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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

10 July 2019

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

**Secretary-General's Travels

Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General opened the high-level conference on counter-terrorism and preventing violent extremism, hosted at the United Nations compound in Nairobi.  In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that terrorism is spreading and destabilizing entire regions in Africa, but he added that the people of Africa continue to show great courage and resilience in challenging those who seek to spread violence and hatred.  "The determination of Africans to find solutions to the scourge of terrorism is clear," he said.  The Secretary-General outlined to the delegates what he hoped the conference would achieve – notably, new and strengthened partnerships between Africa and the international community and between African states themselves to tackle the threat of violent extremism and terrorism.  In order to address and prevent this scourge, he said, entire communities must be mobilized, and local solutions must be developed.  The Secretary-General said it was time for the international community to step up and provide the financial and technical resources to support African-owned and African-led counterterrorism efforts, while fully respecting human rights, the rule of law and gender considerations.

Prior to the meeting, the Secretary-General met with Kenya's President, Uhuru Kenyatta.  The two discussed regional issues, climate change and the strong partnership between Kenya and the United Nations.  He also had a bilateral meeting with Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and they held a brief encounter with the media.  The Secretary-General told journalists that he believes that we need African forces in peace enforcing and counter-terrorism operations to be much more supported than in the past.  Prior to leaving, he also participated in a dialogue on the role of women in preventing violent extremism.  The Secretary-General had the opportunity to listen to a number of women civil society representatives working across all five African Union regions who shared their experiences and their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges of working on counterterrorism and preventing violent extremism.  He underscored to the women around the table his belief that, to deal with terrorism and violent extremism, the solution goes through local communities.  The Secretary-General will be in Mozambique tomorrow.

**Russian Federation

The Secretary-General posted a tweet just now in which he welcomed the Russian Government's announcement ahead of the Climate Action Summit to submit plans to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change.  The Secretary-General wrote "We can win the race against the climate emergency, but we need all hands on deck."

**Security Council

This afternoon, the Security Council is holding a debate about peacekeeping operations, with a special focus on strengthening triangular cooperation between the Council, the Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries.  Expected to brief are Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and the Force Commander of the peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre.


Our peacekeeping colleagues tell us that senior military officials from more than 110 Member States and regional organizations will participate in the two-day Chiefs of Defence Conference that began here today at UN Headquarters.  This is the third such Conference, which is held every other year.  The theme of this year's Conference is "Generating Capabilities to Meet High-Performance Requirements" in UN peacekeeping.  It aims to generate solutions for issues such as performance, training and expanding the role of women in our operations.  The Conference builds on the recent ministerial meeting in March, where Member States renewed their collective engagement with UN Peacekeeping through the Secretary-General's Action for Peacekeeping initiative.


The UN is deeply concerned about attacks against healthcare in Afghanistan.  Between 6 and 9 July, three attacks in Ghazni, Maidan Wardak and Ghor Provinces resulted in the death of five health workers employed by non-governmental organizations while unconfirmed reports indicate that two patients were also killed.  A statement by the Humanitarian Coordinator is available online.  Afghanistan is among the world's deadliest conflicts.  So far in 2019, 77 aid workers have been killed, injured or abducted, compared with 76 in all of 2018.  The UN recalls that all parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect humanitarian aid workers, health workers and facilities.  Incidents need to be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.  The UN and humanitarian partners continue to provide assistance to people affected by conflict and natural disasters, including 13 million people with food insecurity.  The Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan requests $612 million to assist 4.5 million people in 2019 and is currently only 27 per cent funded.


Our humanitarian colleagues are concerned about conditions in Rukban in south-eastern Syria along the border with Jordan, where an estimated 25,000 displaced people continue to live in dire conditions, with limited or no access to health care, basic food and other humanitarian assistance.  Since March, more than 16,000 people have left Rukban – or nearly 40 per cent of the estimated total population of 41,700.  People leaving Rukban receive basic assistance at temporary collective shelters in Homs, before proceeding to their areas of choice, mostly towards southern and eastern Homs.  The UN has been granted access to the shelters on three occasions and found conditions there to be adequate during these visits.  The UN is currently awaiting approval from the Government of Syria on an operational plan submitted last week to assess needs inside Rukban, to assist with transport for people who wish to leave, and to provide humanitarian relief for those who decide to remain.  The UN continues to call for safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to Rukban, as well as to all those in need throughout Syria.

**Economic and Social Council

The High-Level Political Forum of the Economic and Social Council conducted two sessions this morning: on the challenges faced by small island developing States, and on the perspectives of least developed countries and landlocked developing countries.  The Forum discussed how responding to the vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States demands an integrative, holistic approach to addressing their interdependent challenges.  Meanwhile, least developed countries and landlocked developing countries include some of the world's most vulnerable populations at risk of being left behind.  Many of those countries are in conflict or post-conflict situations.  The Forum discussed how many people in those countries are disempowered by poverty and the lack of access to basic services.  This afternoon, the Forum will review progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8 – decent work and economic growth. 

**United Nations Environment Programme

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, have agreed to work together on the promotion and implementation of Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment, known as GLOBE.  The GLOBE Programme is an international science and education programme that provides students and the public worldwide with the opportunity to participate in data collection and scientific processes and contribute meaningfully to our understanding of the Earth's environment.  Through this partnership, GLOBE and UNEP will cooperate on environmental education and training, citizen science and the collection and distribution of environmental data.  You can find more information about this partnership online.

**Press Briefings

And after I'm done, you will hear from Monica Villela Grayley.  And then tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing here by the Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, Lise Kingo.  She will discuss the Global Compact's annual survey of corporate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals and the 1.5°C business mobilization campaign.  And that is it for me.  Do you have any questions?  Yes, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  UN Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. [Geir] Pedersen, was in Damascus yesterday.  As you told us, he was there to discuss the Constitutional Committee.  Do you have a readout of that meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  He'll be having a number of meetings, including today, I believe he is supposed to meet with the Foreign Minister, Walid al Muallem.  He does hope to discuss a number of issues, including the effort to move forward on the Constitutional Committee.  We may have some more details once his travel is concluded.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, Geir Pedersen had a press conference in Syria, and he said that they are very close.  Will we be able to get any con… very close to agreement; he was quite positive.  Will we be able to get any kind of a readout in any details?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah, I've asked his office, in fact, for a readout of his various meetings.  I'm awaiting that.  Once I have something to share, I'll provide it to you.  But, as you know, when he was here just a couple of weeks ago, he also expressed his optimism that they were moving ahead, and his hope has been, in his meetings with the parties, that they're getting closer on a number of issues… resolving a number of issues having to do with the Constitutional Committee.  I don't have anything further beyond what he's said in Damascus today to give, but, if I get some more details, like I said, I'll provide those.  Yes, James?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  Does the Secretary-General expect the Governments of France and the UAE [United Arab Emirates] to give a clear explanation as to how their weapons ended up in the hands of Libya's renegade general's forces?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, the issue of the sanctions on Libya is an issue that's being followed up by the Security Council's own Sanctions Committee.  And we expect all countries to cooperate with providing the Sanctions Committee with the information they need about any violations of the sanctions regime.  So, we're hopeful that that will happen.

Question:  Is it your understanding that the Panel of Experts will be looking into this specific incident involving the Governments of France and the UAE?

Deputy Spokesman:  It's clear that there are many issues on which the Panel of Experts are seized.  They certainly try to follow up on any reported violations of the sanctions and we'll see where they go with that.

Question:  But they should definitely cooperate with you, those two Governments?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, all Governments should cooperate with the Sanctions Committee.  But, yes, any potential violations or any potential problems with the sanctions regime, it becomes incumbent on the various parties to report back.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Is there any new… any update on Mr. [Martin] Griffiths' meeting with Mr. [Micheal] Pompeo?

Deputy Spokesman:  Mr. Griffiths is going to meet with the Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, at, I believe, 1:45 p.m. today.  So, we'll hopefully get more details after that's happened.  And with that, I…  Yes?

Question:  Can I do a couple more?  I'd throw two questions at you.  The US has said that it's arranging an armada of countries to organize naval patrols over the Strait of Hormuz.  Does the UN support this move, and is it something that should, in some way, go through a UN mechanism?  And a second question.  On the missile attack in Libya that hit the migrant detention centre, what's the latest on that in terms of the UN, its assistance to the people who survived the incident, and whether or not the Government in Tripoli is, indeed, coming good on its promise to close all these facilities?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're continuing to monitor the situation, including the situation in the facilities and also the need for accountability in that case.  And we'll continue to explore what role the UN can have in those ventures.  That procedure is going on right now.  Regarding your earlier question, I would just refer you to what we've been saying about the need to de-escalate tensions in the Gulf.  You'll have seen the statements that the Secretary-General has said about this, and we stand by those.  And with that… yes, one more.

Question:  Thank you.  One more?  Farhan, I sorry if I missed that statement, but, as you know, we are approaching yet another anniversary of Srebrenica.  Does Secretary-General has anything to say on that?  And does the UN is planning anything on that… to commemorate that day?

Deputy Spokesman:  I'll have to check up about commemorative events, but regarding our sentiments, as you know, the Secretary-General's heart goes out to the families of the victims of Srebrenica.  We've made clear the failings of the international community as a whole regarding Srebrenica and our own failings as the United Nations.  You'll have seen the reports, including from the 1990s, including those by Lakhdar Brahimi, that pointed to the sort of problems that the UN has had in places like Bosnia and Herzegovina.  And as you know, through our work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, we tried to get accountability for the crimes that were committed there.  Monica, come on up.

Question:  Do you… do you plan anything for tomorrow?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't know.

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