Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
27 August 2018
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. Official travel to announce. The Secretary-General will be travelling to Ghana the week after next to attend the funeral of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which is scheduled to take place on 13 September. Thank you for paying attention.
Over the weekend, the Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed was in Stockholm, Sweden, to participate in the opening of World Water Week. She said that around the world, growing demands for water, coupled with poor water governance, are having a broad and negative impact on economies and societies. "It is clear that we need to do things differently," she said, adding that efficiently managing existing water resources is key for progress on this issue. Ms. Mohammed also stressed the need for better policies that take into account the risks arising from water-related disasters so resources can be allocated in a more equitable way. Her remarks have been put online.
**Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools
And on a related note, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today released their latest global assessment on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools, which establishes global, regional and national level estimates of progress towards the Sustainable Development target goals 6 and 4 related to water and sanitation and education, respectively. The report notes that globally in 2016, 19 per cent of schools worldwide had not improved their drinking water services [since] the previous assessment, which means that nearly 570 million children worldwide had either limited or no drinking water services at their schools. Meanwhile, 23 per cent of schools had not improved sanitation facilities, meaning that they relied on [pits], hanging or bucket latrines or had no sanitation facilities at all. This means that around 620 million children had either a limited or no sanitation services at their schools. The full report is online.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
I have a personnel announcement today. The Secretary-General is appointing Mr. Satya S. Tripathi of India as Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the New York Office of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). He succeeds Elliott Harris of Trinidad and Tobago, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his leadership and dedicated service during his tenure. Mr. Tripathi has since 2017 served as Senior Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at UNEP. A development economist and lawyer with over 35 years of experience, he has worked for the UN since 1998 in Europe, Asia and Africa. We welcome him, and more information is available online.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
This morning, here in the Security Council the head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), Leila Zerrougui, briefed the Security Council. She told members of the Council that tangible progress has been made on the ongoing electoral process. However, she said that, despite this progress, the coming period before the elections take place on 23 December will be marked by disputes and intense political consultations, and she encourages all parties to continue to engage in dialogue. Ms. Zerrougui also said that the perceived credibility of the electoral process remains a key concern and that could heighten tensions in the country. She added that more meaningful inclusion of women in the electoral process is a priority, as well as ensuring that there is no intimidation of political activists and human rights defenders. Ms. Zerrougui also called for the lifting of the general ban on public demonstrations and upholding the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are crucial to making meaningful progress as the holding of elections draws nearer. Her statement is available to you.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo – Humanitarian
On a related note, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the humanitarian situation remains worrying in Uvira territory in South Kivu, where over 14,000 people have been displaced following an attack by a coalition of the Mai Mai militia on 18 August. Many people who were displaced were forced to flee again. In addition, earlier this month, some 3,900 people were reportedly displaced in [northern] Shabunda and some 3,200 people in the southeast of the province of Maniema, this due to clashes between armed groups and the armed forces. Since June, the United Nations and its partners have been assisting over 600,000 people in need, including internally displaced people and refugees from Burundi, about 28,000 of them, in South Kivu.
Also on the subject of refugees, over the weekend, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is relieved that the remaining rescued people on board the Italian coast guard vessel Diciotti have now disembarked and commends the countries and organizations that have shown solidarity by offering to take those who remained on board. UNHCR encouraged the establishment of predictable arrangements in the Mediterranean region for the disembarkation of people rescued at sea and urged States to accelerate efforts to put such arrangements in place and address this type of situation. This year alone, more than 1,600 people have lost their lives attempting to reach European shores, despite the number of people attempting to cross being significantly reduced as compared to previous years.
As you will have seen, the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, established by the Human Rights Council, issued a report today in which it called for the country's military leaders to be investigated for crimes committed in north Rakhine State, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The report is available online, and a fuller version, containing detailed factual information and legal analysis, will be presented to the Human Rights Council on 18 September.
And today, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) reported that international tourist arrivals grew by 7 per cent in 2017. That's the highest number since 2010. The World Tourism Organization says China continues to lead global outbound travel, having spent $258 billion on international tourism in 2017. This is almost one fifth of the world's tourism spending in 2017, which stood at $1.3 trillion, and that is $94 billion more than in 2016. And when it comes to popularity, the number one destination was… France. There you go.
And today, we say thank you very much to our friends in Paraguay, as that Member State has paid its regular budget dues in full, which brings us up to? It was 124. You're jumping the gun. Either I'm wrong, or you're wrong, but we'll… you tried, so that's okay. You get to play. Go ahead.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéph, on the Myanmar report, it's… the panel says the UN… UN's quiet diplomacy had failed, and they recommended a comprehensive independent inquiry into the UN involvement in Myanmar since 2011 to see if everything possible was done to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crisis. So, will there be an investigation? What are you doing from your end…?
Spokesman: The report, the report was just shared with us today. I think, as far as the Secretary-General is concerned, this is a very important report that all bodies of the United Nations and the international community should give serious consideration to, as well as its recommendations. I mean, I think, as you know, the Secretary-General has, for a long time, underscored the violations of human rights in Myanmar and has underscored the fact that these must be addressed and that accountability is essential for genuine reconciliation within all ethnic groups as well as necessary regional security and stability. Go ahead.
Question: So, to follow that up, on accountability, does the Secretary-General agree with the recommendation that it should be referred to the International Criminal Court?
Spokesman: As I said, this is, the report was just received. As you know, it's an independent report. We will, the Secretary-General and, will be giving it due considerations and all other bodies of the United Nations should give it due consideration. As you know, the, the ICC referral does not go through the Secretary-General.
Question: Might he suggest tomorrow, in his remarks to the Security Council, some… something?
Spokesman: I think as you will see… he will address, as you well said, he will address the Security Council in a previously scheduled open meeting on Myanmar tomorrow.
Question: The Secretary-General has indicated that there was ethnic cleansing in Myanmar against the Rohingyas. Does he go along with the findings of this investigative body from the Human Rights Council that this could constitute genocide?
Spokesman: The actual naming of a genocide is one, as far as the UN is concerned, needs to be done by an international judicial body. That is not to say that the Secretary-General hasn't shied away from being very open as the way he sees the situation in northern Rakhine State, and I would encourage you to pay close attention to what he will say tomorrow. Yes, sir.
Question: Stéphane, this meeting of the, of the Secretary-General with the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua, is the UN taking up any sort of mediation role in the crisis? And what's the message that the SG's…?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General's message has been consistent, is that he stresses the need for politically inclusive solution to the crisis and a solution that leaves no one behind. Yeah.
Question: If I can just follow-up, on the mediation aspect, the President of Nicaragua has asked the UN to take a role in that sense. Is there any progress…?
Spokesman: When we have… when we have something to announce, we will. Yep?
Correspondent: Also, a quick follow-up on Nicaragua. This meeting happens pretty much couple of hours after fresh reports came out from Nicaragua on new acts of repression against students who want a change on their Government. So, I wonder if this issue in particular of abuses against human rights was addressed on this meeting…
Spokesman: The meeting is going on or just completed, so I don't have any more details at this, at this point.
Question: On DRC, is there a date settled for a visit of Guterres?
Spokesman: No. There is… there is no date settled. Stefano?
Question: Yes. On the case on the migrants and the last of the charter ship, the UN has, through Grandi, a UN… say, practically, that it's more… you know, that Europe should take more responsibility and… on this issue it and… but because it's months and months that we going on always with the same thing and Italy and Europe now are also on the verge… Italy even say that we'll drop its funding to Europe if this continues, shouldn't be the Secretary-General, at this point, be a voice to, you know, sometimes you need the referee where say point finger, who is right, who is wrong, and to make sure that this is resolved also for the human rights law not being respected…?
Spokesman: I think, with all due respect, I think anybody who has been listening to António Guterres will know that he's had an extremely strong and vocal voice on the issue of refugees, the rights of refugees, the need for people to respect those rights, for them to be treated with humanity in accordance with established international law. And he has often pointed out that solidarity for refugees is shown overwhelmingly in the developing world where we see where most refugees are housed, just to take the Rohingyas in Bangladesh, the hundreds of thousands of people that have arrived in, in Bangladesh over the last year and the generosity with which they've been welcomed by and taken in by the Bangladeshi authorities. There, a couple things. One is, obviously, there are issues that need to be dealt with within the framework of the European Union, and then there's a bigger global framework on the global pact on migration, which is something the UN and Ms. Arbour is working towards.
Correspodent: And then… and then I have another question at this… sorry. I wasn't here for some time. I was on vacation. Just want an update…
Spokesman: You don't watch the briefing while you're on vacation?
Question: When I'm on vacation, no, I have to go back. But, just if you can help me, on the situation of Matthew Lee, because it actually happened, all these happening in a moment where, you know, even in this country, we have attack on the press, press freedom and everything, can you update us or me only for everybody in what's happening and if there is somehow, some way that can be… this situation can be fixed, because doesn't look good in a situation where there are many…?
Spokesman: First… to say… to say… to say that this is a freedom of the press issue is wrong. We work, I personally work and I've worked for years with some of the journalists that have written the most critical things about the United Nations, about the Secretary-General, and we work with them in a collaborative and open manner. We will continue to do so. Mr. Lee's… the revocation of Mr Lee's credentials has to do with behaviour. It has to do with him being found in the parking lot late at night when he shouldn't be, in places where he, roaming the halls at times where he shouldn't be, with… with creating a hostile environment for journalists, for staff and for diplomats. It has to do with behaviour, and it has nothing to do with what is written. Yes, ma'am?
Question: I have a question regarding the dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. Is going to be this month any briefing of Security Council from UNMIK?
Spokesman: We'll have to check. I don't think there's anything programmed until the end of this month, and then we'll have to see if, if there's something scheduled for the month of, of September. We just have to look at the calendar.
Question: It seems that there is agreement between President of Serbia and President of Kosovo and a final agreement, what they are saying and they are asking for support. Does the UN has any information about agreements? And is the UN supporting the agreement?
Spokesman: Sure. The UN, in accordance with the Security Council resolution, is status neutral on the issue of the "border discussions" that are going on between Pristina and Belgrade. For us, it's critical that all sides remain committed to the dialogue progress and refrain from taking any steps that could hinder any dialogue in the progress. The European Union has been facilitating these discussions. They're in… in the lead. We're, obviously, our mission in Kosovo is following the discussion very closely. My understanding is that there will be a meeting in Brussels in September, and we look forward to seeing what the outcome of that…
Spokesman: Yeah. So, we look forward to seeing what the outcome of that meeting is. Nizar?
Question: Yeah, thanks, Stéphane. Two massacres happened last week in Yemen attacking children. Twenty children were killed in Brahimi area near Hodeidah after 30 were killed in Sa'ada. Does the Secretary-General call for an independent inquiry on that? Again, I've seen Mr. Lowcock's…
Spokesman: Yes, and he has and he did when those, this was brought up during the briefings at the time it happened.
Question: How… how is he following, I mean, with the States…?
Spokesman: We continue to be in, in discussion with all the parties.
Question: One more question. Today, there's major escalation when Ansar Allah declared that they attacked Dubai International Airport by a drone. Do you have any view or position on that…
Spokesman: No, I don't have any… I've seen the press reports as I was coming in today. I don't have any independent confirmation. But, obviously, in principle, we condemn any attack on civilian infrastructure. But, again, we're waiting, I'm waiting to get more information. Masood…?
Question: One more question. The… did Mr. Griffiths send his invitations to Geneva talks?
Spokesman: Yes, he did.
Question: Are Ansar Allah included in those invitations?
Spokesman: The… the invitations, invitations were sent out. We'll see if we can get a bit more… I'll come back to you. Masood. Yes, Masood.
Question: Yeah. Stéphane, on this targeted killing of the Palestinians by the Israelis as mentioned in the book Rise and Kill First that 33,000 Palestinians have been targeted since 1917 – I think, 1917 – the book says that they have been terribly targeted for… to get the Palestinians on the negotiating table. Is, do you have any comments on that?
Spokesman: I haven't seen, I haven't seen the book.
Question: You haven't heard about the book…?
Spokesman: I have not. I have not. Yes.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Does the UN or the Secretary-General have anything to say about the fact that at least three Latin American leaders who are eligible to run for re-election have been imprisoned and… well, Lula in Brazil, I mean, this is something of a scandal. Now Cristina Kirchner in Argentina… Fernández Kirchner, and Rafael Correa. This is judicial interference with electoral process.
Spokesman: Listen, I'm not in am in a position to comment on those three cases. What is important is that the rule of law, as a matter of principle, be followed. Sorry. Go ahead. Nizar, I'll come back to you. I'm going still for people who have not yet asked. Zach, go ahead.
Question: Regarding Myanmar, the report seems to note that Aung San Suu Kyi was not able to… or did not use any of her, any kind of moral authority or power to stem some of the problems that were, that were committed by the military. Has the Secretary-General had any dialogue with her at any point to stop it…?
Spokesman: There was an exchange, there was dialogue with her a few months back. Nothing, nothing recently. Yes, Nizar.
Correspondent: Ansar Allah said that today no invitations were… were sent to them.
Spokesman: As, as I was trying to say earlier, as soon, when I have any update on the invitations, I will share them with you.
Question: Do you have an update…?
Spokesman: But I will… I believe they were sent out.
Question: Do you have any update on the humanitarian relief in Hodeidah through Hodeidah and other areas?
Spokesman: Not… not today. Yes, sir.
Question: Stéphane, there have been statements today from the legitimate government of Yemen and also from the Coalition to the United Nations. The Yemeni Government is saying that the United Nations, I'm just quoting them here, United Nations reports became just an improved version of the Houthi reports, according to them, and that you've taken most of your information from the Yemeni… from the Houthi Ministry of Health and base your reports on their reports. Colonel Turki al-Maliki today spoke in a press conference about few hours ago, and he said that they are very surprised, some of the statement coming out… emanating from this organisation and the officials here. He also was wondering why there are no, no statements from the United Nations concerning the militia, the Houthi militia is controlling containers and storage belonging to an international organization, I don't know which organization…
Spokesman: I think we, first of all, I'd say we stand by the impartiality of our reporting, whether it's on the humanitarian end or on the political track. Our only narrative is the one of the people of Yemen and trying to help the people of Yemen and trying to help them by ending the conflict that has been ongoing for far too long, which has created a humanitarian, a man-made humanitarian crisis in, in a place that was already suffering from, from humanitarian needs, and we will continue our work in that vein.
Question: If I may just follow up, he also, Maliki, Colonel Turki al-Maliki, was wondering why the insistence of having your offices of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Sana'a in spite of the very ill treatment, and we saw that in UN reports of the Houthi government there or authorities, I should say, of the workers, of the UN workers, and…?
Spokesman: The, the location of the, of the office is determined by the best possible place for us to do our work. Yes, Masood.
Question: Thank you, you didn't comment on the treatment of the Houthis detaining workers of the UN offices and…?
Spokesman: I think we… we have commented on what we need to comment to at the right time. Yes.
Question: Stéphane, would you have a comment, please, on, on this particular question that I asked about targeted killing of the Palestinians at a…?
Spokesman: Our… we, as a matter of principle, we stand against extrajudicial executions anywhere they may happen. Thank you.
Spokesman: Oh, sorry, sorry. One more.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have a comment on the delayed verdict of the two Reuters journalists, or does he plan to mention that tomorrow in his speech to the Security Council?
Spokesman: We are continuing to call for the release of the Reuters journalists, and we urge the authorities to respect their rights to pursue freedom of expression and information. And we continue to work towards their release and to strengthen the protection of journalists, especially in this case, who are trying to report on human rights violations. Thank you.
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