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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.

Good morning.  Good afternoon, and a happy start to the week to all of you.  When I’m done here, Brenden Varma, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will brief you.

**Secretary-General/Civil Society

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke by a video message to the meeting of Civil Society on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond.

He said that, in most of the developed world, Governments have adopted packages valued in the double digits of GDP to tackle the pandemic and its social and economic impact.  But we have not seen the necessary level of global solidarity that would enable the developing world to do the same.

The Secretary-General said that for too long, we have been underserved by our global financial architecture and we now have a chance to re-imagine global financing frameworks and put them at the service of humanity.

He added that civil society is a key part of the initiative he launched together with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica, having mobilized its networks with a consistent call to support those most impacted by this crisis and making important contributions to the menu of options that emerged.  The Secretary-General told civil society members that, as we chart a new way forward, he counts on them to continue to speak out.

“We need your voices urging policies and actions to recover better with sustainability, equity and inclusion,” he said.  That message is online.


Turning to Armenia and Azerbaijan:  In a statement issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General said that he fully supports the call of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Minsk Group for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, as agreed in Moscow on 10 October, and confirmed subsequently in Paris on 17 October and in Washington, D.C., on 25 October.  The call is contained in a statement issued on Saturday by the Co-Chairs at the end of their meetings in Geneva with the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned by reports of continuing hostilities, which continue to affect civilians.  He condemns all such attacks and reiterates that both sides have the obligation, under international humanitarian law, to take utmost care to spare and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in the conduct of military operations.

Today, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed alarm at continuing indiscriminate attacks in populated areas in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.  She stressed that attacks carried out in violation of the principle of distinction or the principle of proportionality may amount to war crimes.

Ms. Bachelet added that the parties to the conflict are obliged to effectively, promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate such violations and to prosecute those alleged to have committed them.


In a tweet, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned today’s shocking attack at the Kabul University campus.  UNAMA said that there can be no justification for unleashing such terrible violence at a school or college and added that their heartfelt sympathies are with the victim’s families and friends.

We expect to have a statement from the Secretary-General on this later.


The 5+5 Joint Military Commission will meet starting today, until 4 November, for a fifth round of talks and for the first time inside Libya, in the city of Ghadames.  This round of talks comes after the signing of a ceasefire agreement by both delegations on 23 October in Geneva and will be attended by the Acting Special Representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams. 

Participants will initiate discussions on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, including through the establishment of subcommittees, as well as on a monitoring and verification mechanism.

**South Sudan

The Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan, Alain Noudéhou, has condemned the killing of an aid worker in the greater Pibor area.

On 29 October, a team from Plan International was attacked by unidentified armed men.  One aid worker was killed and another one was seriously injured with a gunshot wound.

The team was returning to Pibor on foot after delivering critical nutrition services to children and new mothers affected by violence and flooding in the area.

Mr. Noudéhou again called on authorities and communities at all levels to guarantee the safety and security of aid workers and the people they serve.

This year in South Sudan, eight humanitarian workers have already lost their lives while providing aid to people in need and this is unacceptable, he said.


On the Philippines, our humanitarian colleagues say that the Government and aid teams are assessing damages following super Typhoon Goni, which is the strongest tropical cyclone this year.

It made landfall in the eastern region of Bato yesterday, with initial reports indicating that at least 16 people have died.

UN agencies — together with national NGOs (non-governmental organizations), civil society organizations and church groups — are conducting an assessment in Albay Province following a request by the local authorities.

The Humanitarian Coordinator has reiterated the readiness of the humanitarian community to support national search-and-rescue and response efforts, noting that UN agencies and humanitarian NGOs are already working with relevant Government authorities. 

**COVID-19 — Philippines

Also on the Philippines, the UN team there, led by Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez, continues to support the Government’s response to COVID-19.

The UN team has mobilized nearly $30 million to support national efforts and a further nearly $140 million to address the impact of the pandemic on agriculture and fisheries.

Gathering data is a key priority for us to better tailor the response to the pandemic, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is using artificial intelligence to process data to support health authorities.  The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is developing a data management system to track information on returning migrants to improve efficiency at ports of entry.

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is working with the Government on a mathematical model to assess the impact of COVID-19 on young girls, women and the elderly.

More information on the UN team’s work is available online.

**Viet Nam

On central Viet Nam, our humanitarian colleagues say that more than 300,000 houses have been flooded or damaged due to a series of storms and typhoons since early October.

Many people have lost almost all of their household possessions and many others have become homeless.

Typhoon Goni, which, as I just told you, made landfall in the Philippines, is expected to hit the central provinces of Viet Nam on Wednesday.

Goni will be the tenth storm to hit Viet Nam so far this year and the fifth storm to sweep through the central region within a month.

On Saturday, in consultation with the Government, the UN released the Viet Nam Floods Response Plan which calls for $40 million to help 177,000 of the most vulnerable flood-affected people in the central provinces for the next six months.

**Sri Lanka

We were asked last week about the Sri Lankan Prime Minister’s participation in the UN Day events that we held in Sri Lanka this year.

The UN Day event took place to commemorate the anniversary of the Organization with the participation of a range of stakeholders, including the host Government, as is practice in many countries around the world. 

The event also included the participation of youth and civil society speakers from all communities, and highlighted messages on human rights, development and peace and security — the pillars of the work of the Organization. 

Our principled stance on human rights and justice in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world is clear.

We are continuously striving to strengthen the implementation of the human rights due diligence policy with regard to peacekeepers in Sri Lanka and elsewhere.


Today is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General said that the pandemic has highlighted new perils for journalists and media workers, even as the number of attacks on their physical safety has grown.

There were at least 21 attacks on journalists covering protests in the first half of 2020 — equal to the number of such attacks in the whole of 2017.  There have also been additional constraints on the work of journalists, including threats of prosecution, arrest, imprisonment, denial of journalistic access and failures to investigate and prosecute crimes against them. 

“When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price,” the Secretary-General said, and he reiterated his call for a free press that can play its essential role in peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights.

**Press Briefings

And after I’m done, like I said, Brenden Varma will talk to you, and, in a short while, at 1 p.m., there will be a virtual briefing by the Security Council presidency for November, and that is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.  You will hear from Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, as well as the Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Inga Rhonda King.  They will brief you on the programme of work of the Security Council for the coming month.

And with that, I’ll turn the floor over for any questions.  Please indicate in the chat whether you’ve got a question.  I’ll wait.  I don’t see anything just yet. 

Going once, going twice.  Are…  does anyone have a question? If so, please indicate right now.  Hello? Is that a question?

BCSS Tech:  Gloria has a question.

Correspondent:  I have a question.

Deputy Spokesman:  Okay.  Go right ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yep.  My question is that why, the Tamils, when the war is over and they’re attacking past history, don’t they try now to have a coalition, which is so key in international politics?  If you continue eradicating the opposition long after there’s peace in the country and it’s prospering, why are they, with this human rights question, still attacking the ones…  the Tamils, why are they still not being more quiet?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, we have supported dialogue among all the communities in Sri Lanka, and we continue to do that.  And certainly, we believe that there has been some progress on this front in recent years, but much more does need to be done.

Sherwin, you have a question?

Sherwin, the floor is yours. 

Sherwin, are you there?

Sherwin, if you’re having problems un‑muting, you can write the question in chat, and I’ll answer that way. 

Okay.  Sherwin is asking, is there any statement on the US election, given high levels of anxiety and growing fears of post‑election violence?

I don’t have anything to say right now.  Of course, we expect the election will go ahead tomorrow.  If we have something to say on that day, we’ll let you know then. 

And if I see no other questions, I will now turn the floor over to Brenden Varma, who is at the podium. 

Okay.  Brenden, over to you.  Thanks.  Good afternoon, everyone.

For information media. Not an official record.