6 October 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.

All right.  We have all been waiting for the Messiah for a long time, but while we continue waiting, I have a very important Senior Personnel announcement for you.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Staffan de Mistura of Italy as his Personal Envoy for Western Sahara.

He succeeds Horst Köhler of Germany, who completed his assignment on 22 May 2019.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Köhler’s steadfast and intensive efforts which laid the foundation for a new momentum in the political process on Western Sahara.

The new Personal Envoy will provide good offices on behalf of the Secretary-General.  He will work with all relevant interlocutors, including the parties, neighbouring countries and other stakeholders, guided by Security Council resolution 2548 [2020] and other relevant resolutions.

I don’t have to tell you that Mr. de Mistura brings many decades of experience in diplomacy and political affairs.  A lot more information on his past is in a note that has been sent out.

**Noon Briefing Guest

And in a very short while, I will be joined by Mary-Ellen McGroarty, of the World Food Programme (WFP).  She is the Representative of WFP and Country Director of WFP in Afghanistan, and she will join us live from Kabul to brief on the food situation in that country.


And keeping on Afghanistan, in a statement released today, several representatives of UN agencies and humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Afghanistan have stressed that we are in a race against time to deliver life-saving aid to crisis-affected people, as well as to preposition supplies ahead of the oncoming winter.

In September, we, along with our partners, have provided food assistance to more than 3.8 million people in the country and treatment for acute malnutrition to 21,000 children and 10,000 women.  We have also provided health-care services to 450,000 people, livelihood support to 160,000 farmers and herders and water to 186,000 drought-affected people.

The humanitarian community in Afghanistan is committed to delivering unconditional aid to millions of people.  To do that, pledges and commitments by donors must urgently be turned into reality.

UN Member States are requested to allow the swift and unfettered movement of humanitarian supplies and personnel into and out of Afghanistan, and to provide humanitarian financial exemptions to allow funds to reach aid organizations in the country.

The Flash Appeal that was launched last month is only 35 per cent funded.

The full statement is available on OCHA’s (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) website, and of course, you will hear more on the situation from Ms. McGroarty.

And, for its part, Education Cannot Wait, which is the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises, announced a $4 million First Emergency Response grant in Afghanistan.  The new investment will provide 38,000 internally displaced girls and boys with access to quality, flexible learning opportunities and psychosocial support.

**Vaccine Strategy Press Conference

And as a reminder, at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, the Secretary-General will join Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus] of the World Health Organization (WHO) in a virtual press conference on the WHO’s new global COVID-19 vaccination strategy.

We shared the login details of that press conference, which will be hosted out from Geneva, with you a short while ago.

**Security Council — Ethiopia

And at 3 p.m.  this afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at the Security Council’s open meeting on Peace and Security in Africa.  That is the agenda item.  He will focus, of course, on Ethiopia.

We hope to share his remarks with you shortly.

**Security Council

Earlier today, the Security Council held a briefing on small arms, with a focus on the need to address the threats posed by their illicit flows in the context of peace operations.

Our High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, reiterated the need for including this issue across the work of the Security Council.  The illicit flows of small arms and light weapons, she said, can worsen or sustain conflict dynamics; render arms embargoes ineffective; endanger peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and local populations.  It can also complicate the achievements of peace agreements.

Ms. Nakamitsu also encouraged the Security Council members to integrate weapons and ammunition management considerations in its work on conflict prevention.

Her full remarks have been shared with you.


And the Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, concluded his first visit to Yemen today, after conducting extensive meetings in Aden.

Mr. Grundberg met with the Yemeni Prime Minister, Maeen Abdulmalik, and the Governor of Aden, Ahmed Lamlas.  He also met with the Chairman of the Southern Transitional Council, Aidarous Zubaidi, and the Governor of Taiz, Nabil Shamsan, among others.  He also consulted with representatives of civil society and women’s rights activists.

In his meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr. Grundberg welcomed his return to Aden and stressed the importance of the full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement to support stability and functional State institutions.

He also discussed the deteriorating economic situation and the challenges of delivery of basic services.  He said that there is an urgent need to work toward an inclusive political settlement that comprehensively ends the conflict and allows Yemen to recover and develop.

In his meetings, Mr. Grundberg emphasized his commitment to inclusivity as a necessity for the sustainability of peace.  A durable solution is one that reflects the interests of diverse and broad segments of Yemeni society, he said.

**South Sudan

Turning to South Sudan, our Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in the country, Matthew Hollingworth, strongly condemned the latest threat against aid organizations in the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.

He called for authorities and communities to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers.

On Monday, a letter, reportedly from a youth group in Pibor, was issued, demanding that at least 30 humanitarian workers leave the area within 72 hours.

Yesterday, more than 80 humanitarian workers were relocated from the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.  Aid activities have been suspended for 48 hours, except for critical activities that must continue to save lives, and will only resume when it is deemed [safe] to do so.

This latest incident of youth interference will impact help given to more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in the area.

We, along with our partners, are working with authorities there, as well as in Juba to seek a joint resolution.

Since the start of the year, aid workers have been threatened and attacked by youth in Renk in Upper Nile and Torit in Eastern Equatoria, among other places.  These attacks have led to the suspension of humanitarian activities and the relocation of workers.

**Central African Republic

And the UN peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) said today that it condemns in the strongest terms the attack yesterday in the town of Matchika, located about 15 kilometres from Bambari.

The attack resulted in the death of civilians.  Others were wounded.

UN peacekeepers were dispatched to the site of the attack to collect more information about the incident and to ensure the protection of civilians.

The UN Mission calls on the Government to initiate an investigation into the incident, so perpetrators can be identified and brought to justice.

**Malaria Vaccine

And lastly, this just came in to us:  A short while ago, the World Health Organization announced that it is recommending widespread use of a malaria vaccine for children in sub-Saharan Africa and in other regions.  The recommendation is based on results from an ongoing pilot programme in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi that has reached more than 800,000 children since 2019.

In a statement issued a few minutes ago, Dr. Tedros, the Head of WHO, described this as a historic moment.  He said that using this vaccine on top of existing tools to prevent malaria could save tens of thousands of young lives each year.

**Questions and Answers

Speaking of young lives, James?

Question:  Firstly, Mr. de Mistura’s appointment to the Personal Envoy job, been two and a half years… more than two and a half years since that job has been unfilled; does it signal a new impetus by the Secretary-General on that file?

Spokesman:  Well, it’s clearly a positive signal that, after two years, if not more, as you mentioned, I think 13 names, that we’re able to come through with a name to nominate somebody officially and to have him take office, which I think he’ll do so 1 November.  I would say it’s a positive… it’s a move in the right direction.

As for the greater issues regarding the situation there, let’s wait and see.

Question:  And a follow-up from yesterday.  I asked you about tension between Taiwan and China.  What is the Secretary-General’s reaction?  How worried is he?

Spokesman:  I will just say that it is a situation that we are following closely.

Question:  Those are the only comments you have?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  At this point, yes.

Question:  I mean, the Taiwanese Defence Minister says it’s the worst situation in 40 years.  The White House says China is carrying out provocative action.  Does the Secretary-General have anything else to say on this situation that clearly is concerning many in the world?

Spokesman:  I will leave it at that for the moment.

Question:  Does he have anything to say, then, on the fact that the Chinese top foreign policy official and the [United States] Secretary of State are currently meeting in Zurich?  Any comments on that meeting?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  We hope that it will be a positive and fruitful meeting between China and the US.

Okay.  Yes, Alan?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I’m sorry.  There were some media reports that allegedly Taliban asked the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for $90 million to resolve some debt issues with electricity.  Can you comment on this?  Is that true?  Can you confirm it?  Will you provide this money?

Spokesman:  No.  We’ve seen these media reports.  UNAMA has not received any requests from any Afghan entity to make any payments regarding energy, which is what the report cited.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  It’s good to see you again.

Spokesman:  Nice to see you.

Question:  My question is about a comment by Iranian Foreign Minister that… about resumption of the Vienna negotiations.  He didn’t specify dates, but do you have any reactions for that?  And has Secretary-General had any discussions with either part… any of the parties of the Vienna talks?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of any specific discussions about the Vienna talks that the Secretary-General has had.  As you know, we’re not a party to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), but we do strongly support the agreement as a major diplomatic achievement.

Okay.  Unless we have any questions in the chat… [audio feedback].  I like the sound of my own voice, but that may be a little too much.

Correspondent:  I have a question.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Mr. Fazal, please, go ahead.  [audio feedback] [laughter]

Question:  Can you hear me?  Thank you, Stéphane.

Spokesman:  Maybe if… if I could ask the engineers to remove me from the large screen in the back.  [audio feedback]  I like to hear myself and look at myself, but that’s too much.  I feel like I’m talking to myself.  [cross talk]

Question:  Okay.  Can you hear me?  Can you hear me?  [audio feedback].  Can you hear me, Stéphane?

Spokesman:  Anything for a little levity.  Yes.  Mushfiqul, please.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Yes, sir.

Question:  Yeah.  On Bangladesh, I want to ask a question that Bangladesh regime, free journalism, they are criminalizing with the use of the Digital Security Act and journalists who is in abroad, their family in the country not safe, because one of our colleague, Dr. Kanak Sarwar, he’s based in New York, but they arrested… it’s widely reported all the medias that his sister arrested for connection with his brother, an innocent lady.  She is under police remand and facing torture.  So, you and I raised anytime, anywhere expressing your concern for many times.  So, what is your comment on that, because… [cross talk]

Spokesman:  I’m not aware of this particular case, but as you know, wherever in the world, we stand for freedom of the press and the ability to the… their journalists to do their work in the four corners of the Earth everywhere.

Mr. Gladstone?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I’m sorry.  I may have missed something you said earlier about the visit by the Yemen representative, the Secretary-General recently concluded visit.  Did… was there any discussion of the Safer oil tanker problem that has not been resolved during that visit, or do you have any update on what’s happening with that situation?

Spokesman:  There are no updates on the tanker, which… as opposed to the common saying, no news is not good news.  The fact is that there’s been no major progress on keeping the tanker safe, and every day that passes makes things more difficult.

I’m not aware that there were any discussions on this particular issue during Mr. Grundberg’s visit to Aden.  But this is something we are continuing in discussions with other parties.  I’m just not aware it came up in this particular visit in Aden.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Thank you.  All right.  I think it is high time we go to our guest… sorry, James, go ahead, and then we’ll go to our guest.

Question:  Sorry.  It’s not a proper question.  It’s just you hinted yesterday there might be another press encounter with the Secretary-General.

Spokesman:  Yes, we’re…

Question:  Is that going to happen?  And can you give us any guidance on it?  [cross talk]

Spokesman:  I may be able to give you some guidance this afternoon, later this afternoon.  I’ll tell you, it will hopefully be bef… shorter than the wait we had for the Personal Envoy.

Okay.  Thank you very much for your patience.  I would like now to turn to our guest, Mary-Ellen McGroarty, who is joining us from Kabul.

For information media. Not an official record.