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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

22 January 2020

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Eri Kaneko, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General Priorities

This morning, the Secretary-General briefed the General Assembly on his priorities for the year.  He identified four looming threats that can endanger progress and jeopardize our future:  the highest global geostrategic tensions in years; the climate crisis; global mistrust; and the downsides of new technologies.  The Secretary-General said these four twenty-first-century challenges require twenty-first-century solutions.  First, he stressed the role of prevention, mediation and peacekeeping to address geopolitical tensions.  Second, he called on the main emitters to lead the way and step up ahead of COP26 in Glasgow.  Third, to address global mistrust, the Secretary-General said that countries must build a fair globalization and he highlighted the importance of women fully participating in all aspects of society including decision-making.  Finally, he said that we must steer technology for positive change and promote global digital cooperation, noting that the United Nations is a tailor-made platform for Governments, business and civil society to come together to build agile and flexible regulatory frameworks.  The Secretary-General also launched the Decade of Action for the Sustainable Development Goals and stressed that this was the time to listen to people and urgently act for better future for all.

**Trip Announcement

And just a reminder, as we told you yesterday, the Secretary-General will take part in this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  Tomorrow afternoon, he will deliver a special address on the state of the world on Thursday afternoon.  You can watch that live online.  And on Friday, the Secretary-General will take part in a UN75 event in which he will ask young global shapers for their solutions to global challenges.  This event will be livestreamed, and we'll share those details with you as soon as we get them.  The Secretary-General will also attend the launch of a Global Compact scheme to bolster ambition to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  And he will also hold bilateral meetings with world leaders on the margins of the World Economic Forum.


Turning to Syria, we remain deeply concerned about the safety of over 3 million civilians in Idleb and the surrounding areas in the north-west, amid growing hostilities over the past week.  Air strikes and shelling reportedly continue to affect communities in western Aleppo and various parts of southern Idleb and northern Hama, with dozens of civilian casualties reported in recent days, including many women and children.  According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), more than 1,500 civilians in north-west Syria have been killed since April 2019, including over 430 children and 290 women.  An estimated 358,000 people have been displaced in Idleb over the last two months alone.  The UN continues to urge all parties, and those with influence over them, to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.


In a statement yesterday evening, the Secretary-General welcomed the announcement of the formation of a new Government in Lebanon.  He looks forward to working with Prime Minister Hassan Diab and the incoming Council of Ministers, including in support of Lebanon's reform agenda and to address the pressing needs of its people.  The Secretary-General reiterated the United Nations commitment to support Lebanon's strengthening of its sovereignty, stability and political independence.  That full statement is available online.


The Secretary-General spoke to you yesterday afternoon after he briefed the Security Council in closed consultations on Libya.  He called the Berlin conference, held on Sunday, a "major step", but he also stressed that it was just the beginning.  The Secretary-General noted that there is a truce, but he underscored the need to move to a ceasefire and then to a real political process.  For that, the Secretary-General said, the pressure of the international community, including the Security Council, is essential.  That transcript is online.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Protecting civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Beni territory requires a comprehensive response, involving all components of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), the UN country team, as well as external partners.  This is the main conclusion of an independent assessment, led by Lieutenant General Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz, and requested by the Department of Peace Operations to evaluate MONUSCO's response to the high number of attacks against civilians and Ebola response workers in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Beyond improved coordination related to military operations, the assessment recommended the development of a comprehensive, joint strategy between the Government and MONUSCO, including at the political level, to address insecurity in the Beni area.  The Department of Peace Operations is developing an action plan to implement the key recommendations of the assessment.  There are more details in a note that we shared with you yesterday.

**Central African Republic

On the Central African Republic, the humanitarian situation has continued to deteriorate due to conflict and recent natural disasters that have also affected the capital, Bangui.  The country is experiencing a dire and complex humanitarian crisis and half of the population, 2.6 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.  Yesterday, the Government, the UN and humanitarian partners launched the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan, targeting 1.6 million people and requesting $401 million.  The plan aims to address physical and mental well-being needs, living conditions and protection of the most vulnerable, where civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis.  In 2019, the UN and humanitarian partners raised $300.3 million and helped more than 1.1 million people within the Humanitarian Response Plan framework.


In Geneva today, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Director-General, Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], has convened an emergency committee to determine whether the Coronavirus outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it.  We expect that, in about one hour, the committee's decision and recommendations will be shared on WHO's website and through a press conference that will be broadcast live on their Twitter account and Facebook page.


I would like to read into the record an announcement that we issued out last night, concerning the Secretary-General's appointing Lt. Gen. Daniel Sidiki Traoré of Burkina Faso as the Force Commander of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).  Lt. Gen. Traoré succeeds Lt. Gen. Balla Keita of Senegal, who will complete his assignment on 29 February.  The Secretary-General is grateful for his tireless dedication, invaluable service and effective leadership.  As the current Military Adviser to the Chief of General Defence Staff of Burkina Faso, Lt. Gen. Traoré had a distinguished career since joining the Army of Burkina Faso in 1977.  He also has extensive Peacekeeping experience, and we have much more on this on our website.

**Honour Roll

Finally, I am delighted to welcome eight more Member States to the Honour Roll.  The following countries have paid their regular budget dues in full – that's Bahrain, Cuba, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Nepal and Singapore.  I'll spare you the pain of guessing the number – that takes our total to 22.  Thank you.  And does anybody have any questions?  Sorry, Margaret, one second.  Thank you.  Margaret?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Eri, Ms. Callamard and David Kaye put out a statement calling for an investigation into Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's potential hacking of Jeff Bezos and also calling for restrictions or robust monitoring of the sale and marketing of surveillance equipment.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to their calls?  And does he agree that there's a need for an investigation?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you know, this is a report by two Special Rapporteurs.  They produced that report in an unpaid, independent capacity.  So, we have no comment on the report, per se.  We'll take a look at it, but, as you may know, we saw it just about the same time you did, so we'll take a look at it.  Yes?

Question:  About 20 minutes ago, VICE published what they claim is the report which prompted the UN experts to make these calls.  I'm wondering if you've seen that yet and the off-chance that you might be able to confirm that that is the original report on which these experts' calls were made?

Associate Spokesperson:  As you said, it was 20 minutes ago, so we haven't seen it yet, but thank you for letting us know.  Nabil?

Question:  Thank you.  I see that the SG uses very positive language regarding Lebanon and the formation of the new Government, but, in the same time, he did not use any, or didn't call for any accountability on the violence that we have seen in the last weeks and especially last days in the country.  Many people lost their [inaudible] and heavily injured because of the violence.  What do you have to say about that?  And why didn't the SG call for accountability or investigations?

Associate Spokesperson:  Regarding the violence, in past weeks, we've been issuing the same call, which is that we've been calling on security forces to protect peaceful protesters and refrain from using the force… refrain from using disproportionate force.  We, again, today, once again, call on all concerned to avoid violence and to respect and protect the right to peaceful assembly and expression.

Question:  So, is this, is this a call for investigations, accountability?

Associate Spokesperson:  That's what I have for you today.  Edie?

Question:  Hi, Eri.  Can we expect some kind of a statement from the Secretary-General after WHO responds on the… this new coronavirus, given that China's already imposing some travel restrictions and that this virus has spread to a number of other countries, including the United States?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as a first step, we'll wait and see what the executive committee decides.  We should know the results of that soon.  And then, from our side, tomorrow, the Emergency Directors Group of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee's Secretariat – that's chaired by [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and also includes UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund], the World Food Programme, WHO and the Red Cross – they'll be meeting tomorrow to prepare for the possibility of the virus appearing in much weaker and fragile countries who will find it harder to cope.  So, let's see what… what comes out of that meeting.  Is that it?  All right.  You guys were easy on me.  Thank you very much.  Have a good day.

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