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 Stephane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon. Today, as you know, we commemorated the International Day of UN Peacekeepers at Headquarters. Speaking at the wreath-laying ceremony honouring fallen peacekeepers, the Secretary-General said that today we mourn those who lost their lives and pay tribute to the scores of others who were injured. Since 1948, almost 3,500 peacekeepers have lost their lives. Last year alone, 129 peacekeepers from 50 countries died due to malicious acts, accidents and disease - this has been the 12th time in the last 13 years where more than 100 peacekeepers fell in one year. As you know, we lost five more peacekeepers yesterday in an attack in Mali's Kidal Province. And a statement was issued to that effect yesterday.

The Secretary-General also spoke at the Dag HammarskjAlld Medal Award ceremony where 129 military, police and civilian personnel who lost their lives while serving where honoured. He said that like the late Secretary-General HammarskjAlld, those honoured today were inspiring men and women who were not supporting peace in the abstract but were in the arena, doing critical work in some of the most dangerous and difficult places on earth. Also presiding over the first-ever ceremony for the Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage, the Secretary-General highlighted the Captain's incredible heroism while serving in the UN mission in Rwanda during the genocide. His remarks are available online.


And Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Syria, spoke to reporters in Geneva today and he emphasised the need to provide aid to all besieged and hard-to-reach areas of Syria. He said that there was profound unhappiness and impatience among the members of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) because not all the besieged areas have been reached so far. He noted that the final straw was the recent blocking of baby food from reaching the population in Daraya.

As a result, Mr. de Mistura noted, there may be more efforts to rely on the sort of air drops that we have been using in Deir Ezzour to feed more than 110,000 people. But, he added that air drops are a last resort, given that six weeks of air drops in Deir Ezzour have brought in an amount of food equivalent to a single aid convoy by road. The Special Envoy said he intends to announce a date for the next round of intra-Syrian talks once there has been clear progress on the cessation of hostilities and on humanitarian access. His remarks are online.


I've been asked both by some of your colleagues and online about media accounts of the report of the Secretary-General entitled "In safety and dignity: Addressing large movements of refugees and migrants", which was, as you know, prepared for the 19 September high-level meeting on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants. The focus of the report and the scope of its recommendations are global. The report makes no mention of any specific country and seeks primarily to promote more collective action and better responsibility sharing by Member States to address large movements of refugees and migrants. The report does address the challenge of countries hosting refugees for lengthy periods and calls for measures to better support host communities, to promote social inclusion and to combat discrimination.

The report does not advocate, in any specific cases, for naturalization or granting of citizenship for refugees. The relevant wording of the report reads: "In situations in which conditions are not conducive to return, refugees require a status in receiving States to allow them to re-establish their lives and plan for their future. Receiving States should provide a legal status and examine where, when and how to afford the opportunity to refugees to become naturalized citizens." This is in line with article 34 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The Secretary-General is mindful of the fact that if and how to provide citizenship to non-nationals, in all States, is subject to national policies and laws.

Specifically, the UN has not been pursuing local integration as a solution for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. As highlighted by the Secretary-General during his recent visit, the UN's position remains that the two options pursued are the return of refugees to Syria when conditions are conducive or their resettlement in a third country. The preferred solution of refugees is to return to their country, when conditions allow. The UN will support their return to Syria and their reintegration in their country of origin. In the meantime, UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is securing resettlement options for the most vulnerable refugees outside Lebanon and working on other pathways to allow Syrian refugees to go to third countries.


You will have seen yesterday that we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General welcomes the release of two human rights activists, following a Supreme Court decision in Mauritania. The Secretary-General commends efforts by the Mauritanian authorities to strengthen the rule of law and urges the judicial authorities to carefully investigate the circumstances that led to the arrests of the activists. The statement is available in French and in English.

**Death Penalty

A note from our colleagues at the [Office of the United Nations] High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR): the High Commissioner Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein welcomed the decision by the world's largest pharmaceutical company, Pfizer, to prevent the use of its drugs in carrying out executions. The High Commissioner stressed that it is heartening to see companies playing an active role in furthering the trend towards ending use of the death penalty. Mr. Zeid also urged States not to resort to questionable sources for the drugs required to administer lethal injections. He stressed that the UN opposes the death penalty in all circumstances.

Pfizer announced that it would restrict the sale of seven products that have been part of lethal injection protocols in some US states. Resale will be restricted and Government entities will be required to certify that the products will not be used for any penal purposes. Pfizer said it will monitor the distribution consistently - more information online.

**Life Expectancy

The World Health Organization (WHO) says today that life expectancy increased by 5 years globally since 2000, but that major inequalities persist within and among countries. This increase is the fastest since the 1960s. Those gains reverse declines during the 1990s, when life expectancy fell in Africa because of the AIDS epidemic and in Eastern Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Global [life] expectancy for children born in 2015 is 71.4 years, but an individual child's outlook depends on where [he or] she is born. Average lifespan is 86.8 years for women in Japan, who can expect to live the longest, while Switzerland enjoys the longest survival age for men, 81.3 years. Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone, people have the world's lowest life-expectancy for both sexes: 50.8 years for women and 49.3 years for men. More information online.

**United Nations Children's Fund

In advance of the World Humanitarian Summit, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) calls for protection of schools and hospitals; as its report will be kicked off in Istanbul on 23 May. According to UNICEF, an average of four schools or hospitals are attacked or occupied by armed forces and groups every day. The findings draw from the most recent Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict. More information online.


Also two climate related studies, one from FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the Food Climate Research Network published today on how to secure good nutrition for all and address climate change at the same time. The "Plates, Pyramids, Planet" report evaluates Government-issued food guidelines from across the globe, looking in particular at whether they make links to environmental sustainability in addition to promoting good eating habits. More online.


And UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] also published a major study today on the global environmental change. Under the title "Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6): Regional Assessments", six separate reports provide detailed examinations of the environmental issues facing, affecting each of the world's six regions.

**Exhibits at Headquarters

Just more information on the line of question, I think from you Abdelhamid, on the exhibits - the document is now available in my office, but I do want to say on the record that the use of UN Headquarters premises for meetings conferences special events and exhibits is covered by administrative instruction, [ST/AI] 416, which is available in my office online. All exhibits need to be sponsored either by a department or office of the Secretariat or by a specialized agency or by a Permanent or Observer Mission. Exhibits like any meetings and events on UN premises must be consistent with the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Accordingly, while recognizing the strong wishes of individual Member States to display exhibits of their choosing in what they consider to be their building, we do have an internal coordination mechanism to alert the Secretariat about any elements that do not meet our stated requirements and may, for example, cause offence to another Member State which shares the building. Where concerns are identified through the internal coordination mechanism, the Secretariat seeks to work with the sponsor of the exhibit to address those concerns and, in rare cases, we advise Member States that exhibits or parts thereof do not meet our criteria. This of course is not an "exact science" and the balance of seeking to meet a member country's wish to exhibit while avoiding any offence to another member(s) is not always easy.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Tomorrow, my guest will be Elliott Haris, the Director of the UNEP Office in New York. He will brief you on the second session of the UN Environment Assembly, which will take place from 23 to 27 May at UNEP Headquarters in Nairobi, under the theme of "Delivering on the Environmental Dimension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable [Development] for All." And then at 2:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by the UN Office for Partnerships on "ID 2020: Harnessing the Power of Digital Legal Identities for Global Good."

**Questions and Answers

Question: My question is on Lebanon. I read here in the report a different language from the one that you just read in in the statement. So, would the SG [Secretary-General] make it clear in any coming outcome or report that the language that he meant to use in the report is the one that you just read in your statement? Or would he change this language that's written here in the report in any

Spokesman: I the language in the report is the language in the report. I think what is clear is that no one at the UN is calling on Lebanon to absorb and give citizenship to the Syrian refugees, which Lebanon is is hosting with an immense sense of solidarity at great cost to its to its country, both financial, socially, structural, and political. And I think the message is that the global the world community needs to do more to support Lebanon. The idea is obviously the two options is, again are the refugees go home when conditions allow. Those conditions are clearly not met. Or they are resettled in a third in a third country. I think no one would argue that Lebanon is carrying a responsibility that almost no other country is carrying in terms of the amount of refugees that are now Syrian refugees that are now on its soil, with the stress it takes on its schools, on its judicial system, on its social safety net. What the Secretary General is saying is that there's a need for global solidarity in helping resettle the refugees that are currently in Lebanon into a third country until such a time they can come home.

Question: But may I follow up, please? So, the report here talks about refugees in general, of course, but we know that the bigger the biggest number is in Lebanon, then I think Turkey, then Jordan. Right? So do you think there should be a clear language that address the situation in these three countries in particular?

Spokesman: I think that's exactly I think that's exactly what I'm trying to do from this podium. The report was written with a global vision, and it is understandable that countries look at the report through their domestic lens. But, what we're saying is you really need to look at the report through a global lens. And, again, the clarifications, which I hope I'm making here, is that no one, the Secretary General among especially the Secretary General, is calling on Lebanon to absorb all the Syrian refugees in its country in its on its soil.

Question: Can I ask last question on this, please? So, I know that Ms. [Sigrid] Kaag is doing her best now in Beirut and she's talking to I don't know someone in the Government, I heard. But, is the SG planning to send any letter or to send any clarification from his office?

Spokesman: We have been in touch, as I understand it, with the Government of Lebanon on this issue. Oleg.

Question: Thanks, Stephane. Any reaction to the situation with the plane?

Spokesman: We're obviously following it with with great concern and are waiting to see any official explanation as to what has happened. I think, at this point, we're just watching. We don't want to speculate one way or another. Matthew and then Abdelhamid.

Question: Sure. I wanted in covering this the day of fallen peacekeepers, I wanted to ask you a question. Earlier this year, I'd asked you whether MINUSMA [UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission] in Mali I had heard from actually a troop-contributing country that the various contingents don't have the same equipment, that the Dutch battalion, in particular, had communications, and they called it safety equipment that could only be shared with other NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] members. So, I wanted to know, has this issue what would you say to that? Because several even at the ceremony, people were saying that that some contingents are put at more risk than others, both by their place in Northern Mali and if the equipment thing is still the case by choice.

Spokesman: I don't have the operational details of the equipment that one contingent may have as opposed to another. Obviously, the contingents come with their own equipment. If they can't come with their own equipment, then equipment is provided is provided for them. We obviously ensure that the safety the safety of the peacekeepers is the same across the board. It is true that some contingents serve in places that are more dangerous than others. And it's very true of of the Chadians. We have paid tribute time and time again to the Chadian soldiers who have been killed and in extremely difficult circumstances in Mali.

Question: And I wanted to ask, yesterday there was a presentation by four force commanders to the Security Council, and in previous years, that's been an open meeting, and we've gotten the speeches. So, I wanted to know, I understand the Security Council decides how it wants to run things, but for the purposes of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], is it possible to get the presentations that were made, particularly by the MINUSCA [UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] presenter given the sexual abuse issues in the mission?

Spokesman: Again, I think it's if it's it's up to the Security Council to decide how the meeting will be organized. Abdelhamid.

Question: Thank you, Stephane. I have a few interrelated questions regarding the panels, and my first question is, does the SG know about the panel in particular about East Jerusalem which shows display the Dome of the Rock and it says the spiritual and physical capital of the Jewish people? That's one. The second, who decided to override the earlier decision not to display these three panels? And third, does the Secretary General intend to attend the ceremony tonight in the opening exhibit at 6 p.m.? And fourth, did the Secretary General receive a letter from OIC [Organization of Islamic Cooperation], very strong letter, objecting to this special panel on Jerusalem? And as you just said, it's offensive to member it's not offensive to Member States alone. It's offensive to 53 Member States, members of OIC, and to 1.6 billion Muslims around the world to claim that East Jerusalem is part of Israel. It's unacceptable.

Spokesman: Okay. I'm trying to grasp a question mark for your last point, but I take it as statement. I'm not sure if the Secretary General I don't think it's on his it's on his agenda for this evening. Again, I think this is an organization of Member States and I will say that we did receive the OIC letter. Member States and this should not come to any surprise to anybody who spend time in this building have different viewpoints. They express these different viewpoints on a daily basis. There is a procedure through which Member States are allowed to put up exhibits. As I said, it's not an exact science, but it's a procedure. The Israeli Mission went through the procedures. Discussions were had, the end result is the display that is now in in the area by the Viennese Vienna cafe. Again, the content of the exhibit is the responsibility of the Permanent Mission of Israel. The Israeli Mission followed the guidelines and followed the rules like all the other permanent missions who put up who put up exhibits. I you will not agree. Maybe some Member States will not agree. And some Member States don't agree with other other exhibits. That's why we have procedures in place, and we follow them, and the Member States follow them. The end result will like unlikely be happiness for all, but the end results are the end results.

Correspondent: But, Stephane, there is a resolution says East Jerusalem is occupied territory. Here a Member State comes in public, this claim that this is part of their history and belongs to them. It's in direct violation I could read what the OIC

Spokesman: Listen, I think Abdelhamid, with all due respect

Question: Do you agree or not it's in violation

Spokesman: Abdelhamid, with all due respect, I think I know what your position is. I've heard your statements. I can't go any further than to say a call was made, and a decision was made by the Secretariat on all on every exhibit. It's not an exact science.

Question: But, normally they put out some of the?

Spokesman: I really have no more Abdelhamid, I have no more words on this issue. Yes, sir.

Question: Thank you, Stephane. In one of his syndicated columns, Shashi Tharoor, former DPI [Department of Public Information] chief and a who also unsuccessfully contested the election for Secretary General, said that, despite improvements in the process, the end result will be a UN chief who will be more Secretary than a General, because the ultimate power lies with the Permanent Five. Any thoughts on this?

Spokesman: Yes, I know. It is what it is. There's a process through which the Secretary General is elected. It's the Member States' process. And it's it's going on. I don't I think there will be a lot of opinion pieces in the days and weeks and months ahead on these issues. I'm it's not for me to comment on each one of them. I think, as we've said here there is a there is a process outlined in the charter. There's also a process that the General Assembly is going through led by the PGA [President of the General Assembly], which, I think, shows more transparency than we've had in in the past, and I think the

Question: The Secretary on follow up on the Egypt air crash. Is ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] involved?

Spokesman: ICAO gets only gets involved in investigations at the request of a Member State if that Member State's not able to do the investigation. Obviously, here, I think we're dealing whether it's France or Egypt or Greece, I think we're dealing with Member States that have the capacity and have the experience to do these investigations. Obviously, if there's a request, ICAO would get involved, but as a matter of principle, they only get involved if a Member State requests, and no such request has come through. Nizar.

Question: Saudi Arabia has lined up 31 citizens for execution shortly. Human Rights Watch has issued a strong statement against that, that due process has been denied to them, that they the accusations just on political basis for supporting protests or supporting or being accused of treason, just very vague accusations. What is the position of the United Nations, and why the United Nations lags behind Human Rights Watch in this respect?

Spokesman: Human Rights Watch and the United Nations are two different organizations. We work at in different ways. The Secretary General has always and will always stand against the use of the death penalty. Mr. Lee.

Question: Do you have anything in particular [inaudible]?

Spokesman: I haven't seen the particular reports. I'm happy to look into them, but that's my principled stand or stand on principle if you'd like. Mr. Lee.

Question: Sure. I wanted to ask, in your response about the panels, you were saying about this rigorous screening process. So, as a lead in to something else, I wanted to ask you, given that the audit found that these there was virtually no screening, for example, when the Global Sustainability Foundation held a whole event in the GA [General Assembly in the GA lobby, is it really true this screening is always in place, or have things improved since that audit was released, or how do you square the two?

Spokesman: I think this I have no trouble squaring the two.

Question: Has anything okay. This is what I wanted to ask you, and it's actually related. Yesterday, in this room, there was a press conference at 2 p.m. It was scheduled at 2 p.m., whatever. 2:30 p.m. it happened. It said it was by UNCTAD [UN Conference on Trade and Development], but in fact, there were only two individuals, and there was no UNCTAD in the room. And one of the presenters was from it emerged from a real estate company from Omagine, which is publicly traded and there's an article in Seeking Alpha that it's a stock that's worth more dead than alive. Essentially, it's a company in deep financial problems, and yet they sponsored an event in the GA Hall and were using the briefing room to essentially promote their business. So, my question is, what screening given that the current the previous Ng Lap Seng still ongoing scandal had to do with promotion of a real estate project in Macau, how can it be that another real estate company sponsors an event in the GA Hall

Spokesman: I think it's it's it's not an invalid question, and I would ask you to reach out to UNCTAD.

Correspondent: But, I mean, UNCTAD wasn't even here, so I'm asking since I've been told that your office is in charge of the room

Spokesman: I right, and we are. We received the request for UNCTAD to book the room, and we honoured that request.

Correspondent: Right. And now that we find out that it's a real estate company

Spokesman: We're happy to look into it some more. Mr. Avni.

Question: There are reports that the Paris conference is now scheduled for 3 June. Is the Secretary General planning to attend or anybody?

Spokesman: Well, thank you for coming down and sharing that date with me, because I had not heard. Obviously, we will wait to get an official confirmation and see who would represent the United Nations at that conference.

Question: Was the Secretary General planning to attend in the original date, which was 30 May?

Spokesman: No, Mr. [Nikolai] Mladenov would have represented since the Secretary General had previously scheduled travel at the time.

Question: So, was the rescheduling beside having to do with John Kerry's schedule, did it have to do with the SG's schedule?

Spokesman: I think that's a question that's that's that's a question to ask our friends at the French mission. Thank you.

Question: But, did the Secretary General say thinking, I'm not going to attend and?

Spokesman: I think we communicated that he would be represented by Mr. Mladenov. So, I think that in itself is something that he said. Abdelhamid.

Question: I just want to ask you, frankly, if you can give me one single precedent that a display of a photo or a panel or a poster that goes directly opposed to you and Security Council resolutions. But, I want also to ask you an explanation why a photo was asked by displayed by Palestinians on 29 November, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, a child sitting in front of her home destroyed in Gaza where there is a caption where the UN objected to the caption under that picture. Give me explanation why?

Spokesman: On your first I think on your first question, that would be up to you to find me an example, because I can't I don't have a memory or knowledge of every exhibit.

Correspondent: I do.

Spokesman: On your second one, I if you want to let me know what exhibit you're talking about, I could try to find out.

Correspondent: I gave you two examples yesterday, UNESCO [UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] example and the picture displaying Kofi Annan with Netanyahu.

Spokesman: As I said about 15 minutes ago, I don't know how many more words I can use to explain the process. Mr. Lee.

Question: Sure. Third day in a row on this deployment of Mr. [Audace] Nduwumusi to AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia]. You'd said that you would look into what what the role is of the UN support to AMISOM given that this individual was in the leaked memo and there's now a second individual, Francois Niyonzima, who's said to have been involved in the Mugamba killings of late in Burundi. What is the UN's position

Spokesman: I don't have any information on the two individuals you gave me. What I was told is that under the UN human rights due diligence policy, UN support to non UN security forces must be consistent with the UN's purpose and principles. Support cannot be provided when there's a real risk of the receiving entity coming committing grave violations of International Humanitarian Law or Human Rights Law. The policy outlines the following steps the UN takes when it is requested to provide support, assess the risk and identify mitigation measures of the recipient committing violations, ongoing monitoring of the recipient support, establish procedures for intervention when violated violations are reported, and in the case of AMISOM, risk assessments are regularly updated and the UN presence on the ground monitors AMISOM and is implementing a number of mitigating measures to prevent violations and ensure accountability when violations occur.

Question: Sure. And I and thanks for reading that out. My question is, if Mr. Nduwumusi appears in a UN written leaked cable as a person that was distributing weapons to the youth wing of the ruling party in Burundi, doesn't his deployment to AMISOM to receive UN support?

Spokesman: I'm not debating your question, but I have no information or confirmation on the personnel issues. So, I will try to find out, and I will let you know. Thank you, all.

Source: United Nations

Related Post