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.
Good afternoon, everyone.
**UN Convention Against Corruption
This morning, the Secretary-General addressed — in a video message — the ninth Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption, which is taking place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, until 17 December. He noted that corruption spreads through societies and erodes people’s trust in leaders and institutions. The Secretary-General stressed that tackling corruption is essential to protect human rights and promote democratic accountability, and it is an important step towards inclusive, sustainable development. He called on all to revive hope and restore trust in institutions, adding that now is the time to act for a safer, more prosperous and just future.
You will have seen that this morning, the Security Council voted on a resolution sponsored by Ireland and Niger on the link between climate change and security issues. The resolution did not pass, with 12 votes in favour, two Member States voting against — India and the Russian Federation — and one Member State — China — abstaining.
The Deputy Secretary-General is back in New York, following her trip to Nigeria. While there, she met with the Minister of Environment, Sharon O Ikeazor, to discuss Nigeria’s climate and environment related issues. The meeting also focused on Africa’s pathway to the twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) and Nigeria’s new role as the Chair of the Great Green Wall. The Deputy Secretary-General then proceeded to Lagos with the Executive Director of the Global Compact to meet with the private sector and the Global Compact Local Network, prior to the launch in February 2022 of the UN Global Compact Africa Hub, which will be based in Abuja.
The Deputy Secretary-General then travelled to Ibadan, in Oyo State, to visit the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria. She returned to Abuja from 6 to 8 December for meetings with senior Government officials. She met with the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, to discuss the Africa Vaccine Manufacturers Initiative and UN’s support through World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to improving vaccines manufacturing capacity. She met with the North West Governors to discuss development challenges and the increasing threat to development gains due to heightened insecurity in the region. She also met with the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Umara Zulum, and discussed UN support through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stabilization programme in the Lake Chad region. The Deputy Secretary-General capped off her travel with a courtesy visit to the Presidency.
From Ethiopia, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its non-governmental organization (NGO) partners strongly condemn the commandeering of its trucks and assets, as well as forcible threats to their staff, as they continue to be targeted by military groups in Dessie and Kombolcha in the Amhara region. On the evening of 10 December, a group of armed individuals — believed to be either from the Ethiopian National Defence Forces or an affiliated allied military force — entered the Disaster Risk Management Committee compound in Kombolcha and took 18 WFP trucks by force. These individuals then used the trucks in several locations for their own purposes. Most of the trucks have since been returned, but three trucks are still unaccounted for. WFP has informed the federal Government and local authorities in Dessie who are assisting in recovering the remaining trucks. WFP and its partners reiterate that, under international humanitarian law, it is prohibited to attack, destroy, misappropriate or loot relief supplies, installations, material, units or vehicles. The safety and security of UN and partner staff remain our highest priority and we call for the immediate and safe release of our staff, colleagues and vehicles. WFP and its partners are staying and delivering in Kombolcha, Dessie and across Amhara region, where an estimated 3.7 million people are in dire need of food assistance.
**Central African Republic
We wanted to update you on recent steps taken to address allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeeping personnel in the Central African Republic. As you may recall, when the new disturbing allegations came to light, we took decisive action. On 14 September, the Secretary-General decided to repatriate the Gabonese military contingent from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Since the allegations came to light, the Office of Internal Oversight Services and the Gabonese authorities have collected evidence, which, we understand, would allow the Gabonese authorities to complete their national investigation and inform us of its outcome. Realizing the well-being and rights of victims is our utmost priority. All identified victims have been referred for assistance in line with our strategy on support to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Mission is also looking at ways to address assistance gaps. A project through the Trust Fund in Support of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, which will provide medical, mental health, psychosocial, legal and material support for victims and their children, is currently under review. The Mission also deployed Immediate Response Teams to several remote locations and gathered information regarding more recently reported allegations of sexual misconduct involving UN troops. We are in the process of informing the Member States concerned, so that national investigations can be launched as soon as possible, with the assistance of the Office of Internal Oversight Services. We continue to have constructive exchanges with troop- and police-contributing countries. We expect them to take urgent measures to address all allegations concerning their personnel and ensure that perpetrators who are found to have engaged in sexual exploitation or abuse are held accountable — in line with national laws.
As a reminder, the public website on conduct in peace operations [https://conduct.unmissions.org], continues to be updated with allegations concerning peacekeeping personnel in accordance with established procedures, as an integral part of our commitment to transparency. Meanwhile, the Mission is stepping up its efforts to communicate to its personnel and communities and raise awareness of our standards of conduct. It is also coordinating with our partners in the country to strengthen its risk management with close attention to its operating bases deployed in remote locations.
Here at Headquarters, senior leadership has stepped up engagement with other peacekeeping missions, as well as other MINUSCA troop- and police-contributing countries, including through official visits, to ensure that matters related to sexual exploitation and abuse are addressed, victims are supported and prevention is strengthened. We remain strongly engaged with troop- and police-contributing countries to ensure that vetting and selection of their peacekeeping personnel strictly meet the UN standards of conduct. The Secretary-General will continue his efforts to ensure that the UN system, as well as Member States, work in a coordinated manner to combat sexual exploitation and abuse and spare no effort in supporting the victims.
Turning to Afghanistan. As part of the winterization response we, along with our partners, have distributed winter packages, including heating and fuel assistance, to almost 5,800 people in Laghman Province. An additional 23,000 people will receive similar assistance in Nangarhar, Kunar and Nuristan Provinces this week. In the north-east, WFP provided food to more than 7,000 people in Baghlan, Badakhshan, Takhar and Kunduz Provinces on 11 December. More than 2,700 people received cash assistance in Kunduz Province. Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that in the East, malnutrition screening is ongoing to identify children suffering from severe and moderate acute malnutrition so they can be referred to health facilities for further treatment. Also in the East, almost 1,600 children under the age of five have received routine vaccinations.
In the South, our humanitarian colleagues warn that overall unemployment is rising, fuelling poverty and criminality. Rising prices of food, medical supplies and fuel have been reported across the southern region. The prices of basic food items are estimated to have increased by 40 per cent. So far this year, donors have provided nearly $1.5 billion for the two humanitarian appeals for Afghanistan. This includes $753 million or 124 per cent of $606 million required for the Flash Appeal and $729 million or 84 per cent of the $869 million sought in the Humanitarian Response Plan. Funding requirements will triple in 2022 as the Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $4.4 billion to reach 22 million people with support.
The Special Adviser for Libya, Stephanie Williams, arrived in Tripoli yesterday. In close coordination with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ms. Williams will lead the good offices and mediation efforts and engagement with Libyan, regional and international actors to pursue the implementation of the three intra-Libyan dialogue tracks and support the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections. The Special Adviser will work with Libyans to help them sustain the momentum created for national elections by the unprecedented voter registration turnout, successful distribution of voter cards and registration of a high number of presidential and parliamentary candidates. UNSMIL commends the work of the High National Election Commission, which has achieved significant progress in the technical preparations of the electoral process despite many challenges and time constraints.
And I am also delighted to thank Libya for its full contribution to the 2021 regular budget. Shukran. This payment takes us up to 140 fully paid-up Member States.
**UN Population Fund
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has launched an appeal for $835 million to reach over 54 million women, girls and young people in 61 countries next year — the agency’s largest ever humanitarian appeal. It seeks integrated sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence services and comprehensive support for survivors of violence, including mental health and psychosocial support. This year, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, UNFPA and its partners assisted millions of women, girls and young people in the hardest hit and hardest to reach places, with a range of services, information and supplies. More than 29 million women in 42 countries received sexual and reproductive health services, 6 million people in 39 countries received family planning services, more than 1.5 million safe births were assisted in 29 countries, and 2.4 million survivors of gender-based violence accessed support services. There is more online.
**Hybrid Briefing Tomorrow
And last, tomorrow, at 11 a.m., there will be a briefing in this room the by President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid. Paulina Kubiak, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, can tell you more about that shortly when she follows me. And before she comes on, are there any questions for me? Yes, Benno?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. You talked briefly about the climate resolution that didn't go through this morning. Does the Secretary‑General have an opinion about it not going through?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, on that, what I can tell you is that the climate emergency is, as we have said repeatedly, the vital issue of our time. We're knocking on the door of a climate catastrophe, and it's time to go into emergency mode. No one is safe from the destructive effects of climate disruption. Climate change has a multiplier effect and is an aggravating factor for global peace, security and prosperity. The Security Council has emphasised this on numerous occasions, including in resolutions on the mandates of specific peacekeeping operations and special political missions. And we will continue integrating climate risks into our political analysis, as well as conflict prevention and peacebuilding initiatives. And beyond that, of course, I would also like to draw your attention to last week's discussion in the Security Council and the heartening effort of seeing nations in the world taking this seriously in terms of its impacts on peace and security. And as you know, the Secretary‑General also spoke at that meeting. If there's nothing else in this room, we'll turn to the screens. I believe Abdelhamid has a question. And then Stefano after that. Abdelhamid?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Not a single day passes, Farhan, without a Palestinian killed by Israeli occupation forces, every single day, including today, yesterday, the day before. Israelis are attacking the Palestinian at every level, invading the Aqsa Mosque almost in hundreds of settlers. The settlers' violence is multiplying, yet we don't hear from the Special Coordinator, except in the monthly briefing. Why is that?
Deputy Spokesman: He has been briefing the Council. Also, we do comment on different problems as they arise, but the basic point is that he works on the ground with the parties to resolve different situations, and he briefs the Security Council as he sees fit on what we see as the main crises. And we will keep them updated on all of the problems, including those that you've discussed. Stefano?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Yes, it's about the Libya that you mentioned, but there is still… there are still… they still have a problem… about the election. They still have problem with the list of candidates, to announce that definite list. The elections are in two weeks. Do you still believe that this election… is possible to hold this election?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we are supporting the Libyan authorities. It's they who are conducting these elections. If they see any need to adjust the timetable, we will respect that, but what we are working on is to work with them to see what can be done to have everything go in accordance with the schedule. And the Secretary‑General, as you know, has made it clear that what we want is for these elections to be used to bring the Libyan people together. And so, we'll… we're studying to see whether it has the effect that we intend for it to have.
Question: Okay. Just… but do you see the possibility of just postpone of maybe a month or something, just because in two weeks not having actually who have the definite candidates is a little bit awkward?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, again, it's the Libyans and, in particular, the Electoral Commission that make the call, in terms of how the elections are to be conducted, and we respect that, and we will support them in whatever decisions that they take. Ali Barada, you have questions?
Question: Yes. Thank you, Farhan. On Libya, as well, so is… the United Nations and UNSMIL are both ready to deploy monitoring… monitors in case they decided to go ahead with the elections? And I have another question on Western Sahara. And I wonder whether Mr. [Staffan] de Mistura has started his work and where he is now. And third is whether there are any plans for the Secretary‑General to travel anywhere during this month? Thank you.
Deputy Spokesman: To take your questions in a row, on Libya, we are ready to support the Libyan authorities, including the electoral authorities, as they need. And so, we stand by and will continue in our supporting role in whatever way we can. On the question of Western Sahara, Mr. de Mistura has been travelling to familiarise himself with his work. Indeed, he saw my colleague Stéphane [Dujarric] just about a week or two ago. And so, he will continue with his initial round of familiarization. And then, regarding your third question, on travel, I expect that sometime later this week, we'll have an announcement for you about any further travel plans by the Secretary‑General. Okay. Yes, Célhia?
Question: Farhan, I just read that Burundi has refused to accept the Special Rapporteur of the UN before… even before his nomination. Do we know why?
Deputy Spokesman: I am not aware of this. This will need to be… you'll need to first also check with our human rights colleagues about that. It's really for them to handle. But, from our standpoint, of course, we expect all governments to cooperate with the work of the independent human rights rapporteurs, including granting them access as needed. Rick Gladstone, you have a question?
Question: Yeah, Farhan. Thank you. You mentioned some news from Ethiopia about trucks that were taken, World Food Programme trucks. Is this new, or is something that was announced over the weekend? I don't see it on the WFP website, so I'm just wondering where when it happened.
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah. The World Food Programme gave us this information today, earlier today, but this is something that happened on the evening of 10 December. So, it was Friday evening. So, it's something that happened basically over the weekend, but we were informed by WFP today.
Question: And I'm sorry. Can you just repeat the number of trucks that were taken and the number returned?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah. That, just to repeat to you, I believe it was… I think I said 16 trucks had been taken? No. Sorry. Eighteen trucks had been taken, and three of them are still accounted for. So, 15 have been returned; 3 remain unaccounted for. And with that, Paulina, over to you.