3 July 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, I will start on a statement on Libya on the death of migrants and refugees. 


The Secretary-General is outraged by reports that at least 44 migrants and refugees, including women and children, have been killed and more than 130 injured following airstrikes at the Tajoura migrant detention centre, east of Tripoli.  He condemns this horrendous incident in the strongest terms and he expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and wishes a quick recovery to those injured.

The Secretary-General calls for an independent investigation of the circumstances of this incident, to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.  It is important to note that the United Nations had provided exact coordinates of the detention centre to the parties.  The Secretary-General further reminds all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injuries to civilians and damage to civilian objects, and also to refrain from directing attacks against civilians.  This incident underscores the urgency to provide all refugees and migrants with safe shelter until their asylum claims can be processed or they can be safely repatriated.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call for an immediate ceasefire in Libya and a return to political dialogue.

**Security Council

And just on a related note, just this afternoon, the Security Council will be holding consultations on Libya and we expect Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo to brief in closed consultations. 

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way to St. Lucia, where he will be speaking this evening at the fortieth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, otherwise known as CARICOM.  The Secretary-General is also scheduled to meet today with St. Lucia’s Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, as well as other heads of State attending the meeting.  We will bring you more details of his visit later and he will be here in the office on Friday.


I have a couple senior personnel announcements to share with you, both related to UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).

The Secretary-General is appointing Angelique Crumbly of the United States as Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Management Services.  Ms. Crumbly succeeds Susan McDade of Canada, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her service.

Ms. Crumbly previously served as the Performance Improvement Officer and Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau of Management at the US Agency for International Development (USAID).  

And the Secretary-General is also appointing Haoliang Xu of the People’s Republic of China as Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP’s Bureau of Policy and Programme Support.

Mr. Xu succeeds Abdoulaye Mar Dieye of Senegal, who the Secretary-General has appointed as Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator.  Mr. Xu served as the Assistant Administrator and Director in UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific since 2013.  He has over 25 years of experience in international development, and we have lots more on their bio in my office and we congratulate them both.


Turning to Syria, the Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, is in Moscow today, where he is scheduled to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other senior Russian officials.  He has also noted his intention to travel to meet with the Syrian Government in Damascus in the near future. 

And speaking of Syria, the United Nations is aware of reports of close military exchanges between the Syrian Government and Turkish observation posts in the Idlib de-escalation area, including mortar fire which Turkey’s Defence Ministry indicates has resulted in Turkish casualties.  These incidents are of grave concern and remind us that violence in Idlib is not just a humanitarian issue; it also poses a significant risk to regional security.

The United Nations reiterates the Secretary-General’s call for an urgent de-escalation of the situation in north-west Syria, and for all parties to recommit fully to the ceasefire arrangements agreed by Russia and Turkey in September 2018. 


Last night, we issued a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s outrage and sadness following a Taliban-claimed complex attack that took place on 1 July in a civilian-populated area of Kabul.

The Secretary-General reiterates that international humanitarian law explicitly prohibits indiscriminate attacks and attacks directed against civilians, and he appeals to all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to uphold their obligations to protect civilians.

Adding her voice was Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict.  She said the attack was the “result of blatant disregard for basic rules of war”.

“Children should be entitled to safety at all time, especially when at school or at home.”

**South Sudan

In South Sudan, a new report by the UN peacekeeping mission’s (UNMISS) Human Rights Division found that violence continued in the Central Equatorian region, despite the signing of the revitalized peace agreement.

Between September 2018 and April this year, more than 100 civilians were killed, almost the same number of women and girls were raped or were made victims of other forms of sexual violence.

In total, the United Nations documented 95 separate incidents of violations and abuses, which led to the displacement of more than 56,000 civilians within South Sudan.  Nearly 20,000 more across the borders to Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On a positive note, the report notes a significant decrease in conflict-related violations and abuses across the country, following the signing of the peace agreement.  However, Central Equatoria Province has been the exception to this trend, particularly in areas surrounding Yei.

In response, the UN peacekeeping mission has intensified patrols within that town and neighbouring communities to deter violence and enable the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.  The mission is also actively promoting reconciliation and peacebuilding efforts.


And following Sunday’s demonstrations in Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on the country’s authorities to lift restrictions on the internet and to launch proper independent investigations into all acts of violence and allegations of excessive use of force, especially attacks on hospitals.

**Papua New Guinea

The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are providing technical health support in Papua New Guinea in response to the humanitarian needs of over 13,000 people displaced by recent volcanic activity in the West New Britain Province of the country.

There is also an ongoing measles-rubella and polio vaccination campaign.

UNICEF is distributing food supplies and conducting malnutrition screening and treatment.  More information online.


The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), which is continuing its meeting, has decided to inscribe the Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California, in Mexico, on the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger.

The Committee is concerned about the imminent extinction of the vaquita, a porpoise in the Gulf of California.

Mexico has made efforts to protect these threatened species.  Despite these measures, only about ten specimens of vaquita remain today, compared to nearly 300 in 2005.


Tomorrow, the International Labour Organization (ILO) will launch a new assessment of labour-generated income and inequality.

According to the Organization, the new information gives the first global estimates of the distribution of labour income and shows that pay inequality remains pervasive in the world of work.

The findings are drawn from a new database which includes national, regional and global data.  As of today, you can contact ILO to get more information.


Tomorrow is a federal holiday in our host country, in the United States, as they celebrate their independence.  This building will, therefore, be closed.  We will be available on the phone.

On Friday, we will be open.  The office will be staffed, though unless there's overwhelming demand, there will likely not be a live briefing, but we'll post highlights online.  And, again, Farhan [Haq] will be in charge, as I will not be here.  And he's… anyway, let's go.

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Steph.  A follow‑up on Libya first.  The Secretary‑General is, again, calling for a ceasefire.  Could you tell us what Mr. [Ghassan] Salamé has been doing to… in the face of this escalating crisis?

Spokesman:  Mr. Salamé has been, I think, intensifying his contacts with all the parties in order to pass on the message, which we're expressing publicly and privately, which we need to see a halt to the fighting, a return to negotiations.  The Libyan people have been suffering, especially those around Tripoli, as we've been saying.  And now we're seeing yet another case of migrants and refugees being on the front lines of death and destruction in what is clearly… I mean, any of these attacks are unacceptable, but to see this sort of attack is really almost beyond words.  Yeah, go ahead.

Question:  My second question was that Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, said today that Iran will increase the enrichment of uranium to any amount that it wants, beginning on Sunday.  Does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to this announcement?

Spokesman:  I think we'll wait and see what actually happens.  I mean, from our point of view, I think our message is clear, is that the parties need to do whatever they can to preserve the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which was, in our mind, an instrument of stability.  Yep?

Question:  So, the SG is calling for accountability.  Is he planning to take any step in this direction, or is he calling on the Security Council to establish accountability or… because we know that it's a civil war.

Spokesman:  Yeah, I think we need to take things one step at a time in terms of looking at who is responsible for this incident.  First, it is up to the Government of Libya to do an initial investigation.  Let's see what happens, and then other steps may need to be taken, but the death of people in such a callous way needs to be investigated.

Question:  And is the UN or any of the UN bodies will be part of this investigation…

Spokesman:  I think… I mean, literally, I think we need to… the rescue operations, from what I gather, are still going on.  So, I think things need to be done by step.  And, as I said, Ms. DiCarlo will brief the Council this afternoon.  Yes, Mr. Reynolds?

Question:  Thank you.  You noticed both Mr. Salamé and Commissioner Bachelet mentioned that these could constitute war crimes.  So, I'm just… I know it's early days, but can you give us a sense of how a determination along those lines might be made at some point that a war crime was committed?

Spokesman:  I think, a lot… and I don't want to prejudge whatever will come out, but, obviously, the issue of intent will play a big part.  And that's why we need to see an investigation.  Edie and then… sorry, we'll… and then Masood.  Go ahead.

Question:  Steph, in… the Secretary‑General said he wants an independent investigation, and you just talked about an investigation by Libyan authorities.  Does the Secretary‑General believe that the Libyan authorities can independently investigate this incident?

Spokesman:  I think… you know, I don't want to prejudge whatever will be set up, but Governments can set up investigations that are independent.  Yes, Evelyn, then Masood.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Libya again, who hit the… who bombed the camps?  Who struck them?  Was it… The Government said it was General [Khalifa] Haftar?

Spokesman:  We are not in a position to make that sort of determination at this point.  That's why this incident also needs to be investigated.

Question:  But it's hard to say they've committed humanitarian crimes without knowing committed who them.

Spokesman:  But it's clear that ordnances came from the sky and hit this migrant centre.  Yes, Masood‑ji?

Question:  On Iran again, Stéphane, the Iranians of course are also saying… has asked the European Union and other nations to help them with the stringent — what do you call — sanctions being, again, imposed on Iran.  So, they're… they are reacting to what is being done to them.  So, is the Secretary‑General… has the Secretary‑General talked to anybody in Iran and stuff and otherwise with the European Union, how to mitigate this crisis?

Spokesman:  Contacts on this issue have been had at various levels with key interlocutors.  Thank you.  See you… no, I won't see you.

For information media. Not an official record.