Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

2 December 2019

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.

**Climate Change

As you know, the Secretary‑General is in Madrid, and today he today spoke at the opening of the UN Climate Change Conference, otherwise known as COP25.  He thanked the Governments of Chile and Spain for working together to make COP25 possible.

“Such solidarity and flexibility are what we need to beat the climate crisis,” he said.  The Secretary‑General urged world leaders to listen to the millions of people around the world — particularly young people — who are calling for them to do much more to tackle the climate crisis.  He stressed that this is not just the job of one person, one industry or one government alone. We are all in this together, he said.

He added that the green economy is not one to be feared but an opportunity to be embraced and stressed that the transition from the grey to the green economy needs to be a fair one, taking into account the people whose jobs and livelihoods are impacted.  “Open your ears to the multitudes who are demanding change.  Open your eyes to the imminent threat facing us all.  Open your minds to the unanimity of the science.”

The Secretary‑General also called on parties at the Conference to achieve progress on key items — namely, achieving success on article six and continuing to boost ambition in preparation for new and revised national climate action plans due next year.

A few moments ago, he held a joint press conference with the President of the Government of Spain, Pedro Sánchez [Pérez‑Castejón], in which he thanked Spain again for its impeccable organization of the Conference of Parties and cooperation with the Chilean Government.

He also spoke at the Climate Vulnerable Forum in which he reiterated his commitments to small island developing States and least developed countries to keep fighting for increased ambition on climate action.  And also, at the round table of Heads of State and Government, he called on world leaders to lead and not lag behind businesses, youth and local authorities who are already taking bold action and steps to tackle climate change.

Yesterday, you will have seen that the Secretary‑General gave a press conference in which he stressed that our war against nature must stop, and he called particularly on big emitters to step up their ambitions, adding that without their participation we will not be able to reach our goals.  All of his remarks have been sent to you.

The Secretary-General is also having a number of bilateral meetings with leaders who are attending the Conference, and tomorrow, he is expected to meet with His Majesty [King] Felipe VI of Spain.

**Appointment

Also from Madrid, the Secretary‑General yesterday appointed Mark Carney of Canada as his new Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance.

As Special Envoy, Mr. Carney will focus on implementation of climate action, with special attention to significantly shifting public and private finance markets and mobilizing private finance to the levels needed to achieve the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.

Mr. Carney, who is currently the Governor of the Bank of England, has held numerous positions in finance in both the private and public sectors.  More information on our website.

**Deputy-Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary‑General, Amina Mohammed, is in Dakar, Senegal, today, where she has participated in an international conference on “Sustainable Development, Sustainable Debt”.  She will also meet with senior Government officials, the UN country team and other UN entities while in Dakar. She returns to New York tomorrow.

**International Day for the Abolition of Slavery

Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

This observance aims to stress that slavery is not a historical relic.  According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), more than 40 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery.

Though modern slavery is not defined in law, it is used as an umbrella term covering practices such as forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, and human trafficking.

Essentially, it refers to situations of exploitation that a person cannot refuse or leave because of threats, violence, coercion, deception, or abuse of power.

In addition, according to ILO, more than 150 million children are subject to child labour, accounting for almost one in ten children around the globe.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Under‑Secretary‑General for Peace Operations, Jean‑Pierre Lacroix, just concluded a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to follow up on last week’s violence.

He was in Beni on Saturday, where he visited the UN peacekeeping office that was partially burned down last week.  He met with local authorities and the Congolese military leadership currently carrying out operations against the Allied Democratic Forces, the armed group better known as the ADF.

Jean‑Pierre Lacroix said his visit was one of solidarity with the population of Beni and with the UN staff deployed in the area.  He added that he understood the population’s anger following the killings of more than 100 people by the ADF in just one month but stressed the need to avoid fighting the wrong enemy.  The UN and its partners, including the Congolese security forces, must do more to protect civilians, he said, adding that the attacks against the UN were planned and fuelled by manipulation.

Mr. Lacroix also visited Biakato, the site of another attack that killed three Ebola response workers and injured one peacekeeper.  There, the head of peace operations emphasized the need to ensure that the Ebola response remains fully operational.

In Goma, he met with the Governor of North Kivu [Julien Paluku Kahongya], and, in Kinshasa today, he held meetings with the Prime Minister [Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba] and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile in the eastern DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] today, new protests took place in Beni, with some deaths reported by the Congolese police.  As the situation remains volatile, the UN peacekeeping intervention brigade and the Congolese armed forces patrolled an area taken back from the ADF just outside of Beni.

Also on the DRC, Dr. Tedros [Adhanom Ghebreyesus], the Director‑General of the World Health Organization (WHO), was also in the eastern part of the DRC [this weekend] where he visited health workers impacted by the recent attacks on Ebola response staff.

In Goma, Dr. Tedros reiterated the WHO’s steadfast support to the impacted communities and to the Government of the DRC to bring the Ebola outbreak under control. He also commended the work of health workers.  He called for improved security in the region to protect health workers trying to contain Ebola.

**Kenya

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has announced a $3 million contribution from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to help people impacted by severe floods, mudslides and landslides in Kenya.

The funds will allow the UN and other humanitarian organizations to provide emergency food, livelihood support, shelter and health services for the most vulnerable people in the hardest‑hit areas.  It will also be used to improve access to safe drinking water, as well as hygiene promotion campaigns to prevent water‑ and vector‑borne diseases.

The storms have caused destruction and damage of houses, health facilities and schools, displacing thousands of people and disrupting basic services in at least 32 of the 47 Kenyan counties.

**Costa Rica

Just to flag that the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, will begin a three‑day visit to Costa Rica tomorrow.  Ms. Bachelet will meet with the President [Carlos Alvarado Quesada], several ministers, the President of the Supreme Court, legislators, and the Ombudsperson. She will also engage with civil society organizations, including indigenous associations, trade unions and youth movements.

**Ukraine

In eastern Ukraine, nearly half a million girls and boys continue to face grave risks to their physical health and psychological well‑being, according to a UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] report today.

Despite recent developments intending to protect the rights of children impacted by eastern Ukraine’s more than five‑year‑long conflict, these children continue to go to schools with bullet holes and bomb shelters and live in neighbourhoods that are intermittently shelled and littered with landmines.

UNICEF stressed that a political solution is long overdue and called on all parties to the conflict to halt the fighting.

**Financial Contributions

Lastly, I am delighted to report that two more Member States have paid their regular budget dues in full.  Thanks to Papua New Guinea and Saint Kitts and Nevis, which brings us up to 138.  Margaret Besheer?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Okay.  I’ll start with that, since you mentioned the budget.  Any news from the US?  Because now we’re in December, and usually they pay late November so… 

Spokesman:  Yes, we’ve had a number of payments by the US over the last few weeks of about $563 million, and there are still… they are now also fully paid up for last year’s regular budget dues.

Question:  So, what’s left for this year then for them?  If they’ve paid last year and part of… how much of that was last year, and how much of it is this year?

Spokesman:  They are still… I have to check how much they exactly still owe for this year, but it was… we’re very thankful for the partial payment, and we continue to be in discussion with them.

Question:  And then did I miss a statement over the long weekend maybe on Iran protests?  Has the SG said anything?

Spokesman:  You know, we’ve remained concerned about the situation in Iran and the violence that we saw during the demonstrations and the significant death toll.  And, as we said last week, we echo the statement made recently by the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Question:  And can I get one more, and then I’m… I’ll leave you in peace.  Albania says they need some help with the earthquake, and you mentioned earlier last week right after it happened that, I believe, an assessment team was going, had gone…

Spokesman:  Yeah, we had…

Question:  Where does it all stand, and what are you going to do to help them…?

Spokesman:  Yes, let me get… I should have had an update on Albania today, but I don’t.  I’ll try to get something.  Yes, Linda.  Sorry.  All right.  Oh, sorry.  I’m… I did call on you, Linda, but you were busy writing something.  Go ahead.

Question:  I just have a quick question.  We know… we were just told by Ambassador [Kelly] Craft that the Security Council is going to Washington to meet with President [Donald] Trump on Thursday.  I was just wondering if there are any plans in the offing in terms of the SG [Secretary‑General] meeting with the President.  I think, traditionally, there may be a meeting in January or in the new year.

Spokesman:  Yeah, I mean, no plans that I’m aware of.  Yeah?

Question:  Toby Burns…

Spokesman:  Your microphone, Toby, please.

Correspondent:  Hi there.

Spokesman:  There you go.  

Question:  Toby Burns, NHK [Japanese Broadcasting Corporation].  Recent anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall about… couple of weeks ago, just looking for a statement from the SG on cold war‑era policies and where we stand looking back at that legacy now.

Spokesman:  I would… instead of listening to a spokesman, I would refer you to a tweet that he posted… what day is today?

Correspondent:  Monday.

Spokesman:  When he was in Berlin last week and he visited the wall where, if I recall, he said how much he recalled watching the wall fall back in 1989 and also referred to the risk of new walls going up in different parts of the world, both virtual and real, but I would refer you to his exact tweet.  Thank you.  On that note… I was about to say have a good weekend because why not?

For information media. Not an official record.