The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eri Kaneko, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary‑General.
Good afternoon. Today, we will be joined by our guest, Michèle Coninsx, the Executive Director of the Counter‑Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED). She will brief you on the Security Council’s meeting to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of resolution 1373 (2001) and the establishment of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. Thank you so much for joining us today, the floor is yours.
[The guest briefed the press.]
So we will start with our portion of the briefing and then we will have Monica [Grayley], the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly. The Secretary-General is now heading back to New York. A few hours ago, he was at Pembroke College at Cambridge University, where he engaged in public discussion with students and faculty on Ethics and Climate Change. The Secretary‑General underscored the need to truly listen and engage with young people, as they are the biggest allies for climate action. It is ethically indefensible not to take future generations into account, he told them. He encouraged students and young activists to continue to work, shout and mobilize so that we can have effective action against climate change. The full event can be seen online.
Today is Energy Day at the twenty‑sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26). The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All, Damilola Ogunbiyi, presented the Secretary‑General’s global roadmap to achieve clean energy for all by 2030 and net‑zero emissions by 2050, as an outcome of September's high‑level dialogue on energy. The road map calls for 500 million more people to have access to electricity in just four years' time — by 2025 — as well as 1 billion more people to get access to clean cooking. It also urges a tripling of annual investment for renewable energy and energy efficiency globally by 2030.
A new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) calls for urgent efforts to increase the financing and implementation of actions designed to adapt to the growing impacts of climate change. The Adaptation Gap Report found that while policies and planning are growing for climate change adaptation, financing and implementation are still far behind where they need to be. In addition, the report finds that the opportunity to use the fiscal recovery from the pandemic to prioritize green economic growth is largely being missed, as fewer than one third of 66 countries funded COVID‑19 recovery measures to address climate risks. You can find the full report online.
Today at COP26, the UN World Tourism Organization (WTO), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners launched the “Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism”, with more than 300 businesses in the tourism industry and Governments committing to cut emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2050 at the latest. The Glasgow Declaration recognizes the urgent need for a globally consistent plan for climate action in tourism. Signatories commit to measure, decarbonize, regenerate and unlock finance. Additionally, each signatory commits to deliver a concrete climate action plan, or updated plan, within 12 months of signing. You can find the full list of those who signed the declaration online.
Also, at COP26, the UN’s highest‑level humanitarian coordination forum, which is called the Inter‑Agency Standing Committee, issued a statement yesterday urging world leaders gathered at the climate summit in Glasgow to prioritize the most vulnerable and at‑risk countries and communities in their decision‑making. The 21 signatories ‑ including the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Principals of 11 UN organizations ‑ say that the climate crisis disproportionately affects communities that also face conflict, violence, poverty and COVID‑19, and in particular women and girls. These vulnerable populations have limited capacity to cope with shocks and adapt to climate change, and risk being left further behind. The full statement is available on the Committee’s website.
And I have a readout of the Secretary‑General’s phone call with Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al‑Burhan, Commander of the Armed Forces of the Republic of the Sudan. The Secretary‑General encouraged the developments of all efforts toward resolving the political crisis in Sudan and urgently restoring the constitutional order and Sudan’s transitional process. The Secretary‑General reiterated his call for the release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other civilians arbitrarily detained in Sudan. The Secretary‑General reaffirmed that 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.
On Ethiopia, you will have seen that, yesterday, the Secretary‑General tweeted that he is very concerned about the evolution of the situation there. He spoke with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to offer his good offices to create the conditions for a dialogue so the fighting stops. The Secretary‑General said that they also discussed the forthcoming visit to Ethiopia by the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, to ensure humanitarian assistance for those who desperately need life‑saving aid. Mr. Griffiths is expected to be on mission to Ethiopia from tomorrow. He will engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure that aid reaches those who need it.
Moving to Afghanistan, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino, concluded a visit to the country. In a statement, he warned that as the bitter winter approaches, there is a real risk that the deteriorating humanitarian situation will result in increased displacement, vulnerability and suffering, and that the modest social and development gains of the past two decades will be lost. Mr. Vitorino noted that five and a half million people are internally displaced in Afghanistan, which is roughly the population of Finland. He stressed that we are indeed in a race against time to help these people prepare for winter and that IOM is committed to staying and delivering in full solidarity with the Afghan people. On the humanitarian front, our colleagues tell us that between 1 September and 15 October, we, along with our partners, have provided 4.1 million people with food assistance and we have reached more than 580,000 people with primary health‑care services. We have also provided treatment for acute malnutrition to more than 85,000 children, assisted nearly 200,000 drought‑affected people with water trucking and reached more than 48,000 children with community‑based education activities.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that dialogue is ongoing at every level to ensure the full and meaningful participation of women in humanitarian action. Between 2 September and 28 October, the number of provinces in which full agreement has been secured regarding the participation of women has increased from three to 14. The number of provinces in which partial agreement has been secured has increased from 16 to 19. Also today, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that nine members of one family, including four girls and two boys, were reportedly killed yesterday morning when an explosive remnant of war detonated inside a home in Kunduz. Three other children were injured. UNICEF said that this incident underlines the urgent imperative to clear explosive ordnance and remnants of war and to sensitize communities to the risks.
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, concluded a visit to Iran yesterday. He met with senior Iranian officials and representatives of the international community in Tehran. During his meetings, Mr. Grundberg emphasized the need for support of UN efforts to reach a negotiated settlement to the conflict. Mr. Grundberg expressed his serious concern over the escalating military activities in Yemen, which are causing significant civilian casualties, including children, and are undermining peace efforts. He underscored the urgent need for de‑escalation in all of Yemen, including Ma’rib. He further discussed the need to address the deteriorating humanitarian and economic situation in Yemen, and the importance of ensuring freedom of movement of people and goods into and throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the UN and partners have continued to provide life‑saving assistance to civilians affected by conflict in Ma’rib, Al Bayda and Shabwah since the escalation of fighting in these governorates in September this year. In October, aid agencies provided assistance on both sides of the front lines, including food aid to 2,100 families in Al Abdiyah District, 12,400 families in the Alwadi area of Ma’rib, and 40,000 families in Ma’rib City. Additionally, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has delivered emergency relief to newly displaced persons affected by the fighting in Ma’rib and surrounding governorates. In October, nearly 100,000 displaced people received assistance that included hygiene items, ready‑to‑eat food rations, and female dignity kits. The UN continues to call for an end to military escalations and has been engaging with the parties to the conflict to ensure that aid partners have the necessary access to civilians stranded between rapidly shifting front lines.
Today, the United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, visited the areas of Zahle and the West Bekaa in eastern Lebanon. She met with local authorities and toured a development project, an educational institution and an informal tented site for Syrian refugees. “The impact of the crisis on the people of the Bekaa, just like in other Lebanese areas, is very serious and requires immediate solutions,” the Special Coordinator said after meeting separately with local authorities in Zahle and in West Bekaa. She welcomed steps taken at the local level to address urgent needs.
We have an update from our team in Cuba, which has been supporting authorities and the population to address the health and socioeconomic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The months of July and August marked a pandemic peak in the country, placing extreme pressure on the health system. The UN team boosted its support to health services, with diagnostic and protection measures, importing oxygen concentrators, oximeters and installing oxygen plants. During July, August and September the UN team delivered over 1.4 million items including gloves, surgical masks and syringes, as well as 100,000 COVID‑19 tests and nearly 100 World Health Organization (WHO)‑certified refrigerators to safely store vaccines. Our socioeconomic response with authorities focused on increasing food production capacity. More than 65,000 people received food items. The UN also boosted efforts to increase vaccination and to continue preventing the spread of the disease through a communication campaign that involved several UN agencies.
**Food Price Index
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today said that the world food price barometer surged to a new peak, reaching its highest level since July 2011. In October, the FAO Food Price Index went up 3 per cent from September, rising for a third consecutive month. FAO also notes that, despite an expected record world cereal production in 2021, global cereal stocks are set to decline in 2021/2022.
Lastly, tomorrow, we will be joined by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar. He will update you on the current situation in Myanmar. And that’s it from me. Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Eri. A couple of follow-ups. First, on Sudan, we know that the US Special Envoy has arrived. Can you tell us what Mr. [Volker] Perthes is doing? Is he in meetings shuttling back and forth?
Associate Spokesperson: Mr. Perthes continues his dialogue with all stakeholders, not just the military and the Government but also with other members… with other groups in Sudan. We believe that he is in contact with the Americans, but as we've said, we welcome all efforts, not just by us, of course, but by other parties to ensure a return to the transitional government.
Question: And on Ethiopia, the Secretary‑General offered his good offices. What was the reaction of President Abiy to his offer? Was there any sign that he might take up the UN's offer?
Associate Spokesperson: Sure. This was a preliminary offer, and we, obviously, don't want to speak on behalf of the Ethiopians, but we will continue to pursue this and see where it can take us. Hopefully, it will lead to some good results. Thank you. Anybody else in the room have questions? Nabil?
Question: Sudan again, can you describe more how was… how was the conversation with Mr. [al‑]Burhan? What was the SG's impression about his, maybe, plans or willingness to engage on the releasing of Mr. Hamdok and the other civilians?
Associate Spokesperson: The phone call just happened a short while ago. I wasn't there, but we can only tell you what the Secretary‑General said from his side. We hope that the Secretary-General's calls will be taken to heart and will be acted upon, but it's not just the Secretary‑General; we have our Special Representative on the ground, Mr. Perthes, and contacts at all levels to ensure that we get our message across and that we hope that our pleas are acted upon.
Question: And also, on a different matter, the tension is rising between Morocco and Algeria, and now Algeria accuses Morocco of targeting a convoy of citizens in the Sahara. Is the SG planning to take any action to avoid further escalation, to prevent the situation from getting more tense?
Associate Spokesperson: I mean, the Secretary‑General is obviously aware of the situation that you just mentioned. As you know, he would urge and does urge dialogue to ensure that these tensions are lessened, and we look forward to the start of the work of our new Special Envoy to take the temperature on the ground and see how he can help to improve the situation.
Question: Last follow‑up, did he deliver this message directly to any of the two parties?
Associate Spokesperson: I'm not aware that he's delivered the message directly, but the message, I'm sure, is being delivered through our various mechanisms at different levels. Thanks. And do we have anybody in the room? Okay. From the screen, James. Are you there?
Question: Hi, Eri. Can you hear me?
Associate Spokesperson: Hi. Yes. How are you?
Question: Hi there. Great. Thank you so much. I've got a COP26 question. A report just came out from the International Energy Agency, and this says that if all the… if you tuck together all the methane production pledges and the net‑zero pledges and if all the countries stick to their promises, we're now looking at only 1.8°C temperature rise. Given that you guys were, a week ago, talking about 2.7°C this century, this number kind of makes a milestone, like a big win. My question is, do you guys make the same calculation? Are we now looking at 1.8°C?
Associate Spokesperson: We've seen these reports. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) analyses our data and based on the impact of the National Determined Contributions that are submitted, and the UNFCCC's most recent analysis shows that we are still on the calamitous pathway for 2.7°C. As you know, the Secretary‑General has said, every country must increase its ambition, not every five years, but every year until we are on track for 1.5°C. Iftikhar, do you have a question?
Correspondent: Thanks, Eri. I was going to ask you about the Secretary‑General's good offices office… offers to talk to the Prime Minister, but Edie has already asked the question. Thank you very much.
Associate Spokesperson: Thank you so much. Okay. Do we have any other questions? Okay. I pass the floor to Monica. Thank you for your patience.