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.
All right. Happy Friday. And it is nice to see your faces up close and in person now […] Good morning everyone, good afternoon.
**Secretary-General — G7
This morning the Secretary-General landed in London on his way to the G7 meeting in Cornwall, where he will go tomorrow morning.
In London, the Secretary-General held a series of bilateral meeting with senior British officials. He met with Alok Sharma, the president of the COP26, which will take place in Glasgow in December; Lord Ahmad, the Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth; and also Lord Goldsmith, the Minister for the Pacific and the Environment.
And at 1 p.m. our time, we expect that the Secretary-General will hold a press conference in the UK about the G7 meeting, and we expect to have a live webcast of that available. In that briefing to the G7 press, the Secretary-General will underscore the pivotal moment in which we find ourselves. He will outline the necessary bold steps that the international community needs to take in the face of both the COVID pandemic and the climate change crisis.
Turning to Ethiopia: The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today warned that in Tigray, more young children and babies slide dangerously close to sickness and potential death from malnutrition.
UNICEF says that it is working with partners to provide nutrition, health care and clean water support. However, without humanitarian access, an estimated 33,000 severely malnourished children in currently inaccessible areas in Tigray are at high risk of death.
UNICEF said that it is scaling up its nutrition response in Tigray across all seven zones, focused on screening and treating children suffering from severe wasting. Since February, 250,000 children under 5 years of age have been screened for wasting and more than 7,000 of them have been admitted for treatment.
The UN Children’s Fund requires $10.7 million to provide ready-to-use therapeutic food to children in Tigray and affected neighbouring zones in Amhara and Afar regions. The funding will also enable UNICEF and partners to provide routine medication and scale up life-saving treatment of wasting and counselling of mothers and caregivers on recommended infant and young child feeding practices.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Humanitarian Coordinator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, David McLachlan-Karr, has condemned an attack on the Boga General Referral Hospital in the province of Ituri.
The attack, which took place on Monday, happened in the context of clashes that left at least 10 people dead on the same day. The hospital normally serves over 80,000 people in the Boga health zone, where it is located. It was destroyed and looted during the attack.
Since the beginning of the year, health authorities have documented at least four attacks on medical facilities in the Boga health zone alone, as well as the abduction of health workers. The attack on the hospital is part of a recent series of serious incidents affecting civilians and humanitarian organizations in the Ituri Province. You will recall that last week, 55 civilians were killed in attacks on the towns of Boga and Chiabi.
The province of Ituri hosts 1.65 million internally displaced people. Some 2.8 million people — half the Ituri population — are severely food insecure, including 810,000 people in the IPC Phase 4 — or emergency phase.
Turning to Yemen, we are deeply concerned by yesterday’s missile and drone attack in Marib City, which reportedly caused dozens of civilian casualties. It also occurred close to the compounds in Marib City where humanitarian workers are housed.
This incident follows an attack on a fuel station over the weekend in Marib City, which also caused casualties.
Yesterday’s attack reinforces yet again how civilians in Yemen are bearing the brunt in this conflict. The United Nations urges the parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, including ensuring the protection of civilians, aid workers and civilian infrastructure.
Meanwhile, the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is currently 43 per cent funded, with $1.65 billion having been received out of the total $3.85 billion requirement.
And we’ve had many questions about Iran’s vote in the General Assembly, and I can confirm to you today that the Islamic Republic of Iran has paid the minimum amount due and is no longer under Article 19 of the UN Charter.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Irena Vojáčková-Sollorano, has visited the Shariya Camp for displaced people in Dohuk governorate. The visit came in the aftermath of a fire on 4 June that destroyed some 288 tents in the camp, leaving over 1,000 people homeless.
Resources were swiftly deployed last Friday to put out the fire, secure the area and support those affected, including with temporary tents, alternative shelters, water and hot meals. During her visit to Dohuk, Ms. Vojáčková-Sollorano met with families that were affected by the fire and listened to their concerns and the challenges facing them.
Ján Kubiš, the Special Envoy for Libya, has been continuing his travels and meetings in which he has emphasized the importance of holding inclusive presidential and parliamentary elections in Libya on 24 December 2021 and of starting the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign forces from the country.
At the national level, the Special Envoy held a series of telephone calls with several Libyan interlocutors, including Prime Minister Abdelhamid AlDabaiba, and the Commander of the Libyan Arab Armed Forces, General Khalifa Haftar.
He also visited Moscow from 7 to 9 June and held a series of meetings with senior officials of the Russian Government, including Deputy Foreign Ministers Sergey Vershinin and Mikhail Bogdanov.
The UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel has launched a Regional Working Group on climate change, the environment, security and development in the region.
The working group, launched in partnership with IOM, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the UN Environment Programme, aims to combine the knowledge and expertise of its members to promote an integrated and harmonized approach to climate change-related risks.
The members will examine the “adverse implications of climate change” in the region, with the aim to assist Governments and the UN system to address these challenges.
Their work will be done in coordination with the Economic Community of West African States, linking regional policy development with local and national action.
Moving to Mozambique: The UN Refugee Agency today said that it remains gravely concerned for the safety of civilians in the northern region of the country.
According to UNHCR, armed conflict and insecurity in the coastal city of Palma continues to displace thousands of people, two and a half months after a brutal attack by non-State armed groups. People are fleeing daily in a desperate search for safety both in Mozambique and across the border in [the United Republic of] Tanzania.
UNHCR continues to advocate for the internally displaced to receive protection and assistance in Mozambique and for vulnerable people seeking safety in neighbouring Tanzania to access asylum.
For its part, the UN Children’s Fund said that following the Palma attack, there are some 2,000 registered children who have no idea where their parents are, or if they are even alive. UNICEF warned that what is happening in Cabo Delgado is a children’s crisis, an emergency on top of an emergency. It is a deadly cocktail from the impacts of climate change, conflict and COVID-19.
On Myanmar, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet today warned that a further escalation in violence was unfolding across the country. She said that it must be halted to prevent even greater loss of life and a deepening humanitarian emergency.
She said there appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] to cease the violence.
The High Commissioner encouraged the intensification of regional diplomacy, including by ASEAN and other influential States, to insist on the immediate cessation of violence and ongoing human rights violations. Dialogue is urgently needed with the National Unity Government and civil society stakeholders.
**COVAX — Fiji
An update on COVAX. Our team in Fiji, led by the Resident Coordinator Sanaka Samarasinha, is supporting authorities by mobilizing resources to ensure there are adequate supplies and equipment for testing, contact tracing, treatment and vaccination.
The rollout of the vaccines began in March this year with initial supplies from the COVAX Facility. To date, Fiji has received nearly 60 per cent of its initial COVAX allocation, with the remaining 43,200 doses due to arrive by the end of this month. As of today, nearly 230,000 individuals have received their first dose—that’s nearly 40 per cent of the target population.
The UN team has also provided essential medical and laboratory items, and has provided support on the vaccine rollout, procurement and supply operation of vaccine doses, including freight, logistics and storage. Additionally, our UN team also procured and delivered several machines for testing and 2.5 million units of personal protective equipment, 4,600 units of biomedical equipment, nearly 45,000 units of testing equipment, including swabs, and other medical supplies. Our team is also monitoring the impact on food security, nutrition, and livelihoods across Fiji, especially for those employed in the informal sector who have lost their jobs.
I want to flag that yesterday the international community reaffirmed its solidarity with forcibly displaced people in Central America and Mexico and with the seven countries that make up the Comprehensive Regional Protection and Solutions Framework, known as MIRPS. This happened during the Solidarity Event for Forcibly Displaced Persons and Host Communities in Central America and Mexico, which was hosted by Costa Rica.
The event announced $110 million in contributions, including $7.6 million from the Spanish Government.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, encouraged continued cooperation, saying that the crisis in Central America is both humanitarian in its impact and related to security and development in its roots.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, today launched its Science Report, showing that spending on science worldwide increased 19 per cent between 2014 and 2018. There was also an increase of 13.7 per cent in the number of scientists, and according to the Report, this trend has been further boosted by the COVID crisis.
However, these figures hide significant disparities. The Report says that just two countries, the United States and China, account for nearly two thirds of this increase, while four out of five countries lag far behind, investing less than 1 per cent of their GDP in scientific research. The scientific landscape thus remains largely a landscape of power.
UNESCO stresses that the world must focus on providing science with the tools it needs and that science must become less unequal, more cooperative and more open.
**World Day against Child Labour
[Tomorrow] is World Day against Child Labour. This year, the Day focuses on action taken for the 2021 International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour.
According to the International Labour Organization and the UN Children’s Fund, today, 1 out of every 10 children is in child labour. ILO and UNICEF warn that the COVID-19 crisis threatens to reverse years of progress in tackling the problem.
**International Albinism Awareness Day
And Sunday, 13 June, is International Albinism Awareness Day. This year’s theme is Strength Beyond All Odds. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General says that the theme reflects the resilience, perseverance and achievements of people with albinism in the face of pervasive misconceptions, discrimination and violence.
The Secretary-General urges all nations and communities to protect and fulfil the human rights of all persons with albinism and provide necessary support and care.
And last, we would like to thank our friends in Lebanon who have paid their 2021 contributions in full. That brings the number of paid-up Member States to 107.
And with that, I will take your questions should there be any.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thanks, Farhan. Nice to see you. Is… did Iran vote in today’s Security Council vote?
Deputy Spokesman: In some ways, I should leave that for my colleague Amy, but I believe you were able to see that, yes, they did. As I just pointed out, they are not under article 19, as of now.
Correspondent: So, they did participate…
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah.
Question: Okay. Thanks. My question is about this Ethiopian OCHA office report that says that the Ethiopian defence forces seized an OCHA INGO truck, I’m not sure what an INGO truck is.
Deputy Spokesman: That stands for “international non-governmental organization”.
Question: Thank you. Is this true? Has the Ethiopian army been interfering with your work?
Deputy Spokesman: I can’t confirm that specific report. What I can say is we have been having problems with access, as we’ve been telling you periodically, and we have been worried about any restrictions faced, particularly by international non-governmental organizations and others who are trying to provide aid. So, we, again, are working with all the parties, but we implore those on the ground to allow us to have full and unfettered access to all those in need in Ethiopia.
And with that, let’s go to Kristen Saloomey. Kristen.
Question: Hi, Farhan. Yeah, I’m wondering if you can shed any more light on how Iran managed to overcome US sanctions, and is the Secretary-General worried at all about how this could affect the ongoing Iran deal negotiations? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t think that this has any particular connection with the negotiations involving the parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That’s a separate achievement, and we certainly encourage all parties to adhere to that. In any case, this, I think, is a development for which we can thank banking authorities and government authorities in various places, but certainly, this was helped by cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Republic of Korea and several different banks in making sure that we could get this transaction through.
And if that is it…
Correspondent: Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: Thank you. Toby, one more to you.
Question: Which banks were helpful to you?
Deputy Spokesman: I don’t know whether I’m able to tell you the names of the banks that were involved, but certainly, the Iranians, the South Koreans and also a bank in the US held productive discussions with each other, and the UN helped to facilitate some of the discussions to clarify different points.
And with that, I wish you all a very good weekend. See you…
Correspondent: I have a question, Farhan. I have a question, Farhan.
Deputy Spokesman: Okay. Sure.
Question: Thank you. And it’s very nice to see you again, my dear friend. And yes, is to follow up the situation, the crisis in Colombia, and there are more than six weeks on all these violence and demonstrations in Colombia, and demonstrators says that they are more determined than ever to fight and turn the crisis into a revolution to fight against the corruption and inequality, and others are marching in support of the peace deal with the revolutionary armed forces, FARC. And this accord was to end a civil war to last five to decades of killing more than 260,000 people.
In the last resolution, Farhan, the… by the UN Security Council on May 11 2021, the Security Council affirm its commitment to the process to implementation to guarantee the pro… constructions of peace in the country, in the region.
So, this resolution, according to what I read, is to demonstrate the value support of the Security Council for Colombia. So, in this regard, Farhan, was the Secretary-General concerned and if the current crisis in the country could have any implications in the peace process verification by this Security Council in the region?
Deputy Spokesman: As you know, we’ve been making clear our concerns about this. We want to make sure that all the basic rights of people, including the rights to freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to peaceful protest are all respected, and we’re going to continue to emphasise those points.
But regarding the peace process, as you know, our envoy, Mr. [Carlos] Ruiz Massieu, continues with his efforts. He has made clear what his particular concerns are, but at this stage, he is going to continue to make sure that the peace process remains on track.
And with that, I bid you a good weekend. Amy, over to you. Oh, is there another one?
Correspondent: Yeah, quick question.
Deputy Spokesman: Oh.
Deputy Spokesman: Please remember to write in chat that you have a question.
Correspondent: I did. I did.
Deputy Spokesman: All right.
Question: Okay. Hello, Farhan. On the sanctions against… the US sanctions against Iran, the former President imposed 1,600 of them. How many do you think the US has lifted? Have you kept track of that or… I’m trying to but with difficulty.
Deputy Spokesman: That’s really a question for the US Government. It’s not our role to keep track of which laws they have in effect and which they do not. For our purposes, we were able to get the money through, and so, as a result of that, Iran’s voting rights have been restored.
Deputy Spokesman: Have a good day.
Correspondent: Goodbye. Good weekend.