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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

3 August 2017

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


I will start off with a rather long message on UN-Habitat.

The Secretary-General welcomes the report of the High-Level Independent Panel to Assess and Enhance the Effectiveness of UN-Habitat, which was drafted in response to General Assembly resolution A/RES/71/256.  The Secretary-General thanks the Panel members for their robust, evidence-based assessment of the agency.

The Secretary-General appreciates the recommendations put forth by the Panel on better ways to address urbanization, a global megatrend that is putting pressure on communities, infrastructure and the environment, and on how UN-Habitat and the UN system can reform to become fit for purpose in cities.

The Secretary-General finds many of the recommendations in line with his own proposals for the reform of the UN Development System, particularly the establishment of "UN Urban", aimed at fostering more collaborative work by UN agencies in the revamped UN country teams, and the alignment of UN-Habitat's regional offices with the new policy integration functions of the Regional Economic Commissions.

He also acknowledges the recommendations for changes to UN-Habitat's governance, and agrees that the agency must be equipped with a flexible, efficient structure that delivers for the most vulnerable residents of the world's cities.  He recognizes the challenges with universal membership, as well as the importance of articulating a definitive normative and operational mandate for the organization, and looks forward to further discussions with Member States about this recommendation.

The Secretary-General considers rapid urbanization and its links with poverty, inequality, public health, migration, climate change and natural disasters to be one of the most pressing concerns of the UN.  He, therefore, appreciates the strong relationship between the assessment of UN-Habitat and the overall reform of the UN Development System.  He thanks the High-Level Panel for its compelling ideas, and looks forward to further discussions with Member States on ambitious reforms that will help the human family to meet the urban tests of our time.

The report should be available online as well shortly and has been distributed to Member States.

**Security Council

Back here, the Security Council met today on enhancing the effectiveness of UN sanctions.

Addressing the Council, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun said that sanctions are not an end in themselves – at their most effective, they should contribute to a comprehensive political strategy.

He noted that, currently, 13 Security Council regimes help to prevent conflict, counter terrorism and constrain the proliferation of nuclear weapons, adding that sanctions are flexible, being subject to regular reviews, adjustments and terminations.

Mr. Zerihoun stressed the importance of broad-based support of Member States and the international community at large, noting that even the best-designed UN sanctions resolutions are not self-implementing.

His remarks are available to you.

**South Sudan

Our colleague, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the head of the UN Peacekeeping Department, wrapped up his three-day visit to South Sudan today.  He visited the UN Protection of Civilians site in Malakal where he witnessed the various security challenges and humanitarian efforts to assist displaced South Sudanese.  He stressed that we are determined to continue to do our best to help the population.

During his final press conference in Juba, Mr. Lacroix reiterated the importance of the initiative led by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development aimed at revitalizing the implementation of the peace agreement.  He noted that the UN would continue to closely follow the National Dialogue process to ensure that it is conducted in an inclusive and transparent manner and that it complements broader efforts to return South Sudan to a path of peace and prosperity.  He called on all parties to stop fighting and to make all efforts towards a cessation of hostilities.

Finally, Mr. Lacroix expressed concern about the dire humanitarian situation and reiterated that the UN is working impartially to help everyone in South Sudan, irrespective of ethnic and religious affiliation.

**Syria Commission

Turning to Syria, three years after the Da'esh attack on the Yazidi community, the Commissioners of the Inquiry on Syria today called on the international community to recognize what it calls the crime of genocide being committed by Da'esh against the Yazidis and to take steps to refer the situation to justice.

The Commission also reiterated its recommendation to all parties fighting Da'esh to reconsider rescuing Yazidi captives.

In a 2016 report, the Commission found that many Yazidi women and girls were taken to Syria, where they were sold as chattel and sexually enslaved by Da'esh fighters, while boys were indoctrinated, trained, and used in hostilities.

The Commission says that thousands of Yazidi men and boys remain missing and that Da'esh continues to subject some 3,000 women and girls in Syria to horrific violence, including brutal daily rapes and beatings.

More information online.


The UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) has issued a new report on the motivations of foreign terrorist fighters to travel to Syria and to return to their countries of origin.

The report is the product of direct interviews with 43 fighters from 12 nationalities in seven countries.

It found that the fighters interviewed lack opportunities, are disadvantaged economically, lack education and have poor labour prospects.

The report recommends that, in dealing with returnees, it may be important to differentiate among their initial intention before going to Syria, what they actually did there, and their reasons for return.  For those interviewed for this report, it seemed that not all went to Syria to become fighters.

We have a few copies of the report in the back of the room and you can also find it online on the Office's website.


Our colleague, Sigrid Kaag, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, spoke today at the launch of a media campaign on reducing tensions between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees.

Speaking with the Lebanese Information Minister, as well as with representatives of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other partners, she noted Lebanon's exceptional generosity towards refugees.

She said there is no other country in the world that bears the burden as graciously, generously and with an open spirit and heart as Lebanon.


And in Turkey, our colleagues at the World Food Programme (WFP) tell us that more than 850,000 refugees are now receiving monthly cash assistance thanks to a programme funded by the European Union.

The Emergency Social Safety Net supports the most vulnerable refugee families in Turkey with a debit card to cover basic needs such as food, rent, medicine and clothes.  The card provides them with roughly $35 per family every month.

WFP said the programme has grown quickly since it was launched at the end of 2016 and continues to add beneficiaries every day.

More information online.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights Office said today that they are concerned about the unrest ahead of the constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday in Mauritania, particularly the apparent suppression of dissenting voices and the reported use of excessive force by the authorities against protest leaders.


UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner will visit Myanmar over the weekend, his first visit as Administrator to a major program partner.

Mr. Steiner will be listening and learning about the development challenges Myanmar faces, and how they link to Agenda 2030 and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

Our friends at FAO today released their monthly Food Price Index.  The Index averaged 179.1 points this month, its highest value since January 2015, marking a 2.3 per cent increase from June 2017 and 10.2 per cent rise from its level a year earlier.  The rise was driven mainly by higher cereal, sugar and dairy prices.

I'm done.  Happy to take questions.

**Questions and Answers

Mr. Lee.

Question:  Sure. And I'm, I'm sorry if the first few minutes I may have missed it.  Did you make an announcement about Espen Barth Eide?

Spokesman:  I did not make an announcement about…

Question:  Can you confirm he has formally left his position?  And what is the Secretary-General's plan in terms of filling it?

Spokesman:  Mr., Mr Eide is wrapping up his, his tenure as the Special Adviser, and I think he's, he's on his last, his last visit to Cyprus, meeting with the various parties, thanking them for their support.  It's a farewell tour, if you'd like.  And he will continue working on the file from, from Oslo for now.

Question:  Until… is… I mean, I guess, how…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  There's no formal date yet set for his, for his departure.  I mean, as you know, with what happened in, in Switzerland, as far as the UN is concerned, all the Cypriot parties are going through a, a time of reflection.  And so that's where we are in the process.

Question:  But I just, because there's… there's a quote by Mr Eide.  He said, "What I… what I'm saying and I think the leaders agree with, I'm not speaking on their behalf, but it's my sense that there's a shared understanding it will not be resurrected by the UN."

So, I wanted to know…

Spokesman:  That's in line with what the Secretary-General has said, which is the UN remains available to the parties.  The good offices remain available, should they come back to him.  It's a time of reflection for the Cypriot parties, so I think there's no contradiction at all in, in what he said and what the Secretary-General previously said.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  And the Israeli forces demolished the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the Negev region of southern Israel for the 116 times, according to Adalah, the Center for, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel.  So, any comments on that?

Spokesman:  No, I had not seen this particular report.  I will look into it and get, and get back to you.


Question:  Sure…

Spokesman:  … and then Ann.

Question:  …something new or…

Spokesman:  Something new.  Something blue, something new.

Question:  I've got a couple of old things, too, that I want to track down but… Cambodia, I know that the UN has a, you know, has this Human Rights Office there, so I wanted to ask about… there's a, there's a minister there who has said publicly this week that people that, that oppose the vote in the upcoming year will be beaten with bamboo sticks and said that all civil servants must support the ruling party or lose their jobs.

There's also an NG… separately, entirely separately but maybe related, a US-based NGO called Agape has been ordered out of the country for reporting on human trafficking and… of, of child sex victims.  So, I wanted to know, what's the US thinking…?  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I'll look into those reports.  Obviously, as a matter of principle, the Secretary-General very much supports the work of civil society.

Question:  And were you able… yesterday I'd asked you about the vote in the Italian Parliament about, to send the Navy.  And now there's already been a case now where the Italian Navy has picked up an NGO rescue ship, a self-described rescue ship, and, and, you know, taken it away and had it stop its activities.  What's the Secretary-General's thinking on these developments?

Spokesman:  We've talked to our colleagues at UNHCR who are, who are in the lead on this.  They're trying to get a bit more details from the, from the Italians as to how this will be applied in terms of the, the presence of the Italian Navy in, in Libyan waters.

I think UNHCR has had concerns in the past and continues to have concerns in the past with the detention of, of detention by Libya of refugees and, and asylum seekers, often in difficult, very difficult, conditions.

We call on both the Italian and the Libyan Governments to ensure their increased cooperation that people who are rescued in Libyan waters have access to safety, assistance, proper reception, and protection.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General aware of this Save Europe flotilla or may just be a single boat, but they've… they're a non-governmental group.  So, one, does he have a comment on it?  And, two, how is it different in kind than what Italy is… I know Italy is a Government.  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, I think we've seen the press reports on Save Europe.  It's an NGO, there are a lot of people active.  I think the focus is primarily on saving lives, on ensuring that anyone who is on the move, migrants, have their rights respected, that they're treated humanely, that their lives are, are saved.  But this is just a stopgap measure.

We need, as we've said repeatedly, we need this Global Compact on, on dealing with this mass movement of people we're seeing, seeing in the world, and it's agreement, agreement between countries of origin, countries of transit, and countries of arrival.

Ann.  Go ahead.

Question:  Yes, Ann Charles, Baltic Review.  There have been reports this week following US Vice-President Mike Pence's visit to Tallinn, Estonia, that Russia is planning to deploy 100,000 troops to the eastern border.

Did the Secretary-General have any reaction to these possible threats against NATO members, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland?  And will he do anything about it?

Spokesman:  I have no particular comment on, on these, on these reports, and we tend to try not to comment on things that have yet to happen.

Mr. Lee.

Question:  …what maybe… it's only a few days old but, it may feel old to you, but it's new to me.  And it's the… it has to do with this… I'd wanted… since you'd said something was not normal and then you'd seem to say it was only with the Associated Press, this is about the sale or distribution without credit to the UN of photographs, it seems like it's not limited to the Associated Press.  Do you… are you aware of that?  I've seen photographs…

Spokesman:  No, I've seen photographs as well.  There are, there are, there have been issues, and it's not a surprise to, that, you know, people take our photos and resell them illegally.

For us, it's sort of like playing Whack-A-Mole, and we, we reach out to these people, trying to take the photos down.  We rely on, on the goodwill of, of photo agencies to observe proper, proper protocol, but we've had in the past small outfits basically download our photos and resell them as their own.  And we reach out to them, and we ensure that that doesn't happen again.

Question:  Do you consider Agence France-Presse a small outlet?  And…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  We're dealing with these issues as they arise, and, and we're, we're aware, we're aware of them, and we deal with them on a continuous…  [inaudible]

Question:  Okay.

Spokesman:  … on a continuous basis.

Question:  To understand this… just… to understand what… because I think it will be easier for you if people understand what the rules are.  There's a photograph of Ban Ki-moon at La Bourget in December 2015…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  The rules…

Question:  Right.

Spokesman:  The rules are very clear.  Any photo that has a UN credit to it can be distributed freely.  It is not to be resold or sold by a third party.  Credit needs to be given to, to the UN.

We do not sell our photographs.  We make them available to anyone who asks, and they can distribute it, but they have to distribute it for free.

Question:  What if it's a photo that was never in UN photos…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I… I… you know, you're…

Question:  I'm asking…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  That's the rules.  You're assuming all sorts of things.  I'm telling you that the photos that are, that are on the website, photos that are taken by the UN, cannot be sold or resold.

Correspondent:  Right.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Thank you.

Question:  Photos of the Secretary-General by a UN…  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  By just, photos by the UN.  I, you're a native English speaker.  I'm not.  I'm just trying to be as clear as possible.

Thank you.

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