Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 September 2015
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Millennium Development Goals
Just a short while ago, right here in this room, the Secretary-General spoke at the launch of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Gap Task Force Report. The report assesses achievements and shortcomings across five areas: official development assistance (ODA); market access and trade; debt sustainability; access to essential medicines; and access to new technologies. This is the last such report, as Member States are moving towards adopting and implementing a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Secretary-General noted that despite gains towards a number of targets, major gaps remain in reducing vulnerabilities for developing countries. He said that the transition from the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] to the sustainable development goals presents an opportunity to unlock resources for investments in education, health, equitable growth and sustainable production and consumption. His full remarks are online, and the press conferences should be archived on the web.
The UN refugee agency today said that Wednesday's dramatic situation on the Hungarian border and yesterday's mayhem on the Serbian border with Croatia demonstrate the chaos and confusion resulting from the lack of a coherent and united response to Europe's refugee situation. More than 440,000 refugees and migrants have arrived via the Mediterranean so far this year, with nearly 3,000 people having died and some 4,000 people arriving on the Greek islands daily.
The refugee agency said that the crisis is growing and refugees are being pushed from one country to another without a solution. The suffering and risks for thousands of refugees and migrants are increasing as uncertainty and a lack of information fuels desperation, raises the likelihood of further incidents, and stokes hostility towards people who have fled persecution and conflict and are in need of help.
It stressed that this environment is fertile ground for people-smugglers and others seeking to prey on this vulnerable population. The agency said that the European Parliament's decision yesterday to back plans for the relocation of an additional 120,000 people to all countries of the EU [European Union] deserves applause. It added that it recognizes that Europe is struggling to deal with this situation and commends the countries and their citizens that have shown willingness to resettle refugees and respond positively to a situation, which, although challenging, is manageable, provided that Europe is united in contributing to an effective response.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, today welcomed the agreement among the House of Representatives' delegation to address the country's new transitional phase. Speaking to the press in Morocco, where the UN-facilitated talks have been taking place, Mr. León said that the agreement is a strong message that all parties involved in the dialogue process can solve their differences politically. Moving forward, he said that he expects the General National Congress to return to Morocco today so that the parties can resume the final stage of the dialogue to reach an inclusive agreement by 20 September.
UN humanitarian boss Stephen O'Brien is expected to make his first visit to Jordan from 19 to 21 [September]. He is scheduled to meet with Jordanian Government officials, UN agencies and humanitarian partner organizations, as well as Syrian refugees and the communities hosting them in Jordan. During his visit, Mr. O'Brien is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister of Jordan and other high-level Government officials in Amman to discuss ways of strengthening the aid operations of the UN and humanitarian partners, and how to support the host communities in Jordan. Mr. O'Brien is also scheduled to visit the Al-Zaatari refugee camp to meet Syrian refugees and local residents affected by the crisis, and he will also visit a refugee support project funded by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
On South Sudan, in Maridi, in Western Equatoria province, reports received by the UN Mission [in South Sudan] (UNMISS) suggest that the number of fatalities has now risen to close to 200 and are expected to rise, following the explosion of a fuel tanker on Wednesday. The Mission has been assisting by providing four helicopters to medically evacuate some 80 casualties to Juba. The Mission also helped with ground transportation of the injured to Juba Teaching Hospital. While evacuations took place, the Mission dispatched a medical team on the ground to Maridi for the day.
The humanitarian response was conducted under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and in collaboration with humanitarian actors. Also, we were asked: I can tell that a UN patrol in Mundri reported heavy gunfire between Mundri West and Gullu town in Western Equatoria State yesterday. A few hours later, the Mission also observed heavy gunfire exchanges between unknown armed elements and the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).
From Niger, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel, Toby Lanzer, wrapped up a five-day visit to Niger today and welcomed humanitarian efforts in support of national authorities. But, he also called for the international community to take a greater share of the humanitarian burden in the country.
During his visit, Mr. Lanzer travelled to the south-eastern region of Diffa, where he met with families who had fled Boko Haram at the Assaga displacement site. He also visited Agadez, which is a major transit hub for migrants in West Africa. Niger hosts 220,000 people displaced by conflict in Nigeria, Libya and Mali. In addition, thousands of migrants transit through the country each year. The $376 million aid appeal for Niger is severely underfunded, with only 40 per cent of the funds received so far.
On a related note, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) says that a sharp increase in attacks by Boko Haram has uprooted 500,000 children, half a million children, over the past five months. This brings the total number of children on the run in northeast Nigeria and neighbouring countries to 1.4 million. In northern Nigeria alone, 1.2 million children – over half of them under 5 – have been forced to flee their homes. An additional 265,000 children have been uprooted in Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Together, with Governments and partners in all four impacted countries, UNICEF has scaled up its operations.
Over 315,000 children have been vaccinated against measles. More than 200,000 people have received access to safe water. Some 65,000 displaced and refugee children have had access to education and are able to continue learning, thanks to the delivery of school materials. But, UNICEF says that, with more refugees and not enough resources, its ability to deliver life-saving assistance on the ground is now seriously compromised.
I know you have been asking and waiting for an update on Burkina Faso: obviously, the Secretary-General continues to follow that situation in Burkina Faso very closely and with great concern. He does welcome the release of Transitional President Michel Kafando and reiterates his demand that all detained Burkinabé officials be immediately freed.
The Secretary-General expresses his appreciation to Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal and Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin, who arrived in Ouagadougou today on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Secretary-General's Special Representative for West Africa, Mohamed ibn Chambas, remains in Ouagadougou and continues to work closely with ECOWAS, the African Union and other international partners to support and safeguard the transition in Burkina Faso.
A couple of things we issued yesterday after the briefing. We issued a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General for the International Day of Peace, which will be celebrated on Monday, 21 September. Focusing on the theme, Partnerships for Peace, the Secretary-General called on all partners to lend their voices to urge people to lay down arms, and to work non-stop in the days to come to bring about a 24-hour cease fire on that day. If, for one day, we can live in a world without aggression and hostility, we can imagine how much more is possible, added the Secretary-General.
Also, on Monday, at 9 a.m., the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Representative of Japan will join the Secretary-General and UN Messengers of Peace Jane Goodall and Michael Douglas, as well as Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, at the Peace Bell Ceremony in the Japanese Garden. That will be followed by a student videoconference at 9:30 a.m. in Conference Room 4. More information online and in my office.
Also, yesterday, we issued a statement, last night rather, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. He hopes that its important recommendations will help support the efforts of the people and the Government of Sri Lanka to carve a durable path towards long-lasting peace and stability and respect for human rights, through a genuine and credible process of accountability and reconciliation that meets international standards. The victims of all communities, their families and the Sri Lankan nation itself demand no less than a full and proper reckoning.
Also yesterday, we sent out a note to correspondents to announce the visit to Havana of the Secretary-General's delegate, Jean Arnault, accompanied by his counterpart of UNASUR, the South American regional body. They will participate in a meeting of the peace talks between the Government of Colombia and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] on the end of the conflict, especially focusing on a monitoring and verification system.
Trinidad and Tobago is the most recent Member State to have paid its regular budget dues in full. Our thanks go to our friends in Port of Spain, which is the 124th country on the Honour Roll list.
Lastly, press conferences on Monday, we are entering the busy season. At 11 a.m., UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] announces the winners of the 2015 Equator Prize. Participants will include, obviously, Helen Clark, the Administrator of UNDP, the Executive [Secretary] of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, and actor and activist Alec Baldwin.
At noon, I will be joined by the new UN Global Compact Executive Director, Lise Kingo, who will brief you on the upcoming UN Private Sector Forum and other business-related events taking place during the General Assembly plenary.
And at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by the incoming, or rather by the now-sitting and current President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft. Khalas. Madame?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have a question regarding the migrants. Do… where do they come from? Do they come from Aleppo? From Damascus? From Latakia? From Kobane? Or are they refugees from Turkey…?
Spokesman: I don't have those… I don't have the exact details of where they come from within Syria. What is clear to us and our colleagues at UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is that the bulk of them come from Syria and various parts of Syria. Some of them have come directly. Others have transited in other places before heading out, making the perilous journey to Europe. And there are also… travelling with them are people coming from Afghanistan, Iraq, and other places.
Question: What kind mechanism is put in place? Who told them to come? How does it work? Are they Kurds? Are they Sunni? Are they Christian? Who are they?
Spokesman: I think the point for us is that, whether they're Christians, Druze, Alawites, Sunnis or Shiites, they're people fearing for their lives and seeking a better life for themselves and their families. And that needs… that is… focusing on their safety is primordial. They are… because there is a lack of capacity in terms of organized flow for both refugees and migrants, people are being forced into the hands of smugglers, whether it is on the coast of Turkey or on the coast of Libya and other places. They pay a high price not only in cash, but often with their lives. George, then Matthew.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. With regard to Burkina Faso, is there any information on where Mr. Kafando is or what is being done with him?
Spokesman: Well, he's been released, so he was…
Question: Is he still in Ouagadougou or…?
Spokesman: I have no information that he's left the country. What was important for us is that he had been detained by the coup leaders and he's now been released. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. First, Burkina Faso and then something on peacekeeping. Actually, the Burkina Faso one, Burkina Faso contributes troops to MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission] in Mali, so it's part of UN peacekeeping. Given that the Secretary‑General has now used the word "coup" and it is a military coup, what's the process for reviewing the continued participation of the military in UN peacekeeping?
Spokesman: Well, you know, obviously, each unit goes through the usual human rights vetting process. I'm not sure that's something that's been focused on right at this minute. The focus right now is on the situation in Ouagadougou and trying to restore some calm.
Question: Okay. Also, this is… excuse me. It's two related questions on peacekeeping. One is, as I'm sure… you didn't read it out, but I'm sure you've seen it. There was a MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the] Central African Republic press release yesterday that they… about allegations of peacekeeping pornographic film. Do you have any update on that?
Spokesman: No. I think it was released… the Mission did put out a press release, said they were greatly concerned at rumours that in a town they had been… there were rumours that there was some porn… rumours that a video was being circulated involving… pornographic video involving… somehow involving… possibly involving peacekeepers. They're looking at it. I think they've sent people to the town. I think, to the credit of the Mission, that they are trying to be as proactive as possible to investigate what could just be a rumour or could be worse.
Question: Sure, and I want to ask your response to this. And it's… it's going back to this quote about the linkage between rapes and R&R [rest and recuperation]. And the reason I'm asking you is, I put this question to the Permanent Representative of a major troop‑contributing country yesterday, and he said that… his country's from South Asia… does not provide recreation or R&R trips and he was sort of offended by it, and said the person who said it should explain it, because the implication… he said: We're a professional army; we're not a part‑time army; we have deployments and undeployments. So, I guess… what I'm saying, it seems like these comments that were made were not only problematic in the way that I've tried to say, but from a TCC [troop-contributing country] perspective, what is the explanation… what South… and it's not India, and I'll just say the name of the country, which South Asian countries was Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous referring to when, sitting right there, he said South Asian countries do R&R flights and this would somehow…?
Spokesman: You know, Matthew, I'm kind of done going back and forth on this. I think we've… I've explained in as many words that I know in the English language to underscore what Mr. Ladsous meant and what he was saying. And I… if I have more, I will share it with you. Carla?
Correspondent: Stéphane, you may have answered this before, but I'd appreciate an answer now. Should let you know I took the opportunity to congratulate the Secretary‑General on having gone to China to be present during the commemoration of the victory over fascism. Now, the other day, when there was that press briefing with him, this was the first time in six or seven years I've ever seen him so angry, when his visit was questioned. I think it's important to keep in mind that Franklin Roosevelt…
Question: You want the question? All right.
Spokesman: If you start going back to Eisenhower and Roosevelt, I need you to plop in a question mark there.
Question: Okay. The question is: since the Secretary‑General… one would say the United Nations belonged in China at that commemoration. What possible objections was he confronted with? Because he did seem very upset that…
Spokesman: Okay. I… first, I think that sounds like a question for those who were raising objections. I think… I don't think the Secretary‑General was angry. I've sometimes seen him angry, but I've never seen him angry in front of the press. I wouldn't describe his response as angry. I think I would just… his response was very calm. From this podium, we have explained his position as to why he has attended commemorations to end the Second World War – whether they be in China, in Poland, in Ukraine, in Russia. I don't think we have anything more…
Question: Could you just tell me once more what his…?
Spokesman: I don't think have I anything more to say. You can check the record. I don't want to prolong the story. The Secretary‑General himself addressed it. I think, as his Spokesman, I really… when my boss speaks on an issue 48 hours ago, I really have no more words to add.
Correspondent: Well, I… I just… I mean, I think it's magnificent that he went. I think it speaks well for the United Nations. But I have not actually read or heard his reasons for going. I think this…
Spokesman: Well, I think… Carla, I would urge you to take a look at the transcripts of some of the press briefings here when we've addressed them, notably when he was in China, the question was raised and what I said at the time stands. Yes, sir?
Correspondent: Stéphane, today there were big demonstrations in the West Bank and throughout the Muslim world that Israeli incursion in Masjid al-Aqsa and Secretary‑General spoke to Mr. [Benjamin] Netanyahu, yesterday…
Spokesman: Yes, I think the… you know, the Secretary‑General has been making a series… has been receiving some calls, has been making calls on this issue. He will also meet with a group of representatives from Arab states later this afternoon and will continue to be on the phone. I think his call is for a… to respect the status quo, which the Prime Minister of Israel said he was committed to doing around the Holy Sites, and a call on all parties to avoid any sort of inflammatory actions or inflammatory words that could force the situation to degenerate. I think what is important is that calm is restored and that the holy places be respected for all those who worship there can do so freely. Matthew, one last question for the week?
Question: Sure. You… on Sri Lanka, I want to ask you about this. I heard… I saw the statement that was put out yesterday afternoon. Since then, newspape… press in Sri Lanka has quoted President [Maithripala] Sirisena saying that his Government was able to get names removed from the report, that people were not named who otherwise would have, and this way they can travel freely. Since the report does name, for example, Shavendra Silva, who served as the senior advisory… on the senior advisory group of the UN on peacekeeping, doesn't name Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, although it refers to a UN official, what do you think of…?
Spokesman: That may not be an invalid question, but it's a question that should be aimed at the authors of the report. Thank you.
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