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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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon to you all.

**Vienna Attacks

Today, the Director-General of the UN Office in Vienna, Ghada Waly, said that the UN in Vienna joins their Host City and Country in mourning in the wake of last night’s terrorist attacks, which killed several people and injured many others.  She added that her office utterly rejects hate and terror and that it stands in solidarity with the people and Government of Austria.

Ms. Waly ordered the flags at the Vienna International Centre, which hosts the United Nations in Vienna, to be lowered as they grieve with Austria during this period of national mourning.

Also, today, the High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, expressed his dismay and shock at the attacks and stressed that such [acts] of terror are intolerable and utterly unjustifiable whenever, wherever and by whomever they may be committed.

You will also have seen in a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General himself strongly condemned the attacks and reaffirmed the solidarity [of] the UN with the people and the Government of Austria.  He also extended his deep condolences to the families of the victims and wished those injured a speedy recovery.


Yesterday afternoon, we also issued a statement on Afghanistan, in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the horrific attack at Kabul University.  The Secretary-General said that this appalling attack, the second in ten days on a school facility in Kabul, is also an assault on the human right to education.

The Secretary-General reiterated that those responsible must be held to account.  He added that the UN stands by the people and Government of Afghanistan in support of their long-held aspirations for peace.

**South Sudan

On South Sudan, some sad news to report: yesterday, Farhan [Haq] told you about an aid worker who was killed, and today our humanitarian colleagues tell us another aid worker was killed.

The Humanitarian Coordinator, Alain Noudéhou, condemned the killing, stressing he is appalled by repeated acts of violence against humanitarians.  He called [for] the perpetrators to be identified and brought to account.  Mr. Noudéhou said that South Sudanese aid workers are enduring difficult conditions to deliver lifesaving assistance to their fellow citizens and that they should be protected.

The two humanitarian workers killed in the past week were South Sudanese.  They were delivering critical nutrition services to vulnerable people affected by conflict and flooding.

This latest incident brings to nine the total number of humanitarian workers killed in South Sudan this year — three times the total number who lost their lives last year in the country.  Some 124 aid workers, mostly South Sudanese, have lost their lives in the line of duty since the conflict broke out in late 2013.

Also on South Sudan, the Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Pramila Patten, today said that she is encouraged by the positive steps taken by the South Sudan’s People’s Defence Forces to court-martial perpetrators of sexual violence.  This has resulted in the sentencing of 26 soldiers for offences committed this year and last year.

Ms. Patten also welcomed the recent convictions in several civilian courts for rape and gang rape.  She said these verdicts not only send a message to perpetrators about the consequences of their actions but also reaffirm the Government’s commitment to a zero-tolerance policy for conflict-related sexual violence.

Ms. Patten also commended the brave survivors who came forward to testify and seek justice and acknowledged the critical role civil society has played in advocating for and supporting them.

**Central America

Turning to Central America where Hurricane Eta is about to make landfall over Nicaragua near the border with Honduras:

Our UN teams on the ground in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala are actively monitoring developments and are in contact with national authorities and regional partners.  Together with authorities in Honduras and Nicaragua, the UN Emergency Technical Teams are working to identify available resources to support the response upon the request by the two Governments.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has also essential food supplies ready to be delivered to Honduras and Nicaragua through its Logistics Hub in Panama.

There are also 70,000 people in areas along Eta’s track in northern Nicaragua who are exposed to hurricane winds.  More than 483,000 estimated people in Honduras are also exposed to the hurricane’s impact, according to the Pacific Disaster Centre.  The projected path will then take it over parts of Guatemala, El Salvador and Belize, potentially bringing heavy rains.

**COVID-19 — India

A quick update on what our country teams are doing to help address the COVID-19 pandemic:  Today, I want to update you on our operations in India, where cases have surpassed 8 million with more than [123,000] deaths, according to UN figures.

The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Renata Dessallien, is supporting authorities to save lives and livelihoods, and to protect rights. 

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has helped more than 1 million vulnerable people receive health and social protection.  It distributed sanitary kits to 20,000 households headed by women and has provided training on sexual and reproductive health, as well as on how to prevent and address violence against women.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), for its part, is working with women’s groups, village councils and Government departments to ensure social protection for marginalized groups in two Indian states.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has reached 420,000 people with social protection schemes to restore livelihoods for women microentrepreneurs, farmers and artisans, as well as youth.

Through the Secretary-General’s “Recover Better Fund”, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners are also providing food to more than 20,000 vulnerable households, including transgender, female and male sex workers, as well as migrants and disabled people as well as those who are chronically ill.


I was asked before the briefing about announcements made by the Emir of Qatar today, and I can tell you that the Secretary-General is encouraged by the important announcement made by the Emir of the State of Qatar that the country will hold elections for the Advisory Council next October.

We understand that preparations are under way and that the Government of Qatar will take all necessary measures to allow for inclusive and participatory elections.

Okay.  That’s it for my bit.  It’s up to you now to do yours. 

Any questions?  Yes.  Go ahead

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the Secretary‑General have a statement today regarding the US elections?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  But he always makes statements about other elections around the world. 

Spokesman:  I mean, he doesn’t make statements about every election around world… 

Question:  Well, he made a statement last week about the Ivory Coast and the potential violence…

Spokesman:  The elections are ongoing, and we have nothing to say as of today.

Question:  You don’t wish us luck or something like that?

Spokesman:  Carla.  Sorry.  Excuse me.  Go ahead. 

Question:  What do you think about the fact, talking about election, that 94 per cent of the people voted in favour of [Alassane] Ouattara, when you know that 53 per cent of them only went to vote, others did not?  What do you think?

Spokesman:  Look, I think what’s important now is that there is calm in Côte d’Ivoire.  We’ve seen the reports of violence during and after the elections.  It’s important that the President and the main opposition leaders engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue to chart a way forward towards consensus and national cohesion in Côte d’Ivoire.

All right.  We’ll go to the screen.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my phone with me, so if anyone on screen has a question, just open up your mic. 

Yes, Evelyn.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yes, hi.  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Go ahead.  Yes, I can.

Question:  On the tragedy in Vienna that’s still sort of ongoing, your statement was quoted a lot in both the US press and the Viennese press.  Is the SG doing any more outreach on this with ambassadors or with the Foreign Minister and so forth?

Spokesman:  I know contacts have been had at various levels.  Our…  the head of the UN operations, Ms. Ghada Waly in Vienna, is obviously in touch locally with Viennese authorities.  We’re happy to report that all UN staff are safe and accounted for, but they…  all our UN colleagues in Vienna are saddened and mourn with the people of Austria and the people of Vienna.  It’s their Host City; it’s their hometown, for many of them.  Their children go to schools there, so they are impacted as all Viennese were impacted and saddened like all Viennese were.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You’re welcome.  All right.  Any other questions?

Question:  Oh, hi, Stéphane.  Hi.  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Hi.  This is Kaori Yoshida from Nikkei.  I have a question about the Paris Agreement.  The US is set to withdraw officially on 4 November.  Do you know the exact time?  Is it GMT or EST?

Spokesman:  No, there’s…  there’s no…  I looked at the Paris Agreement, and there’s no exact time listed, so it will be 4 November, wherever you are, I would assume.  But there is no minute or time specified.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you. 

Spokesman:  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Going back to Côte d’Ivoire, is the Secretary‑General planning to try in any way to avert any kind of ongoing clashes, dissensions, disunity among the parties there now that the President has declared himself the winner?

Spokesman:  I mean, we have…  if I’m not mistaken, our envoy for Western Africa, Mr. [Mohamed ibn] Chambas, is there, along with representatives of the African Union and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).  We will be there to support the people of Côte d’Ivoire and encourage the Government and the opposition groups to engage in a meaningful dialogue.  I think all of us want to avert any violence of any kind.

Question:  And on another subject, we’ve seen in the past two weeks some really terrible terrorist attacks in France, Austria and especially in Afghanistan, where 22 mainly students were killed.  Does the Secretary‑General have any ideas, new ideas, of what can be done to try to end this or curb this terrible spate of killings and attacks?

Spokesman:  Well, I think we’ve…  the Secretary‑General and his envoy have spoken a lot about the scourge of terrorism.  There’s the issue of, first of all, condemning without any doubt all of these acts to make sure that those who are responsible for these acts be brought to justice.  But there also needs to be…  in addition, there also needs to be a wider dialogue to address the situations in these countries.  Whether it’s about social cohesion, whether it’s addressing human rights issues, these are complex situations for which there is no one‑line answer, and I think that’s…  there’s a lot of hard work to be done.


Question:  I was going to ask, I don’t know whether you would know anything about this, but you should, I guess.  There had been…  I had been told that if Kenya won the vote to be on the Security Council that former Ambassador Macharia [Kamau] would be here as an adviser, and I was just wondering whether you know anything about that.

Spokesman:  No, I do not.

Okay.  Any other questions?  All right. 

Yes, Toby, and then we’ll leave you with Brenden [Varma]. 

Question:  Hi, Stéphane.  Thank you very much.  I was going to ask the same question as Edie actually about the rise in terrorist attacks globally, but since you answered that, I will ask, do you have any more context on what this election means for Qatar, both regionally and globally?

Spokesman:  Listen, the announcement was made today.  Obviously, any move to give people a voice in how they govern themselves is to be encouraged, but we have no…  the UN itself has no involvement in any way in organising, supporting the elections to the Advisory Council.

Okay.  Mr. Varma, it’s all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.