The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General will leave New York this evening to travel to Switzerland. Tomorrow, on Thursday, he will be attending the Conference on Cyprus that is taking place in Crans-Montana.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General presented his first report on the repositioning of the UN development system to the Economic and Social Council. The Secretary-General said that the 2030 Agenda is our boldest agenda for humanity, and requires equally bold changes in the UN development system. He stressed that, just like the 2030 Agenda is an integrated platform to address people’s needs, the UN development system must also be far more integrated in its work to respond effectively.
The Secretary-General underlined key areas for reform which will include ensuring that the UN system fully transitions from the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] to the 2030 Agenda; increasing the focus on financing for development so countries can unlock the doors to financing, expertise, know-how and technologies; creating a new generation of country teams that are more cohesive, flexible and can respond to the specific needs of each country — this includes redefining the role of Resident Coordinators by delinking them from being UNDP’s [United Nations Development Programme] Resident Representatives and giving them direct supervisory lines over all UN country team members so they can lead the team more effectively; and, also, increasing accountability, oversight and transparency in the field, as well as at Headquarters.
The Secretary-General’s first report will be followed by a second one with further recommendations, as well as more detailed actions for reform, and will be presented in the second half of this year in December. Both his remarks, as well as the report, are available online.
**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Miroslav Jenca, will be briefing the Security Council, at the request of the Council, on the situation in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]. As you will have seen yesterday, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the launch of a ballistic missile of possible intercontinental range conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He said that this action is yet another brazen violation of Security Council resolutions and constitutes a dangerous escalation of the situation. The DPRK leadership must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations. The Secretary-General underlined the importance of maintaining the unity of the international community in addressing this serious challenge.
You will have seen also that yesterday we also announced two senior personnel appointments. One is the appointment by the Secretary-General of Catherine Marchi-Uhel of France as the new Head of the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism to Assist in the Investigation and Prosecution of Persons Responsible for the Most Serious Crimes under International Law Committed in the Syrian Arab Republic since March 2011, otherwise known as the Mechanism.
She will be the first Head of the Mechanism, which was established by the General Assembly in December. She brings to this position over 27 years of experience in the judiciary and in public service, including with the UN, in the fields of criminal law, transitional justice and human rights. And following consultations with Member States and the Executive Board of UN-Women, the Secretary-General also announced the re-appointment of Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa, whom you well know, as Executive Director of UN-Women for a further four-year term.
From Yemen, our colleagues at [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] tell us that cholera has now reached 21 of Yemen’s governorates. There have been 270,000 suspected cases and more than 1,600 deaths since late April of this year. Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners received 400 tons of life-saving medical supplies and equipment — including 30 fully equipped ambulances and kits to treat 10,000 people — in Aden and Hudaydah.
Health partners will set up 2,350 treatment beds and more than 600 oral rehydration points throughout Yemen. For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) said today it is scaling up its emergency operations in Yemen, which is on the brink of famine. More than 17 million people, or two thirds of the population, do not know where their next meal will come from. WFP calls for immediate funds and unimpeded access to reach those most in need to avert famine. The agency needs $482 million from July to December to continue providing vital assistance to people in the country.
**Central African Republic
We have an update from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on the situation in Zémio, where displaced civilians continue to shelter in locations, including the local church and hospital. Yesterday, UN peacekeepers exchanged fire with unidentified armed persons in the town on two separate occasions. No casualties were reported. Peacekeepers also arrested four armed anti-Balaka-affiliated people later in the day. MINUSCA continues to deploy around Zémio to deter further violence between the Muslim and Christian communities.
Separately, in Kaga Bandoro, the Mission is meeting with local authorities and members of the Christian and Muslim communities to advocate for calm, following attacks by ex-Séléka last week. Our colleagues at [the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] (UNHCR) also strongly condemned an attack against their staff and premises that took place in the town on 1 July. Meanwhile, last Friday, President Touadéra confirmed the appointments of five magistrates and the international special prosecutor in a major step forward towards the operationalization of the Special Criminal Court.
From Iraq, [the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] is telling us that civilians continue to flee Mosul as fighting progresses in the old city. Since the start of the Mosul operation last October, 916,000 people have been displaced, with more than 3,600 people recorded as newly displaced yesterday. At least 10,000 to 20,000 people are believed to still be in the old city. Aid workers do not have access to the area and are extremely concerned for the safety of these civilians, who face risks from cross fire, direct targeting and use as human shields by Da’esh.
The Mosul crisis has surpassed humanitarian workers’ worst-case planning scenarios, which envisaged some 750,000 people requiring assistance over the course of the military offensive. The response has, however, kept pace with escalating displacement and needs, with some 1.9 million people having received front-line emergency assistance since the start of the ongoing crisis.
Meanwhile, in Syria, our humanitarian colleagues are deeply concerned over renewed fighting and violence in the country which has led to the deaths and injury of dozens of civilians. Yesterday, a car bomb reportedly exploded in front of a learning center near Hafasarja town in Idleb, resulting in the death of scores of civilians. Also yesterday, attacks and fighting in Rural Damascus and Aleppo allegedly killed many people and damaged civilian infrastructure. On Raqqa, we are told that there continues to be heavy fighting and we are concerned about the safety and protection of tens of thousands of people who are trapped in the town. Since 1 April, the total number of people who have been displaced has topped 190,000.
Aid workers are providing assistance, including food and medicine, to displaced people from within Syria and cross-border in Raqqa, Al-Hassakeh, and Dier ez-Zor governorates. We continue to call on all parties to the conflict — and those with influence over them — to ensure permanent and unhindered access by all humanitarians, including protection workers, to independently assess needs and provide services to people affected by the fighting. We also remind all parties of their responsibility to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as required by international humanitarian and human rights law.
Our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) tell us today that over 7 million children are on the move in West and Central Africa each year, with some 75 per cent of them remaining in sub-Saharan Africa, and less than 1 in 5 heading to Europe. [The new report] entitled “In Search of Opportunities: Voices of Children on the Move in West and Central Africa” looks at the main drivers behind regional child migration and displacement, as well as longer-term implications for the region.
In Libya, the UN refugee agency evacuated yesterday six vulnerable refugee women to a country that has accepted to resettle them. A second group of seven refugees is expected to follow shortly. The women suffered horrific abuse and were kept in servitude by an armed group in Libya. They were later detained by the authorities, before being released and transferred to a safe house in Libya.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has just launched its latest series of climate reports by TV weather presenters exploring how climate change will affect the weather in the future. This series focuses on how much hotter summers will be by the end of this century in major cities like Paris, Tokyo and Buenos Aires if greenhouse-gas emissions continue to increase. Paris, for example, where daily summer [high] temperatures now average 22°C, may see summer temperatures like those we seen in Fez, Morocco, which averages 29°C. Videos are available on the WMO website.
I just want to flag that on Friday at 10:30 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, there will be a high-level event on human security and its contributions to Agenda 2030. The event offers an opportunity to share experiences and lessons learned on how the human security approach, based on a wealth of experience in more than 90 countries, can help strengthen strategies, tools and partnerships to accelerate integrated and preventive actions towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. Speakers will include the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, as well as the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson. Michelle, then Edie.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéph. Two questions. Just on Cyprus, why is the SG [Secretary-General] going back? Has there been a breakthrough?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary‑General feels that his, his presence in the talks would be opportune tomorrow. There have been also a number of calls from the parties for him to return.
Question: And Jeffrey Feltman is in the Gulf. Can you tell us a little bit about who he’s meeting with, how long he’s there for, what he’s hoping to achieve?
Spokesman: Sure. The Secretary‑General has asked, had asked his Under‑Secretary‑General for Political Affairs, Mr. Feltman, to go to the region. He is there currently to discuss with a broad range of interlocutors the ongoing crisis in the region and other conflicts and how the United Nations may work with regional partners in resolving them. He hopes to meet as many of, of the people involved. We should have a bit more details on the visit later. He’s currently in… in Kuwait today and will be travelling to, to Doha, and he’s also been to the UAE [United Arab Emirates]. Edie.
Question: I was also going to ask about Cyprus, but, on the DPRK, can you tell us whether the Secretary‑General has had any contacts over the launch of an ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] test missile?
Spokesman: Nothing to report to you at this time. As I said, Mr. Jenča will be briefing, publicly, the Council at, at 3 p.m. Carole, and then…
Question: Stéphane, just to clarify, though, on Cyprus, I mean, is it crunch time? Is that the sense that why the Secretary‑General is going?
Spokesman: I think it would be dangerous of me to make any sort of predictions at this point. The Secretary‑General just felt that it was a good time for him to return to the talks, and he will be there, he will be there tomorrow. Matthew, and then…
Question: Sure. One, one follow‑up on North Korea. I saw in his statement the Secretary‑General used the word, you know, “brazen”. I wanted to know, I’ve asked you before for his view of the UN systems. I know you say it’s a specialized agency, but it’s definitely part of the UN system. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) working on cyanide patent for North Korea. Does the… does the most recent filing and statements by Kim Jong‑un since change his view that’s it entirely up to WIPO? And its…
Spokesman: I would encourage you to get in touch with WIPO. My understanding is they had briefed all necessary entities on, on this particular case.
Question: Okay. So, let me ask you… I’d asked and your deputy by mail just a couple of times, it has to do with the new sexual exploitation and abuse allegations in the database. And what I wanted to know is, one of them is in Haiti and says child, the alleged perpetrators from Bangladesh, and it says “pending, OIOS investigation”. The other one is in the Central African Republic by the Congo, presumably Republic of Congo, no OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] listed. Is there some… what’s the reason that some allegations are investigated by OIOS? And can you provide, particularly in the case of the Congo one, given the repatriation, when did it occur?
Spokesman: We’ll try to get you a bit more details. We’re obviously, we’re being as transparent as possible putting these allegations up as soon as they, as they occur. As you know, there is a procedure where we ask the country to send an investigative, to help us with the investigation. I’ll send you… I’ll give you more details as soon as I have them. Yep.
Question: Hi. Thank you. I have a follow‑up on North Korea. Has the United Nations taken any steps to protect UN staff in North Korea or South Korea or, for that matter, Japan, given all the heightened fear and tension about possible conflict?
Spokesman: We, as a matter of course, we don’t comment on security precautions we may or may not be taking. Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you. First question, can you confirm that the Secretary‑General had received a letter from US Ambassador Nikki Haley asking him to oppose a draft resolution presented by UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] (UNESCO) to be discussed on Friday about the human heritage of Al‑Khalil or Hebron and as a Palestinian property?
Spokesman: I’m not able to confirm it, but, you know, as you well know, the World Heritage Site Committee of UNESCO I think is made up of 21 Member States. They vote. The Secretary‑General doesn’t. So, I think anyone who has any issues with the way Member States vote should take that up with those Member States. The Secretary‑General is just that — he doesn’t have a vote and especially when it comes to a specialized agency.
Question: Okay. My second question: Mr. Haider al Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq, had declared the liberation of Mosul, completely. And they were celebrating that. However, OCHA statement you just read still talking about flee… civilians fleeing the Old City of Mosul. But the… supposedly the fighting is over. Why they are fleeing the city?
Spokesman: Well, people tend to flee when they feel unsafe. We’re not involved in the military operation. It’s not for us to confirm or to talk about the military operations. We can only see the impact of the operations going on for so, for so long, and we are there to help as soon as we have access. Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. As you mentioned, the Secretary‑General submitted a… what is called a bold report in the development area. Does he intend to present as bold a report in the political areas?
Spokesman: Yes. Those will be coming in due course. Yeah.
Question: Thank you. And do you have any comment on the recently concluded Astana talks on Syria and, namely, on the Russian proposal to the CIS states to form a contingent for joint monitoring of de-escalation zones?
Spokesman: No, I’ve, our colleague Staffan de Mistura was in attendance in Astana. I was trying to get ahold of his party just as it was wrapping up. I wasn’t able to, but I will try to get you something. Stefano.
Question: Thank you very much. It’s about Libya and the refugees. I would like to know a little bit more of what you just said about that a family refugee Libya was rescue, and how did it this, I mean, how this operation usually works? So any of this is happening often or just…?
Spokesman: My understanding this was an operation led by UNHCR. It was about rescuing women who had gone through a horrendous experience in the, in the… in the hands of, of an armed group. I would encourage you to call our colleagues at UNHCR here. They have a very good office here and they’ll give you more details.
Question: And about the UNHCR, they just released a report where they say practically that the people that arrived to Libya, even if they are, maybe, many of them are economic migrants, they become refugees, many of them, because the abuse that they and the threatening of life, so, practically, we have a situation now where, in Libya, somebody… even maybe when he started to… the travelling was… cannot be consider maybe yet a refugee becomes a refugee because it’s a threatened of life, I mean, he’s in a situation when his life is threatened in Libya. So, in this case, what is the… this makes the number of the refugee much more than maybe before in Libya. So, there is any new plan after this… this new revelation by UNHCR?
Spokesman: I’ll take a look at the report, the point being that refugees have certain rights. Countries have obligations towards them. Those need to be respected. The problem in Libya is not getting any easier, I think, as our colleagues at UNHCR have pointed out. Mr. Lee.
Question: Thanks a lot. I want to ask about North Korea, Burundi and the reform, these reforms. Just on this… on this… you said you won’t talk about staff security in… in North Korea, but what I wonder is I’ve seen a recruitment notice for a junior professional officer to work in Pyongyang for UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] on, on reproductive health. And what I wanted to know is, beyond, I understand, like, not talking about safety of people already there, but is the UN continuing to recruit internationally to place international staff in Pyongyang? That seems like a different question.
Spokesman: Well, clearly, if UNFPA has an announcement up, you should check with them.
Question: And also I wanted to ask about the JPO [Junior Professional Officer] sys… programme. You may have seen the article quoting Wu Hongbo that every country has a right to participate in JPO, and it seemed to say that the DPRK is, in fact, placing a JPO officer in the UN system. So, I wanted to know, I checked as best as I could. I couldn’t find any comprehensive website of, you know, of which countries are eligible. Is it the case… can you either now or later today find out is it the case that DPRK has been… and signed a memo in March to send a Junior Professional Officer into the UN system? And, if so, which department?
Spokesman: I will… I will check.
Question: Okay. And on Burundi, I just wanted to ask you, the President of the Security Council, Liu Jieyi, had said there’s a meeting on… on Burundi, and it’s a little unclear to me whether it’s only about the resolution that was to send the police. It’s almost a year or it’s about to expire. So, I wanted to know, I know there will be a meeting that day, but does the Secretary‑General think that those police are still needed and should… should be… deployed given that he was… he writes the reports, he’s… he’s thinking…
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General’s reports outline his position. Abdelhamid.
Question: Yes. On 29 June, Dr. Ahmed Zouiten, an emergency consultant for WHO, said that the cholera in Yemen is about to be contained. And it… it looks like they’re rolling back the spread of cholera, but the statement you have just said, it contradicts that statement of Dr. Zouiten. Can you explain that?
Spokesman: You know, I can only go by the information we have here from our humanitarian, our humanitarian colleagues, which I think outline a pretty grim situation when it comes to cholera in Yemen. Yes, sir.
Question: Sure. I wanted… you said something… this thing in due course. I was trying… I staked out that ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] QCPR meeting until I was asked to leave, but I did see that you were in there. And I wanted to know, of the… of the various proposals, is this the proposal to put the Resident Coordinator system directly under the Secretariat? Or, as some were saying on the way in, is that coming in December? I couldn’t… I read the speech…
Spokesman: It’s in the speech. It’s also pretty detailed in the, in the report. It talks about delinking the Resident Coordinator from the UNDP Representative and having a more direct line to the Secretary‑General. I would encourage you to read the report, and the Secretary‑General said he would give, in December, more details on how this will come about.
Question: And is the Deputy Secretary‑General already the head of the UN Development Group, as the ambassador of Pakistan said is going to happen? Is that…?
Spokesman: That’s the intention.
Question: Okay. And the other thing was, you’d said… this thing of in due course on the political reforms, I know there’s a town-hall meeting with staff on 21 July and some kind of a retreat with Member States on the 22 July. It seemed to me, like the… I talked to some Member States. They said that this retreat on 22 July with the Secretary‑General is about the political one. Is the one on 21 June about management since that would seem to be… or is it about… what are the topics of these two…?
Spokesman: I have to check… I have to check about the town hall. Thank you.