Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
16 October 2017
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
This morning at the Africa Event, the Secretary-General expressed his solidarity with the people of Somalia after the brutal attacks in Mogadishu, and said there must be total unity of action against terrorism in Somalia and around the world.
As you know, we issued yesterday a statement in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attacks and reiterated the UN's support to the country. He also tweeted out that he was disgusted by these unprecedented attacks and sent his condolences to the victims and wished those who survived a quick recovery.
The Secretary-General urges all Somalis to unite in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism and to work together in building a functional and inclusive federal state.
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the UN are providing support to the response, to secure the area and provide help for search and rescue and rubble clearance. UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) has delivered antibiotics and medical supplies to the two Mogadishu hospitals today, and UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) technical advisors, medics and explosive-detecting dogs have been deployed to the blast site. UN staff are also participating in a blood drive.
As I mentioned, the Secretary-General spoke at the High-level Inaugural Event of Africa Week. The international community must change the way it looks at the African continent. Africa is a land of resilience, and above all, it is a land of opportunity, he said.
He highlighted the recent progress made by the continent in reducing poverty, diversifying economies, building the middle class and nurturing growth in a variety of sectors. The Secretary-General stressed that the shared challenge of the UN and the African continent is to build on those gains and to continue working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
And as part of Africa Week there will be a series of discussions, briefings and side events here at Headquarters. The full programme is available on the Internet.
This morning in Fiji, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke at an event on partnerships held ahead of the climate change pre-COP meeting – the Conference of Parties.
She told participants that the pre-COP takes place against a backdrop of a distressing period of extreme weather events that have brought misery and economic damage to many people from Asia to the Caribbean and Central America and the United States, underscoring the importance to tackle climate change and increase countries' resilience to its impacts.
While the risks rise, so too does the momentum for change, she said, noting that the Paris Agreement continues to gain support from all sectors of society from all across the planet. Still, much more can be done, and she pointed to the participation of businesses and investors to help speed up progress.
By the 2019 Climate Summit, we must be able to show that climate action works and that transformation is well under way, she said.
We have been asked this morning about the situation in and around Kirkuk. And I can tell you that of course the Secretary-General is following very closely developments in Kirkuk Governorate. He appeals to the federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government to take coordinated steps to prevent and avoid further clashes, escalation, or breakdown of law and order. He calls on the parties to jointly manage the situation and resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution of Iraq.
Our humanitarian colleagues in Iraq tell us that military movements in northern Iraq have displaced of thousands of families from Kirkuk since yesterday evening. The exact number of people who have been displaced is still being confirmed.
So far, two civilians have also been caught in crossfire at a displacement camp in Kirkuk Governorate.
Aid workers are mobilising and stressing the need for access to all those in need of help. They are also calling on the parties to ensure that civilians are protected and can leave the area if they choose to do so.
Turning to Syria, yesterday, a UN-International Committee of the Red Cross-Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter-agency convoy delivered assistance to 1,500 men, women and children remaining in the besieged Al-Qaboun area in Damascus. Qaboun was besieged in April this year, and this is the first access to the besieged area since April.
The UN continues to call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access to close to 3 million people in hard-to-reach and 10 besieged areas, including the facilitation of medical evacuations in line with international humanitarian and human rights law.
This afternoon, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to discuss the implementation of the intra-Palestinian agreement that was signed in Cairo on 12 October.
He noted that the agreement provides for the return of the crossings of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority by 1 November. The timely and effective implementation of this provision and concrete steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis will be critical to effectively empower the Palestinian Government in Gaza.
The UN will continue working with the Palestinian leadership, Egypt and the region in support of this process, which is critical for reaching a negotiated two-state solution and sustainable peace.
In a joint statement, three senior United Nations officials today urged stepped-up support to help Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, a situation they call the world's fastest growing refugee crisis and a major humanitarian emergency.
Those officials include the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, and the head of the UN migration agency (IOM), Bill Swing.
They say that the Bangladeshi Government, local aid groups, the UN and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) are working in overdrive, but much more support is needed.
Efforts must be scaled up and expanded to ensure that the more than half-million refugees are provided with basic shelter and basic living conditions, with vulnerable people arriving with very little in Bangladesh every day.
The pledging conference, which will take place on 23 October in Geneva, provides Governments around the world with an opportunity to show their solidarity and share responsibility.
The statement called on the international community to intensify efforts to bring a peaceful solution to the plight of Rohingya, to end the desperate exodus, to support host communities and to ensure the conditions that will allow for refugees' eventual voluntary return in safety and dignity. The statement also noted that the origins and, thus, the solutions to this crisis lie in Myanmar. The full statement is online.
And in terms of numbers: we can report that the number of Rohingya refugees who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since 25 August has now reached 537,000.
As you know, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeff Feltman, is currently in Myanmar. We hope to have an update to share with you by tomorrow.
Today is World Food Day. Pope Francis participated in the global ceremony held at the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) headquarters in Rome. He called for governments around the world to collaborate to make migration a safer and voluntary choice, arguing that assuring food security for all requires tackling climate change and ending conflicts.
The FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, stressed the need to address the root causes of migration, such as poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment and lack of social protection.
Tomorrow I will be joined by Richard Kollodge, Editor of the UN Population Fund's (UNFPA) State of the World Population report 2017. He will brief you on the launch of the report, entitled Worlds Apart: Reproductive Health and Rights in an Age of Inequality.
After we are done here, my friend Brenden [Varma] will brief you on behalf of the PGA (President of the General Assembly).
**Questions and Answers
Khalas. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you indicated, the Secretary-General, during the… in his speech to the Africa Week gathering, said that the international community must change the way it looks at the continent. Does he… does he mean that he should… they should… the international community should look at the continent as a rich continent or a poor continent? What does he mean, exactly?
Spokesman: I think he… what he said is that the narrative about Africa should change, and people should look at Africa as an opp… as a continent of opportunity, where we've seen growth and we've seen progress in many sectors and not just see a negative narrative, as we often see it. Yes, Brittany?
Question: Okay. The Amnesty International, I think, yesterday did issue a statement about the August post-election crisis in Kenya. And in their statement, they stated that 33 people had been killed during the post-election conflict. And I am wondering, right now, the country's already still tense, and the likelihood there, even in the report has said there's a likelihood of, you know, more crisis to happen. What's the UN intervention to this, to avoid more people from dying?
Spokesman: I think, obviously, for us, the violence that we've seen is of grave concern. It is important that there be a dialogue between all the political actors in Kenya. And we've also seen the report from various human rights groups, and I think it's important that there be full accountability for those victims and for the families of the victims to ensure that those who are responsible for these killings are held to account. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. What steps does the SG plan on taking regarding the atrocities currently being committed by the Government of Cameroon against the Anglophone minority group? And, also, has the SG considered or does he plan on invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter to engage the Security Council?
Spokesman: I think we have expressed repeatedly our concern at the situation in Cameroon. The Secretary-General and his senior advisers have had contacts at various levels with Cameroonian authorities. It's a situation we continue to watch very closely, and it's important we also… discussions about a possible visit by François Louncény Fall, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Central Africa. And there needs to be… again, there needs to be a polit… a sustained dialogue between the various parties. Yes, sir?
Question: Same topic?
Spokesman: I'll come back you to you.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Last Friday, there was the elections of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Director-General, where former French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay won. Right after the elections finished, outside of the chamber of the Executive Council~-- it was televised~-- a man hysterically chanting, "Vive la France", "down with Qatar", or "no Qatar". And, later, he was removed by UN security. A Spokesperson for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied this person is part of the permanent delegation or an Egyptian diplomat. Later was reported he is of Egyptian origin. His name is Mr. Abdel Hamid, Salah Abdel Hamid. However… and he identifies himself… or it was reported in the Egyptian state news agency, MENA [Middle East News Agency], that he is an adviser at the European Union. The question is how this person managed to get to the chamber of the… or outside of the chamber of the Executive Council on the UNESCO premises and who sponsored his pass?
Spokesman: Those are questions that need to be addressed to UNESCO. [Inaudible]
Correspondent: I have already sent to UNESCO, and I haven't heard anything from them…
Spokesman: As you know, UNESCO is a specialised agency. They have their own rules and procedure. It's something we have no comment or no authority to comment on. Again, it's… these are issues and questions that need…
Question: I mean, is there any way to get an answer since they not really returning the emails…
Spokesman: Well, I can see if questions are being… I can try to find people to answer those questions, but it is not up to me to speak to this issue. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: What does the Secretary-General think of the selection of Ms. Azoulay as the next executive?
Spokesman: First of all, I think the process has yet to be officially completed, so we will wait for the process to be officially completed and for UNESCO to go through its process. But, obviously, the selection of a new head of a specialised agency is in the hands of the Member States, and the Secretary-General looks forward to working with the new head of UNESCO once that person is confirmed. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. Thanks a lot. I'd wanted… I mean… on Cameroon, since we've heard now for this Fall visit for almost two weeks since the mass killings of 1 October, I wanted to ask you, over the weekend, a mass grave was found near Buea, and documents have emerged of people being summoned into the police. And what's reported is that people are being told what to say and not to say if and when… which I guess it's now when… UN investigators arrive. So, I just wonder, is the UN aware of this? How do you explain that if… if Mr. Fall was going to go, like, it's extremely serious situation. Is there some… the ambassador here said that there's no reason for him to go. You're saying he's totally welcome; it's just a matter of dates. Who… is the problem with Mr. Fall's schedule or the Cameroonian schedule? Because people are very upset… [Inaudible]
Spokesman: I think, as with any visit from a UN senior official or anyone from the UN, it needs to be done in agreement with the Government.
Question: So his team that went there before – I'd asked you this before – is it possible to know the level that they were and if, in fact, they went to Buea, the city in which bodies are being found… [Inaudible]
Spokesman: I'll see what I can get. Okay?
Correspondent: I want…
Spokesman: Go ahead. One more.
Question: No, I have more than one. I wanted… okay. If there's only going to be one more, I'll go with this one. There's a… you know, I'd asked you about the budget. Farhan [Haq] sent me a few links. There's an ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) report on the Secretary-General's budget proposal. And one of the things that they say is that there's a lack of clarity in these dollar… they say… they say… and I'm just going to do this from memory although I have… there's seven dollar-a-year Under-Secretary-Generals or Assistant Under-Secretary-Generals but that there's a generalised lack of clarity of the actual cost to the system in terms of supporting them. So, I wanted to know, what's the Secretary-General or the Secretariat's response? Can't… will… will the disclosure that's being requested be made public? And the ACABQ document is also critical of the hiring of consultants, such as I asked you about in the case of DPI (Department of Public Information). You said whatever… whether or not there's a procurement process, they're saying that there's a need to show… only in the most extremely circumstances should these consultants be hired. And what is DPI's presentation of the… what is the extreme circumstance? And does it involve the upcoming trip to CAR (Central African Republic), which was also discussed in this town hall meeting?
Spokesman: I don't think it involves the upcoming trip to CAR. I'll try to get something for you from DPI. Obviously, whenever the ACABQ raises questions of the Secretariat, those questions are answered. On the issue of the envoys, I think the Secretary-General, since the beginning, has had in mind to streamline the number of Special Envoys, including dollar-a-year envoys. And I think most of the envoys were given a year extension of contract to give time for the Secretary-General to look at the system and the cost-benefit analysis of having these dollar-a-year envoys. Yes, go ahead, Linda.
Question: Thank you, Steph. This is regarding Syria, and I was wondering what the latest developments are regarding the status of political talks.
Spokesman: When I think Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura has something to announce, he will do so. He's continuing his wide-ranging consultation. To be fair, we'll give you one more question.
Question: Thanks. I appreciate that. No, actually, I'll go procedural again. I saw, as I was being escorted to the Human Rights Council vote, the Secretary-General's podium or rostrum being set up in front of the Security Council. So was… had there been a plan for a stakeout and since… what would be the… would it have been on… [Inaudible]
Spokesman: Well, once… stakeouts are confirmed once they are announced.
Question: Right. But once you're setting it up, it seems like…
Spokesman: Well, you know, things go… a lot of things go on below the water line, and when we're ready to emerge, we emerge. [Inaudible]
Correspondent: This is highly above the water line.
Spokesman: I will leave you in fine hands with the… and good waters with Mr. Varma.
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