The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I have a couple of Africa-related announcements. One is that the Secretary-General will travel to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, tomorrow, where he will participate in the thirty-second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, being held under the theme “Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement in Africa”. On Saturday, the Secretary-General will meet with Moussa Faki Mahamat, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and participate in a joint meeting between the African Union commissioners and senior UN Secretariat officials. The Secretary-General will underscore the deep partnership and shared goals between the United Nations and the African Union. The Secretary-General will also hold a number of bilateral meetings with Heads of State and Government attending the summit. At the African Union summit, will also attend an Africa Leadership Meeting on Investing in Health, hosted by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda and the outgoing Chairperson of the African Union. He will also participate in an education event focused on girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
On Sunday, he will hold more bilateral meetings before attending the opening ceremonies of the official session of the Assembly. During his remarks there, he will salute Africa’s deep generosity and commitment to keep its borders and hearts open to people in need. “Africa has set the gold standard for solidarity,” the Secretary-General will say. He is also scheduled to hold a press conference at the African Union Headquarters on Sunday afternoon before making his way back to New York. And we all expect to be back at work and in the office on 12 February.
**Central African Republic
I also have a statement on the signing of the Central African Republic peace agreement. On the occasion of the signing of the Global Peace Agreement between the Government of the Central African Republic and armed groups, on 6 February in Bangui, the Secretary-General congratulates all stakeholders for the successful conclusion of the talks that took place in Khartoum, in Sudan. The Secretary‑General commends the leadership role of the African Union in the talks, which were carried out with the support of the United Nations in the framework of the African Initiative for Peace and Reconciliation in the Central African Republic. The Secretary-General encourages all stakeholders to live up to their commitments in the implementation period. The Secretary-General reiterates the United Nations’ commitment to assist the Central African Republic at this critical stage, and calls on all neighbouring countries, regional organizations and all international partners to support the courageous steps that the Central Africans have made to bring lasting peace and stability to their country.
**Senior Personnel Appointment
And I have a personnel appointment also related to the Central African Republic. Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Mankeur Ndiaye of Senegal as his new Special Representative for the Central African Republic and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Mr. Ndiaye succeeds Parfait Onanga-Anyanga of Gabon, who has been leading the Mission since August 2015. The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Onanga-Anyanga’s unwavering commitment to supporting the Central African Republic, in particular during the 2014-2016 transition period, culminating in the Bangui Forum and the 2016 elections. Mr. Onanga-Anyanga’s leadership, integrity and personal commitment and tireless efforts have been crucial, including in support of the ongoing peace process as part of the Panel of Facilitators of the African Initiative. Mr. Ndiaye is a seasoned diplomat and brings over 27 years of experience in diplomacy and international affairs, including as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Senegal from 2012 to 2017. We have a fuller biography in [our] office.
**World Meteorological Organization
And I have a statement from us on the report that was released today by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The Secretary-General notes with concern the data released by the World Meteorological Organization that have confirmed 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 as the four warmest years on record. According to the analysis, the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline of 1850-1900. The data released by the WMO confirms the urgency of addressing climate action – as emphasized by the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The report [that] found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” and that global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching “net zero” around 2050.
The Secretary-General notes that, to make these transformations, we need to significantly increase the global level of climate action and ambition. The Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September this year aims to mobilize political will to raise ambition for the achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement and also demonstrate transformative action in all the areas where it is needed. The Summit will focus on nine key areas: mitigation ambition; energy transition; industry transition; nature-based solutions; infrastructure, cities and local action; climate finance and carbon pricing; resilience and adaptation; social and political drivers; and mobilization. The Secretary-General is working closely with Member States and non-party stakeholders to bring outcomes to these areas to the Summit that will send a strong market and political signal that can inject momentum into the race to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The full report from the World Meteorological Organization has been released and is online.
And today, the UN and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are carrying out their largest ever convoy to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 40,000 displaced people at the remote Rukban makeshift settlement in south-eastern Syria, that’s on the border with Jordan. The operation is expected to last approximately one week. The joint inter-agency convoy consists of 118 trucks with humanitarian assistance and will deliver food, health, nutritional supplies, core relief items, water, sanitation and hygiene materials, education items and children’s recreational kits to people at the site, the vast majority of whom are vulnerable women and children. Vaccines for some 10,000 children under five [years] of age will also be part of the convoy; also, needs assessments will be carried out. The UN and Red Crescent teams will be conducting close monitoring during and after distributions to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in need. The UN continues to urge all parties to allow safe, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need in Syria, in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.
And in a joint report issued today, our colleagues at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) say that the vast majority of children lack effective social protection to help them escape the devastating impact of poverty. Almost everywhere, poverty disproportionately affects children, as they are twice as likely as adults to live in extreme poverty. And while evidence shows that cash transfers play a vital role in providing social protection by breaking the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability, only 35 per cent of children on average are covered by social protection. The report calls for the rapid expansion of child and family benefits, with the aim of achieving universal protection for children, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More information online.
**Female Genital Mutilation
Today is the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, and in his message, the Secretary-General said that this practice is an abhorrent human rights violation that denies women and girls their dignity, endangers their health and causes needless pain, suffering, and even death. He said that while there has been positive change in several countries, population growth can shadow these advances if we don’t act quickly. He reiterates that ending female genital mutilation is part of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Spotlight Initiative — which is a joint initiative between the European Union and the United Nations — and calls on all countries to increase their efforts to eliminate this practice.
And today we say danke schoen to Germany and thank you — for lack of a better word — to Nauru, because the two of them have now joined the honour roll, which brings us up to 39. I'm going to answer my own questions today. Yes, Mario?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, on Venezuela, the opposition has been saying that the army is blocking shipments of aid in the border. Does the UN have any first‑hand information from the agencies that are there?
Spokesman: No, I… no first‑hand information that I'm aware of, but I think it's good to restate a couple of basic principles. First, when, in any country, there is a serious gap in terms of nutrition or basic health care, including vaccinations, that is indeed a serious humanitarian issue. For the United Nations, humanitarian assistance should be needs‑based and carried out in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. Humanitarian action needs to be independent of political, military or other objectives. When we see the present standoff, it becomes even more clear that serious political negotiations between the parties are necessary to find a solution leading to lasting peace for the people of Venezuela. Yeah?
Question: Just to follow up, would you appeal the Government to allow the entry of this aid?
Spokesman: Look, I think what is important is that humanitarian aid be depoliticised and that the needs of the people are really… should lead in terms of when and how humanitarian aid is used. James?
Question: Yemen. The ongoing talks in Amman and in Hodeidah, can you give us any update on the progress on the talks about redeployment or the talks about prisoner exchanges? And going forward, do those two sets of talks… do they stay talking in Amman, and do they stay on the ship in Hodeidah?
Spokesman: I don't have an update for today. My understanding is just that the talks are continuing, both in Amman and in Hodeidah. And for clarity, the ship in Hodeidah is, indeed, in the harbour. It is docked. So, it is not out at sea, but the main participants are remaining… remain on the ship during the discussions. The two talks are obviously interlinked as they're part of the Stockholm Agreement, but for, I think, obvious logistical reasons, they're taking place in different locations. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Stéphane, on Hebron and the briefing that is probably ending soon, can you let us know what exactly is the Secretary‑General… or the representatives of the Secretary‑General are going to… briefed the Security Council about?
Spokesman: No, I don't have any update on that. The Secretary‑General's position on Hebron has already been publicly expressed through his statement. If I have an update, I will share it with you. Yes, ma'am?
Question: Security Council programme. In February, Security Council holding session… quarterly session on Kosovo, situation in Kosovo?
Spokesman: I don't have the programme in front of me. You'd have to ask the Equatorial Guinea…
Correspondent: There's nothing to see there.
Spokesman: If there's nothing to see there, there's nothing to see. The Council Presidency, in consultation with the other Member States, established the programme of work. If we're asked to brief or present a report, we will. But, you should check with the Council Presidency. Thank you.