The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Universal Children’s Day
Good afternoon, we welcome the Emmy-nominated actress and star of the show Stranger Things, Millie Bobby Brown, as well as the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Director of Communication, Paloma Escudero. They are here to briefly talk to you about the importance of empowering children, as part of UNICEF’s commemoration of International Children's Day. A couple of things…
**United Nations Environment Programme
I wanted to announce that the Secretary-General has accepted the resignation of Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). Mr. Solheim’s resignation is effective Thursday, 22 November. The Secretary‑General is grateful for Mr. Solheim’s service and recognizes that he has been a leading voice in drawing the world’s attention to critical environmental challenges, including plastics pollution and circularity, climate action, the right of environment defenders, biodiversity, and environmental security. He has led advocacy at the highest levels of government, business and civil society to drive the transformational change needed to make a real difference in the lives of people and promote the cause of environment. The Deputy Executive Director of UNEP, Ms. Joyce Msuya of the United Republic of Tanzania, will be appointed as Acting Executive Director while the Secretary-General launches a recruitment process, in consultation with Member States, to find a successor to Mr. Solheim. Ms. Msuya will be granted all the necessary support to ensure a smooth transition.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General appointed Miguel Ángel Moratinos Cuyaubé of Spain as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. Mr. Moratinos succeeds Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser of Qatar, to whom the Secretary‑General expressed his deep gratitude for his vision and leadership. Mr. Moratinos has a long and distinguished career, committing himself to international relations and development cooperation, including as Spain’s Foreign Minister. More information on Mr. Moratinos can be found in his bio.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) tweeted this morning that it is outraged by today’s deadly bombing in Kabul, which occurred as communities across the country are marking a day of special religious significance. The Mission said there are credible reports of heavy civilian casualties and that human rights teams are establishing facts. The UN family extends its deepest condolences to the many families affected.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
And on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Humanitarian Coordinator there, Kim Bolduc, strongly condemned the killings of two aid workers with the international NGO, Food for the Hungry [International]. The two humanitarian workers were likely killed by unidentified armed men last Thursday in Moba territory in Tanganyika Province. Ms. Bolduc said that targeting of humanitarians while they are doing their work is a grave violation of international humanitarian law.
The Commissioner-General for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Pierre Krähenbühl, praised the Agency’s donors in Amman today for collectively helping to reduce the $446 million shortfall in its budget this year. He said that, since January, donors contributed or pledged an additional $425 million, bringing UNRWA’s shortfall down to $21 million. Thanks to additional contributions, the Agency was able to open the 711 schools on time, preserving the right to education for 530,000 girls and boys. Mr. Krähenbühl also asked donors who had pledged but not yet disbursed additional funding to do so urgently.
Today, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, released two publications that state that success in tackling the global climate crisis can be achieved, but only if public and private sector actions are urgently stepped up. The Talanoa Dialogue Synthesis Report draws from experiences put forward this year by government and non-government representatives on how they are experiencing and tackling climate change, while the Yearbook of Global Climate Action takes account of some 9,000 commitments from 128 countries and more than 6,000 businesses, representing $36 trillion in economic activity.
As you heard from our special guest today, Millie Bobby Brown, it is International Children’s Day. I just want to add that a group of UN child rights experts — Marta Santos Pais, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children; Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Renate Winter, Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child; and Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, urged Governments around the world to ensure priority attention to the realization of the rights of the child [and] to accelerate efforts for implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history.
**Africa Industrialization Day
And today is also Africa Industrialization Day. This year, the Day focuses on promoting regional value chains and underscores how industrial development in local pharmaceutical production contributes to healthy lives and well-being. In his message, the Secretary-General said that inclusive and sustainable industrial development is critical for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Africa. He added that the development of a competitive pharmaceutical manufacturing sector in the continent can help promote better health and well‑being and sustainable economic growth. The Secretary-General also reaffirmed the UN’s strong commitment to promote Africa’s industrial development as a key driver for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
And I was asked by one of your colleagues who couldn’t make it to the briefing on issues regarding migrants in Mexico, and I can say that the Secretary-General is following the evolving humanitarian situation in Tijuana and Mexicali in northern Mexico with concern. He recognizes the efforts of the Government of Mexico to provide access to the asylum system for persons in need of international protection, but also acknowledges the efforts of local authorities and civil society to provide shelter and essential humanitarian assistance. People travelling with the caravans need to cooperate and to listen carefully to available information on the legal pathways available to them. The UN agencies already on the ground can provide technical advice.
And after you are done with me, we will be joined by Dean Brooks, Director of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies; Rajika Bhandari, the Director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact at the Institute of International Education; and Ninette Kelly, the Director of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office here in New York. They will brief you on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) flagship annual education report, the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report. And then Monica [Grayley] will brief you on behalf of the President of the General Assembly. And at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a briefing by the President of the General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. Mr. Bays?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You said that the Secretary‑General had accepted Mr. Solheim's resignation, and he said some kind words about his service. What is the Secretary‑General's comment, though, on the scandal that he's had to resign over? His travel expenses, does he believe those were justified, and should there be any further action against Mr. Solheim?
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General, I think, is pleased to see that UNEP is committed to implementing the recommendations that are found in the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report on the travel office. Masood?
Question: Thank you, sir. On this… maybe you have answered this question earlier, Stéphane. It's about the human rights activists and the… being arrested and lawyers being arrested in Egypt, and they say at least 40 of them have been arrested in Egypt. Do you have any reaction to that?
Spokesman: I think we've expressed our concern in the past on the issue of the shrinking space for civil society.
Question: And what happened… what happened… this time, the Human Rights Watch is saying at least 40 have been arrested, maybe more.
Spokesman: You should check with our colleagues in the Human Rights Office if they have more details. Great. We… Mr. Bays or Edie. Don't fight over the…
Question: So, Yemen… Fresh fighting in Hodeidah. As you know, the Security Council has before it a draft resolution which, I think, enshrines the five requests from Mr. [Mark] Lowcock. What is the Secretary‑General's view on that resolution and the urgency of the situation right now, given fighting has broken out again?
Spokesman: It is… you know, first of all, the Council will obviously determine the fate of that resolution, and it's their sovereign right to do so, if I may use that expression. For us, it is very important that the Security Council speak with one voice on helping and supporting the efforts of Mr. [Martin] Griffiths and helping and supporting our humanitarian colleagues, who are desperately trying to deliver aid in war‑like conditions. I think Mr. [David] Beasley gave you as vivid of an account as possible as to the situation on the ground in Hodeidah, the lack of humanitarian access, the suffering of the civilian population, which is trapped by the fighting. I think Mr. Griffiths said that he would be in Yemen, I think, tomorrow in Hodeidah to see it for himself, along with Lise Grande. We're trying to see if we can create some kind of phone hook up for him and Ms. Grande from there. Edie?
Question: Also on Yemen, there was a major announcement today of aid to try and stave off famine and starvation in Yemen by the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates. Does the Secretary‑General have any reaction to this?
Spokesman: We're trying… I saw the press reports. I'm trying to get some details as to where this money is going. Already Saudi… the King of Saudi Arabia and UAE are major contributors to the humanitarian appeal in Yemen. Great. Thank you, and I will get our guests.