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.

**Paris Peace Forum

The Secretary‑General spoke to a high‑level session of the Paris Peace Forum this morning, during which he renewed his call for action on climate.  He noted encouraging steps, saying that early next year, countries representing more than 65 per cent of global CO2 emissions, and more than 70 per cent of the world economy, will have made ambitious carbon neutrality commitments.  Climate action is part of a broader vision to protect our planet, he said, and in particular, biodiversity.  As we face the COVID‑19 pandemic, the Secretary‑General said that we must not forget that about three quarters of new infectious diseases are zoonotic.  By destroying the ecosystems, he added, we weaken the biological barriers that keep these viruses at bay and we ourselves weaken our coping skills.  He called for the integration of climate and environmental action into stimulus packages to rebuild sustainable and inclusive economies and societies.

**Finance in Common Summit

He also addressed another of the Forum, but this time by video message, called Finance in Common Summit.  In his remarks, he said that public development banks are uniquely positioned to play a leading role in the world’s transformation towards carbon neutrality.  He added that they can also help build the foundations of a new economy, fit for the twenty‑first century.  The Secretary‑General said that he counts on public development banks to come to the Climate Ambition Summit in December, and the twenty‑sixth Conference of Parties (COP26) next year, with concrete plans to realize our vision for a carbon‑neutral, resilient, inclusive and sustainable world.  Full remarks are online.

**Group of 77

And he spoke live at the G77 meeting this morning at the annual ministerial meeting.  He said that we are at a historic moment as we face the greatest test of global solidarity in generations, adding that the COVID‑19 pandemic continues to inflict unprecedented harm on people, societies and economies around the world.  But that within this crisis lies an opportunity — a chance to embark on a path to revive economies, ensure gender equality, protect our planet and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The United Nations, he said, is calling for a transformative response and recovery, based on unity and solidarity.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the Sendai Framework remain our guiding lights.  He added that they must be at the heart of all national and global response and recovery efforts.  The Secretary‑General also expressed his hope that 2021 will be year we are able to forge a global alliance for carbon neutrality.  His remarks are online now.

**Deputy Secretary‑General - West Africa

The Deputy Secretary‑General is continuing her trip to West Africa.  She is now in Mali, where she currently is meeting with the Prime Minister and other Government officials.  Earlier in the day, in Niger, Amina Mohammed saw the impact of climate change when she visited sites impacted by some of the worst floods in the country’s history.  The UN is working with the government of Niger and NGO (non‑governmental organization) partners to build resilience and reinforce adaption measures for affected communities.  The Deputy Secretary-General spoke with relocated families and members of a fisheries community near the capital, Niamey.  Ms.  Mohammed also met with a group of girl entrepreneurs who are supported by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).  She had a second follow up meeting with President Mahamadou Issoufou before leaving [for] Mali.


An update on Ethiopia:  our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that they are increasingly concerned over the protection of civilians due to the fighting in Tigray.  There are reports of civilians moving within Tigray as well as to the neighbouring Amhara region in search of protection, but we do not have details.  We are also alarmed by the already large number of Ethiopian asylum-seekers who have crossed into Sudan fleeing the hostilities or out of fear of an attack.  Food, health and other supplies are in warehouses, awaiting loading for immediate delivery in Tigray.  In addition to concerns over disrupted humanitarian aid to more than two million people in Tigray, there is also rising worry about the inability to assess additional humanitarian needs that are likely to spike.

The Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, Catherine Sozi, is engaging with the Government of Ethiopia and others at the highest levels to facilitate immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access.  We, along with our partners, are repeating our call for full access to reach people in need, as well as to conduct needs assessments.  We are also calling for the safe passage for civilians in search of safety and assistance and to guarantee the security for all aid workers.  And we are also calling on the federal and regional authorities to enable humanitarian access to reach people in need in areas under their respective control and we are committed to staying and delivering humanitarian assistance.


The Acting Special Representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, said that we have had a breakthrough in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum that is taking place in Tunisia.  She said that the Forum’s participants had reached a preliminary agreement on a roadmap for ending the transitional period and organizing free, fair, inclusive and credible parliamentary and presidential elections.  They outlined the clear steps for reaching these elections, including agreement on a constitutional basis.  According to the process they outline, elections will be held in no more than 18 months, she added.

The road map also outlines steps for uniting Libya’s institutions, restoring public services, and beginning a process of national reconciliation and transitional justice.  Ms. Williams added at the same time, that we are under no illusions, and we know that a lot of work remains to be done.  Also, I think that Stephano has been asking about the [fate] of the fishermen detained in Libya and I can tell you that we of course remain concerned.  The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has received a request from the families to help establish contacts with the detainees.  We are following up in close consultations with the relevant authorities and we hope that the situation will be resolved and that the detainees will be released as soon as possible.

**Central America

A quick update from Central America, where, in the following up of the hurricane that has hit the region.  In Honduras, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) has delivered more than 39,000 personal protection items in an effort to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, as well as other items.  In Nicaragua, IOM is also in coordination with local NGOs, will assist with the delivery of food kits and hygiene items.  And in Mexico, they are also distributing humanitarian aid in the Chiapas region.


And from Cambodia, I can tell you that we, along with out humanitarian partners, have launched a Floods Response Plan calling for more than $9 million to help some 237,000 of the most vulnerable people for six months.  Since the beginning of October, Cambodia has been hit by widespread flooding following a number of tropical storms.  More than 2 million people have reportedly been exposed to flooding and some 800,000 people have been directly impacted.  Livelihoods of more than 175,000 households have also been negatively impacted.


And in the Philippines, I can tell you that we are working, that initial reports indicate massive flooding and landslides in several areas of Luzon island.  At least 170,000 people in the affected areas have been evacuated, adding to the nearly 83,000 still displaced from the earlier Typhoon Goni last week.  We, along with our partners, have supported the Government-led response efforts, by providing drinking water, food and shelter materials, and we are ready to assist in conducting rapid need assessments.

**COVID-19 — Kazakhstan

A quick note from Kazakhstan, where our country team is working under the leadership of their new Resident Coordinator, Michaela Friberg‑Storey, to help the Government deal with the impact of the pandemic.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is discussing Kazakhstan’s participation in the COVAX mechanism which, as you know, aims to speed up the search for an effective vaccine for all countries.  And WHO is also providing guidance to the Government, with new lockdown measures in place.

Together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WHO held seminars on the use of personal protection equipment, immunization, infection prevention and control, as well as the safe reopening of schools.  The UN team procured over more than $500,000 worth of critical health supplies.  During lockdown, more than 4,600 migrants and victims of human trafficking received direct support from IOM.  And last month alone, the UN team reached some 13 million people with messages on how to prevent the spread of the virus, which is helping curb the spread of misinformation.

**COVID-19 - Maritime Trade

Just to flag that UNCTAD today, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, said that global maritime trade will plunge by 4.1 per cent in 2020 due to the unprecedented disruption caused by the pandemic.  They warn that new waves of the virus that further disrupt supply chains and economies might cause a steeper decline.  The report also decries the humanitarian and safety crisis caused by the pandemic, when more than 300,000 seafarers have been stranded at sea for months beyond the end of their contracts.  We reiterate our call to authorities to designate seafarers as key workers and exempted them from COVID‑19 travel restrictions.

**Saudi Arabia

You may have seen that the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, yesterday condemned in the strongest terms the cowardly attack that wounded at least three people during a ceremony organized by the French consulate at a cemetery in Jeddah.  The full statement was shared with you.

**Central African Republic/Elections

And lastly, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) is telling us that today we are continuing to provide multifaceted support to the electoral process in the country.  This support ranges from good offices and political engagement, to security, operational and technical assistance to ensure successful elections.  The National Elections Authority has received 22 applications to contest the presidency, including from one woman — former transition President Catherine Samba Panza.  They also received over 1,000 candidacies for the legislative elections, including 153 women.  The Constitutional Court is expected to issue a ruling on the validity of the candidacies by 3 December, and the first round of elections is on 27 December.  Yes, sir.  Go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  All right.  Okay.  First, then, on Libya and on the statement that you put out from Stephanie Williams, the plan, I think, originally was for the UN to organise these elections.  And clearly, we're now getting closer to elections maybe taking place in 2021.  What is the UN offering?

Spokesman:  Well, we will offer, obviously, whatever support the Libyans are needing.  The discussions are, obviously, still continuing.  But we will be there to accompany the Libyans and assess exactly what the needs are for the elections.

Question:  So, will it be a UN‑organised election?  Will you provide security, peacekeepers at polling stations?  Will you provide the monitoring?

Spokesman:  I think it's a little early.  I don't believe there will be UN‑organised elections, but let me get more details for you on that.

Question:  And separately, on Libya, sadly, again, a shipwreck of migrants, 74 currently reported dead.  Do you have more for us?

Spokesman:  I mean, we have seen these tragedies repeat over and over again of people trying to flee Libya.  There needs to be, I think, frankly, greater empathy for the plight of these women, men and children who are seeking a better life.  Part of the solution, obviously, involves dealing with the situation in Libya and making it safer, but it is clear that we have a…  we have a long way to go on that, though what happened today was a big step forward, but it also underscores the need for better global management of migration and refugee routes.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Hi, Steph.  Thanks very much.  Two questions for you today.  First one is on Ethiopia and what we're seeing in Tigray.  Is the UN involved at a political level in this conflict?  And if so, what are they doing?

Spokesman:  We… on Tigray, I think, as we've said, the Secretary‑General has offered his good offices in this… in a conversation with [Prime Minister] Abiy [Ahmed], as we said earlier this week.  Our Special Envoy on the ground, Mr.  Parfait Onanga‑Anyanga, remains in contact with key players, but it would not be correct to say that we are involved in any negotiations at this time.

Question:  Are you hopeful for a resolution of this conflict, insofar as what your work is doing?  Are you working towards… help facilitating negotiations or anything like that?

Spokesman:  Listen, we will be as… as I said, the Secretary‑General has offered his good offices.  Our primary concern right now, as we've been underscoring, is on the humanitarian situation.  As we've been saying from here, there's a lack of access.  There's a lack of information.  The fact that we understand that banks have been closed will have a devastating impact on the economy.  Already in that area, you have not only internally displaced Ethiopians but you also have Eritrean refugees, and the greater instability in Ethiopia is a risk of putting the whole region at risk.

Correspondent:  Thank you.  And…

Correspondent:  I have a follow‑up…

Spokesman:  One second, Abdelhamid.

Question:  I just wanted to ask if you're concerned that President [Donald] Trump has not yet conceded the US election.

Spokesman:  I think, as we've said from here, we have full faith in the US institutions.  Abdelhamid?

Question:  Yeah, I have a follow‑up to the same question my colleague ask about Tigray.  Sudan said at least 12,000 refugees have already crossed the border to Sudan, and they expecting the number to reach 200,000.  Is the UN prepared to do something about this flow of refugees into Sudan?

Spokesman:  As we've flagged it from here, our colleagues on the ground are already in touch.  They've been dealing with the authorities in Sudan.  They're, obviously, very concerned about the impact on the situation, but we've already had… and I think we've reported here yesterday reports of people crossing the border.  Okay.  Any other questions?  Mr. Bays?

Question:  Yes, returning to Hong Kong, there's been criticism of the ouster of the lawmakers by the EU and the UK now.  China has itself criticised those law‑makers who have resigned in response.  Does the Secretary‑General have a comment on the situation?

Spokesman:  I think you asked me that question yesterday, and I expressed our position.

Question:  Okay.  Well, let me ask you a more specific question then.  The Hong Kong system is not a wholly democratic one, but it has democratic elements.  Does the Secretary‑General support the continuation of those democratic parts of the Hong Kong system of governments?

Spokesman:  I think my answer to you yesterday covers your question today.

Correspondent:  Well, it wasn't.  It was…

Spokesman:  No, I think I expressed…

Correspondent:  It was a general comment about [inaudible] in the world, which is what you resort to when you speak about China every single time…

Spokesman:  I don't think…

Correspondent:  On other countries, you talk specifically about…

Spokesman:  I don't think that's fair.  I would ask you to look at the transcript from yesterday.  Okay.  I leave you in Mr. [Brenden] Varma's hands.

For information media. Not an official record.