture of him… you know, corpse. I'm just wondering: What is the UN doing on the ground to… either to look into these cases after the fact or prevent them going forward?
Spokesman: Well, I think on… on the political situation, as I said yesterday, we fully support the work of the facilitation, which will now be led by Mr. [Yoweri] Museveni. And obviously, the Secretary‑General fully supports the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, his team, and the human rights situation in Burundi is of concern, as we've often stated.
Question: But, just one follow‑up. If… if as the report that was read out from this podium last week was that the elections held on 29 June didn't have the conditions of fairness or freedom and… so what's your response to the results that are announced? Does the UN recognize those results?
Spokesman: It's not up to the UN to recognize or not recognize the results. We did not participate in the election, as I understand it. It is clear that all Burundian parties need to support the facilitation to create the right political atmosphere.
Question: What was MENUB (United Nations Electoral Mission in Burundi] doing if not participating and observing? I mean, there's this…
Spokesman: I understand. I do not believe they were involved in these particular elections. Nizar?
Correspondent: On Srebrenica, the issue of genocide, recently, there was genocide in Iraq against the Yazidis and Christians in Nineveh and other areas. However, most of the speakers mentioned Syria, including Mr. [Jan] Eliasson and Prince Zeid Ra'Ad Al Hussein, not to mention about what happened in Iraq. I think what happened there is, it merits to be considered as genocide and ethnic cleansing. Also, the ongoing genocide in Palestine since 1948 even before that… there are many genocides that have happened.
Spokesman: Genocide is a legal term, is a term that needs to be designated by a legal entity, as it was in Srebrenica by the International [Criminal] Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. I think if you look at the Deputy Secretary‑General's speech, he mentions the atrocious crimes that are taking place today in Iraq, South Sudan, and elsewhere. Extremist groups like ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham], Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab are seemingly competing in brutality with the aim of spreading fear and division among populations. So, I think the Deputy Secretary‑General's speech speaks for itself.
Question: What happened in Gaza in the last few years, doesn't that amount to genocide?
Spokesman: Again, I think… We have not… I think there's been no lack of reporting on what has happened in Gaza over the last year and beyond. And, again, the use of the word "genocide" is one that needs to be made by a legal entity. Mr. Abbadi and then…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I asked a question about this matter before. When would the Secretary‑General send the report of the investigative committee on the death of Dag Hammarskjöld? Is he taking long to formulate his recommendations?
Spokesman: It's been sent to the General Assembly.
Question: Beg your pardon?
Spokesman: It was sent to the General Assembly.
Question: When was that?
Spokesman: Monday? Yeah, I wasn't here. Monday. We announced it from this podium. Yes, Carmen?
Question: Thank you. You mentioned the political situation within Gaza that's keeping also among other matters or situations the flow of goods into Gaza. Can you tell us what the political situation is, please?
Spokesman: Well, I think the Secretary‑General and the UN has supported the efforts to build a government of national consensus. And I think it's important that those efforts continue. Matthew, and then we'll go to Mr. Ging.
Correspondent: Okay. Got a few here, but I'll try… okay. This is maybe the most…
Spokesman: Do two out of three.
Question: Oh, great. Excellent. I'll weld the two. It has to do with that panel on the Central African Republic sexual abuse allegations. I'd asked you before whether Mr. [Hassan Bubacar] Jallow, who's on the panel, had been investigated in the past by OIOS [Office for Internal Oversight Services]. I guess the answer was that they were not going to say it. Now, I guess, I want to ask you directly because the Government Accountability Project, GAP, has raised not only that structural problem, but has asserted in writing, in the Huffington Post, that Mr. Jallow was twice investigated by OIOS for retaining UN funds improperly or incorrectly, let's say, for a son's tuition fees and once for travel which never occurred, and he kept the money until OIOS ordered it to be returned. Given that he was investigated by OIOS and that the subject matter to be looked at by the panel is OIOS, what do you say to those who say it's ludicrous for him…?
Spokesman: I think Mr. Jallow is a legal scholar, a judge of the utmost quality. I think he's proven it again and again, his work in the ICTR [International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda]. Again, the issue of people who are looked into by OIOS is a matter… is a confidential personnel issue. And again, the panel is not investigating OIOS. It is looking at the UN's response as a whole. And, again, we very much stand by the choice of Mr. Jallow and look forward to him parting in the panel.
Correspondent: With all due respect to his legal qualifications, I'm just saying, in almost any other legal setting, this would be viewed as a conflict… just… not as something to step aside for.
Spokesman: Well, I… you know, I think… we're assuming… we're assuming allegations as facts here. Hold on. Let's go… we'll go to Linda and then Nizar, and then I will go to Mr. Ging, as threatened.
Question: Thank you, Steph. This is a question regarding ISIS. We know that efforts by the West and countries in the region have been going on for months in the effort to defeat ISIS. I was wondering if the Secretary‑General's view on these efforts has evolved over time. And does he see perhaps any kind of role for himself and also a role for the UN?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General's view on the fight against extremist terrorist groups like ISIS, Da'esh, or others is that obviously there is a military and security component that needs to be acted upon. But, one needs a very holistic approach in terms of looking at the root causes of terrorism, looking at the root causes of what encourages young people, some of whom have no economic opportunities to join and others who come from countries where they have economic opportunities, and I think he's done quite a lot of work with faith leaders and others to look at the recruitment of youth extremists. It has to do with governance. It has to do with economic opportunities. So, the fight against extremist groups has to be holistic and not just focused on security and military. And when that security and military approach is taken, one has to be very careful that all of that is done within the parameters of international law.
Question: This is related… my question is related. In the aftermath of the suicide massacre done by ISIS in Tunisia, the Tunisian authorities ordered the closure of 80 mosques that are teaching Wahabi or Salafi faith. How does United Nations view that? And also declaring emergency law, does that address the [inaudible] in your opinion?
Spokesman: You know, one has to… the Tunisian people, Tunisians have suffered quite a bit recently from terrorism. It is the Government's responsibility to do what it can and what it should do to fight terrorism. As I said, part of that approach obviously needs to be a security approach. But there needs to be a holistic approach. I'll leave… Nizar…
Question: But… a follow-up on that…
Spokesman: I'll… Nizar, I'll leave it at that. I need to get Mr. Ging. Thank you.
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