12 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.

**Hybrid Briefing

When I am finished here, there will be also be a briefing on the Interagency Report on Sustainable Transport.  Shantanu Mukherjee, Chief of the Integrated Policy Analysis Branch in DESA’s (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) Division for Sustainable Development Goals, will be here to brief you.  He will be joined virtually by Nancy Vandycke, Economic Advisor at the World Bank, and Jan Hoffman, Head of UNCTAD’s (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) Trade Logistics Branch.


As you know, this morning, the Secretary-General participated in the G20 Leaders’ Extraordinary Meeting on Afghanistan, which was hosted by the head of the G20 and the Prime Minister of Italy, Mario Draghi.

During his comments, he reiterated what he told you yesterday during his stakeout.

The Secretary-General stressed that he sees three areas for essential action on Afghanistan.  These are:  ensuring a lifeline of help to the Afghan people, avoiding a total meltdown of the country’s economy and our constant commitment to [help] move things in the right direction.

On the humanitarian side, our colleagues tell us that yesterday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) provided relief items to more than 4,000 internally displaced people as well as those impacted by the conflict.

For its part, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has established four static emergency clinics along border areas of Afghanistan to provide reproductive health and protection services to returnees, internally displaced people, as well as host communities.

The agency is also supporting a basic health clinic for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Karokh District of Herat.

For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that, in Afghanistan, there is no money to pay wages or buy food, medicine or clean water.  WFP said that 1 million children’s lives are in the balance as deaths from malnutrition loom.  The agency stresses that these deaths can be prevented if funds are freed up for Afghanistan now.

Our flash appeal is inching upwards — it’s now 38 per cent funded.  We had requested $606.3 million until the end of the year.

**Security Council

In the Security Council’s open debate on diversity, State-building and the search for peace, the Secretary-General said this morning that diversity should be seen as a source of strength, not as a threat.

When we open the door to inclusion and participation, he added, we take a giant step forward in conflict-prevention and peacebuilding.

To achieve this, the Secretary-General highlighted three areas for progress.

First, he said, national institutions and laws must work for all people.  Countries should consider giving more space to their different regions, he said, second.  And finally, women, young people and the most marginalized must be involved every step of the way, because building and sustaining peace requires their voices and actions.

We also expect a stakeout at the Security Council by the President of the Security Council, and that is the President of Kenya, as soon as the meeting is over, and I will flag that to you.


This morning, the Secretary-General spoke in a video message at the high-level segment of the UN Biodiversity Conference, which is being held in Kunming, China.  He said that damage to the complex web of life that sustains us has already impacted the lives and livelihoods of millions, contributing to hunger, sickness and unemployment.

“We are losing our suicidal war against nature,” he said, adding that an ambitious and effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, with clear targets and benchmarks, can put us back on track.

**Climate Action

He also spoke via pre-recorded video message to the sixth Ministerial Meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.  That took place today.

Mr. [António] Guterres stressed that COP26 [26th Conference of Parties] must be a turning point if we are to fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, protect populations from the impacts of climate change and ensure that all financial flows are consistent with the goals of net zero emissions and sustainable development.

But, Mr. Guterres added, with COP26 fast approaching, he remains genuinely concerned over the lack of progress on these priorities.  The Secretary-General asked the finance ministers to consider allocating half of all public climate finance in support of developing countries for adaptation and to reconsider how they calculate gross domestic product.

As you know, it is very important that we deliver, if not exceed, on the $100 billion a year that have been promised.


From Yemen, our Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator there, David Gressly, said [yesterday] that 20 million people, or two thirds of Yemen’s population, need humanitarian assistance, with 5 million people just a step away from famine and about 400,000 children at imminent risk of death from malnutrition.

Mr. Gressly said that generous donor funding after March allowed humanitarians to scale up food and nutrition support to stave off famine.  But, he said, the situation remains extremely fragile and that programming for health, water, livelihoods, and support to internally displaced persons are all severely underfunded, at less than 20 per cent.

He is particularly concerned by the escalation in fighting in and around Marib, which is forcing people to flee their homes in an area that already has 1 million people displaced.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen has received $2.1 billion, and that is 55 per cent funded.


Turning to Mali, I can tell you that we welcome the renewed commitment made by the Malian parties to the implementation of the peace agreement at the conclusion of the meeting of the Agreement Monitoring Committee in Bamako.

In particular, our UN colleagues welcomed the announcement by the Government of Mali to reintegrate 13,000 former combatants by the end of the year and an additional 13,000 within the next two to three years as part of the global disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme in Mali.

We also welcome the willingness of the Malian parties to proceed with the socioeconomic reintegration of ex-combatants already registered, [including] about 300 women per region.  The full implementation of the peace agreement remains central to achieving peace and stability in Mali and the Sahel region.  We once again reiterate our commitment to support the Malians in their efforts.


From Myanmar, the UN country team there says it is deeply concerned over the current low levels of funding to address the needs of 3 million women, children and men.

As of yesterday, less than half of the $385 million required under the Humanitarian Response Plan and Interim Emergency Response Plan launched after the military takeover has been received.

Our team says donors and Member States must urgently step up and increase their funding support and stand in solidarity with the people who are suffering in Myanmar.

We, along with our humanitarian partners, continue to stay and deliver for the people of Myanmar.  As we speak, our colleagues are on the ground working tirelessly to improve access to health care, water and sanitation, food, and other basic services.

**Food Security

This morning, the United Nations and the European Union convened a virtual high-level meeting on anticipatory action against food crises.

Participants — including the Heads of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the head of the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) — agreed that there is a sharp risk of food insecurity.

At today’s event, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, pointed to the success of early actions taken [based] on forecasts of imminent famines, such as in Ethiopia and Somalia.

He also stressed the need to invest in local-level early warning tools.


We issued a statement yesterday in which the Secretary-General welcomed the agreement reached in Geneva by the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC) on a comprehensive Action Plan for the gradual, balanced, and sequenced process of the withdrawal of mercenaries, foreign fighters and foreign forces from the Libyan territory.  The Action Plan is a cornerstone in the implementation of the October 2020 ceasefire agreement.

The Secretary-General trusts that the deployment of an initial team of UN ceasefire monitors will contribute to creating the conditions for successful implementation of the [Action] Plan.

**Secretary-General — COVID-19

Yesterday afternoon, you will have seen that the Secretary-General spoke at an event hosted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called “COVID-19 and Fragile States: Promoting Resilient Recovery for the Most Vulnerable Communities.”

He welcomed the IMF’s Strategy for Fragile and Conflict Affected States, which he called a critical step to applying a crisis prevention lens to the complex and multidimensional risks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery.  He said this is particularly important for countries emerging from crisis and conflict.

And that’s it.

**Questions and Answers


Question:  Is the Secretary-General satisfied, having attended the G20 meeting, with what has been decided?  Does he believe that they are acting with the urgency that he has called for?

Spokesman:  Look, I think the Secretary-General was very pleased to participate and be able to clearly restate what he thinks is important.  I think we heard a lot of good things coming out of the meeting — I think, notably, the EU commitment on new monies.

There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done, and it will need to be constant and heavy work, and we look forward to continuing our discussions on this.

Question:  So, do you expect the discussions on Afghanistan to be revisited when the same leaders meet in person in Rome in two weeks’ time?

Spokesman:  Well, I don’t think it’s an issue of revisiting.  I think this is… I mean, it’s not… the discussion on Afghanistan is not a one-off event.  The situation is evolving on the ground.  I mean, the humanitarian situation is worsening.  We need the pledges converted to cash.  So, this will be a constant conversation, not just with the G20 focusing on the financial aspects, but in other bilateral discussions.

Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  With Libya, the Secretary-General welcomed the agreement, 5+5, the Military Commission, with regard to the withdrawal of the mercenaries.  However, this month, later in the month, there’s going to be a conference to be held, hosted by the GNA [Government of National Accord] and there are reports that the President of the GNA is pressuring the diplomats and — sorry — the head of the Government, Mr. [Mohamed al] Menfi, is pressuring the diplomats into adopting a direction whereby there is a delay for the election.

Spokesman:  Well, I… listen, I’m not aware of any… I can’t speak to what you’re… the reports you’re stating.  We very much will continue to do our work to help the Libyans organize these elections on 24 December for the sake of the people of Libya, who, I think, have waited a long time for elections.

Señora and then…

Question:  Stéphane, 7 November, Nicaragua was going to have their elections.  Is there any concern by the Secretary-General in terms of what is expected, especially because most of the opposition has been incarcerated?  There’s no candidates that were against [Daniel] Ortega.  They were not taken to jail if they were not in the same lines of the party.  And the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave warnings about the election.

Spokesman:  I mean, we’ve expressed our concern about what is going on in Nicaragua.  We’ve seen the actions taken against the political opposition, against journalists.  So, I think all of these things that we have seen in recent weeks just underscore our concern for the upcoming elections.

Question:  Does the Secretary-General thinks that these elections could be considered legitimate in that way, if…

Spokesman:  Look, I’m not… it’s not for me to put a stamp of legitimacy on this or that election.  I think what we’re… our focus and our concern on some of the human rights violations, the jailing of opposition leaders, which we hope can be reversed.


Question:  [inaudible] in Bassangoa was searched without prior notification to the Mission.  Is it normal?

Spokesman:  I’m… that’s the first…

Question:  And what did the Mission do?

Spokesman:  That’s the first I’ve heard of it, so let me find out.

Question:  It’s in the report that will come out.

Spokesman:  I’m… just… it’s the first I’ve heard of it so…

Question:  I’d like to know, Fawzia Koofi was talking… the Afghan woman who was talking, who is she representing, which Government?  She’s the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of Afghanistan, but which one?

Spokesman:  At the Security Council, you mean?

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesman:  I think it’s part of… if I’m not mistaken but often we see in Security Council debates, people who represent civil society who are there… or who are invited in their personal capacity, but that… I will double-check.  That’s my sense.

Monsieur and then Alan.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  This coming Thursday, there will be elections of new members to the Human Right Council.  Many people on even countries objected legitimacy of this Council.  For the UN and its security in the region, what’s the way… what’s the best way to have a better reputation of this UN institution?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Look, elections to Human Rights Council are done by Member States.  Right?  It is up to them to choose their representatives.  What we want to see is every country respect its international human rights obligations, most fundamentally the international… I mean all of its human rights obligations.

Obviously, I think Member States who are elected to the Human Rights Council have an even greater responsibility in that regard, but who gets to sit on the Council and how… and who… and the actions of the Council are actions of Member States.


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The Mission of Belarus to Geneva office, to the UN Geneva office, says that UN office to Belarus, to Minsk, illegal… quote, illegally used the Organization’s funds, which were initially aimed to some activities with disabled persons.  They initial… illegally used those funds to pay for the service of lawyers for some Belarusian people who were arrested during the protest actions.  Any comments on such a statement?

Spokesman:  Look, I mean, I think the issue of… this kind of issues related to UN-Belarus cooperation was raised during the bilateral meeting between the Secretary-General and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus not too long ago.

The Government conveyed their concerns to us regarding the administration of a legal aid programme benefiting certain vulnerable groups of persons.  We continue to be in discussion with the Government.

Stefano, and then we’ll go to the screen, and we’ll come back.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Thank you, Stéphane.  It’s about… as a follow-up on Afghanistan and what the Secretary-General said yesterday and today, I guess, is it… kind of… would like to know what the Secretary-General think about the Security Council resolution that was passed at the end of August.  It was sponsored by the United States, France and Great… and UK that allowed practically the corridor to let people leave Afghanistan.  Right?

And if I understand, what he said yesterday, he said that for stabilization of the country, you have to make sure the people that can actually run the country… so, I guess he was talking about professional, any… and that… will says they will try to leave.  Right?

So, what does he think about the fact that the… that those qualified people are leaving because they can, I guess, with the agreement, at least with the resolution of the Security Council?  And if he wasn’t… if yesterday he was trying… kind of saying that something should be done so these people that can run, actually, the country will not leave.

Spokesman:  I mean, people have an inherent right to leave a country should they wish.  I mean, what the Secretary-General was warning was a total collapse of the Afghan economy, right, which is something he wants Member States to take action on, notably on injecting cash into the economy.

Obviously, in any country… I mean we can talk about a number of countries around the world where the situation is dire because of economic issues, because of violence, because of civil war, in which is causing… which causes a brain drain, because as always, those people who can leave, those people who can… who you see as refugees or as migrants are often those who have the means to do it because… often because of the high cost of migration due to the control of criminal gangs.

So, the whole point is to try to stabilize the country, right, for the good of all Afghans and for the good of the region and the world.

Question:  Yeah, but just a quick follow-up.  If I remember well, the Russian position that didn’t vote… didn’t put a veto but didn’t abstain, if I understand, the Russian position was, like this, with this… with this resolution, we destabilize the country because people will leave.  So, I would like to know…

Spokesman:  Stefano, then you should speak to Ambassador [Vasily] Nebenzya.  I don’t know what the Russian position was.  I’m telling… I can only speak for one person, and that’s the Secretary-General, so…


Question:  Yes.  Thank you, Stéphane.  You mentioned that the United Nations was giving humanitarian aid to the Rohingya.  Does… excuse me.  Does that include the island that they were transported to — many were — by Bangladesh and many who want to leave and feel like prisoners…

Spokesman:  My understanding is there was some sort of agreement signed locally between the UN and the Bangladeshi Government regarding that island.  You should probably check with UNHCR, as they would be the lead on this.

All right.  Thank you, all, and remember, there’s a press briefing now on sustainable transport.

For information media. Not an official record.