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17 September 2021

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.

**Climate

This morning, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, spoke at the Major Economies Forum convened by US President Joe Biden.

Mr. Guterres told participants that “the fight against climate change will only succeed if everyone in this room comes together to promote more ambition, more cooperation and more credibility.  The world demands that you, as the leading economies of the world, take immediate action to lead us towards a sustainable and resilient future.”

“There is a high risk of failure of COP 26 (26th Conference of Parties),” the Secretary-General warned, adding that everyone must assume their responsibilities and be more ambitious on finance, adaptation and mitigation.

In his remarks, he also referred to the newly-released Synthesis Report by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which says we need a 45 per cent cut in emissions by 2030 to reach carbon neutrality by 2050.  However, the data shows that we’re on track for an increase of 16 per cent in emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 levels.  This puts us on a catastrophic pathway to 2.7°C of heating.

In a statement issued this morning, the Secretary-General said that before COP 26, all nations should submit more ambitious nationally determined contributions and asked developed nations once more to finally deliver on the $100 billion commitment, promised over a decade ago, in support to developing countries.

**Climate Leaders Round Table

And, just a reminder that on Monday, at 9 a.m., the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Island, Boris Johnson, will hold an informal climate leaders round table on Climate Action.  The round table will address the gaps that remain on the actions urgently needed from national governments — especially the G20 — on mitigation, finance and adaptation.

We expect a stakeout afterwards with the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister right after the event; that should be around 11:30.  We do not expect to have a noon briefing that day.  We may have [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] Filippo Grandi early in the afternoon here, but that’s yet to be confirmed.

Also on Monday morning, before the 9 a.m.  [climate change event] and also concurrently, there will be an SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Moment in the General Assembly, which will include James [Bays’] favourite band, BTS.

**Sustainable Development Goals

And, related to the SDGs, the Secretary-General appointed four new Sustainable Development Goals Advocates:  Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, STEM activist Valentina Munoz, Microsoft President Brad Smith and K-pop superstars Blackpink, who are an all-girls K-pop band.

The SDG Advocates use their spheres of influence to reach new constituencies to keep the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals for people and for the planet.  Together they will take on climate change, work to bridge the education digital divide and close the gap on gender equality, as well as working to promote and protect the rights of children.

**Shanghai Cooperation Organization

This morning, also, by pre-recorded video message, the Secretary-General spoke to the Summit of the Council of the Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

He said that troubling developments in Afghanistan are causing profound political, economic, security and humanitarian challenges.

The Secretary-General said it is clear that the Afghan people want extreme poverty to be eradicated, jobs to become available, health and education services to be restored, and their lives and basic rights and freedoms to be protected.  They want their country free of insecurity and terror. 

The United Nations is committed to deliver for the Afghan people, the Secretary-General stressed.

**Security Council

On a related note, this morning, you will have seen that the Security Council unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for another six months, until 17 March 2022.

The Security Council also held consultations on Somalia.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, James Swan, briefed Council members.

**Somalia

On that note, as Somalis mark the one-year anniversary of the 17 September Agreement, we at the UN and our international partners said today, they are increasingly alarmed that the escalating dispute between the President and Prime Minister will undermine Somalia’s stability and derail the electoral process.

We urge the President and the Prime Minister to resolve their differences immediately, avoid further unhelpful exchanges of public statements and personnel announcements, refrain from any action that could destabilize the security situation, and re-focus on concluding the overdue elections without further delay.

**Yemen

And on Yemen, our Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, concluded today his visit to Riyadh, where he met with Yemeni President [Abd Rabbo Mansour] Hadi, Vice-President [Ali] Mohsen, Speaker of the Parliament Sultan al Barakani, Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik and Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak.

During his meeting yesterday with President Hadi, Mr. Grundberg underlined his intention to listen to the parties and to engage in serious, sustained discussions on the way forward towards an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement that meets the aspirations of Yemenis.

The Special Envoy highlighted that a serious commitment by all parties to engage in good faith is a necessary first step in making progress on the UN’s peace efforts.

Mr. Grundberg also exchanged views with representatives of political parties on ways to reinvigorate the political process.  The Special Envoy also met with the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Nayef Al-Hajraf, Saudi officials and the ambassadors to Yemen from the P5 countries.  In all engagements, the Special Envoy welcomed the clear engagement to actively support his mission and the willingness to work together to support a Yemeni-led political process.

**Vaccine Donation

Today, the UN received a donation of 300,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Government of China.

The vaccine, manufactured by SinoPharm, was granted WHO (World Health Organization) Emergency Use Listing earlier this year and will be distributed to UN personnel and peacekeepers through the UN system-wide COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The COVID-19 vaccination programme delivers vaccines to locations where access to vaccines is not possible through national vaccination programmes.

The donation, including the 18-month shelf life of the vaccine, will provide for the continuation of the programme, and support the UN's efforts to reach all UN personnel, peacekeepers, and implementing partners who have stayed to deliver on our critical mandates throughout this pandemic.

The donation comes at a very important time, following exhaustion of the vaccine stocks donated by the Government of India in March this year.

**COVID-19

More COVID updates: From Malaysia, the UN team there, led by Resident Coordinator Karima El Korri, continues to support the country’s participation in the COVAX Facility and the wider vaccination scheme to reach undocumented people, refugees and asylum-seekers.

The World Health Organization and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) have supported the vaccine roll-out, procurement and logistics.  To date, Malaysia has received close to 1.4 million doses of vaccines through COVAX.  As of today, nearly 93 per cent of the adult population has been vaccinated with at least one dose and nearly 77 per cent has been fully vaccinated.

WHO, the International Organization on Migration (IOM) and UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency) are working closely with the health authorities and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to coordinate and fund the vaccination of vulnerable and hard-to-reach people.

WHO has procured medical equipment and supplies for COVID-19 patients.  UNICEF delivered 400 oxygen concentrators and 36,000 oxygen masks to two hospitals in one of the most impacted regions.  UNHCR and IOM are supporting the vaccination of hundreds of refugees and migrants.

From Latin American and the Caribbean, our UN teams tell us that vaccines from COVAX arrived in Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama and Peru, and our UN teams are also working across the region to address [vaccine hesitancy].

**World Patient Safety Day

Today is, on a medical note, World Patient Safety Day.  This year, the Day is dedicated to the need to prioritize and address safety in maternal and new-born care, particularly around the time of childbirth, when most harm occurs.

The statement from WHO is online.

**International Equal Pay Day

And tomorrow is an important day — it is International Equal Pay Day.  In his message, the Secretary-General says that, by pushing care work out of the formal economy and into the home, the COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated the gender pay gap.

He points out that, despite equal pay laws, women earn an average of just 80 cents for every dollar that men earn for work of equal value, adding that this figure is even less for women of colour and those with children.

The Secretary-General said that addressing the COVID-19 pandemic offers a generational opportunity to write a new social contract that upholds women’s human rights, including the right to equal pay.  He stresses that this is a matter of justice and a responsibility for us all.

**Art Installation

Lastly, on an artistic note, if you walked by the North Lawn this week, you may have noticed an artist and his team busy spraying paint on the grass.

The result is a giant land painting by the artist Saype, will be inaugurated tomorrow, at 11 a.m., with the Secretary-General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis.

The artwork is a gift from Switzerland to mark the 75th anniversary of the UN and the launch of the Common Agenda report.

This is not his first project on UN grounds.  Saype has done a similar ephemeral artwork in front of the Palais des Nations in Geneva in June of last year.

And also a reminder of the inauguration of the photo exhibit, linked to peacekeeping, in Brooklyn.

**Questions and Answers

So, Mr. Bays?

Question:  Following the defence pact signed by the UK, US and Australia, there is a very angry reaction from France, as you've seen.  There's also an angry reaction from China.  This is increasing tension.  Does the Secretary‑General have any response to this?

Spokesman:  These…  sorry?  Ah.  You actually want to hear what I say?  Okay. 

We are aware of these reports.  I think, for us, we would just stress the importance of dialogue to resolving regional tensions and the maintenance of a peaceful and prosperous Asia‑Pacific region.

Question:  And then one you might like, there is new polling by the Pew Research Center, which says that many people globally see the UN in a positive light, and particularly, the figures have gone up in some countries, I believe Italy and Japan more than anywhere else; and also, the UN's handling of the climate crisis, also — people are more favourable this year than they were last year.  Does the Secretary‑General got any reaction?  And can he attribute why the UN is seen more favourably potentially?

Spokesman:  Well, obviously, these are good numbers to be had.  We're happy to see them.  What we think…  it really reflects, I think, an understanding by population across the world that the challenges we face, COVID and climate change to just name two, will only be solved through multilateral solutions, and that has been the Secretary‑General's message from the start.  In his message in the Common Agenda and just from what I've said today, it's clearly his message on climate change. 

Okay.  Edie and then Jennifer, if that is you.  Yes.  Okay.  [laughs]  Oh, sorry.  Dulcie, sorry, and then Jennifer, who had Edie in my head.  Okay.  Jen…  Dulcie, please, go ahead. 

Correspondent:  Okay.  Jennifer, you can go ahead if you want.

Spokesman:  No, go ahead.  Go ahead, Dulcie, go ahead.

Question:  Okay.  Just two quick questions.  John Kerry, is he confirmed for the Monday climate crisis round table, attending?

Spokesman:  My…  That's my understanding, but I would check with the US.  I don't know if the Ambassador addressed it in her press conference but…

Question:  She didn't say.

Spokesman:  I would check with the US.  We will put out probably the final list on…  likely on Sunday because names are… names and levels are fluctuating.

Question:  And you'll indicate who's actually physically here versus virtual?

Spokesman:  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  Okay.  And then does the Secretary‑General have a meeting planned with President [Joseph] Biden on 21 September?

Spokesman:  I think that bilateral will likely happen on Monday.

Question:  With Biden.

Spokesman:  With Biden, yeah, yeah, with Biden.

Question:  But he's not supposed to be here on Monday.

Spokesman:  Well, he…  it's…

Question:  I mean that's what Linda Thomas‑Greenfield said.  He's coming for one day, and that's the 21st.

Spokesman:  Well, I think what she was…  I don't want to interpret her remarks, but I think it refers to his physical presence in the UN.  The Secretary‑General may see him outside of the UN.

Question:  Okay.  On the 20th?

Spokesman:  Yes, ma'am.

Question:  Physically?

Spokesman:  They will physically see each other, yes.

Question:  In New York City?

Spokesman:  In New York City.

Question:  Okay.  So, Biden will be here on Monday.

Spokesman:  I can only speak to my half of this equation so You may want to double… get the confirmation of the other half of the equation from the US Mission.  [laughter]

Question:  Well, I just… you just said they're going to meet physically in New York on Monday…

Spokesman:  Yes, I said what I said.  Exactly.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Miss Peltz?

Question:  Thank you.  Forgive me if I missed it because I was late, but is there any update on the vaccination requirement situation?

Spokesman:  Yes.  That has been an interesting story.  [laughter]

Just to repeat what we've been saying, the…  so far…  for the UN staff, first of all, there will be a reduced footprint of UN staff in the building to only those who physically need to be here.  All of the staff that is public‑facing, whether dealing with journalists, diplomats or others, will be…  are mandated to be vaccinated. 

As for the delegates, I think you may have seen the letter from the President of the General Assembly, which extends the honour system, which had been in place during the last session. 

Benno?

Question:  Thank you.  That reminded me actually of a question I had.  When I went to the café, it says you can just do indoor dining there when you're fully vaccinated, and you have to show proof.  I wanted to ask, the restaurant which might open downstairs again over the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly), will that have the same requirements?

Spokesman:  Yes.  So, you will need to sit down.  You will need to show proof of vaccination.  Right?  If you want to take food out, you do not need to show proof of vaccination.  It sort of mirrors the rules in place in New York City.  Those rules will not apply to the east… to the North Delegates' Lounge.

Question:  And is there any other part of the UN where that will be also the case?

Spokesman:  No, that has to do with the dining facilities. 

Okay.  Mr. Gladstone?

Question:  Thank you very much.  I'm sorry.  My least favourite topic here.  What you just said about vaccination requirements, has the issue with New York City been resolved over access to the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  Well, we…

Question:  I mean, it feels like a yes‑or‑no answer. 

Spokesman:  No, I…  listen, so many things should be yes‑or‑no answers that are not yes‑or‑no answers in this building. 

We have put in… through the decision by the President of the General Assembly, we've put in place the honour system.  The Member States have put in place the honour system, which existed last year.  We very much hope that this solution is acceptable to all within the confines of everyone's responsibilities and status. 

Question:  [inaudible] Second question. 

Spokesman:  Abdel… yes, sorry.  Go ahead.

Question:  This is an Afghanistan question.  Our New York Times colleagues in Kabul today saw the… what… the building that had been occupied by the Women's Ministry has been taken over by a new Taliban Ministry, Ministry of Invitation…  Ministry of Invitation and Guidance.  Is the UN aware of this change, and do you have a comment about this?

Spokesman:  I mean, I can't speak to my colleagues… for my colleagues on the ground.  I don't know if they're aware of this specific situation.  Obviously, we have an ongoing discussion with the Taliban, but there are some developments…  recent developments that are worrying, but we're continuing our dialogue and our advocacy for women's rights, for girls' rights, in the sphere of work and education especially.

Question:  And are… just one quick follow‑up.  Are you getting any indication that the Women's Ministry has been disbanded?

Spokesman:  I personally here do not have that information.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Sorry.  Abdelhamid and then Stefano and then Michail.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  In the city of Aden in south Yemen, riots have been raging for the last four or five days, protesting the standard of living and bad services.  Are you aware of these riots, and do you have any comment on that?

Spokesman:  I have not seen that, but I will look into it.  Stefano?

Question:  My second question, if I, may.

Spokesman:  Sorry.  Go ahead, go ahead.

Question:  Yesterday, about 270 settlers had invaded the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.  Are you aware of these also development?

Spokesman:  Look, our position on the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the holy sites in Jerusalem that belong to all the religions is…  remains the same, that there should be no change in the status quo, and there should be respect for the status quo. 

Okay.  I will go to Stefano.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  About the crisis…  the new crisis of migrants between United States and… I mean Texas… United States and Mexico, with…  actually also with that wave of migrants coming from Haiti, is the Secretary‑General worried?  And overall, what the Secretary‑General thinks about the migrant policy, if you want, of the Biden Administration so far?

Spokesman:  Look, I think… we have always expressed our concern at the situation of the migrants who have been, to kind of say, pilot… who have been forced to remain in often very dangerous conditions in northern Mexico. 

It's incumbent on all nations involved to treat people humanely and with respect and to respect their obligations under various international law instruments. 

Question:  I'm sorry.  Can I just…

Spokesman:  Let me go to…  Yeah, go ahead. 

Question:  And then, on another issue, did that Secretary‑General speak with Mayor [Bill] de Blasio about the issue about vaccination and so on?  I mean, did that happen last few days, any conversation about it?

Spokesman:  They spoke in the last few weeks.  Okay?

Question:  On this issue?  About this issue?

Spokesman:  And others.  This issue and others. 

Let me go to Michail and Elena, and then we'll go back to the room.  Michail Ignatiou?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Yes, perfectly.  And I can even see you.  Michail, nice to see you.

Question:  Stéphane, the President of Cyprus said yesterday that he will have in New York next week a trilateral meeting with the Secretary‑General and Mr. [Ersin] Tatar to look for ways to restart the negotiations on Cyprus.  Can you confirm, please?

Spokesman:  What I can tell you that the Secretary‑General and the Cypriot leaders will have an informal lunch this month.

Question:  Only this?  Nothing else.  What date?  Can you tell us a date?

Spokesman:  When we have more confirmation on the date, I will let you know, but it will take place this month.

Correspondent:  Thank you very much.

Spokesman:  Let's go to Elena, then we'll go to Edie, and then we'll go back to the screen. 

Question:  Hi.  Thank you.  About Mozambique, what's the assessment of the Secretary‑General about the situation in Cabo Delgado now that the Rwandans and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have been able to help stop the insurgency, which had lasted for years before? Is there any comment about that? And are there different UN agencies working in the field?  Are they being benefited from the Rwandan presence?

Spokesman:  The… our humanitarian work continues.  We’re, obviously, and our biggest concern remains the humanitarian issue.  The dis…  the continued…  the people who have been displaced who need to be cared for, the host populations that are hosting them, so our focus right now remains on the humanitarian end.

Edie?

Question:  Any comment about the military situation?

Spokesman:  No, not at this point. 

Edie, and then we’ll go to Carrie on the screen.  Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  The Security Council discussed Somalia in “any other business” today.  Is the Secretary‑General concerned about this growing dispute between the President and the Prime Minister that could impact the holding of elections?

Spokesman:  Yes, most… yes, we continue to be concerned by this ongoing dispute between the President and the Prime Minister.  I think we echo what was said on the ground by… in a statement issued by the Mission and other international actors is that, I think, we call both the President and the Prime Minister to refrain from making public comments that are not helpful, from making personnel appointments that are not helpful.  I think the unity of those two, the fact that the Prime Minister and the President need to work together for the benefit of all Somalis. 

Carrie?

Question:  Thanks.  Steph.  Hi.  Just to go back a little… feedback on vaccination at UNGA next week, the vaccination debate, can you please define the honour system, which is supposed to be in place?  Because each time we’ve seen it in the letter sent by the PGA (President of the General Assembly) last night and we hear you saying we… it’s going to be the same honour system as last year, but last year, there was no vaccination yet anywhere in the world, and there was certainly not 90 leaders announced to come in person.  So what’s the honour system? 

Spokesman:  The honour system, as laid out by the PGA, says that, by swiping a badge to enter the General Assembly Hall, delegates attest that they are fully vaccinated, that they have not tested positive for COVID‑19 in the last ten days, have no symptoms.  That’s the honour system, as I understand it, defined by the President of the General Assembly to the delegates.  But I think, on that part of the deal, you also need to speak to the President of the General Assembly’s Office. 

Correspondent:  Thanks, Steph.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Carla, and then we’ll go to our guest and then James who… go ahead, Carla.

Question:  Thank you.  Stéphane, I actually have two questions, but I received this email from Prensa Latina.  She has not yet received her visa to come here and, while during the pandemic, there were no flights or travelling, now it’s normal.  And she said she had contacted Valeria, who has done nothing to help.  I forwarded her email to Monica Grayley…

Spokesman:  No, I’ve…  I’m fully aware of the case of your colleagues from Prensa Latina.  I’ve been in touch with them and that is an issue, I think, that is being raised through the Host Country Committee.  I very much hope that they will be able to…  they will be given visas to come.  I think it’s important that all journalists covered under the Host Country Accord be able to be here physically if they are able to do so. 

Mr. Bays?

Question:  Two quick follow‑ups.  The honour system relies on those coming here to obey the honour system, and we know one delegate, the President of Brazil, has not been vaccinated; very publicly has said he’s not been vaccinated.  So, if he appears, as the first speaker on Tuesday, he has breached the honour system.  Will…

Spokesman:  I didn’t hear a question mark.  Your statement is your statement.  An honour system is just that.

Question:  Okay.  And one last one, it’s more a request, really.  The climate meeting on Monday is going to be very important.  It’s behind closed doors.  Is there any chance that we get some sort of pool spray or something at the top so we could show the meeting?

Spokesman:  Yes.  We are working with our colleagues from UNTV and UN Photo to do exactly that.

Correspondent:  Thank you. 

Spokesman:  And there will also be a chair summary. 

Correspondent:  Yeah. 

Spokesman:  And I think someone had asked me about the Secretary‑General’s posture during the bilaterals, and I can confirm to you that he will be masked during all his bilaterals. 

On that note, I will be happy to relinquish this seat to Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, so I’ll get him.

For information media. Not an official record.