6 June 2019

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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General in Russian Federation

Good afternoon everyone.  I hope you enjoyed your day off yesterday.

The Secretary-General spoke at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in Russia today and he drew attention to the need to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieve Agenda 2030, noting that there are several factors — including slowing economic growth and trade conflicts — that are obstacles to realizing those goals. 

He underscored the need to provide education to prepare people better for the jobs of the future, saying that we need to base things on lifelong learning and we need to create a new generation of safety nets for many people who have difficulties adapting.  And he added that climate change is a major threat to us all and a major limitation to our capacity to deliver in relation to the Goals.

The Secretary-General is traveling to Moscow from St. Petersburg, where tomorrow he will meet with President Vladimir Putin before heading back to New York over the weekend.


The Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, has wrapped up a three-day visit to Madagascar, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change and for increased investment to help the country address acute humanitarian needs as well as their root causes.

Ms. Mueller noted that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense in Madagascar, with already vulnerable people bearing the brunt of climate change.  In the past 20 years, Madagascar has been struck by 35 cyclones, 8 floods and 5 periods of severe drought — a three-fold increase over the previous two decades.

The country is also grappling with food insecurity and disease outbreaks, with 1.3 million people severely food insecure.  Measles broke out last September and the outbreak is still continuing, with more than 1,200 people — mostly children — having died.


We have received reports that a field hospital in Al-Swani in Libya’s Tripoli District was hit by shelling today, injuring a doctor and two paramedics.  Details of this incident are still being verified.

Two more ambulances were also hit this week, resulting in the complete destruction of one ambulance, though no casualties were reported. 

This brings the number of health worker casualties since the start of hostilities in April to 6 people killed and 10 injured.  Sixteen ambulances have been damaged or destroyed and three health facilities have also been fully evacuated due to the conflict. 

This high incident rate is of deep concern and humanitarians continue to call on the parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law.  Medical personnel trying to reach and assist casualties must be respected and protected in all circumstances, as must medical facilities and transportation.

**Horn of Africa

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, yesterday allocated $45 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, or CERF, to help people in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya facing food shortages following another season of low rainfall and drought.

The bulk of the funds — $30 million — will go to Somalia, where 2.2 million people may face acute food insecurity by September, marking a 40 per cent jump from January.

Mr. Lowcock noted that it was forecast that Somalia would have an average rainy season this year, but it has turned out to be the driest on record in nearly four decades.

With droughts still a repeated weather phenomenon across the Horn of Africa, the Emergency Relief Coordinator has been calling for more systematic early action, including the release of funds, based on early warnings.  You can read more about this in a press release online.


Our humanitarian colleagues are concerned about the impact on people’s livelihoods that dozens of incidents of farmland in Iraq being set on fire may have.

Nearly 50 cases of presumed arson have been reported since May, mostly in Salah al-Din, Ninewa, Kirkuk and Diya. 

In Ninewa’s Sinjar district alone, thousands of acres of wheat fields have burned this week, destroying the main source of income for several hundred families who had previously been displaced by the conflict with Da’esh.  That group has claimed responsibility for some of the fires. 

Authorities are facing difficulties extinguishing the fires due to the scope of the fires, coupled with high winds and hot weather conditions.


In a new report, the World Health Organization (WHO) today said that there are more than 1 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among people aged 15-49 years. 

This amounts to more than 376 million new cases annually of four infections: chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.

On average, approximately 1 in 25 people globally has at least one of these four STIs, according to the latest figures, with some experiencing multiple infections at the same time.

WHO expressed concern at the lack of progress in stopping the spread of these infections and said this is a wake-up call for a concerted effort to ensure everyone has access to prevent and treat STIs.  More information is available on WHO’s website.

**Food Index

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today released its monthly food price index which says that global food prices rose for the fifth consecutive month, mainly due to the rise in the price of cheese and maize.

The surge in these prices was caused by flooding and rain in the United States which affected production of maize while a drought in Oceania has affected the production of cheese.

The index averaged 172.4 points overall in May, up by 1.2 per cent from April.  More information is available on FAO’s website.


And we say thanks to our friends in Kingstown, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, for that Member State’s full payment to this year’s budget.  This takes us to 103 Member States.

**Press Briefing Tomorrow

After I’m done, you’ll hear from Monica Villela Grayley, and tomorrow at 12:45, there will be a briefing here by Marc-André Blanchard, Chair of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti and Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations.  He will brief on the Group’s recent trip to Haiti.

**Questions and Answers

That's it for me.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, the African Union Peace and Security Council suspended Sudan's membership of the organization until there is a transitional… civilian‑led transitional authority in place.  What's the SG's reaction to that move?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on this, we continue to follow closely the events in Sudan.  The United Nations system and the Special Adviser of the Secretary‑General, Nicholas Fink Haysom, are in daily communications to coordinate our work internally and engage in discreet dialogue with all key stakeholders, including on both sides of the conflict.  We are in close contact with our partners in the African Union.  We are fully committed to supporting the initiative of the African Union Chairperson to reinvigorate inclusive dialogue over the transfer of power to a civilian‑led transitional authority.  The United Nations stands ready to support the Sudanese stakeholders in their efforts to build lasting peace.

Question:  Fink Haysom has said that there will not be a parallel effort from the UN, that they will work in support of the AU.  Do you know who the lead mediator is for the African Union?  Who is Fink Haysom working with?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, like I said, we're supporting the initiative, in this case, of the African Union Chairperson.  And he is in touch with officials in the African Union.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the same subject, Sudan, by all accounts, 108 people have now been massacred by the Military Council or the army.  The African Union, as we have heard, has suspended Sudan, and there are some mediating efforts on the part of some States like Ethiopia.  While the Security Council is frozen on the subject, what does that tell the world about the Security Council functions?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as you know, I don't speak for the Security Council, but it is always important, when there's a crisis as severe as what you're discussing, that there's a need for the world's main bodies dealing with threats to international peace and security to act and to stand united.  And, for that reason, we always urge the Security Council to try to forge a united path in dealing with crises of this nature.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  About Sudan again.  Over 100 people get killed from, you know, the army.  What they going to do, the UN, about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're very concerned about the number of deaths.  You've seen the statements we've put out on Sudan, and we have stressed that… the need for accountability in these cases.  At this stage, like I said, for our part, what we're trying to also do is remain in close contact with the African Union and to support their initiatives in dealing with this crisis.  But we have urged restraint from the security forces, and we've urged that the Government respect all of the basic human rights of the people, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.  Yes, please, Pam?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Does the Secretary‑General have something to say particularly with all these conflicts on the seventy-fifth anniversary of D‑Day, particularly with regard to the UN's founding and what the purposes were, why it's still necessary?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, certainly, for that, I'd like to refer you back to the Charter of the UN and what it says at the very start, which is, "We the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind".  So, that is the basis on which we were created.  We were created, clearly, at what was a dark time in human history in many countries of the world with millions of lives lost, millions more utterly destroyed.  And the UN was created as part of a vision for a better world, and we're trying still to achieve that vision.  And, as you can see, from the questions, for example, that we just got on Sudan, that there are always corners of the world where we need to remain vigilant, because, again, lives are being destroyed every year, somewhere or another.  And we need to stand together against the sort of suffering and the sort of bloodshed that gave birth to this Organization.  Yes, please?

Question:  Good afternoon.  Thank you, sir.  Going back to Sudan… Gary Raynaldo here, Diplomatic Times.  Is there going to be a UN peacekeeping mission deployed, or is there already one there?  Does this sort of violence warrant a peacekeeping effort, or do you have any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, peacekeeping missions are determined by actions of the Security Council.  There have been parts of Sudan where there have been peacekeeping presences.  In fact, there are still two such presences in existence right now, UN forces that are in Abyei and the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), and they continue to go about their work despite the difficulties we’ve had.  Regarding whether there’s any need for any adjustments or other missions, that’s a question for the members of the Security Council.

And with that, I yield the floor to Monica.  Thanks.

For information media. Not an official record.