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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

16 July 2015

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Just as a reminder that the UN will be closed tomorrow to mark Eid [al-Fitr].

**Financing for Development

In a statement we issued this morning, the Secretary-General said, and I quote, "I congratulate the Member States of the United Nations on the adoption of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the far-reaching outcome of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa."

He said that the [Addis Ababa] Action Agenda is a major step forward in building a world of prosperity and dignity for all.  It revitalizes the global partnership for development, establishes a strong foundation for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda, and points the way for smart investments in people and the planet where they are needed, when they are needed and at the scale they are needed.

The Secretary-General noted that Addis conference was the first of three milestones for the year 2015.  Member States have now passed this first hurdle, and now we must work ever harder for a successful Summit on sustainable development in September in New York and, of course, climate change agreement in Paris in December of this year.  

Let us keep the ambition high and work to realize the great potential of 2015 to be a year of transformation in leaving no one behind and ensuring the lives of dignity for all, he said.

The full statement is available online.

**Haiti

And this morning, in the Trusteeship Council, UN officials and the Prime Minister of Haiti, Evans Paul, joined Member States to gather support for Haiti's upcoming elections.

Starting August 9th, almost 6 million Haitians will choose local and municipal administrations and parliamentarians, and they will also elect their President.

The head of the UN Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), Sandra Honoré, said that the international meeting was a major opportunity to reaffirm the common commitment to democratic consolidation and solidarity with the aspirations and hopes of the Haitian people.

And the Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jessica Faieta, said that it was important for Haiti's international partners to continue to lend generous support to the country's democratic process.  She noted that this is equally crucial to recognize the work of the Government of Haiti in ensuring that its institutions can fully take charge of the elections.

During the event, Brazil, Canada, Norway and the United States made important contributions to help close the current funding gap for Haiti's upcoming elections.  Prime Minister Evans Paul of Haiti also announced that his Government's commitment to provide an additional $16 million to fund political parties and further boost electoral security.

**Somalia

And earlier this morning in the Security Council, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Edmund Mulet, briefed the Security Council on the Joint African Union–UN Review Mission for Somalia.

Highlighting the Secretary-General's recommendations, Mr. Mulet said that despite the progress made towards achieving the benchmarks endorsed by the Security Council in 2013 in resolution 2124, which increased the AMISOM troop ceiling, a UN peacekeeping mission at this time would be a high-risk undertaking.  The Secretary-General has urged the Council to adjust the benchmarks, including political progress and the threat level, to better adapt them to the evolving situation in the country.

His remarks are available in my office.

**Darfur

And meanwhile, the African Union–UN Mission in Darfur, UNAMID, has expressed serious concern over reports of escalating tensions and clashes between the Reizegat and Habaniya tribes earlier this week, south-east of Nyala, in South Darfur.

The fighting, according to the Mission, was allegedly triggered by a cattle rustling incident.  The Mission strongly urges the leaders and members of both tribes to exercise maximum restraint, engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve their disputes and refrain from all acts that would lead to further intensification of violence, loss of lives and potential displacement.

The Mission is closely monitoring the situation and continues to do its utmost to facilitate and support all efforts to de-escalate the situation.

**Central African Republic

And from the Central African Republic, the UN Mission in the country (MINUSCA) and the Humanitarian Coordinator there have welcomed the start of return, earlier this week, of displaced people to Berberati in Mambéré-Kadéi prefecture.  That's in the west of the Central African Republic.

Babacar Gaye, the head of the Mission, said that it sent a strong message to those who work to promote national reconciliation and social cohesion.  The Humanitarian Coordinator [Aurélien Agbénonci] called it a positive development.

**Yemen

And an update on the humanitarian situation in Yemen: the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is extremely concerned about the continuing situation in Aden, with the water supply in Khur Maksar District severely damaged and hospitals across the city receiving large numbers of casualties.  Many houses have been damaged and residents are in need of emergency shelter.  And availability of food is also extremely limited.

Humanitarian agencies have serious concerns about the welfare of more than half a million people in the city who have lost, or may soon lose, access to water, food and medical care.  The threat of further disease outbreaks is high, such as cholera and measles.

Residents of Aden have suffered the impact of the violence since March, with the collapse of vital health services and loss of access to water, electricity, food supplies, schooling and livelihoods.  Diesel, essential for the main water supply and generator power for hospitals and clinics, is unavailable in Aden.  Humanitarian partners have been trucking water to hospitals and clinics.  

OCHA says that more than 5,000 Aden residents have been killed or injured since March, and hundreds of thousands displaced, including 185,000 people within the city.

**Syria

And regarding Syria, the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, visited Ankara yesterday, where he met with the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey [Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioğlu].  Mr. de Mistura conveyed his appreciation for the substantial effort by Turkey in welcoming and hosting a large number of Syrian refugees.  

The Special Envoy also stressed the importance of the contribution of the regional countries to a political solution in Syria.  He also underscored an urgent need to find ways to end the bloodshed in that country.

**Lebanon

And the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, followed her briefing to the Security Council last week by meeting a wide range of officials in Lebanon, including the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament and leaders of key political parties, and also met with the ambassadors of concerned countries.

The Special Coordinator conveyed the message of the Security Council that the prolonged presidential vacancy remains a cause of concern, particularly as it undermines Lebanon's ability to address the security, economic and social challenges it faces.  She stressed that it is essential that Lebanon's institutions are able to function effectively to meet these challenges.​

**Food

A couple of items from agencies:

The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) has teamed up with the European Union to launch new programmes to boost food and nutrition security and sustainable agriculture in some 35 countries around the world.  

FAO says that despite progress made in recent decades, some 800 million people in the world still go hungry and millions more do not have access to healthy diets.  An increasing number of people have also been impacted by food crises, often resulting from conflicts, natural disasters, climate change, and food price volatility — more information on FAO's website.

**Vaccines

And lastly, new data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF shows that that number of countries reaching and sustaining 90 per cent coverage of children with routine life-saving vaccinations has doubled since 2000.

Today, 129 countries now immunize the majority of their children with the required 3 doses of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis containing vaccines, otherwise known as the DTP3.

And more information is available on the World Health Organization website.

**Press Conference Monday

And just to note at 1:15 p.m. on Monday, after our briefing, there will be a briefing in this room organized by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia on Gaza.

**Questions and Answers

Nizar.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  With regard to Aden, I mean, the situation you're describing about no water in Khur Maksar and others applies to most of Yemeni cities and towns.  Also, people are in deserts everywhere, scattered, those who lost their houses.  What makes the… OCHA issue a statement only on Khur Maksar specifically?  Sa'ada has been totally demolished.

Spokesman: I think, you know, this is… the fact that we focused on Aden today no… in no way diminishes the suffering that the Yemeni people are suffering from around the country in other cities, as you point out.  Our colleagues at OCHA get… routinely get updated information from their colleagues in the field.  This is what they received today.  Obviously, our ability to report what's going on in the field is hampered, to say the least, by the continued fighting.

Question:  Regarding the efforts in… for a pause especially now Eid is here, what's happening with…

Spokesman:  Sorry.  Say again.

Question:  The endeavours by the Secretary‑General to… and his envoy to arrange ceasefire or a pause, a humanitarian pause, what has arrived? 

Another thing, the Security Council, are they doing anything… are they considering anything in this respect?

Spokesman:  That's a question for the presidency of the Council.  Our contacts are continuing the… at various levels.  Our message is the same to the parties, that they need to respect the humanitarian pause. 

Every day we talk about the catastrophic humanitarian situation.  I think those were very strong words from Stephen O'Brien yesterday.  Today we're highlighting another area.  It's obvious to all why we need a humanitarian pause, especially, I think, now with the coming of the end of Ramadan.

Nizar… sorry.  Masood.

Question:  Yes, sir.  Stéphane, on this renewed hostilities between India and Pakistan and the border situation, do you have anything to say?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  Any message from the Secretary‑General?

Spokesman:  We've contacted our mission there, UNMOGIP.  They have no comment on the… today's reported incidents.  The mission, UNMOGIP, continues to conduct investigations when allegations of ceasefire violation complaints are submitted by any of the parties.  That's what I have for you today.

Question:  Will that report be made public…

Spokesman:  Well, let's see if they have… if there… anything is reported to them.

Abdelhamid.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  We noticed that when you give report about humanitarian situation in any part of Yemen, you skip one thing, that who is resp… basically responsible.  I know all parties are involved.  But in the case of Aden, there is one party involved in this humanitarian catastrophe . Why if you go to Sa'ada and Sana'a, there is another party who is… why not these reports indicate who is basically…

Spokesman: Abdel Hamid, I hear what you're saying. It's not a matter of skipping information. It's what information we're able to report. We don't have observers on the ground, military observers, any forensic capacity, to actually say who is responsible for what. There are a number of warring parties. There's a coalition involved. There are… there are parties on the ground in… in Yemen.  There are various armed groups.  They all bear responsibilities to various degrees for the continued violence.

The focus that we have, the mandate that we have on the ground, right now is humanitarian.

Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask you, on Burundi, I assume that you've seen this… the group of six UN independent Special Rapporteurs have called for greater action to prevent atrocities in the country.  They specifically talk about the role of the Security Council that hasn't met for a week on this and that the elections are now right around the corner.  Has the D… has DPA asked to meet with the Security Council, asked to provide any information?  What's the UN doing as [Yoweri] Museveni has left? What's…

Spokesman:  It's a situation where we're continuing… continuing to watch both on the ground through our presence there.  Our colleagues here are monitoring the situation closely.  What the Security Council intends to do, that is up to the Security Council to decide.

Question:  But I guess what I'm saying is under this supposed [Human] Rights up Front policy, the idea would be, like, when the DPA thinks that atrocities could take place, they ask to meet with the Security Council or they…

Spokesman:  Listen, I think we've… the situation… the very unstable situation in Burundi continues to be of concern to us.  We flagged it here from this podium.  The Secretary‑General and others have been involved in talking to people on the phone.  We're continuing to watch it, and if we have more to say…

Question:  And just one last thing on this.  I know I'd asked you this before, but when is the… has the Secretary‑General sought to speak to President [Pierre] Nkurunziza during any of these many weeks and months?

Spokesman:  I have no updates on his contacts.

Oleg.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Any updates on the UN human rights mission on the Ukraine?  It is said that its mandate has been updated for further six months.  Can you confirm that?  And when is the next report coming out?

Spokesman:  We expect… I knew when their next report is yesterday, but I've forgotten.  So I will… it's easy enough to find out.

Question:  And also, I don't believe I've heard Ban Ki‑moon's position on this proposed tribunal, MH17.  What is he thinking…

Spokesman:  Obviously, the Security Council seized of the matter.  They will decide what to do.  The Secretary‑General believes that… would wish for the families of the victims to find justice and to find some type of closure.  As to what the Security Council decides, we will have to wait and see.

I'll come back to you.  Yes.  No, behind you.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  A report has come out in The UN Tribune stating that so far the United States has been the largest donor towards the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, while the Gulf States, Qatar, Saudi, and Kuwait, have been noticeably absent; they haven't donated anything as yet.  Has there been any recent overtures towards them, especially the Saudis about their $270 million pledge…

Spokesman:  We're in constant contact with Saudi Arabia to finalize the transfer of moneys that was pledged.

Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The SG described the Addis outcome as a major step forward.  Is this step forward any less than had been hoped for, particularly given that developing countries were hoping to see more concrete commitments to international tax corporations?  

Spokesman:  I think the… the important thing is that there was a consensus that was reached that it sends a very positive signal to the international community as we move towards the meeting in September, the sustainable development meeting, as well as the meeting in Paris in… on the climate change.

Yes, Evelyn.

Question:  Stéphane, has anyone in your office researched this kind of Security Council resolution we're facing on Iran with… with lifting so many previous resolutions, having something like snap back sanctions?  In my short time here, it seems highly unusual, but I need someone besides me to say it, because nothing is ever done for the first time here.

Spokesman:  Well, we could… I think I would agree… It's quite a historic resolution, but I think we can ask some of our colleagues in the library and Security Council Affairs Branch to do a little bit deeper research.

Ann.

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  The committee to protect journalists recently reported that in Crimea, Ukraine, the region legally annexed by Russia, independent journalists were fleeing the region after facing attacks, rape, arrests and harassment and that Crimean broadcasters are being forced off the air.  What can the UN do, and UNESCO and the UN Secretary‑General in particular, to stop the muzzling of the free press in Crimea where there is no independent or critical media left to report on the crisis?

Spokesman:  I haven't seen the particular report you're mentioning, but obviously, the issue of a free press is something that the Secretary‑General has been… has called for repeatedly and is a critical part of any healthy society.

As for UNESCO, you should direct your questions to them.

Round 2.  Masood.

Question:  Yes, sir.  Stéphane, has the Secretary‑General been able to digest the Iran accord?  And will he be able to make any substantive comments on that when he returns to New York, if and when he returns to New York?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General has been fully briefed on the… on the… excuse me.  Let's try this again. 

The Secretary‑General has been fully briefed on the Iran… on the accord that was reached in Vienna.  As I said, his… after having fully briefed, his position remains the same, which he's… welcomes this historic agreement and which he finds to be a very positive development on a number of issues.  And he, obviously, looks forward to the Security Council acting rapidly on the issue.

Question:  A major concern will be as to when he will call upon the Security Council.  I mean, Security Council is saying next week, maybe week after that.

Spokesman:  I think, you know, you'd have to ask the presidency of the Council.  My understanding is that the actions of the Council on this will come rather soon.

Abdel Hamid, then Oleg, then Matthew.

Question:  Yesterday in his remarks, Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said that two names had been added to the list of sanctions on Libya without consulting the Libyan mission here.  First, do… can you find out who are those two names? And is it acceptable or is it…

Spokesman:  I would encourage you to ask the relevant Security Council members on that, because that's not something that involves the Secretary‑General.

Oleg, then Matthew.

Question:  Stéphane, returning to the MH17 tribunal, but the idea is to adopt resolution establishing this tribunal, also supporting the statute of the tribunal that is proposed, even before the investigation that is being convened by the Netherlands Security Council has been finished.  So the report is not out, but the Tribunal will be set up.  What do you think about it?

Spokesman:  Again, I think… I understand where we're trying to go here.  I really… I think I've answered your question.  I think for the Secretary‑General, it's important that the families of the victims find justice and some closure.  There will be a… gentlemen, please. 

There will be a… there is… there will be a debate in the Security Council.  There will be a resolution, and Council members will, no doubt, express themselves freely on what that position is.

Mr. Lee.

Question:  I wanted to ask, I guess, a follow‑up on the financing for development conference.  One of the big topics for developing countries was tax and having there be some intergovernmental body in the UN system to deal with tax evasion or avoidance by multinational corporations.  So given that the Secretariat… I think he was asked in Addis and he said, I leave that to the negotiators.  Now the decision is made.  It's not in their language about… transparency of tax payments has been taken out.  He's praised it.  Does this mean he's siding with the OECD or does he see…

Spokesman:  No, I think… it's a matter… a number of countries expressed their positions during the run‑up to the agreement.  It was adopted on consensus. The Secretary‑General fully supports… fully supports the agreement.

Question: But I mean, so… I mean, I guess what I wonder is, in these things, obviously, no one ever gets everything that they want.  But is… does any international agreement that's reached by consensus one that he praises or does he think that this didn't… essentially that the developing countries didn't get… even… even Wu Hongbo in this room had said there was a hope to deal with taxes…

Spokesman:  The issue of tax avoidance, of ensuring that Governments are fully funded through taxes is a critical one.  Again, this was an issue that was deeply debated in Addis.  The Member States agreed to the document they agreed to.  The issue remains of great importance, but the Secretary‑General fully supports the Addis agreement.

Question:  Can I ask you one about Cambodia?

Spokesman:  I…

Question:  I know I asked you before, this thing of… Hun Sen has asked almost two weeks ago for these maps…

Spokesman:  Yes, we're in the process of answering the Cambodians on that.  And as soon as we are able to answer them, we will share them with you.

Question:  You can't find the maps?

Spokesman:  No, I didn't say they couldn't find the maps.  

Question:  They wonder.

Spokesman:  Evelyn.

Question:  Is there an update on human rights… UN human rights envoys that keep on getting kicked out of South Sudan?

Spokesman:  No, the issue regarding our Human Rights Officer in South Sudan has been resolved, and she is staying put and working with the mission.

Yes.  Masood, then Abdel Hamid.

Question:  Okay.  Let me ask this question.  Does the Secretary‑General agree with President [Barack] Obama's assessment that this deal basically avoids a war with Iran and that alternative would have been horrible?  So is that one of the alternatives… does he agree with President Obama?

Spokesman:  It's not… it's not a matter of agreeing or not agreeing with the President of the United States.  The issue is that the Secretary‑General very strongly supports this agreement, and he believes it will be a positive development in the relations between countries within the region, and it also is a positive development in the issue of nuclear proliferation.

Oleg and then…

Question:  I have a bunch of questions on the Ukraine, but I'm going to ask only one.  Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko was charged in Russia in relations of killing two… some civilians in Eastern Ukraine, including two reporters.  It is said that she wrote a letter to Ban Ki‑moon asking him to influence the Russian authorities to transfer the case… her case to Moscow, among other things.  Can you confirm that the Secretary‑General received this letter?  What actions does he plan to take…

Spokesman:  I cannot.  I'm happy to see if the letter has actually been received, but I'm not aware that is has. 

Yes, please.

Question:  Stéphane, just give us an idea when the report of the Secretary‑General on the work of the Organization will be issued.

Spokesman:  Can I answer that question after the briefing?

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Abdelhamid, and then we'll go home.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The draft resolution on Iran lifting the sanctions on Iran has been distributed.  I think you are aware of it.  Do you have any idea when the vote going to happen?

Spokesman:  No, I… that's a question for Security Council members.  My understanding is that it will be rather quick.

Question:  Could it be during the weekend?  That's what I…

Spokesman:  I'm sure we all have some personal interest in answering that… that question.  But I will… for the sake of my career, I will not speak on behalf of the Security Council. 

Very short one.

Question:  Sure, absolutely.  It's just… I wanted to know, can you give any type of an update on the Central African Republic sexual abuse panel?  Has it begun its work?  Where are its members…

Spokesman:  Yes.  They started their work… what day is today?

Question:  Thursday.

Spokesman:  Thursday.  They started their work on Tuesday.  As to where the panels are, I don't know.  I have no contact with the panel.  It's an independent panel.  When they are ready to… obviously, I'm sure we'll be given a heads up when they're ready to issue their results, and we'll leave it at that.

Question:  And the deadline is mid‑September for that, ten weeks… 

Spokesman:  They were given a mandate of ten weeks.  If there's a change in that, I will let you know.

Thank you.  Have a great weekend.  See you Monday.



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