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.
The Secretary-General is in Turkmenistan, where earlier today he participated in a high-level dialogue on implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy in Central Asia. He highlighted the acute and growing regional threat posed by terrorism and violent extremism in the region, with extremist organizations actively seeking to recruit citizens of Central Asia.
He stressed that, as the threat of violent extremism grows around the world, it is critical to ensure that attempts to prevent or curtail violent extremism do not backfire. That means that we need policies that are not only strong, but smart, the Secretary-General said, adding that policies that limit human rights only end up alienating religious and ethnic communities, who would normally have a very strong interest in fighting extremism.
There is also a press release from our colleagues at the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Office with more details about the Declaration adopted today at the conclusion of the high-level dialogue in Ashgabat.
The Assistant Secretary-General for Rule of Law and Security Institutions in DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), Alexander Zouev, just briefed the Security Council on mine action. In his remarks, he said that the threats posed by landmines, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices exacerbate humanitarian crises and hinder emergency responses.
Mr. Zouev said that mine action is achieving results in the most difficult operating environments, including Iraq, Mali, and South Sudan, and added that the strong leadership and coordination role of the United Nations Mine Action Service underpins and advances these achievements. His remarks are available online. This was the first Security Council debate on mine action since 1996. Good fact.
Turning to the Ukraine, the latest human rights report on Ukraine says that parties to the conflict in the country’s east have repeatedly failed to implement ceasefire agreements, allowing hostilities to escalate and claim more lives as the fighting entered its fourth year.
Covering the period from 16 February to 15 May, the new report recorded 36 deaths and 157 injuries, a nearly 50 per cent increase from the previous reporting period.
It also says that from the start of the conflict in April 2014, more than 10,000 people have been killed, stressing that these are conservative estimates. More than 1.6 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
The report also finds that the socioeconomic deprivation in the east of the country has been deepening.
And our humanitarian colleagues say that the conflict continues to detrimentally impact the lives of millions of people in eastern Ukraine.
The shelling in Donetsk last month affected more than 70,000 people, with a hospital, homes and schools sustaining damage. The UN and its partners have stepped up their response efforts and support to authorities by providing construction materials and other items.
You can find both the latest human rights report and the latest UN humanitarian bulletin online.
Our colleagues at UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) today said they are extremely concerned by the outbreak of food poisoning in a camp housing thousands of people who have fled the fighting in Iraq’s Mosul area.
UNHCR staff members have been working with other aid agencies and authorities to help the sick get swift medical treatment, and extra clean water is being provided in the camps.
UNHCR said that it is waiting for police investigations to understand the chain of events and draw lessons from this tragic incident, which will allow agencies to reinforce public health protocols and prevent such situations in the future.
Our colleagues at WFP (World Food Programme) say they urgently need $172 million for their operations in north-east Nigeria as the lean season begins, driving up food prices and depleting the meagre resources of millions of people affected by conflict and intensifying hunger.
In the hardest-hit states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, an estimated 5.2 million people are hungry; where more than one third of them are on the brink of famine, and tens of thousands are experiencing either outright famine or something very close to it. A funding shortfall has forced WFP to suspend plans to ramp up assistance during the June-August lean season. They now plan to reach only 1.36 million people monthly during the critical period, down from a previous target of 1.8 million.
Even those receiving food, nutrition and cash assistance are getting less of it. WFP is helping only the very hungriest and most vulnerable. This is a brutal form of triage, but the agency says that given adequate resources, it could do much more. More information online, as well.
And WFP also says that unless new funding quickly arrives, it will be forced to suspend its voucher food assistance in July for nearly 150,000 residents of Gaza and the West Bank, the majority of whom are women and children.
At the same time, a major energy crisis is affecting the impoverished Gaza Strip.
WFP urgently requires $6.6 million to provide food assistance through vouchers for the next three months to the poorest non-refugee families in Gaza and the West Bank.
A disruption of WFP assistance could further undermine food security and deepen the dire living conditions of the poorest families, most of whom live on less than $3.20 a day.
**Horn of Africa
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that participants in a joint UN-African Union mission wrapped up their Horn of Africa tour in Nairobi today with financial pledges to support the humanitarian response in the drought-hit region.
During their trip, participants met with Government representatives, local authorities and humanitarian partners in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. And also, they met with impacted communities.
Ahmed Al Meraikhi, the Humanitarian Envoy of the Secretary-General, said that the communities they visited in Somalia and Ethiopia expressed a deep desire to build their own resilience and not to rely on aid efforts indefinitely.
**Information and Communication Technology
In Geneva, more than 2,500 information and communications technology (ICT) experts and advocates from around the globe are taking part in this week’s World Summit on the Information Society [Forum 2017].
This year's forum will focus on sustainable development trends and inclusive ICT initiatives in areas such as health, education, gender empowerment, the environment, infrastructure and innovation. More information from the ITU (International Telecommunications Union).
Our colleagues at the UN refugee agency today announced a joint campaign with the Football Club Barcelona Foundation to rally support for refugee children.
The campaign, called #SignAndPass, invites people to digitally sign a football online and pass it to their friends via social media. By signing the ball, supporters add their name to UNHCR’s #WithRefugees petition calling on Governments and fellow citizens to ensure refugees have a safe place to live, receive education and are able to work. More information online.
Today is the International Albinism Awareness Day. The Day highlights the plight of persons with albinism, who face stigma and discrimination in many countries because of their appearances.
In some communities, erroneous beliefs and myths, influenced by superstition, put the security and lives of persons with albinism at constant risk. These beliefs and myths are centuries old and are present in cultural attitudes and practices around the world.
More information on the Day is available online and on social media by following the hashtag #NotGhosts.
The Permanent Mission of Nicaragua has informed Member States that Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, the former President of the General Assembly, passed away last week. A book of condolences is open for all for signing through Thursday at the Mission of Nicaragua. We offer our condolences to Father d’Escoto’s family and friends, and to the people and Government of Nicaragua.
As advertised, in a short while, I will be joined by Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the Head of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
And tomorrow I will be joined by the Head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Can you tell me this question about the Gulf… situation in the Gulf? Has the Secretary‑General been able to wrap his head around the situation and talk to any of the leaders in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and so forth?
Spokesman: I have no doubt that he's wrapped around… wrapped his head around the situation. There have been a number of contacts, which I will not go into details, but, obviously, the Secretary‑General's message of regional unity and the need for regional unity, especially in the times where we see conflicts in Syria and Iraq and other parts of the region, I think, is ever more needed.
Question: Any details, who he’s talked with?
Spokesman: Nothing that I'm able to report. Mr. Abbadi. Sorry. I didn't see… you're camouflaged today. You're…
Question: Thank you, Stéphane.
Spokesman: Your jacket is the same colour as the chair. It's not a good idea.
Question: The Secretary‑General observed, as you indicated at the beginning, that terrorist activities were increasing, and he stressed the need for smart policies. What did he have in mind? Did he have any concrete recommendations?
Spokesman: I think part of his message, if you look at the… his remarks, is for countries to implement the Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism, which was adopted by the General Assembly. And, second, I think his main point is that any efforts to fight terrorism, to counter violent extremism that involve the curtailing of human rights, that involve targeting specific communities based on ethnicity and religion, are not smart. Edie?
Question: Steph, we are quickly approaching six months since the Secretary‑General has been in office, and I wondered what the prospects were for holding his first press conference in this room.
Spokesman: I'm well aware of the situation. As soon as I have some positive developments to share with you, I will be oh so delighted to do it. Rosiland and then Sarah.
Question: Steph, there's a report that the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Resident Representative in Myanmar has been removed from her post. According to one report, it's because she has refused to notify her superiors about the actual human rights situation in Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State. Do you have any comment on her status?
Spokesman: No. First of all, her status is that she will be rotating… rotated out. The typical assignments for Resident Coordinators are generally three to five years. Ms. [Renata] Lok‑Dessallien has been serving in Myanmar… this is her fourth year. The post of the Resident Coordinator in Myanmar, it will be raised to a level of an Assistant Secretary‑General to deepen the collaboration between Myanmar and the UN. The elevation of the post has nothing to do with the performance of the current Resident Coordinator. Her performance has been constantly appreciated. I mean, as you… you were talking about Rakhine. As you know, I think, she led a mission of humanitarians and others to Rakhine State. So, I think she has been extremely diligent in reporting back on the situation in Myanmar, including on the situation of human rights. Masood and then Sarah. Sorry. Yeah. Go ahead.
Question: Stéphane, I just wanted to ask you, a discussion about incarceration of Palestinian children in Israeli jails. Do we have any update at all as to how many children are in Israeli jails now incarcerated? And…
Spokesman: I do not have those numbers with me. I would refer you to the… probably to the regional offices, either UNSCO [United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] or the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Question: The figure that has been given is 350. Is it more than that?
Spokesman: I… as I said, I don't have the number in my head. Sarah?
Question: My question was on Myanmar. Asked and answered. Thanks.
Spokesman: Okay. Excellent. Enjoy the rest of your day. I shall enjoy the rest of my day. Oh, we'll have our guests. I'm sorry. I'm so excited to leave you, I forgot that we have a guest. He's not here. Give us a few minutes. He should be here any moment.