The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
This morning, the Secretary-General met virtually with his Resident Coordinators, who, as you know, head the UN systems in country offices throughout the world. He thanked them for their efforts supporting countries to respond to the pandemic and recovery plans. He also highlighted four key areas in which Resident Coordinators can make a different. First, by championing the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) across national plans and voluntary review processes; second, by continuing to make the humanitarian-development “nexus” a reality on the ground; third, by taking the lead in ensuring that UN Country Teams unite behind Cooperation Frameworks; and fourth and last, by working not just with government but also with businesses, civil society and academia.
This week, the Secretary-General has convened a global meeting to meet with 130 Resident Coordinators, who lead the UN teams.
Yesterday, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and Resident Coordinators exchanged ideas and solutions on how Resident Coordinators can summon the full force of UN assets to increase ambition, scale and pace of support to sustainable development. Over 90 per cent of host governments in countries we serve found that the UN Resident Coordinators ensured a coherent UN response, with the UN being more relevant to their development needs, and 77 per cent of governments also perceiving that the UN works better together now than it did before the 2018 reforms. Over the course of this week, Resident Coordinators will continue to engage with a range of UN leaders to tackle the challenges of the pandemic, including around labour markets, the impact and role of women, while boosting climate change adaptation, mitigation and financing for the SDGs.
Of course, the meeting is being held virtually.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
I have a senior personnel announcement for you. The Secretary-General is appointing Joyce Msuya of the United Republic of Tanzania as Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
She succeeds Ursula Mueller of Germany, to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for her leadership and dedicated service during her tenure. The Secretary-General also wishes to extend his deep appreciation to Ramesh Rajasingham, who has been serving as Acting Assistant-Secretary General in that role since March 2020.
Since 2018, Ms. Msuya has served as Deputy Executive Director at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi. At lot more in her bio which has been posted.
Turning to Haiti, I can tell you that we join our colleagues there to express our deepest condolences and solidarity with the Haitian people, following the gas tanker explosion overnight in the northern city of Cap-Haitien.
The UN on the ground has already mobilized to support national authorities in response to this tragic accident.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports to us that a peacekeeping patrol today hit an improvised explosive device (IED) near a camp in the Kidal Region. Preliminary reports indicate that two peacekeepers were injured and then transferred to a hospital for treatment.
Today’s attack is the latest perpetrated against MINUSMA. Yesterday, another logistics convoy hit an IED near Douentza, with no casualties. Armed men also attacked three vehicles of a peacekeeping contractor along the Goundam-Timbuktu road, injuring one driver.
The past weeks have been marred by a series of attacks against civilians, peacekeepers and the Malian armed forces by extremist groups in northern and central Mali.
The head of MINUSMA, El-Ghassim Wane, condemned the attacks and expressed his solidarity with the civilian population as well as peacekeepers, who continue to implement the Mission’s mandate in an extremely challenging environment and at great personal cost. He is currently visiting field offices in the Mopti, Dountza and Gao regions to assess the mitigating measures that the Mission has put in place.
Turning to Ethiopia, I have a bit of a long humanitarian update for you, and I can tell you that the situation in the north of the country remains highly unpredictable and volatile, with continued fighting in several areas significantly affecting humanitarian access and response.
Humanitarian needs have increased primarily due to large-scale displacements.
More than 2.1 million people were displaced in northern Ethiopia at the end of September, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This includes more than 1.8 million people in Tigray, over 542,000 in Amhara, and more than 255,000 men, women and children in Afar.
Since September, the number of internally displaced people in Afar and Amhara has risen due to stepped up fighting, but we can’t verify the exact numbers due to access constraints and other challenges.
Some 20 trucks carrying food supplies arrived yesterday in Mekelle in Tigray, and they traveled via the Afar-Abala-Mekelle corridor. Another 40 trucks are expected today and tomorrow.
In the last few [days], the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has shipped measles vaccines and other supplies to Tigray, where some 790,000 children need to be immunized. However, the fuel required to launch the vaccine campaign has yet to be secured.
Meanwhile, below-average rains have led to drought conditions in the Somali and Oromia regions of Ethiopia, and that’s impacting 5.8 million men, women and children.
With the humanitarian situation in Tigray continuing to deteriorate, it is critical to have a regular flow of aid — including fuel and medical supplies — into the region. As we have told you many times, we are not getting aid in at the level that we need.
Humanitarian partners are continuing to respond to urgent and growing needs across Ethiopia, despite the extremely challenging operating environment. There is currently a funding gap of more than $1.2 billion.
Moving onto Afghanistan: This morning, in an oral update on the situation of human rights in the country, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, warned that the people of Afghanistan today face a profound humanitarian crisis that threatens the most basic of human rights.
Ms. Al-Nashif noted that as more Afghans struggle to meet their basic needs, people in vulnerable situations are being pushed to take desperate measures, including child labour, the marriage of children to ensure their survival, and — according to some reports — even the sale of children.
The UN Deputy High Commissioner added that she is also alarmed by continuing reports of extra-judicial killings across the country and is also deeply concerned about the continued risk of recruitment of children by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-KP) organization, as well as by the de facto authorities.
She noted that women and girls in particular face great uncertainty with respect to the rights to education, to livelihoods and to participation.
Her full statement is online.
Also, on the humanitarian end on Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) today said that, so far in 2021, it has assisted 15 million people, with seven million people assisted in November alone — that’s up from four million in September. WFP has also been able to preposition food in strategic locations across the northeast and central highlands of Afghanistan, where heavy winter snows can cut off communities from assistance.
According to the latest WFP phone surveys, an estimated 98 per cent of Afghans are not consuming enough food — that’s only 2 per cent of the Afghan populations that feels it is consuming enough food. This is a 17 per cent rise since August. WFP warns that the spiralling economic crisis, conflict and drought has meant that the average family can now barely cope. According to WFP, families are resorting to desperate measures as the bitter winter sets in. Nine in every ten households in Afghanistan are now buying less expensive food, eight in ten are eating less, and seven in ten are borrowing food just to get by every day.
Back here, Hans Grundberg, the Special Envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council this morning that he is deeply alarmed by the ongoing military escalation and continued violence in Yemen.
Speaking by videoconference, he said that even as the conflict parties all profess their desire for peace, their focus remains on military options. He stressed that military options will not result in sustainable solutions. Restraint, de-escalation and dialogue are urgently needed now.
The Special Envoy said that he remains concerned about the possibility of urban warfare in the city of Marib, which would have terrible consequences for civilians. The intensification of the fighting and shifting frontlines is endangering civilians and in many cases forcing them to flee for a second or even third time.
He told the Council that piecemeal solutions can, at best, only provide temporary relief. They will not produce sustainable peace. Immediate needs and priorities must be addressed within the context of a process that gears toward a comprehensive political settlement.
The Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ramesh Rajasingham, briefed Council members on the humanitarian situation resulting from the intensified fighting, including in Marib, Hudaydah and Taiz. Hostilities have occurred at nearly 50 front lines just this week.
Humanitarian aid operations are helping nearly 11 million people each month, he said, but he pointed to funding gaps that may force us to cut back on our aid efforts.
Mr. Rajasingham expressed disappointment that Ansar Allah continues to hold two UN staff members in detention in Sana’a, despite statements that they would be released, as well as another staff member held in Marib.
And, just to give you a heads up, Rosemary DiCarlo, the head of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, will brief the Security Council at 3 pm in an open meeting concerning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which, as you know, deals with Iran and nuclear non-proliferation.
I just want to mention that as the twentieth replenishment process of the International Development Association — IDA20 — gets underway today, the Secretary-General said its success is needed to avoid economic collapse in vulnerable middle- and low-income countries struggling to overcome a protracted pandemic and recover their economies.
For her part, the Deputy Secretary-General said the IDA20 replenishment is critical to retain hope of delivering on the commitments of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in developing and low-income countries.
**Questions and Answers
Spokesman: This is where you speak. Yes, Yassein?
Question: Hi, Stéphane. Libya scheduled this… this month, 24 election and Saif al-Gaddafi, he trying to run for president. What do you think, you know… the UN think about that?
Spokesman: Look, we continue to support the Libyan authorities in their preparation for the parliamentary and presidential elections. We’re closely engaging through Stephanie Williams, who’s back on the ground, with all Libyan stakeholders, to facilitate consensus on the organisation of timely, credible and inclusive elections in line with the Libyan political road map that Libyan leaders agreed to, as well as relevant Security Council resolutions. Okay. I think I have a question in the chat.
Mushfiqul Fazal, please.
Question: Can you hear me?
Spokesman: Yes, I can.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Stéphane. I want to ask about the Bangladesh. I hope… I think you know… a widespread allegation of series of human rights abuses in Bangladesh by the Rapid Action Battalion. United States announced its sanction on Rapid Action Battalion, and restricted visa… imposed visa restrictions on top officials, including the chief of the police and former chief of the RAB, and a few officials and based the restriction on the former army chief, a few days ago, who visited the UN.
So what is your comment on that restriction or sanction as… Rapid Action Battalion involved in the extrajudicial killing and ruling regime using them to rescue them power, or keeping the power by any means, and they are contributing…
Spokesman: I’m sorry… I didn’t hear the first part of your question. Who imposed the sanctions?
Correspondent: United States imposed the sanctions, announced its sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion, RAB.
Spokesman: Thank you, thank you. We do not have any comment on bilateral sanctions that are imposed. As a matter of course, we have spoken throughout the world against any extrajudicial killing.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. The Israeli occupation forces are not only confiscating Palestinian land, bulldozing their homes, expanding settlement activities, but also, they’re stealing their culture. [Holds up photo] In this picture, I want you to look at it, the contenders for Miss Universe stole the Palestinian embroidered dresses and appeared as they are Israelis. I want an answer from the UN, and especially from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): How could this attack on Palestinian culture can be tolerated?
Spokesman: I have no comment on that. If you want to speak to UNESCO, I can give you their contacts.
Okay. Enjoy the rest of the day, because there is a rest of the day. So see you tomorrow. Sorry, just to let you know that the Secretary-General will have a stakeout on Thursday at 1:00 p.m., in front of Security Council. Just kind of an end of the year stakeout where he will pronounce some words and he will answer some questions.