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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.

All right.  Good morning, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Nice to virtually see you all again. 


In a ceremony at the General Assembly this morning, the Secretary-General extended his profound condolences to the family of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and to the Government and people of Kuwait on the Amir’s passing.

Throughout his reign, the Secretary-General said, His Highness earned recognition and respect from near and far for his outstanding leadership and commitment to peacemaking.  He always stood ready to bridge faiths, cultures and countries in the neighbourhood and beyond.

As a close friend of the United Nations, the Secretary-General added, the Amir was also reliably on the frontlines of mobilizing the international community in acts of solidarity. 

Mr. [Antonio] Guterres added that the United Nations will keep supporting Kuwait’s mediation efforts and its role in promoting peace and stability. 


The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today released its State of Climate Services Report, which says that over the past 50 years extreme weather and climate events have increased in frequency, intensity and severity as a result of climate change and hit vulnerable communities disproportionately hard.

The report was produced in collaboration with 16 international agencies and financing institutions and identifies where and how Governments can invest in effective early warning systems that strengthen countries’ resilience to weather, climate and water-related hazards.

The report also stresses the need to switch to impact-based forecasting — an evolution from “what the weather will be” to “what the weather will do” so that people and businesses can act early based on the warnings.

You can find the full report online.

**Security Council — Great Lakes

This morning, at the Security Council, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region, Huang Xia, noted the commitment of Governments in the region to continue working towards improved security, economic and political cooperation.  He said that despite the impact of the pandemic, the past few months have seen encouraging advances, although persistent challenges remain.

In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the humanitarian and security situation have remained worrisome, as the Special Envoy told Security Council members.  He called for renewed efforts to fight against impunity.

He said that the people and countries of the Great Lakes region continue to demonstrate immense resilience and determination to move forward and asked for continued support.

The Special Envoy’s remarks have been shared with you.

**The Sahel

Earlier today, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, spoke virtually at the Paris Institute of Political Studies about the situation in the greater Sahel region.

He highlighted the devastating effects of the convergence of conflict and insecurity, weak governance, chronic underdevelopment and poverty, demographic pressures, and climate change on the people of Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Niger, and the north-east of Nigeria.

In March of last year, over 4 million people were displaced across the region and more than 22 million needed humanitarian assistance.

Eighteen months later, displacement has increased by 25 per cent and the numbers in need of humanitarian assistance has risen by 50 per cent.

Next week, the UN, together with Germany, Denmark, and the EU, will host a major conference on the central Sahel.  Leaders from the region and around the world will come together to pledge funds and make concrete policy commitments. 

Mr. Lowcock’s full remarks are online.


The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has welcomed the appointment on Sunday of five women judges who will work in two new specialized courts in Benghazi and Tripoli, dedicated to hearing cases of violence against women and children.

The establishment of these two courts, coupled with the appointment of five women judges, represents a significant step towards advancing the rights of women and children in Libya, the Mission said. 


Turning to Afghanistan: Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that continued fighting between Afghan National Security Forces and non-State armed groups in the south, near Lashkargah city in Helmand Province, has reportedly displaced about 35,000 people.  According to initial estimates from local authorities, nearly 200 people have been killed or injured, and this number could change as assessments are ongoing.

Several health facilities are reportedly closed while others are only addressing trauma cases.  Electricity has reportedly been cut in some areas and telephone networks are also affected, impacting humanitarian assessment teams’ communications.

We, along with our humanitarian partners, have been assessing needs on the ground since yesterday, but access is limited.

Across Afghanistan, more than 208,000 people have been displaced by conflict this year.  The UN and humanitarian partners have reached 6 million people with humanitarian aid as of 30 June 2020. 

The 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan requires $1.1 billion to help more than 11 million people.  But to date, it has received only $372 million.


In Iran, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has stepped up its cash assistance to support thousands of extremely vulnerable refugees whose livelihoods have been severely impacted by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Iran hosts nearly a million refugees, most of whom are Afghans.

COVID-19 has severely worsened economic conditions in Iran, whose economy was already under substantial strain.  Basic food item prices have shot up more than 20 per cent in just one year.

Refugees, who usually rely on precarious and unstable jobs for their income, have been particularly hard hit.

UNHCR and its Government partners have supported more than 20,000 refugees since the start of the pandemic with cash assistance.

But the agency warns that further funding is needed to support many more who are facing increased hardship and destitution.

**Central African Republic

The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) continues to support local authorities and communities in their fight against COVID-19.

Recently, in the northern town of Birao, peacekeepers from Zambia helped to decontaminate surfaces in schools, government buildings and common community spaces.  They also cleared mosquito breeding sites to fight the spread of malaria.

This initiative was welcomed by local school authorities as a tool to encourage parents to send their children to school. 

**COVID-19 Impact

In a joint statement, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to public health, food systems and the world of work.  The UN agencies warned that tens of millions of people are at risk of falling into extreme poverty, while the number of undernourished people, currently estimated at nearly 690 million, could increase by up to 132 million by the end of the year.

Nearly half of the world’s 3.3 billion global workforce are at risk of losing their livelihoods.

ILO, FAO, IFAD and WHO also warned that countries dealing with existing humanitarian crises or emergencies are particularly exposed to the effects of COVID-19.  They said that responding swiftly to the pandemic, while ensuring that humanitarian and recovery assistance reaches those most in need, is critical.


And today is the International Day of Disaster Risk Reduction.  In his message, the Secretary-General says that extreme weather events have risen dramatically over the past two decades, and yet, we have seen little progress on reducing climate disruption and environmental degradation.

He adds that the pandemic has shown that systemic risk requires not just national action but international cooperation.

Good disaster risk governance means acting on science and evidence, he says.  And he stresses that it also requires political commitment at the highest level to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

**Noon Briefing Guests Tomorrow

And tomorrow, we will be joined by UN Chief Economist and Assistant Secretary-General Elliot Harris and Leila Foure, Chief Executive Officer of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Co-Chair of the Global Investors for Sustainable Development (GISD) Alliance.  They will be here to discuss their action plan to scale up investment in sustainable development. 

And that is all for my part of the briefing, and now let's turn to you.  Please write to me in the chat if you have any questions. 

I don't see anything in the chat yet, so I'll give it a minute.  Please start writing if you have anything for me. 

**Questions and Answers

Okay.  Abdelhamid, you have a question. 

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  A Palestinian in detention — his name is Maher al‑Akhras — he has been on hunger strike for 79 days.  His health is deteriorating by the hour.  And his wife even went on hunger strike for the sixth day.  He is a father of six, and he has been not accused of anything.  He has been just in detention; no accusation has been directed against him.  He was not put on trial. 

And why Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov ignore this humanitarian cases and speak out against such inhuman treatment?

Deputy Spokesman:  [mic muted]

Correspondent:  I can't hear you. 

Deputy Spokesman:  First of all, I'll check whether Mr. Mladenov has anything specific to say about this case.  We do raise questions, and our point of principle is that all those who are in detention must be promptly tried, and we will continue to press for due process in all such cases.

Edie, you have a question.

Question:  Yes.  Thank you, Farhan.  I know Mr. [Martin] Griffiths is…  has been in Saudi Arabia.  Is there any readout on how his talks are going and what his next plans are?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, Mr.  Griffiths has been in Riyadh.  Among other people, he was going to be meeting with President [Abdrabuh Mansour] Hadi, the Yemeni President, and other senior officials.  I believe those talks are continuing into today, and we'll see what we have to say once that's done.

Okay.  Question from Toby.

Question:  Hi, Farhan [echoing]… 

Deputy Spokesman:  [mic muted]

Question:  [echoing]

Deputy Spokesman:  [mic muted]

Question:  Sorry about that, everyone.  Apologies.  I'm in the physical room here.  The question that I have is, yesterday, the Secretary‑General presented his budget to the Fifth Committee, and he said he was worried…  [inaudible].  I'm wondering…  the language there was similar to what we've seen in the 1718 Panel of Experts Committee Reports about…  [inaudible].  I'm wondering if we can get more information about the kind of [inaudible]… 

Deputy Spokesman:  [mic muted]

Correspondent:  Farhan, you're muted. 

Deputy Spokesman:  Sorry.  To Toby, you were cutting out.  I didn't hear the last part.  Can you try that again?

Question:  So, Secretary‑General said that he's worried about increasing sophistication of cyberattacks.  It sounded similar to language that we've heard in the 1718 Panel of Experts Committee Reports about cyberattack threats from North Korea.  I'm wondering if we can get more information about how the UN feels it is underprepared for these kinds of threats.  Thank you very much. 

Deputy Spokesman:  [mic muted]

Correspondent:  Farhan, you're muted.  We can't hear you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Someone keeps muting me.  I trust…  I haven't been pressing this button.  Can you hear me now?

Anyway, so we have been dealing with threats of cyberattacks from various different parties over the years.  Our technical experts at the…  at our information and communications technologies office has been facing different threats and has warned staff of potential problems, including phishing attempts from different parties. 

At this stage, the information we've received from our information and communications technology people is that we are well protected, and we’ve been dealing with potential problems as they come.  That’s as much detail as I want to share on that for now. 

Is there anything else?

Going once, going twice.  If that is it, I will turn the floor over to Brenden Varma, who is present in the office.  Brenden, over to you.

For information media. Not an official record.