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The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary‑General today began his official visit to Costa Rica. This morning, he visited the country’s National Energy Centre and, as we speak, he is at the United Nations School, where he is meeting with Government, business and civil society representatives to talk about Costa Rica’s progress on the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development].
Later today he will meet with Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and they’re expected to hold a press conference after their meeting. And this evening, the Secretary‑General will speak at the inauguration of the commemorative week of the fortieth anniversary of the Inter‑American Court of Human Rights. We will give you more details on this tomorrow.
**High-Level Political Forum
The High‑Level Political Forum convened its high‑level segment this morning, with some 115 Ministers and Vice‑Ministers taking part. Speaking at the opening this morning, the Deputy Secretary‑General pointed to progress in some areas, including maternal and child mortality, tackling childhood marriage, expanding access to electricity, addressing global unemployment and cutting the rate of forest loss around the globe.
But the Deputy Secretary‑General stressed that it is equally clear that in other areas, we are either moving too slowly, or losing momentum. For the first time in a decade, the number of people who are undernourished has increased — from 777 million people in 2015 to 815 million in 2016 — fundamentally undermining our commitment to leaving no one behind. She said that we have 12 years to realize the Sustainable Development Goals, and that to move forward, at the speed and scale required, we need much deeper and much wider action.
Also speaking at the opening was Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy on Youth. She stressed that a sustainable and prosperous future is achievable when young people are part of the equation. But she also noted that while it is positive that many countries mention youth, we need more detail provided regarding efforts to ensure that the process is inclusive and that engagement is meaningful.
Marie Chatardova, the President of ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council], and Miroslav Lajčák, the President of the General Assembly, also spoke at the opening. During the three‑day ministerial segment of the High‑Level Political Forum, 46 countries will present their voluntary national reviews to demonstrate how they are implementing the 2030 Agenda nationally. Globally, two thirds of all countries have undertaken a voluntary national review or will do so in the coming year.
The Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, briefed the Security Council this morning from Tripoli. He said that while, for the first months of the year, Libya had enjoyed relative quiet from military actions, the last two months have been marked by violent developments. He added that political progress is linked to the absence of military activity on the ground.
Noting that Libyans long to be rid of their current patchwork of institutions, Mr. Salamé warned that without the right conditions, it would be unwise to conduct elections. Without clear and strong messaging to those who would attempt to stall or disrupt these elections, he said, the conditions will not be met. He therefore called on the international community to show unity. Once we reach a reasonable conformity of views among Libyans, the international community must stand together behind this vision, he stressed.
Mr. Salamé also warned that the status quo cannot be sustained and that Libya is in decline. The crisis in the Oil Crescent gave us a glimpse of what is in store if tangible progress is not made now — economic collapse, the breakdown of public services, and more frequent and intense outbursts of violence. He said that in a country where terrorists lurk, where criminals are waiting to traffic migrants, where foreign mercenaries are increasing in number and where the oil industry hangs in the balance, this should be of concern to all.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, arrived in Gaza yesterday, where he warned that over the weekend we had been on the brink of war, and it had taken the concerted efforts of everyone to make sure that we step back from confrontation. He appealed to the Palestinian factions not to provoke incidents at the fence, to stop the firing of rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and to give peace a chance. And he appealed to Israel to be very restrained in its responses to the situation in Gaza. Mr. Mladenov added that the international community has the responsibility to move immediately and live up to the expectations of providing not just assistance to the people in Gaza, but charting a political way forward. He said that the only realistic perspective today is this: avoid war, fix the humanitarian problems of Gaza, and get back to the reconciliation process. His remarks are online.
Over the past few days, the United Nations has deployed needs assessments and inter‑agency convoys to areas in Syria that have recently changed control. Yesterday, a team from the United Nations, the Syrian Arab Red Crescent and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) conducted a high‑level mission to Nassib and Um Elmayathen in Dara’a Governorate, and delivered food assistance for 15,000 people. Also yesterday, a UN‑Syrian Arab Red Crescent inter‑agency humanitarian convoy delivered assistance for 89,000 people in Al‑Houla area in Homs Governorate, and Harbnafseh area in Hama Governorate. The assistance included food, flour, and health, education, nutrition, and water and sanitation hygiene supplies.
Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues are aware of reports of 430 people being evacuated from Dara’a Governorate to northern Syria following an agreement by parties to the conflict. Those displaced north initially arrived in Madiq Castle Town, in northern rural Hama, before moving on to other locations. Humanitarian partners on the ground are responding to the needs in Madiq Castle, as well as in the secondary destinations of the displaced. The United Nations, which was not part of the local agreements that led to the movements of people, emphasizes that any evacuation of civilians must be safe, voluntary and to a place of their choosing. It is imperative that all those who are displaced through local agreements have the right of return as soon as the situation allows.
And today we say Arigatou Gozaimasu to our friends from Japan, as they have paid their regular budget dues in full. The Honour Roll is now 110.
After I’m done you’ll hear from Brenden Varma, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly. And in a short while, I will be joined by Cristiana Pașca Palmer, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity. She will brief on efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 15. Before we get to Brenden, are there any questions for me? Yes, please?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Farhan. I have a question on Nicaragua. Over the last hours, we saw an additional 10 people losing their lives, especially by police and paramilitary groups that are clashing with these protesters. So, so far, it seems that the Government of Daniel Ortega [Saavedra], they’re not listening to the persistent calls of the UN, so violence is escalated in this nation. So, I wonder, how… you know, what’s the vision of the Secretary‑General on the persistence of violence in Nicaragua right now?
Deputy Spokesman: What I can say is that the Secretary‑General deplores and condemns the ongoing violence against civilians, including against students. He calls on the Nicaraguan Government to provide effective protection to its population against attacks, ensure respect for human rights and establish accountability for the violence. The use of lethal force is not only unacceptable but is also in itself an obstacle to obtaining a political solution to the current crisis.
Question: And following up really quickly, would the Secretary‑General consider maybe calling for additional steps in that country to ease the tensions? Other organization like the OAS [Organization of American States], for example, have called for early elections as way to broker a solution. Would, you know, the Secretary‑General consider calling for additional steps rather than…?
Deputy Spokesman: We’ll have to see. What I can say on this for now is that the UN Secretariat’s good offices remain available. Yes, please?
Question: Good afternoon, Farhan. OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] released a report this weekend. It says that all roads connecting the… connecting them remain blocked by sands and concrete barriers. The Houthi continue building them. And they are blocking, of course, the freedom of move and the freedom of delivering the aids and assistance. Why isn’t it concerning to the UN?
Deputy Spokesman: What we want is to make sure that all sides… because, at different areas in different times, different sides have created blockages, and we want all sides to make sure that convoys can travel and that humanitarian assistance can be moved throughout the country. Yes?
Question: On the high‑level forum, what did you mean by reviews of individual countries — all of them or certain countries and on what basis?
Deputy Spokesman: These are countries… 46 countries will present this, and they’re doing this on a voluntary basis. Yeah?
Correspondent: And what are they reviewing?
Deputy Spokesman: Basically, how they are implementing the 2030 Agenda in their own nations. Yes, yes, please?
Question: Hi, Farhan. Thank you. So, the summit between Presidents [Donald] Trump and [Vladimir] Putin just happened, and they emphasize their willingness for… to cooperate on the disarmament agenda. Do you have any comment on that? And I don’t know if you…
Deputy Spokesman: Well, at this stage, we’re just going to be reviewing what the two leaders agreed to. But, obviously, we would welcome any sort of cooperation that would lead to furthering the disarmament goals that we have for all nations. And, with that, Brenden, come on up.