6 December 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.

**Secretary‑General’s Travels

Good afternoon.  A travel announcement for you.  On Tuesday, the Secretary‑General will be heading back to the UN Climate Change Conference, the twenty‑fifth Conference of Parties (COP25), in Madrid.  There, he will take part in several events, including the High‑level Meeting of Caring for Climate organized the UN Global Compact and the High-level Event on Global Climate Action.  As you know, he has been calling on leaders to increase their ambition when it comes to nationally determined contributions, and he has also urged them to agree on the guidelines for the implementation of article 6 of the Paris Agreement.  While at the COP, he will continue meeting with ministers, members of the business community and civil society leaders to reinforce this message.  The Secretary‑General will also take part in the closing, which is scheduled to take place on Friday evening in Madrid.


Also, at the COP25, young people took centre stage as they took part in the Young and Future Generations Day.  Young activists made statements and participated in roundtables with decision makers and discussed how to raise ambition, how to empower the youth to implement the Paris Agreement, and how to foster intergenerational cooperation.  The UN Climate Change Executive Secretary, Patricia Espinosa, stressed their role to raise awareness of this issue and encouraged them to continue speaking up for change.


Also, on a climate note, the UN’s Children Fund (UNICEF) reported today that an estimated 761,000 children were internally displaced by storms in the Caribbean between 2014 and 2018; that’s the hottest five‑year period on record.  This is an increase of nearly 600,000, compared to the 175,000 children displaced in the preceding five years.  The report warns that without urgent action to mitigate the effects of climate change, the increasing proportion of severe storms would likely result in similarly high levels of forced displacement in the coming decades. 


Back here, the Secretary-General, this morning, spoke this morning at a high‑level meeting on peacekeeping performance.  He stressed that our peacekeepers represent the last, best hope for millions of people around the world, pointing to clear improvements since the launch of Action for Peacekeeping.  For example, in the Central African Republic, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), thanks partly to its enhanced partnership with the African Union, contributed to peace agreement with multiple armed groups.  At the same time, the Secretary‑General said that we are doing everything possible to improve accountability and end sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers through strong prevention and response measures, centred on victims and survivors.

On the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said the UN [Stabilization] Mission (MONUSCO) is using a combination of military bases, rapidly deployable battalions, and civilian personnel to prevent and respond to threats to civilians.  But the Secretary‑General said that recent developments in Beni in the northeast part of the DRC are a cause for serious concern, with the killing of more than 100 civilians by the Allied Democratic Forces sparking understandable frustration with the authorities and the UN Mission.  The Mission has reinforced its presence and increased its outreach activities, and we are working closely with the Government and all Congolese partners to strengthen the protection of civilians. 

**Senior Personnel Appointments

A couple of senior level appointments regarding human rights.  Today, the Secretary-General is announcing Nada Al‑Nashif of Jordan as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She will succeed Kate Gilmore of Australia.  Ms. Al‑Nashif has since 2015 served as Assistant Director‑General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] in Paris.

The Secretary‑General is also appointing Ilze Brands Kehris of Latvia as Assistant Secretary‑General for Human Rights and Head of the Office of the High Commissioner here in New York.  She succeeds Andrew Gilmour of the United Kingdom.  Ms. Brands Kehris has since 2017 served as Independent Expert Member of the UN Human Rights Committee, the treaty body monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  She is also, since 2016, a senior research fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute.  The Secretary‑General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights are deeply grateful to Ms. Gilmore and Mr. Gilmour for their service to the United Nations.  Much more on these appointments in my office.


Staying on Human Rights, Ms. [Michelle] Bachelet today expressed alarm at the continuing lack of transparency about casualties and the treatment of some 7,000 detainees in Iran, as well as continuing arrests reported to be taking place across the country.  At least 7,000 people have reportedly been arrested since mass protests broke out on 15 November, and the High Commissioner is extremely concerned about the conditions under which they are being held, including their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offences that carry the death penalty.  She urged the authorities to immediately release from detention all protestors who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty and to ensure their rights to due process, including access to a lawyer of their choosing during the investigative stage.


Turning to the shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania that happened earlier this week, the death toll from Wednesday’s tragic shipwreck off the coast of Mauritania has risen to 62.  To help the 85 survivors, including at least 10 minors, recover, a doctor from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is now working alongside Mauritanian authorities in Nouadhibou, a city in northern Mauritania.  Two of the Organization’s psychologists are also scheduled to arrive today.  Seventy-nine of the survivors are from the Gambia and six are Senegalese.  IOM will work with the Mauritanian and consular authorities to assist the survivors with potential family reunification and return to their countries of origin.


And just to flag that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today welcomed Brazil’s decision to recognize thousands of Venezuelan asylum‑seekers as refugees.  Some 21,000 Venezuelans in the country immediately benefited and UNHCR called this a milestone in refugee protection in the region.


And just an update from the measles outbreak in Samoa.  In mid‑October, a national measles outbreak was declared in the country.  Around 200 new cases are reported daily, most of them affecting children under five.  As of today, some 4,357 measles cases have been recorded, with 63 deaths.  The UN and our humanitarian partners are supporting the Government‑led response.  Nearly 90,000 people have been vaccinated in recent weeks.  The Government started a complementary two‑day mass vaccination campaign yesterday with support from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency medical team and UNICEF supplied over 200,000 vaccines.  In coordination with the UN and other partners, the Government of Samoa released an appeal yesterday, seeking $10.7 million to support 116,000 people, mainly children and women of reproductive age.


The World Food Programme (WFP) has announced it is scaling up its operation to provide emergency food assistance to 700,000 people in Haiti.  To reach them and deliver common humanitarian services, WFP is appealing for $62 million.  One in three Haitians, that’s 3.7 million people, need urgent food assistance, including 1 million suffering severe hunger.  Millions of Haitians have been hit hard by rising prices, a weakening local currency, and a drop in agricultural production.

**Security Council

Just a last thing:  This afternoon, in the Security Council, the Special Representative and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), François Louncény Fall, will introduce the report of the Secretary‑General on the situation in Central Africa.  The report covers developments in the region in the past six months, including an update on the Lake Chad basin. That's it.  Masood‑ji?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Stéphane, on this situation in Yemen, Saudi Foreign Minister [Adel] al‑Jubeir has been quoted as saying that they want to end this conflict as soon as possible.  Do you have any update on what do the… what does it entail?

Spokesman:  I mean, I think everybody wants to end this conflict as soon as possible.  And, obviously, those are very welcome words to hear.  That has really been the focus of Mr. [Martin] Griffiths' efforts.  He is continuing his consultations.  He's been travelling around the region.  And, as always, when he has something to announce, he will. 

Question:  So, basically, there's nothing so far, as yet. 

Spokesman:  When Mr. Griffiths has something to announce, he will.

Question:  Today, the Saudi Foreign Minister was quoted as saying in the newspapers that they wanted to end this con… I mean…

Spokesman:  No, I know.  I think I've just answered your question to the best of my ability.  Yes, Evelyn.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Is there any update on humanitarian supplies delivered to Syria through cross‑border routes?

Spokesman:  No… some of those are ongoing, and we will try to provide you a bit more of a detailed update on Monday.  Thank you.  Now I can actually say have a great weekend.

For information media. Not an official record.