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6 March 2020

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.

**Women’s Day

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Women’s Day Observance in the General Assembly Hall.  He said that gender inequality is the overwhelming injustice of our age and the biggest human rights challenge that we face.  He stressed there is no justification for women’s continued exclusion, and praised women’s efforts to redefine what power looks like.  Women have had enough, he said, and they are creating new, inclusive forms of leadership that unite people across borders and around common goals.

He told the activists [at the] event to keep up the pressure and hold the world to account and reiterated that he is determined to achieve gender parity at all levels at the United Nations.  He also emphasized that it is more important than ever for men to stand up for women’s rights and gender equality.

At 3 p.m., he will speak to the Group of Friends on Gender Parity and will give an update on the UN’s efforts to achieve gender parity.

**Climate Change

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at a COP26 briefing and will stress the importance of this year’s Climate Conference.  He will call for increased action to ensure that we can achieve emissions reductions of 45 per cent from 2010 levels this decade and reach net-zero emissions by mid-century.  Mr. Guterres will also stress that COP26 needs to demonstrate that the world is moving quickly and in the right direction.

**DSG Travels

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, departed to Papua New Guinea to launch the Spotlight Initiative to end violence against women and girls, and commemorate International Women’s Day, as well as highlight the importance of empowering women and youth as part of efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  She will be accompanied by the Executive Director of UNAIDS, as well as the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.

Next Wednesday, Ms. Mohammed will travel to Dhaka, Bangladesh, where she will continue the focus on the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on gender equality, inclusive economic growth and climate action.  She will also visit Cox’s Bazar, which as you know is hosting a large population of Rohingya refugees.

The Deputy Secretary-General will meet with the Heads of State, senior government officials of Bangladesh, UN country teams, business leaders, women and youth leaders, as well as other members from civil society both in Bangladesh and in Papua New Guinea.

**Turkey/Greece

We have been asked a number of times about the situation on the border between Turkey and Greece, and I can tell you that the Secretary-General calls for calm and easing of tensions on Turkey’s border with the European Union.

The Secretary-General fully supports the recommendations of UNHCR to address the situation.

He encourages the international community to step up support to Turkey’s refugee response.

Given the massive displacement and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Idlib, the Secretary-General believes that it is absolutely critical to support the overall UN inter-agency response to address humanitarian needs there.

**Syria

And also on Syria, you will have seen that, yesterday afternoon, we issued a note to correspondents in which we said that the Secretary-General took note that Russia and Turkey had reached an agreement at the highest level for a ceasefire to go into effect in the Idlib de-escalation area as of midnight.

The Secretary-General hopes that this agreement will lead to an immediate and lasting cessation of hostilities that ensures the protection of civilians in north-west Syria, [who] have already endured enormous suffering.

The Secretary-General calls for a return to the UN-facilitated political process mandated by resolution 2254 (2015).

The Security Council is holding consultations on [Syria] as we speak.

**Guyana

Turning to Guyana, I can tell you we are following with concern the latest developments there, particularly the allegations that the tabulation of votes from one of the regions, namely Region 4, was not done according to proper legal procedures.

We take note of the statements issued by international observers and ambassadors accredited in Georgetown also raising concerns over the situation.

We call on all Guyanese to remain calm, exercise restraint and address any disputes arising from the process through legal channels.

**Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned today’s attack in Kabul, with initial reports indicating that nearly 30 civilians were killed and many more injured, including women and children.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, [Tadamichi] Yamamoto, strongly condemned this deliberate attack on civilians, adding that those who organized and enabled it must be brought to justice.

And I expect a statement from the Secretary-General shortly.

[Below is a statement issued after the Noon Briefing:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the attack today in Kabul at a commemoration of the life of Afghan leader Abdul Ali Mazari.  He expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Afghanistan.  He wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.

The Secretary-General reiterates that attacks against civilians are unacceptable and those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable.

The United Nations stands with all Afghans in solidarity and remains committed to an Afghan-led peace process that will end the conflict.]

**COVID-19

And on our regular COVID-19 update, Dr. Tedros, the head of WHO [World Health Organization], told reporters in Geneva that the number of confirmed cases is now on the verge of reaching 100,000.

As cases increase, WHO continues to recommend that all countries make containment their highest priority, calling on countries to find, test, isolate and care for every case.

He stressed that slowing down the epidemic saves lives and buys time for preparedness, as well as for research and development.

As you may recall, last month, WHO convened a meeting of more than 400 scientists to identify research priorities, and today is publishing a research and development road map distilling ideas from that meeting into a core group of priorities in nine key areas, including vaccines, ethical considerations and epidemiology.

Also today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said today that it is essential that Governments undertake actions to reduce the potentially negative impact that measures to combat COVID-19 may have on people’s lives.

As a medical doctor herself, she said she understands the often difficult balancing act when hard decisions need to be taken, but stressed our efforts to combat this virus won’t work unless we approach it holistically, which means taking care to protect the most vulnerable and neglected people in society, both economically and medically.

**Yemen

Also on human rights, on Yemen, our human rights colleagues today expressed their concern over 35 Yemeni parliamentarians having been sentenced to death on charges of treason in absentia and by a court in Houthi-held Sana’a.

The UN Human Rights Office calls on the de facto authorities there to immediate quash the sentences against these members of parliament and to ensure that their families are not harassed.

**Financial Contribution

And we have reached the wonderful number of 65 in terms of Member States who have paid their dues in full.  We have received $92,110,939 from this Member State.  Can anybody take a guess?  We’re not talk…  go ahead.

Correspondent:  That was good money.

Spokesman:  Good money.

Correspondent:  Yeah, it is.

Spokesman:  And it’s not lira.  So, who do you think gave it to us?  The Italians, and we’re very grateful to our friends in Rome…

[cross talk]

**Questions and Answers

Question:  My question…  I mean, the corona‑phobia…

Spokesman:  The what?

Question:  The corona.

Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  It’s…  how many people they die already, in the entire world?  We have the number?  Nobody get it.

Spokesman:  The World Health Organization, I think, is keeping tabs on numbers from various countries.  The amount of cases, we’re very close to reaching 100,000 globally.

Correspondent:  Wow.

Spokesman:  Yeah, indeed.

Great, Reem, it’s all yours.

For information media. Not an official record.