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.
All right. Good afternoon. Sorry to keep you guys all waiting… not for the first time. All right. Good afternoon. I want to start off with a statement on the situation in Ethiopia. The Secretary-General expresses his alarm over the reported armed clashes in the Tigray region of Ethiopia and calls for immediate measures to de-escalate tensions and to ensure a peaceful resolution to the dispute. He underlines the importance of the stability of Ethiopia for the Horn of Africa region. The Secretary-General renews the commitment of the United Nations, and its partners in the region, to support the Government of Ethiopia in its reform efforts aimed at building a peaceful and secure future for all of its peoples. And that statement will be shared with you very shortly.
And in a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General took note of the announcement by the Independent Electoral Commission of the provisional results of the presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire. The Secretary-General strongly condemns the violence that occurred prior to and during and after the election. He is saddened by the multiple fatalities and expresses his deep condolences to the bereaved families. He calls on all political stakeholders to respect the country’s constitutional order and adhere to the rule of law. He urges the President and the main opposition leaders to engage in meaningful and inclusive dialogue to chart a way forward out of the prevailing crisis by working together towards consensus and national cohesion.
This week as you know, here at the UN is UN Police Week. This morning, the Security Council was briefed by Alexander Zouev, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peace Operations, as well as the UN Police Commissioners serving in the Central African Republic, Haiti, Mali and South Sudan. Speaking on behalf of Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Mr. Zouev highlighted the vital role the UN police play across the spectrum of conflict prevention to peacekeeping and peacebuilding. And turning to the protection of civilians, he gave examples from the Central African Republic, where UN police have helped foster a protective environment through police capacity-building and added that the UN police have also been instrumental in efforts to raise awareness about COVID-19. Mr. Zouev reiterated that gender‑responsive policing is a core priority to ensure that the security needs of men, women, boys and girls are met. His full statement has been distributed to you.
Stephanie Williams, the Acting Special Representative for Libya, spoke to the press following the end of the two-day meeting of the Joint Military Commission that took place in Ghadames in Libya. She noted the opening of the oil installations, work on the resumption of flights and continuing exchange of detainees. Ms. Williams said that this is the beginning of a process that is going to require determination, courage, confidence and a lot of work. Now, she said, in Tunis, we are going to work with the 75 participants on the political road map going forward with key objectives being the scheduling of national elections. She expressed the hope that the spirit and the sense of responsibility seen in the Joint Military Commission is reflected in the political dialogue.
Turning to Lebanon, today marks three months since the Beirut port explosions, which impacted thousands of people and caused widespread damage. We, along with our humanitarian partners, continue to help those most in need. At least 180,000 people have received humanitarian assistance since August. Further shelter repairs, food assistance and medical services are the top priorities reported by those affected by the explosions. Meanwhile, an unsteady and deteriorating economic situation, COVID-19-related lockdown measures and other factors have pushed vulnerable Lebanese and refugee families further into poverty. COVID-19 remains a serious concern. As of Monday, more than 83,000 cases have been diagnosed, 672 deaths recorded. Hospital capacity remains stretched. To date, the UN-coordinated response to the explosions — seeking $354.9 million to address immediate lifesaving needs for three months — is less than 25 per cent funded. Additional funds are needed to scale up relief for the most vulnerable and to prevent the situation from worsening.
Turning to Central America and more specifically Nicaragua, which was hit by Hurricane Eta early yesterday morning: the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and its partners have prepositioned emergency supplies and developed a joint response plan to address the needs of children and families, including 10,000 people evacuated from the northern coast. UNICEF has pre-positioned 3,000 family hygiene kits, 3,000 water containers, 87 boxes of water disinfection tablets and 50 chlorine test kits for water quality monitoring capable of making 12,000 tests. These supplies, which can meet the needs of 15,000 people, including 6,000 children, are on standby for delivery to the Government. UNICEF is also coordinating closely with authorities to ensure that shelters are suitable, safe and equipped with the necessary provisions for children. For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) has positioned 80 metric tons of food assistance in the region. WFP has also been providing telecommunications and logistics support, including mobile warehouses, prefabricated offices, generators, radio and satellite systems to support the local operational centres.
In the Philippines, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that more than 2 million people have been impacted by Super Typhoon Goni, the strongest typhoon of this year. UN agencies, the Red Cross and humanitarian partners are conducting assessments and are providing food, shelter items and psychosocial services, among others, and also supporting the Government’s search-and-rescue efforts. After sweeping through the Philippines, the typhoon was downgraded to a tropical storm and is now forecast to make landfall in Viet Nam tomorrow afternoon. As you will recall Viet Nam is already reeling from the impact of Typhoon Molave, and is responding to its impact and that made landfall late in October. As we told you earlier this week, the UN and our partners have launched a six-month response plan seeking $40 million to help 177,000 people of the most vulnerable flood-affected.
And in neighbouring Cambodia as of yesterday, more than 800,000 people have been impacted by floods, nearly half them being poor and vulnerable who need humanitarian assistance. We are working on a Humanitarian Response Plan for that.
**COVID-19 — Republic of the Congo
And a quick update on what we’re doing in the field, around the world to help support governments address COVID-19. Today from the Republic of the Congo: the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Chris Mburu, has partnered with authorities and civil society organizations to assess the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic. These findings were crucial to develop the country’s response to the virus. The UN team has also beefed up the health response, with the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) supporting vaccinations for nearly 70,000 children, as well as sexual and reproductive health for nearly 80,000 women. They have also provided nutrition support for more than 4,000 children. To address the challenges posed by the close of schools, UNICEF offered a distance education programme for nearly 240,000 students, while the WFP ensured the continuation of food supplies for 83,000 children. WFP and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) also helped 53,000 people, more than half of whom were women, with immediate cash and food supplies as a cushion to protect livelihoods from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
And on a good note, our friends in Pyongyang, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have paid, excuse me, DPRK has paid its regular budget dues in full — for this year, and last. That makes up 132 countries that have paid in full so far this year. We'll go to the screen. I think James has a question, and then we'll go to Edie.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, Steph. You have no comment yet on the US election. Do you have a comment on the US election? President [Donald] Trump, in the early hours: “Frankly, we did win this election." Does the UN agree? Does it think such comments are helpful or dangerous?
Spokesman: No, not at this point. I mean, we're all watching, obviously, closely. The process is still… is playing itself out. We do not have a comment at this point.
Question: Do you think that those involved in this election, both the parties, should be waiting for the final results?
Spokesman: I would refer you to what I just said. Thank you. Edie?
Question: Well… can I… can I… can I… last month on Bolivia, the Secretary‑General put out a statement: “He encourages all actors to respect the electoral process, in particular the final results of the poll.” Why is it different in Bolivia from the United States?
Spokesman: Look, there is a principled position that we have, which you've just stated, but in terms of why different… Bolivia is different from the US, frankly, we also had been much more implicated in the process in Bolivia through a Special Envoy. Edie?
Correspondent: I know it's not my turn anymore, but I do have some more when you can come back to me.
Spokesman: It can always be your turn, James. But, we'll go to Edie for a break. Go ahead, Edie.
Question: Thank you very much, Steph. I have one follow‑up to… on Libya. The parties appealed to the Security Council to adopt a resolution to implement the ceasefire deal. And I wondered, is the Secretary‑General talking to Council members about trying to speed that resolution along? And then I have a Syria question.
Spokesman: Sure. I mean, on Libya, I think, as in many other conflicts that are on the Security Council's agenda, a quick and unified voice from the Security Council is always helpful to the parties and our efforts to bring peace and stability. Your question on Syria?
Question: On Syria, reports from the region say that the truce between Turkey and Russia in north‑west Syria is unravelling, and I wonder if the Secretary‑General is talking to both sides to try and ensure that that cessation of fighting hostilities is maintained?
Spokesman: Yeah, we've seen those reports, and they're, of course, of concern to us. Our Special Envoy remains in touch with all the concerned parties in Syria. Okay. Let's see. Okay. Abdelhamid, and then we'll go back to you, James.
Question: Thank you. My question on Libya, Edie has already taken from me. But, I have two questions, one on Armenia and Azerbaijan and the ceasefire it looks like is not working, and all attempts to contain the conflict is failing. Is the Secretary‑General trying to do something else, other than just appealing to the parties to respect the ceasefire?
Spokesman: Well, we have remained in touch with the parties at different levels. We're also in close contact with the Minsk co‑chairs, and we will continue to do that, and we will continue to publicly and privately appeal for the immediate cessation of hostilities to allow for humanitarian access. And I think we're very concerned by the continuing loss of life, especially loss of life from civilians. James?
Question: My second question…
Spokesman: Sorry. Okay. Go ahead. Go ahead.
Question: Yeah. Maher al‑Akhras, the Palestinian detainee who has not been charged with anything, entered his 101st day of hunger strike. I know Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov issued some statement before. Is he trying to contact authorities to do something? His health is deteriorating by the hour, and maybe an appeal by the Special Envoy could save his life?
Spokesman: I think… Mr. Mladenov remains fully aware of the matter, and I have no doubt it's being raised both publicly and privately. James?
Question: Yes. The Paris climate deal, the US now is formally out of it today. That is… what they said was going to happen has now come to pass. What's the Secretary‑General's view on that? And what representations will he be making to the Trump Administration, and for that matter, to any future [Joseph] Biden Administration?
Spokesman: Look, on the withdrawal of the climate agreement, I don't know if you saw it, but the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] join… also, I think, co‑joined by Chile, Italy, the UK and France, published a statement on the matter, saying that there's no greater responsibility than protecting the planet and people from the threat of climate change and reiterated that the Paris Agreement provides the right framework to reduce the impacts of global warming. They noted, with regret, the withdrawal of the US. For the Secretary‑General, I think, as he's stated in the past, even just, I think, last week, there is a growing coalition of nations committed to achieving carbon neutrality by mid‑century, which is, obviously, the key objective of Paris. I mean, we saw the announcement by Japan, by the Republic of Korea, too. The Secretary‑General will co‑host… co‑convene on 12 December a Climate Ambition Summit, which will coincide with the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement. And so, we… our support, our belief in the need for a strong and active Paris Agreement remains unchanged, and I think I would refer you back to what the Secretary‑General said, I think, back in November a year ago about the US decision.
Question: Another question on Africa, if that's okay. You have already read a statement about Ethiopia and Tigray. You also read a statement about Côte d’Ivoire, where security forces have been surrounding the homes of opposition leaders. We've also had opposition leader Bobi Wine being arrested in Uganda. We've had opposition leaders arrested and then released in Tanzania. We've had an anti‑corruption campaigner and journalist arrested in Zimbabwe, all of this, rather suspiciously, happening on the same day that happened to be US election day. Is the Secretary‑General concerned with Governments around the world have been using this day when everyone else's attention was on the US for some actions that are broadly against democracy?
Spokesman: Look, I mean, I will leave the analysis and the thread‑making to you. I mean, a lot of these elections, whether in Côte d’Ivoire, in Tanzania, in Guinea had been scheduled for quite some time. On Uganda, on the issue of Bobi Wine, that's a situation we have been following with concern, and I think it's important that all institutions in Uganda, particularly security forces, act in a manner that respects human rights principles and the rule of law, and we encourage all political leaders and actors and their supporters to commit to peaceful conduct and to refrain from any incitement of violence or hate speech. And I think it's important that there is an inclusive and broad participatory political and electoral environment. Now, you framed the question in terms of Africa. I think we have been concerned with some time about shrinking civil society space all over the world. So, I wouldn't particularly look at it as an African problem. There has been, as the Secretary‑General has said, a global problem. Okay? Any other questions? All right. Open your mic. Edie, please.
Question: Yeah. I thought I put in chat that I had another question. Could you give us a little more information on what a Climate Ambition Summit is going to be? Who's going to be invited? What's the agenda going to be? What's the goal?
Spokesman: The goal is to raise the ambition. I mean, we know that the commitments made in Paris have not been met across the board. We know that those commitments, given what the science is telling us, need to be increased. I think we've seen some very positive developments from two major industrial countries recently, South Korea and Japan. We hope that those two… the fact that those industrialized countries made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 will lead others down that path, and we hope that as many Member States as possible will join the Secretary‑General in that virtual summit.
Question: And is that summit going to try and get world leaders or… and ministers who deal with climate? And is there going to be any kind of an outcome document or…
Spokesman: I will get you a bit more. We hope there will be representation at the highest level. Okay. Thank you, all. And see you tomorrow. Why not?