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30 November 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.  Good afternoon.

**African Union — UN Conference

Tomorrow we will have here the fifth United Nations-African Union Annual Conference.  It will take place in person here in this building.

This is an annual meeting during which we discuss several areas of our cooperation with the African Union, and you know, there are quite a bit of those areas of cooperation.

There will be discussions on the pandemic’s impact on the African continent, climate, as well as the situation in the Horn of Africa, Libya, the Sahel and other areas of concern, including of course, the COVID pandemic and the issues of vaccines.

We will be at 1:00 p.m., with the Secretary‑General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat.  And we will have a short press stakeout, but we will do it in this room, because we will have interpretation.  For those who are following online, we sent a different link, a Zoom link, which will allow you to follow both in French and English.

**Secretary‑General — G77

This morning, the Secretary‑General spoke at a meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77 and China, which he called a steadfast supporter of multilateralism and the United Nations.

He said their founding principles of unity, complementarity, cooperation and solidarity are especially relevant in these times of crisis.

The Secretary‑General said that vaccine inequality and lack of solidarity is entrenching many other inequalities and injustices between countries and regions, between rich and poor, and between the global North and the global South.

He pointed to the extremely uneven pace of recovery, which can have terrible consequences.

Beyond universal access to COVID‑19 vaccines, the Secretary‑General said that we must provide developing countries with the liquidity they need so that they can invest in a sustainable recovery, restart their economies and restore their vibrant societies.

He also said that, even before the pandemic, our world was far off track to meet the commitments of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement, calling for intensified efforts to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Those remarks and that video were shared with you.

**Budapest Sustainability Expo

Also today, the Secretary‑General spoke in a video message to the Planet Budapest Sustainability Expo and Summit.

He said that as we’re reeling from COVID-19 and careening towards climate catastrophe, we must all act with greater ambition and urgency.  The pandemic must be the wake-up call to jolt us into bold action — not simply to reset, but to transform, he said.

Investment in recovery is a generational opportunity to put climate action, sustainable development, human rights, gender equality and a new social contract at the heart of our strategies and policies.

He underscores that we need a recovery that is transformative, inclusive, and sustainable.

Governments are in the driving seat, but all of us — the private sector, civil society, cities and academia — must step up.

**Deputy Secretary‑General’s Travels

This evening, our Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will depart to Nigeria, where she will have meetings with senior Government officials, the UN Global Compact private sector network, as well as the UN team on the ground.  She will discuss a number of development issues, including acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change.

We will share her activities as they go along.

**Middle East

You just heard from [UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] Tor Wennesland, so I don’t need to repeat what he told the Security Council and in front of the press.

**Afghanistan

Moving to Afghanistan, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that temperatures have already dipped below zero in the country and people are in need of winter clothing, emergency shelter, heating and fuel, as well as rental support.

Our colleagues warn that previous‑year trends indicate that by November, cases of hypothermia, acute respiratory infections and deaths directly and indirectly associated with cold are likely to increase.  Recently, we distributed winterization assistance to 32,200 people in Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan provinces, and partners are also responding.

Yesterday, we launched a distribution of cash assistance in Jawzjan Province.  The distribution covers 1,750 people, with a focus on internally displaced and drought‑affected people, returnees, vulnerable communities, and women‑headed households, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The 2021 Afghanistan Flash Appeal, seeking $606 million, is 112 per cent funded.  We don’t get to say that very often, unfortunately.  While the Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, the broader plan, seeking $869 million, is 84 per cent funded.

Our humanitarian colleagues are grateful for the generous contributions by the donor community.  However, all financial commitments have not been translated into actions on the ground due to financial system challenges amid the cash and liquidity crisis.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, our colleagues at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) tell us that they are responding to the worst floods in the last six decades in Unity State, in South Sudan.  This flooding has led to many people being displaced.

Heavy rains this weekend have made the main road linking the city of Bentiu to the airport and the UN Mission’s base impassable.  The Mission’s engineering contingent, with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), immediately deployed heavy equipment and water pumps.

In Bentiu, the Mission also organized a forum to promote the global 16 Days of Activism campaign against gender‑based violence.  More than 100 women leaders, community and traditional leaders, as well as youth representatives took part in the event designed to encourage people to speak up and take action against gender‑based violence.

**Ethiopia

A quick update from Ethiopia: The World Food Programme (WFP) tells us that four convoys carrying humanitarian aid have arrived in Mekelle, in Tigray.  Those arrivals have taken place since 25 November.

More than 150 trucks have arrived so far, with WFP sending in more daily to meet the overwhelming needs of the 5.2 million people in Tigray.

As you’ll recall, all roads into Tigray had been closed for nearly a month due to clashes and lack of the appropriate clearances.

In Amhara, WFP has delivered food to 100,000 people in the towns of Dessie and Kombolcha in the past week.  These are the first distributions in these towns in nearly one month.  WFP and its partners will deliver aid food to more than 450,000 people there in the next two weeks.

WFP stresses that the humanitarian response in Ethiopia continues to be threatened by insecurity, impeded road and air access, and a lack of fuel and cash.  It calls on authorities to facilitate even more the movement of supplies across battle lines and to allow access to those in need wherever and whenever needed.

WFP has more than 67,000 metric tonnes — that is about 1,700 truckloads of supplies — stored in northern Ethiopia.

This is more than enough food to meet the needs of 3.7 million people for two months, but they are hampered by the lack of fuel and access to people in need.

**Ukraine

Our colleague, Osnat Lubrani, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, today launched the 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan in a call to alleviate the suffering of 2.9 million conflict‑weary people in eastern part of Ukraine.  The Plan seeks $190 million to provide humanitarian aid and protection to 1.8 million of the most vulnerable in 2022.

The Plan encompasses different sectors, including education, food, health, protection, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene.

Since 2014 we, along with our partners, have been working in eastern Ukraine to provide relief and protection assistance worth more than $1.3 billion and reaching more than one million people on both sides of the “contact line” annually.  The number of people who received assistance and protection services during the first nine months of 2021 is already more than 1.5 million.  This is the highest level since 2017.

**Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare

Today is also the Day of Remembrance for all Victims of Chemical Warfare.  In his message, the Secretary‑General says that this is an occasion to pay tribute to those who lost their lives or suffered from these heinous weapons; to assess our progress in preventing their use; and to renew our commitment to achieving a world free of chemical weapons.

Any use of chemical weapons is unacceptable and a clear violation of international law.

The only appropriate tribute to the victims of chemical warfare is to rid the world of chemical weapons once and for all.

**Hybrid Briefing Tomorrow

Tomorrow, just a reminder, there will not be a noon briefing, because I will not speak since my boss will be speaking.  So he will speak at 1:00 p.m.  And after that, at 2:00 p.m., Ambassador Abdou Abarry, the Permanent Representative of Niger, who will preside over the Security Council of the United Nations for the month of December, will brief you on the Council’s programme for December.  And we will also have interpretation from French into English for Célhia.  [Laughter]

**Questions and Answers

Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  A bunch of follow‑ups on Ethiopia.  First, how did the trucks get in?  Was the blockade that was barring them from getting through to Mekelle lifted?  And are fuel trucks still being barred?

And do you have any update on the situation on the ground in terms of where troops are, where fighting is?  Has anybody in the UN had any sighting of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed?

And is there any update on the detainees?

Spokesman:  Okay.  I’m not aware that anyone in the leadership at the UN has met with Prime Minister Ahmed… Abiy Ahmed in the last 48 hours, but we can check.

They were able to get through because the roads were opened and were made open to them by all the relevant people who had been blocking them.  There are still a lot more trucks that need to get in.  Whether or not in that convoy of trucks there were fuel trucks is a very good question, and I have to get back to you on that.

I do not have a battlefield update for you.

James and then…

Question:  [Off mic] On the detainees?

Spokesman:  Oh, detainees.  Sadly, no change since the last… since yesterday.

James and then Célhia.

Question:  Democratic Republic of Congo, Eastern DRC, Uganda has been involved in military operations, air and artillery attacks, we’re told, following those… the suicide bombings in Kampala.  What is the Secretary‑General’s response?

Spokesman:  Well, the decision, that is a bilateral issue between the DRC and Uganda.  If they have taken place and they do take place, it needs to be done in close… I would say, close coordination between all actors involved to avoid any civilian casualties.

Question:  Has the UN been given advance notice in coordination of this operation?  [Cross talk]

Spokesman:  I have no further information than that.

Question:  Okay.  One more on a different subject.  Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch has put out a report on Afghanistan.  The Taliban had said there’d be no retribution.  There would be an amnesty for security officials, security personnel from the old Government.  Human Rights Watch is saying that 100 military, police officers and intelligence officers have been killed in just four provinces of Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.  What is the reaction of the UN?

Spokesman:  The report, I think, is very concerning.  We would expect the authorities to uphold everyone’s human rights, including due process.  Our Mission is mandated to report on human rights violations, and they will continue to do so on their own, as well.

Madame?

Question:  In Central African Republic, it is said that one Central African Republic battalion came under Wagner’s direct control.  They have been trained by the Europeans before.  Is the MINUSCA (United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic) worried about it?

Spokesman:  Well, I would refer you back to what the Secretary‑General has expressed in his reports at the Security Council, his… the concern about issues relating to bilateral forces, and I’m sure it’s something that MINUSCA is, if not aware, following.

Monsieur?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Looks like last Saturday, two protesters in Niger were killed and 17 injured in clash with French military convoy.  Have you ever gotten report from the ground about this incident?

Spokesman:  No, but I will check with our colleagues on the ground.

All right.  Let me see.  I don’t think there are any questions online.  If you have a question, open up your mic.

Excellent.  Paulina… go ahead.  I know.  It’s… I keep thinking it’s Friday.  I just saw Paulina [Kubiak] escape from the room, but I think she will be back.

Correspondent:  [Off mic, inaudible]

Spokesman:  What?  I know.  What day is today?  Tuesday, Tuesday.

Paulina, you’re up.

For information media. Not an official record.