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.
**Noon Briefing Guest
Good afternoon, everyone. Today, our guest will be Mohamed Ag Ayoya, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic, known as MINUSCA.
He will brief on the humanitarian situation, response and challenges in the Central African Republic.
In a statement earlier today, the Secretary-General responded to the latest findings by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Copernicus to say that the dog days of summer are not just barking, they are biting.
WMO said that August was the hottest August on record — by a large margin — and the second hottest ever month after July 2023, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service ERA 5 dataset. This year so far — from January to August — is the second warmest on record behind 2016, when there was a powerful warming El Niño event.
The Secretary-General said that climate breakdown has begun. Our climate is imploding faster than we can cope with extreme weather events hitting every corner of the planet.
Surging temperatures demand a surge in action, he said. Leaders must turn up the heat now for climate solutions. We can still avoid the worst of climate chaos — and we don’t have a moment to lose.
And according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization, extreme heat also has a measurable impact on air quality, human health (…) and the environment.
Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, and this trend is expected to continue in the future, the report says, adding that air quality and climate are interconnected because the substances responsible for climate change and for the degradation of air quality are often emitted by the same sources.
The full report is available online.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia, which is the host of this year’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — ASEAN.
Tomorrow, Thursday, he will deliver public remarks at the opening of the ASEAN-UN summit, which is traditionally held on the sidelines of the larger ASEAN summit. Just prior to that meeting, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference.
His remarks will highlight a number of issues from the strong cooperation between the United Nations and ASEAN to regional concerns and global challenges, including climate change and the reform of the global financial architecture.
You will be able to monitor both events on the UN’s webcast page.
Turning to Ukraine, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that new deadly attacks today hit Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Region. A few hours ago, an attack in Kostiantynivka Town, Donetsk Region, hit an open market area where many local residents do their daily shopping, reportedly causing dozens of civilian casualties, including children.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, issued a statement saying that this tragic and unacceptable event is another example of the suffering that Russia’s invasion inflicts on civilians across the country.
She recalled that civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected under international humanitarian law.
Our humanitarian colleagues also tell us that earlier today, an education facility and houses were damaged in the neighbouring Zaporizhzhia Region, and port facilities were again hit in the Odesa Region in the south. Humanitarian partners on the ground are delivering emergency shelter materials and assisting the affected families.
Furthermore, the repetitive attacks on Ukrainian ports are depriving farmers of their livelihoods and the world of affordable food when millions are facing hunger in the poorest countries.
The Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, concluded a visit to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where he met with senior Emirati officials and Yemeni stakeholders.
He underlined the need for concerted regional and international efforts to progress toward lasting peace and the value of peace and stability in Yemen for the security and stability of the entire region.
He also underscored the importance of reaching an agreement on measures to improve living conditions in Yemen and implementing a nationwide ceasefire.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
We have an update from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where our peacekeeping mission — MONUSCO — has welcomed the actions taken by the Government in the wake of demonstrations on 30 August, in which protestors, as well as security and defence officers, were killed.
At a press conference in Kinshasa today, the Mission reiterated its condolences for the significant loss of life and acknowledged the Government’s deployment of a high-level ministerial commission to Goma and the opening of trials against members of the armed forces of the DRC.
MONUSCO reiterated the importance of holding those responsible for the incident to account, regardless of their ranks, and ensuring that necessary measures are taken to prevent such a tragedy happening again.
**Central African Republic
And, in the Central African Republic, our peacekeeping colleagues are telling us that the Head of the United Nations Mission there, Valentine Rugwabiza, is in Birao today, in the Vakaga prefecture. She is accompanying the Prime Minister, Félix Moloua, as part of a joint mission.
As we have mentioned here, thousands of refugees from Sudan have arrived in the Vakaga prefecture over the past months. The Prime Minister and Ms. Rugwabiza are there today to assess progress, listen to the challenges and concerns of the local population and to mobilize support for the people of Vakaga.
This joint visit underscores the continued collaboration between the Government and the UN as they work together to deliver stability, peace and recovery in the Central Africa Republic.
Our UN team in Costa Rica, led by Resident Coordinator Allegra Baiocchi, launched yesterday a new guide to protect women in politics from digital violence, ahead of the country’s local elections scheduled to take place in February of next year.
The UN team also released alarming new figures: While the overall rise in online hate speech rose 50 per cent in the past year, specifically targeted online hate against women jumped 72 per cent during the same period.
The Resident Coordinator said she hopes this new guide will be an important resource for women, encouraging them to run for office and helping them stay safe — online and offline. The new tool offers support for victims to report online hate and access legal assistance for individual or collective actions.
It also provides practical advice on reporting online violence against women on social media.
**UN Refugee Agency
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today launched a new global campaign titled “Hope Away from Home”. The campaign calls for renewed solidarity and firm commitments from States to uphold the rights of people seeking safety from war, violence and persecution.
UNHCR notes that the campaign comes amid record global levels of forced displacement, of up to 110 million people, with access to asylum under threat in many parts of the world — from increasingly restrictive policies and shrinking options for long-term solutions and resettlement.
In some places, UNHCR warns, populist anti-refugee sentiment, externalization of asylum obligations, rising discrimination and xenophobia, and tougher and more restrictive admission policies are threatening the right to seek safety.
After I am done, you will hear from our guest. And tomorrow, our guests will be Sarah E. Hendriks, UN-Women’s Deputy Executive Director for Policy, Programme, Civil Society, and Intergovernmental Support; Maria-Francesca Spatolisano, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); and Cindy Cox-Roman, the CEO of HelpAge USA.
They will launch the Gender Snapshot 2023.
And at 1 p.m., there will be a briefing here in this room by Gary Conille, UNICEF’s (United Nations Children’s Fund) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, on “The Changing Face of Child Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
**Questions and Answers
Deputy Spokesman: So, are there any questions for me before we turn to our guest? Yes, Ibtisam?
Question: Farhan, thank you. I asked last week Stéphane [Dujarric] about the brief that you got and confirmed that you got from the Algerian Foreign Ministry regarding Niger and the initiative. And any updates on that?
Deputy Spokesman: On which initiative?
Question: The Niger initiative… peace initiative of the Algerian Foreign Minister.
Deputy Spokesman: We’re aware of the initiatives that various parties are putting forward. Right now, of course, we are dealing through our representative, Leonardo Santos Simão, trying to work with various partners to see what can be done to restore constitutional order in Niger.
Question: But you got the letter, and you have no comments on the letter or on the initiative itself?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, simply to say that Mr. Santos Simão will work with our various partners and deal with the various efforts trying to bring back the return of the constitutional process in Niger.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. The son of Aung San Suu Kyi says that she has serious health issues and that she’s being denied adequate health care by the military junta. I know the Secretary-General is in Jakarta, where ASEAN is discussing Myanmar. But does the UN have any comment on this reported denial of access to health care?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, everyone in detention should be able to have access to health care. That’s a basic right. Beyond that, we’ve made clear our concerns about Aung San Suu Kyi. And we have called and continue to call for her release, as well as the release of the other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD). So, we will continue with that call. As for the Secretary-General’s discussions in ASEAN, he will speak to the press in Jakarta. And so, you can monitor that, and that will be available on the webcast.
Yes. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Have you received a letter from the Government of Congo requesting the speed up of withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops in the country?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you know, we have been continuing to discuss with the Congolese authorities the withdrawal of the UN Mission, MONUSCO. And, as you know, we’ve had those discussions ongoing since 2021. One thing that we have been mentioning, including in the special report that the Secretary-General put out in August, that the Secretary-General confirmed the commitment of the United Nations to work with the Government of the DRC towards an accelerated transition to create the minimum security conditions for the responsible withdrawal of MONUSCO. But, of course, ultimately, the transition of MONUSCO is a decision for the Security Council.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Regarding the attack on civilians in Ukraine, it might be one of the gravest attacks against civilians in the war in Ukraine. I wonder why the SG is not having a statement himself.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, you saw what Denise Brown herself had to say on this, but it’s clear from the Secretary-General’s perspective, as well as that of Denise Brown, that international humanitarian law and international human rights law needs to be respected. And so, we will continue to call for that from his side. But certainly, the Secretary-General believes that there needs to be accountability for all such attacks.
Question: And then I would have one follow-up to the hottest summer on record. So, the SG said the climate breakdown has begun. For me, that sounds like he thinks there’s been an irreversible impact of the climate crisis on our daily lives. I wonder why he’s still insisting that the 1.5-degree goal can be reached.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General — and I believe we’ve said this on many occasions, on many different topics — believes sometimes in pessimism of the intellect but optimism of the will. And we have to try. And indeed, today, even as he mentioned the alarming data from the World Meteorological Organization and Copernicus, he did say that leaders must turn up the heat for climate solutions. And he said — and this is the quote from what he said is — we can still avoid the worst of climate chaos, and we don’t have a moment to lose.
Question: What does the UN have to say about the exchange of ambassadors of Saudi Arabia and Iran, which happened yesterday?
Deputy Spokesman: Obviously, we welcome any steps by nations to normalize relations with each other. That’s always a positive step forward.
Question: I just have another, out of curiosity, because recently, we heard the stories, the rumours that India might change its name to Bharat. This happened before. Turkey changed the name to Türkiye. I was just wondering what would be the process for the United Nations to change the name if they really did that or would do that.
Deputy Spokesman: Well, in the case of Türkiye, we responded to a formal request delivered to us by the Government. Obviously, if we get requests like that, we consider them as they come.
Abdelhamid? [silence] Can you put up his audio? I can’t hear him. Hold on one second, Abdelhamid. Okay. Try now.
Question: Can you hear me now?
Deputy Spokesman: Yeah. Now we have you.
Question: Okay. Thank you. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz indicated a few days ago that Israeli female soldiers stripped naked five Palestinian women while searching their homes in the city of Hebron. This news became [inaudible]; many statement came out including one from OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) and from Saudi Arabia. Why these statement do not reach the ears of Mr. Tor Wennesland and say something?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, Abdelhamid, yesterday, I was asked specifically about this, and I did say that we would stand against any form of collective punishment. Obviously, this reported incident needs to be looked at and investigated thoroughly.
Question: Thank you, Farhan. It’s a follow-up on climate crisis. It looks like to me, too, that the Secretary-General starts to… at least he used all the catchy phrases he could use. Now, there is the dog is biting and not barking anymore. So, isn’t it time to propose something else? Maybe a binding resolution by the Security Council? Because he said if, on the one hand, that they cry that the world is ending, this is a security issue. Right? So, should he step up, what he is making the world aware of?
Deputy Spokesman: In terms of stepping up, making the world aware, that’s exactly what he’s doing right now. The data from organizations like the World Meteorological Organization, the speeches he gives, the places he’s travelled — because as you notice, he has made climate change a focus of all his various stops, whether it’s in Kenya, whether it’s in Jakarta right now, whether it’s in India in the next couple of days at the G20 or Havana next week. He is bringing this issue up with Governments. But, at the end of the day, the Secretary-General is not a Government. We need Governments of the world to take action, and he’s pushing them in all of his efforts, all of his travels, and he will continue to do that, as you know, at the UN General Assembly later this month.
Question: Thanks, Farhan. A follow-up on that. The Climate Ambition Summit that the Secretary-General has convened for 20 September, he said that it will be only for first movers. So, do you have a list now of which countries have been invited and considered by the SG as the first movers?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, that list is being developed. Once we have something we can share with you, we will, but we don’t have it just yet.
And with that, let me turn to our guest, Mohamed Ag Ayoya.