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.
Starting off with Libya, as you know, in a short while, our colleagues will hold a press conference with Stephanie Williams, the acting Special Representative, on the voting taking place today. I think we just got hold of her closing remarks to the event which Farhan [Haq] is circulating to you as we speak. That should take place around 12:30 p.m. I won’t go into any details of what she said because I just got it, but she will speak for herself very shortly.
You will have seen this morning that we announced that Michael Bloomberg had been reappointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions.
Mr. Bloomberg will support the work of the Secretary-General in growing and strengthening the coalition of Governments, companies, cities and financial institutions committing to net-zero before 2050 in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.
He will also leverage his experience and track record in accelerating the transition from coal to help deliver [on] the Secretary-General’s global call for the phase-out of coal in industrialized countries by 2030 and other countries by 2040.
I want to flag that, on Monday, Mr. [António] Guterres, the Secretary-General, along with COP26 (26th Conference of Parties) UK President Alok Sharma, will brief the Member States on the road to Glasgow, which, as you know, will host COP26.
He will stress the need to further expand the growing coalition for carbon neutrality, countries that have set a target for reaching net zero emissions by 2050 backed by ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions. He will also stress the importance of virtual negotiations in the months ahead to overcome the constraints imposed by the pandemic and the challenges to travel.
We will get you advance copies of his remarks over the weekend.
**Global Inter-Generational Dialogue
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, joined Graꞔa Machel at the virtual Global Inter-Generational Dialogue (IGD), organized by Global Peace.
Speaking to an international panel of young leaders, she highlighted the importance of their action to address issues such as the climate crisis and peace.
This event will also include the launch of the Global Peace Futures Forum, a platform that will catalyse youth to build innovative solutions to global challenges.
On Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues on the ground tell us the situation across Tigray continues to be extremely alarming and to deteriorate rapidly.
As we have told you many times, humanitarian access is restricted due to insecurity and bureaucratic obstacles, preventing aid workers to help people affected by the conﬂict.
The humanitarian response remains drastically inadequate compared to what is needed. Although we managed to increase our operations, they are still limited to helping people living in the towns along the main roads from the capital, Mekelle, towards Shire, and two refugee camps.
The UN and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have nearly 80 humanitarian workers in Addis Ababa who are ready to travel to Tigray pending clearance, and the clearance has now been pending for more than one month.
In spite of the challenges we, along with our humanitarian partners, have managed to provide some urgent assistance.
More than 20 trucks have been positioned to move food supplies into Tigray. Two refugee camps in the southern part of Tigray, Mai-Ayni and Adi-Harush, are now receiving regular food allocations, with food delivery and distributions for the month of January having been completed.
Across the region, 250,000 people have been reached with two months’ worth of food.
Medical supplies have also been procured and dispatched to help hundreds of thousands of people.
Our partners are preparing to prevent and assist survivors of gender-based violence across the Amhara and Tigray regions.
Some 120,000 people — that’s fewer than one third of the nearly 500,000 people we are trying to reach — have regular access to water.
We continue to engage and call on the Government for immediate, safe, and unimpeded access [of] humanitarian personnel and supplies throughout Tigray.
I would like to flag that, next week, Ramesh Rajasingham, the Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, will begin a four-day visit to Burkina Faso and Senegal.
As you know, there is a large-scale humanitarian emergency unfolding in Burkina [Faso]. Over the past two years, rising insecurity and conflict have forced more than a million people to flee their homes. It is now the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis.mmWhile in Senegal, the [Deputy] Emergency Relief Coordinator is expected to meet key humanitarian partners, as well as regional donors based in Dakar.
And staying in the region, the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan for Niger was launched yesterday. The plan is seeking $523.2 million this year to assist 2.1 million people. By comparison, last year, the UN and our humanitarian partners reached 800,000 people in need across the country.
Niger continues to face a complex humanitarian crisis, combining the effects of conflict, chronic food insecurity and health emergencies, including COVID-19. As a result, the country’s economy, as well as access to basic services such as health and education, have been severely impacted.
**COVID-19 — Africa
A bit more on Africa: The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the global initiative COVAX aims to start shipping nearly 90 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the continent in February. This will be Africa’s largest ever mass vaccination campaign.
According to WHO, amid surging demand for COVID-19 vaccines, the final shipments will be based on production capacities of vaccine manufacturers and readiness of countries. WHO noted that the initial phase of 90 million doses will support countries to immunize 3 per cent of the African population most in need of protection, including health workers and other vulnerable groups, in the first half of this year. More information online.
**Female Genital Mutilation
I want to flag that tomorrow is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation. In a message for the Day, the Secretary-General stresses that female genital mutilation is a terrible human rights violation that affects the health and wellbeing of millions of women and girls around the world.
The Secretary-General says that, sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the numbers of girls at risk of this horrific practice and notes that, without urgent action, 2 million more girls could be at risk of female genital mutilation between now and 2030, in addition to the 4 million girls already at risk each year.
**International Criminal Court
And you saw yesterday that we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General took note of the verdict by the [International Criminal Court] against Dominic Ongwen, a commander of the [Lord’s Resistance Army].
He said this judgment is a significant milestone in accountability and a step forward in efforts to bring justice to the victims of the LRA. Our thoughts today are with those victims.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
A senior personnel announcement. Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Robin Geiss of Germany as the Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, otherwise known as UNIDIR and is based in Geneva.
He succeeds Renata Dwan of Ireland, to whom the Secretary-General expresses his gratitude for her dedicated service.
Mr. Geiss comes to the position with 20 years of experience in peace and security, with a focus on the impact of new technologies in these areas. Most recently, he served as the Director of the Glasgow Centre for International Law and Security at the University of Glasgow. Mr. Geiss has managed large-scale research projects and held multiple posts in academia. More available in his bio note.
Today, I’m happy to thank our friends in Thimphu and Vaduz for their payment to the regular budget for 2021. Vaduz and Thimphu, capital of which two countries? [Hums music]
Spokesman: Yes, Liechtenstein. And? And? And?
Brenden Varma: Bhutan.
Spokesman: Bhutan! We thank… who said that?
Brenden Varma: Brenden!
Spokesman: Oh, Brenden, you can’t compete. That’s not fair. It’s like somebody who works for the lottery playing the lottery.
All right. Back to more serious matters.
**Questions and Answers
Edie and then James.
Question: Thank you, Steph. First, a follow‑up on Libya; does the Secretary‑General have a reaction to the agreement on a tran… this new transitional government?
Spokesman: Look, we welcome what has happened, but I’ll just say I want to… this literally happened as I was walking in. So, we will have a more formal statement. I need to see what exactly was agreed upon.
Question: Okay. And secondly, going back to Myanmar, the Secretary‑General said that he wanted to mobilize the international community to put pressure on the military to reverse the coup and return to the path towards total democratic rule. I know you said that he and the Special Envoy would be working, but mobilizing the international community to put pressure, I believe, would involve a lot more than the Secretary‑General and the Special Envoy alone. What else needs to be done?
Spokesman: I mean, I think the statement that we saw from the Security Council is a very positive first step in terms of a unified voice from the organization’s body entrusted with keeping peace and security. So, I think that’s an important first step.
The Secretary‑General continues to have various contacts. The Special Envoy also continues to have her contacts. She has spoken to various representatives of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations). Just earlier today, she also spoke to the Secretary‑General of ASEAN to ensure that we’re all working with the same goal.
I also want to flag that, overnight, she did manage to reach a senior official in Nay Pyi Taw. She had a virtual meeting with the Deputy Commander‑in‑Chief of the armed forces of Myanmar. She reiterated the Secretary‑General’s strong condemnation of the military’s action that disrupted the democratic reforms that were taking place in the country. She also reiterated her call for the immediate release of all detained and emphasised the need to advance progress on key areas in regard to a safe, dignified, voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya refugees, the peace process, accountability and particularly engaging with the international community… engaging with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the ongoing case.
Question: One quick follow‑up and then two different questions. The follow‑up, just try you again on Libya. The Secretary‑General, when he took office four years ago, said he was most optimistic about the conflict in Libya, the one that was, you know, the easiest to solve. Clearly, that optimism was dashed many times in the last four years. How optimistic is he now?
Spokesman: Look, I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think what we’ve been seeing is… are Libyan political leaders putting the interests of the Libyan people first and foremost. We’ve seen great efforts on the part of our acting Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, and her team. I think this… the Secretary‑General is optimistic but also very much realistic, but he… this is a very important move in the right direction.
Question: The announcement you made about Michael Bloomberg as the global envoy for the UN on climate, I’m somewhat confused. He had this job. He stepped down. You appointed Mark Carney to the job, and now he’s got the job again. Is Mark Carney still in his post?
Spokesman: No, it’s all… it’s slightly different. This is… first of all, Mr. Carney stays on. This… Mr. Bloomberg’s appointment is very much focused on the strengthening of the coalition, focused on coal. The two are not redundant. I mean, they will work very closely together.
Question: There’s no competition… There’s no duplication here?
Spokesman: No, there’s…
Question: Which one of them… say the US Envoy, John Kerry, comes to visit; which one meets him?
Spokesman: Well, I mean, it depends where they are in this world. But I think Mr. Kerry will engage and we will engage with all the envoys, but there’s no duplication.
Question: And my last question, the UN report on Al‑Qaida and ISIL came out, and buried in it was some quite important news that the head of Al‑Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has been arrested, Khalid Batarfi. It was buried in this UN report. The UN clearly now knows this information that he’s been arrested. Can you give us more information? Which country is holding him? Where is he being held? And any more details you have about this.
Spokesman: No, I don’t have any more than what the Panel of Experts produced. Yes, Mr. Sato.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Two follow‑up, one on the Myanmar. So, can you tell us what was the response from the deputy commander?
Spokesman: The person she spoke to, which… and I didn’t put the name, but the general’s name is [Deputy Commander‑in‑Chief Vice‑General Soe Win], and we’ll send that to you in writing. I can’t speak… I don’t speak for them. This was quite a long conversation, but I think it was a very important conversation, as the first contact we’ve had with the military authorities since the coup.
Question: Thank you. One other follow‑up on climate envoy. To my understanding, Mark Carney is the Special Envoy on Climate Action and the Finance.
Question: And Michael Bloomberg will be Climate Action… Ambition and Solutions. How are they going to collaborate each other for COP26?
Spokesman: Well, they will work very closely together. As you said, one… Mr. Carney will focus more on finance, because, obviously, you can have all the ambition and the plans you want, but the finance is a critical underpinning of the Secretary‑General’s climate action.
Mr. Bloomberg, I think, is very well positioned to work with the private sector and with Governments, having been both… I mean, being involved in the private sector, having served in government, having… being a big partner of the UN in the run‑up to the Paris Agreement, so I think the two of them will complement each other very closely.
Okay. Sorry. Let me see. Okay. I will give you the correct name of the person, because apparently that was not the correct name in Myanmar. My bad. [He later said the official in the meeting was Deputy Commander‑in‑Chief Vice‑General Soe Win.]
Sorry. If you have any question, wave. I’m… too many things at once here.
Question: Thank you. I want to just follow up on my question from yesterday about the specifics of the Libya Observer Mission. You said you might have some more detail today. Like, how big is the force? When will it start and so on?
Spokesman: I think those are questions that can be asked of Ms. Williams during her press conference, which will start probably in about five or ten minutes. She will give you the most up‑to‑date information. Okay. I don’t see any other questions, so I will turn it over to Brenden. Are you on, Brenden?
Brenden Varma: Yes, I’m here.