Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Great Lakes Region
Said Djinnit, the Special Envoy for the Secretary-General for the Great Lakes Region, told the Security Council today that outstanding challenges remained in the region, including the continuing presence and activities of negative forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He noted some progress in the cooperation between the Congolese Army and the UN Mission in the country, as well as in strengthening judicial cooperation in the region and investigating and prosecuting cases of violations of human rights.
However, Mr. Djinnit also underlined the potential of the presence in the eastern DRC of elements of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM-IO) to further exacerbate existing tensions. Support to the region, from Burundi to the Central African Republic, will be crucial as developments, including challenges related to elections and negative forces, continue to highlight its fragility, he said. That statement has been shared with you.
**Central African Republic
The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, continued his visit to the Central African Republic. Today, he addressed the National Assembly. Noting the critical role of parliamentarians, he stressed the need for them to put reconciliation at the heart of their effort and to address the root causes of the conflict and end impunity. He also highlighted the need to restore security and establish inclusive governance, while upholding the rule of law. He also reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to supporting the Central African Republic. Mr. Eliasson said that the Organization would continue to focus on the protection of civilians and would also continue to request strict compliance with the zero‑tolerance policy regarding sexual exploitation and abuse.
The UN Mission in the country (MINUSCA) reports that eight people, including three civilians, died after clashes between self-defence groups in Bangui’s PK5 district over the weekend. Further fighting today has resulted in four persons wounded. Peacekeepers have increased patrols in the district to deter further clashes. Meanwhile, amid prevailing tensions in Ouham-Pendé Prefecture, the UN met with the Retour, Réclamation, Réhabilitation (3R) leadership and demanded that their fighters withdraw from the area. The Mission remains on high alert to address any threats against civilians.
And our humanitarian colleagues today tell us that 21,000 people are currently internally displaced due to military operations to retake the city of Mosul; half of them have found shelter in camps and the other half in host communities. The UN and partners are working around the clock to provide effective and immediate life-saving assistance and shelter within a maximum 48 hours of people crossing the frontlines. We are also assisting host communities and vulnerable residents of newly retaken villages. More should be available on OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) online.
And from Haiti, our humanitarian colleagues there tell us that since hurricane Matthew struck nearly a month ago, the WFP [World Food Programme] has reached more than 320,000 people with over 2,900 metric tons of food, but aid agencies are still struggling to reach some communities by road due to damaged infrastructure. And as for the $120 million Flash Appeal, it is now currently 33 per cent funded. So we thank the 33 per cent who have donated and we ask for more.
And just to give you an update from Myanmar, our colleagues at OCHA tell us that the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar is taking part in a two-day Government-led mission from 2‑3 November to visit villages affected by recent violence in northern Rakhine State. These villages include those the UN had asked for access to, in view of earlier reports of violence. The delegation does not include any technical personnel for any humanitarian assessment.
The UN is requesting unimpeded access so that humanitarian staff can carry out comprehensive needs assessment, meet any new urgent needs, and resume ongoing humanitarian activities in the area. Humanitarian services have been disrupted since 9 October in that area, with more than 150,000 people still unable to access their normal cash, food and nutrition assistance. More than 3,000 children were already diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition in the area and require access to continuing regular life-saving treatment.
Just flagging a press release by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which says that the Committee on the Rights of the Child says that France and the UK fell seriously short of their international obligations when dealing with the children living at the Calais migrant camp. The Committee has called on France and the United Kingdom to urgently address the situation of unaccompanied minors forced to take shelter in shipping containers or sleep outside when the so-called “Jungle” camp was demolished last week.
And in marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the Secretary-General says in a message that attacks on journalists violate the human rights of individuals and undermines freedoms of information and expression across societies. He notes that impunity, which makes this terrible situation worse, is rampant. The Secretary-General points out that of the 827 documented killings of journalists over the past decade, the information at hand shows that only 8 per cent of perpetrators were held to account. And he pays tribute to the courage of all media personnel who put their lives on the line for the sake of truth. He also calls for immediate action to secure justice in cases where journalists were attacked, harassed or killed. His message is online.
**Elton John AIDS Foundation
This evening, the Secretary-General will be honoured at the Enduring Vision awards dinner, being held by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Elton John and his husband, David Furnish, will present the Secretary-General with the Founder’s Award for being a champion of equal rights and fair treatment for LGBT people around the world. Ban Ki‑moon’s two terms as Secretary-General have been a time when human rights abuses against LGBT (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) people have received unprecedented attention at the UN, and the UN Human Rights Office has promoted LGBT equality with a global multimedia campaign — UN Free & Equal — that has reached billions of people around the world.
And this afternoon you are invited to attend a roundtable discussion entitled “Holocaust Remembrance and Public Memorials: the Complexities and Challenges of Facing the Past”. That’s from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., in Conference Room 1. Holocaust experts and scholars from Brazil, Japan, Israel, US, Ukraine, South Africa will discuss the relationship between Holocaust remembrance, public memory and education in countries. The event marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the tragedy at Babi Yar and the event is sponsored by DPI (Department of Public Information) and the Permanent Missions of Israel and Ukraine to the United Nations.
Tomorrow, I will be joined by Neil McFarlane, the Head of the UN liaison office for Disaster Risk Reduction in New York. Neil will speak on the occasion of World Tsunami Awareness Day – 5 November – and he will be accompanied by Petra Nemcova and Tomas Belon, who survived the Indian Ocean Tsunami in December 2004.
And I have a quiz for you. What is the document that is translated in the most languages? [The Journal?] No, you’re all… no, not The Journal. Please. You don’t even get… you’ve missed out on a candy. With the addition of North Bolivian Quechua language, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is now available in more than 500 languages and is already the world’s most translated document. The High Commissioner for Human Rights says the growing number of translations underscores the universality of the Declaration and the power of its words to resonate strongly across all cultures and languages. And that’s it. Mr. Bays?
**Questions and Answers
Question: I have a couple of follow‑up questions on the UNMISS (United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan) investigation. Twenty‑four hours ago, you told us that the force commander was being dismissed because it was one of the recommendations. It’s not one of the recommendations in the 22 that I read in the Executive Summary. How many other secret recommendations are there?
Spokesman: This is the public Executive Summary that we’ve shared with you and with the Security Council. The Secretary‑General has had access obviously to the full report. And based on that and the recommendations, including the full report, that was one of the decisions he’s taken…
Question: Are there any other recommendations that we don’t know about?
Spokesman: There is a longer, much more detailed report, which will not be released.
Question: And one other question, if you don’t mind, on the report. And it’s quite a simple one. Who is running UNMISS now?
Spokesman: Margrethe Ellen Løj [sic], the Special Representative of the Secretary‑General, remains in place. She’d already indicated she would leave the mission at the end of the November.
Question: And in terms of the military side?
Spokesman: The force… the current… the force commander is on leave, and currently Major General Chaoying Yang, the deputy force commander, is serving as acting force commander.
Question: And where is he from, which country?
Spokesman: He’s Chinese.
Question: So is that appropriate that someone from China, given that China was singled out in the report as… as one of the contingents that didn’t perform well, that there should be a Chinese, now, commander?
Spokesman: You know, I think we… the report highlighted some of the issues with a number of the contingents. The acting force commander is not the head of the Chinese battalion, who was the incident commander. They’re two different people. We have full confidence in the ability of Major General Yang to perform those functions. Mr. Lee? Go ahead… Matthew and then Michelle.
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, I’m sure you’ve seen… or you may or may not have seen Amnesty International saying that the action taken, the firing of the force commander, is… does not go far enough. I wanted to ask you, I guess, more specifically, given that this… UN peacekeeping has suffered a… a… scandals, not only in South Sudan, but also in CAR (Central African Republic), in Haiti and elsewhere, what’s… what would you say to those who say that the… firing the force commander is not enough? Is there any… what review is being made of the top leadership of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]? And, also, in the secret part or the unreleased part, is this issue of the use of teargas in fact ex… this is mentioned again in Amnesty’s…
Spokesman: Well, I think, on the issue of teargas, whether in South Sudan or in Haiti, we’ve been very clear. Teargas was used as a non‑lethal reaction to… in moments where security forces were about to be overwhelmed. We’ve been very transparent about when we use it and on… the Secretary‑General has full confidence in the leadership of the peacekeeping department. As I said yesterday, other measures will be looked at and shared as much as we can share them with you. I think the report in itself is… that the Secretary‑General himself commissioned is fairly hard‑hitting and transparent, and we will continue to take action on it.
Question: On teargas, you said it’s transparent, but one of the issues I’d asked you about here and that you said would be… or you said, wait for the report to come out, was the issue that UNMISS initially said it was an accidental… an accidental use of teargas. So was that a mistake? Was that a… and was that part of a pattern of denying such use until sophisticated groups investigate…?
Spokesman: I’m not going to tell… I’ll let you decide what’s a pattern and what’s not a pattern. I think you’ve asked me about teargas. I’ve answered. Michelle?
Question: Thanks, Steph. The Kenyan Government’s just put out a statement saying, instead of addressing the shortcomings of the Mission in South Sudan, the UN is unfairly attributing it to one individual, being the force commander, and they are withdrawing immediately all Kenyan troops deployed in South Sudan, discontinuing plans to contribute to the Regional Protection Force, and disengaging from the South Sudan Peace Process. Would you like to comment?
Spokesman: Like you, I just saw the… I saw the Twitter report just before we came in here. We have not been officially apprised of any of these decisions. We obviously value the contributions of the Kenyan soldiers and police officers in South Sudan and throughout peacekeeping. There are a bit over 1,000 Kenyans currently deployed in various places in South Sudan. We will wait to get some official notification before commenting further, but I would add that I think the report does address issues… much broader issues with the mission. Stefano? Long time.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. You remind us today is the day of protection, if you want, of journalists against violence, but I read the message of the Secretary‑General. And I expected something stronger about what’s happening at the moment in Turkey. Just Monday, we had a wave of arrests. There has been reaction just few hours ago. Chancellor [Angela] Merkel was very strong about it. So do you… does the Secretary‑General has something to say more about it?
Spokesman: I think we’ve expressed our concern in the past about the situation, and I think the message that the Secretary‑General put out is a broad message that applies to every country where freedom of the press is under attack. Yes, sir?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. First, there is an activity today about water. Water is a national security issue, and the UN Secretary‑General is expected to speak. So it was not announced in your briefing. I wonder why. And my second question is, today is the ninety-ninth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which led to the disposition of the Palestinian people. The Authority is asking England to regret. Any thoughts on that from the… your part?
Spokesman: No, I try not to go back to events that took place before the creation of this Organisation. I think, as far as the situation is concerned, the Secretary‑General’s wish for a two‑state solution has been made clear over and over again, and that continues to be our position. We will put out the statement… I think the Secretary‑General is delivering around lunchtime… as soon as it’s delivered. Mr. Lee?
Question: Sure. I just actually… on this Kenya one, I wanted to ask you, since you say it’s the first that you saw of it, was this tweet, was the… the Resident Representative in Kenya, the Secretary‑General’s son‑in‑law, informed by the Government of this decision that impacts the UN system?
Spokesman: Well, I think, if we had been informed officially, I would have said something.
Question: Was he informed? Can you check whether he was informed?
Spokesman: I… as far as… what I’m just telling you is that, as far as I know, we’ve not… no one has been apprised of this officially.
Question: What I wanted to ask you is, as the Secretary‑General prepares to go to COP (Conference of Parties) 22 in Morocco, it has emerged that… that on the website cop22.ma, there are a number of projects that are, in fact, in Western Sahara. These are projects carried out by Siemen’s and NL, and I’m asking you because various other… the EU, even, I believe, UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], treats these projects with kid gloves because they’re in a territory that’s listed in the Fourth Committee. So I wanted to know, what’s the Secretary‑General’s view of these sustainable energy, quote‑unquote, projects done by Morocco in… throughout Western Sahara? And should they be on the COP22 website? And should UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] be giving a… a… CDM certificates for them?
Spokesman: Let me take a look at the website. I don’t know if it’s a website run by the UN or by the Moroccan Presidency. So…
Question: What about UNFCCC? Should they be giving these CDM certificates for projects that are, in fact, built in contested territory?
Spokesman: I have to… Let me take a look at it before I say anything. Thank you. One more.
Question: Okay. Let me go Haiti, I guess. The… the… it’s been said by UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] in Haiti that they’re about to run out of funds. So I guess I wanted to ask you, having attempted or… attended or attempted to attend that 14 October meeting with Member States by the Deputy Secretary‑General and Ms. [Sandra] Honoré, what has… what progress report can you give? If that was the UN pitching to Member States to up their support to Haiti, what commitments have been made in the two… more than two weeks since?
Spokesman: Well, if you’re talking about the flash appeal, I said it’s about 33 per cent funded.
Question: No, no, I’m specifically… yeah. Cholera.
Spokesman: On the Haiti cholera, I don’t have any numbers to share with you.
Question: And do you have any… do you have any greater detail in terms of when, before he leaves, the Secretary‑General will make this presentation to the General Assembly…?
Spokesman: No. As soon as we know, I will let you know. Thank you.