25 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.

**Guests Today

Good afternoon, I see Volker [Perthes] on the screen, if we can just put him up on the big screen in the room.

Volker, can you hear us?

Volker Perthes: I can hear you well.

Spokesman: As you all know, we asked Volker Perthes, our Special Representative for Sudan Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Khartoum (UNITAMS) to join us.  He will brief you virtually from Khartoum.

Then, after that, I will brief and then we will be joined by Achim Steiner, the Administrator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  He will brief you on UNDP’s ‘Peoples’ Climate Vote’.


Before we turn it over to Khartoum, I want to read a statement from the Secretary‑General.

The Secretary‑General strongly condemns the ongoing military coup d’état in Khartoum and all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability.  The Secretary‑General calls for the immediate reconstitution of the governing arrangements provided for under the Constitutional Document.

The unlawful detention of the Prime Minister, government officials and politicians is unacceptable and contravenes the Constitutional Document and the partnership critical for the success of Sudan’s transition.  The Secretary‑General calls for the immediate release of the Prime Minister and all others who have been detained immediately.

Sudanese stakeholders must immediately return to dialogue, and engage in good faith to restore the constitutional order and Sudan’s transitional process.

The United Nations reiterates its unwavering commitment and support to the realization of Sudan’s political transition.  Any attempts to undermine this transition process puts at risk Sudan’s security, stability and development.

The United Nations will continue to stand with the people of Sudan as they strive to fulfil their aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic future.

So that is the statement from the Secretary‑General, and now I am very glad to hand it over to our Special Representative in Khartoum.

Volker, you have the floor, and then we will take a few questions.

[Press briefing by Volker Perthes, Special Representative for Sudan and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Khartoum (UNITAMS)]

[Press briefing by Achim Steiner, United Nations Development Programme Administrator]

Let’s go on to our scheduled briefing.


Turning to Ethiopia, I can tell you that we remain extremely concerned about the continued escalation of hostilities in the northern part of the country, including new airstrikes over the weekend in Tigray.

Yesterday, two airstrikes were reported on a textile factory in Adwa Town.  That’s in the Central Zone in Tigray, and in May Tsebri, a town in the North Western Zone of Tigray.  According to reports, three civilians were injured in the airstrike in the town of May Tsebri.  Our colleagues on the ground are verifying the details of the airstrikes and the impact on civilians.

Fighting has also reportedly continued in multiple locations in Amhara, leading to the displacement of thousands of people.

We continue to remind all the parties involved in this conflict of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

We also continue to call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate the free and sustained movement of humanitarian workers and supplies in Tigray, Afar and Amhara.

**Middle East

Yesterday, Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that he was deeply concerned by the continued Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  This followed the announcement by the Israeli authorities of tenders for the construction of more than 1,300 housing units in the occupied West Bank.

Mr. Wennesland reiterated that all settlements are illegal under international law, remain a substantial obstacle to peace, and must cease immediately.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

A quick note on the DSG, on travel by senior officials.  The DSG, Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, arrived in the United Arab Emirates to attend, on behalf of the Secretary‑General, Expo 2020 and participate in the ceremony honouring UN Day.  She also met with senior Government officials and the UN Country Team.

On Sunday, the Deputy Secretary‑General travelled to Saudi Arabia to participate, on behalf of the Secretary‑General, in the inaugural launch of the Middle East Green Initiative, which happened today in Riyadh.  During her time in Saudi Arabia, the Deputy Secretary‑General will meet with senior Government officials, UN officials and the leadership of the Islamic Development Bank.

She will be heading back to New York tomorrow.


Just as you know, Rosemary DiCarlo [Under‑Secretary‑General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs] was last week was in Libya and also in Tunisia.  In Tunis, Ms. DiCarlo met with Tunisian Foreign Minister [Othman] Jerandi, as well as the Resident Coordinator and members of the UN country team.  Discussions with the authorities focused on regional developments and the situation in the country.

During her meeting with the Foreign Minister, Ms. DiCarlo expressed support for the people of Tunisia and for the consolidation of democracy in the country and reiterated the UN’s readiness to offer support for an inclusive dialogue process.  She further commended the role of Tunisia as a non-permanent member of the Security Council.


Moving on to Afghanistan, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that more than half of the population of Afghanistan, that’s a record 22.8 million people, will face acute food insecurity starting in November.  According to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report, the combined impacts of drought, conflict, COVID‑19 and the economic crisis have severely impacted lives, livelihoods, and people’s access to food.

The report reflects a 37 per cent increase in the number of Afghans facing acute hunger since the last assessment was issued in April of this year.  Among those at risk are 3.2 million children under the age of 5 who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of this year.

This is just a further reminder of the need for donors to transform pledges into cash, so we can fund our humanitarian activities throughout Afghanistan.


Turning to Haiti, where our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that lives are likely to be lost if fuel supplies do not reach hospitals immediately.  Roadblocks are preventing the delivery of fuel, creating obstacles to the provision of essential services and are also preventing access by humanitarian workers.

Hospitals and medical centres are hit especially hard.  In Port‑au‑Prince, as well as other cities, hospitals are reporting extremely low fuel reserves needed to power the generators that keep services going.

In two of the capital’s major hospitals, paediatric services for 300 children, maternal health care for 45 women and critical care for 70 other patients will be interrupted if supplies are not received by tomorrow.

We are calling on all those who have an influence over the current situation to ensure that fuel supplies can be delivered to hospitals, and that humanitarian access to earthquake-impacted victims in the south‑west is not further disrupted.

**Violence against Women

This morning, the Secretary‑General spoke in a video message to the event marking the twenty‑fifth Anniversary of the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

He said that for 25 years, the Trust Fund has played an important role as the only global grant‑making mechanism exclusively dedicated to eradicating violence against women.  He congratulated the Fund for its record of support for over 600 initiatives led by civil society, in 140 countries and territories.

**Hybrid Briefing Tomorrow

We heard a bit about climate from Mr. Steiner, and I can tell you that tomorrow, the Secretary‑General will be here in this room at 9:15 a.m. to launch the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Emissions Gap Report.  He will be joined virtually by the Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen.

**Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

Today, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which says that abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere once again reached a new record last year, with the annual rate of increase above the 2011-2020 average.

The report says the economic slowdown from the pandemic did not have any discernible impact on the atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases and their growth rates, although there was a temporary decline in new emissions.

**Climate Change

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) today published an update to the synthesis of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).  The update confirms that the updated or new climate action plans can be effective in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG).  However, the updated report also confirms that for all available NDCs of all 192 Parties taken together, a sizable increase, of about 16 per cent, in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 compared to 2010 is anticipated.

Patricia Espinosa, the Executive Director of the UNFCCC, urges countries to raise the level of ambition in their Nationally Determined Contributions, stressing that we are now nowhere near where science says we need to be.

**Financial Contribution

Finally, we will end with our daily budget quiz.  We welcome the 132nd Member State to pay up.  I’ll tell you.  A citizen of this Member State was the flag bearer in both the Winter Olympics and Summer Olympics, in 2016 and 2018, and he was shirtless in both Olympics.  What country did he represent?  He was also well oiled, as one of my staff members put it.  [Answers from crowd] Tonga.  Tonga.

He… I don’t know.  He was here… he was a guest here in 2015 or ’16.  Anyway, all joking aside, we say thank you to Tonga.  Since no one got it, then there are no questions.

**Questions and Answers

All right.  Señora?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  My question is on the caravan, that it left this weekend the area of Tapachula, where migrants had been waiting for asylum requests to be processed.  What is the response of the Secretary‑General?  Because a lot of them have said that they’ve been waiting for a year to be able to get a process.  A lot of them have complained about the fact that it is not enough response by local authorities.  Mexico has become a country of destination now with a lot of the migrants and especially now many of them are not actually going to the border, but they’re going to Mexico City to try to see if their processes might be expedited.

Spokesman:  Well, first and foremost, it’s important that migrants be treated with respect and dignity, that those who are applying for refugee status do it… that those requests be treated quickly.

But this… we have seen groups of people move throughout Central America in the last few years.  We all need to look at the root causes of what forces people to decide that they will be forced to leave their homes in search of a better life.  And that has to do with economic development.  It has to do with human rights.  It has to do with climate change.

And it’s yet just another reminder for Member States to deal as a whole on the issue of migration and work through the global migration compact that we have, that countries of destination, countries of origin and countries of transit all need to work together to make sure that people are treated with the minimum of human dignity at least.  Thank you.

Ibtisam and then we’ll go to Joe.

Question:  Steph, I have a couple of questions about Palestine and Israel.  So, the first one, the Israeli Government designated one of the oldest Palestinian human rights organizations, Al‑Haq, as a terrorist organization.  Just as a reminder, probably know, that Al‑Haq and B’Tselem have won several international awards including in 2018, a joint reception of the French Republic human rights.

Al‑Haq is not the only.  There are six Palestinian civil society organizations that were designated as terrorist organizations, including an organization that work on human… not only human rights but women rights, farmers, etc.  So, do you have any comments?

Spokesman:  Yes.  I think… you may have seen, but Lynn Hastings, the Humanitarian Coordinator for the… based in Jerusalem, issued a statement expressing her concern about this.

We… I think it’s… our office in Jerusalem, in addressing the issue, continues to engage with the Israeli authorities and the concerned parties.  I think the Secretary‑General has repeatedly expressed concern about the shrinking space for civil society in many places around the world, including in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Question:  A follow-up on the statement you read regarding settlements and the issuing or the process now of issuing more than 1,355 units.  Is… in a statement to the executive… the head of the Human Rights Watch described this as a war crime under article 49 of Fourth Geneva Convention.  Do you agree with that?  And do you have more to say than just expressing concern about these announcements?

Spokesman:  I mean, I’m not going to comment on what the Human Rights Watch said, but I will tell you that we have repeatedly, over and over again, expressed our concern, both publicly and privately, in discussions with Israeli authorities about the continuing settlement… building… constructions of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Question:  Sorry.  Just a follow-up.  I mean, do you believe that this is enough?  Do you believe that… I mean, as a matter of fact, the Israeli Government is not really caring about concern, whether for…

Spokesman:  The Israeli Government has taken decisions.  We have expressed our opinion on those decisions, but we are not alone.  Others have.  The Security Council resolutions are also clear on that.  I think it is one of these issues where it’s important that everyone in the international community speak with one voice.

Mr. Klein?

Question:  Yes.  First a logistical question.  Will the Secretary‑General be taking any questions at tomorrow’s briefing?

Spokesman:  Yes, on climate and on the…

Correspondent:  Specifically on climate.

Spokesman:  On climate, yes.  We… yes.

Correspondent:  Okay.  And more substantively, you referred, again, to the pledges for humanitarian funding in Afghanistan.  I believe the last time you gave a percentage of pledges was 40‑something per cent.

Spokesman:  It was 45 per cent, I think, on Friday.

Correspondent:  45 per cent…

Spokesman:  I don’t think it’s… the needle has not moved significantly since then.

Question:  Okay.  And again, you said you want cash in hand, not just the pledges.  So, could you tell us how much cash has actually come in and from whom… from which countries?

Spokesman:  Well, I… the list is publicly available on the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) website.  They have the list of people, of pledges and the rest.  It’s 45 per cent of $606 million.  We asked for $606 million.  We have received in cash 45 per cent of that.

Correspondent:  Oh.  Oh, oh, okay.  Cash then was the percentage, not just pledges.

Spokesman:  No, no, no.  I mean, pledge… we had… the pledges that were received in September, in fact, went over the amount that we asked for.  But we like promissory notes.  We like cash better.

Correspondent:  Okay.  All right.  That’s the clarification I wanted.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You’re welcome.  Dulcie?

Question:  Yeah, the announcement that Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken had a phone call with António Guterres, was it, on Thursday about Ethiopia, has there been a development on that?  I mean, did Secretary of State have specific instructions for António Guterres on the next step regarding Mekelle, Tigray?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  I’m not aware that the Secretary of State gave instructions to the Secretary‑General.  They did have a conversation which Ethiopia and other issues were discussed.  And the role of the United States and other Member States is critical in everyone’s efforts to stop the fighting in Tigray.

Question:  What were the other issues that were discussed?

Spokesman:  I will leave it at that.  Thank you.

Ibtisam and then…

Question:  Any updates on humanitarian flights to the… Tigray and other regions in northern Ethiopia?

Spokesman:  No.  The flights…

Question:  Are you…

Spokesman:  The flights are still suspended.

Question:  And is there more information regarding what’s happened on Friday, I think it was?

Spokesman:  No, I mean… oh, in terms of why the flight… I mean, the flight was turned around.  We didn’t get the clearance.  Obviously, operating flights in an area… even if Tigray’s a rather large area, but an area where there are… there’s an act… as we’ve seen, there are active air strikes, as we’ve seen a number of them in the last few days, is a rather dicey proposition.  So, until we get the clearances we need and we get the safety environment that we need to operate, flights have yet to resume.

Okay.  Thank you, all.  Thanks for your patience, and hasta mañana.  We will have the SG here tomorrow morning at 9:15.  He will take two or three questions, and then we’ll continue with Inger Andersen.

For information media. Not an official record.