16 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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is in Geneva in Switzerland today, where, tomorrow, he will speak at the opening of the World Refugee Forum, which is being co-hosted by UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) and Switzerland.  The Secretary-General and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, also intend to talk to the press following the opening ceremony.

And, you will have seen that yesterday, the Secretary-General expressed his disappointment at the results of the COP25 (Twenty-Fifth Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), which wrapped up in Madrid over the weekend.

He said that the international community had lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.  But, he added, we must not give up and that he will not give up.

The Secretary-General is more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be the year in which all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and no more than 1.5°C temperature rise.

**Trip Announcement

Tomorrow evening, the Secretary-General will begin an official visit to Italy, during which he will have bilateral meetings with the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella; the Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte; and other senior officials.  The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister will hold a joint media stakeout following their meeting.

On Wednesday morning, he will address a special session that will take place in the Italian Senate.  In his remarks, he will discuss global challenges and will appeal for a renewed commitment to multilateralism and international solidarity.

The following day, the Secretary-General will go to Brindisi to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the UN Global Service Centre, a facility providing crucial support to peacekeeping and political operations throughout the world.

On Friday, at the Holy See, the Secretary-General will have an audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis.


The Secretary-General announced today the appointment of Agnes Kalibata of Rwanda as his Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit.

In 2021, the Secretary-General will host a Food Systems Summit with the aim of maximizing the co-benefits of a food systems approach across the entire 2030 Agenda, including meeting the challenges of climate change.  As a key contributor to the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, the objectives of the Food Systems Summit are to generate momentum, expand the knowledge and share experience and approaches worldwide to help countries and stakeholders unleash the benefits of food systems for all people.  The Summit will also offer a catalytic moment for global public mobilization and actionable commitments to invest in diverse ways to make food systems inclusive, climate adapted and resilient, and to support sustainable peace.

The Special Envoy, working with the United Nations system and key partners, will provide leadership, guidance and strategic direction towards the Summit.  Ms. Kalibata will be responsible for outreach and cooperation with key leaders, including Governments and other strategic stakeholder groups, to galvanize action and leadership for the Summit.  She will also support the various global and regional consultative events focused on food system transformation planned during 2020 and 2021.

Ms. Kalibata has been the President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) since 2014.  Her biography is available in our office.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding an open meeting on the shared causes of intercommunal violence and preventing violent extremism in West Africa.

Briefing Council members by video link, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said that the region has been shaken by unprecedented violence in recent months, pointing to examples such as last week’s horrific attack against the Inates military camp in Niger.

Such incidents, he said, show how terrorism, organized crime and intercommunal violence can easily intertwine.

In the afternoon, the Council is scheduled to hold an open meeting on threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts, as well as a separate meeting on Afghanistan.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, condemned the attacks attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in the region of Beni in the eastern part of the country.  On Saturday, 22 people were killed in Ntombi, and another 12 people were killed in Kamango last night.

In a statement issued today, Ms. Zerrougui said these barbaric acts are orchestrated as an attempt to break the population’s trust and discredit actions conducted against the ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) by the Congolese armed forces and the UN peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO).

Today in Kamango, UN peacekeepers are conducting joint patrols with the Congolese military.  The mission is also evacuating to Beni six civilians who were injured in the attacks.

During the past weeks, the Mission has intensified its joint activities with the Congolese army.  The Mission has also deployed an additional platoon of UN Police to Beni to support the Congolese police who have recently arrived to secure the town and its surroundings.

The UN Mission is also working in close collaboration with national authorities to identify risks and individuals inside communities who are helping to facilitate these massacres.


The Assistant-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, Ursula Mueller, concluded a six-day visit to Niger.

She met with the President, the Prime Minister and other Government officials, to discuss the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country.

Ms. Mueller also travelled to the regions of Diffa and Maradi, where she met with regional authorities, local communities and people displaced by the Lake Chad crisis and intercommunal clashes in north-west Nigeria.

This year, Niger was hit by the worst floods recorded in 100 years.  Ms. Mueller met some of those who lost their houses and are still living in displacement sites due to climate shocks.

She also visited refugees and migrant transit centres outside of the capital Niamey, and a reintegration centre for children formerly affiliated with non-State armed groups.

Over 2.3 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Niger.  This number is expected to rise to 2.9 million next year.

The UN and humanitarian partners are developing, together with the Government, a humanitarian response plan for 2020 that will seek $407 million.


Turning to the Philippines, the UN and other entities are in the area of the earthquake which struck Davao del Sur province yesterday, reportedly killing three people and displacing at least 50,000 others.

We are there to support local authorities to assess the impact of the earthquake and the resulting priority needs.


The World Food Programme (WFP) said today, in their latest food security monitoring data, that over 11 million people continue to face a daily struggle to find enough food in Yemen.

WFP has this year achieved an unprecedented expansion of food assistance in Yemen, scaling up by 50 per cent – from reaching 8 million people at the beginning of the year.

WFP now provides food assistance to some 12 million people per month.

Meanwhile, food assistance has been doubled to the worst-hit areas where conflict and economic collapse have left nearly 240,000 people living in famine-like conditions.


The Qatar Fund for Development and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, otherwise known as UNRWA, signed an agreement yesterday under which the State of Qatar will contribute $20.7 million to support the access of Palestine refugees to basic services in Syria.  With this generous contribution, the total support provided by the Qatar Fund to UNRWA this year is $40 million.

The acting Commissioner-General, Christian Saunders, noted the donation to UNRWA’s operations and activities in Syria comes at a time of intense financial challenge for the Agency.  He said UNRWA was truly grateful for the additional funding.


Lastly, a new approach is needed to help reduce undernutrition and obesity at the same time, as the issues become increasingly connected due to rapid changes in countries’ food systems.

According to a new report of the World Health Organization (WHO) published in The Lancet, this is especially important in low- and middle-income countries.

More than a third of such countries had overlapping forms of malnutrition, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and East Asia and the Pacific.

Undernutrition and obesity can lead to effects across generations, as both maternal undernutrition and obesity are associated with poor health in offspring.

On that note, yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  With regard to the COP25 and the SG statement of… and his disappointment of the outcome, does the SG foresee that there is… that he should… or the UN should take a new approach tackling the climate change issue since, to my understanding, the blockage came from the interpretation of article 6 of the Paris Agreement?  Is there any plans to re… re… re… redesign the approach?

Spokesman:  Look, I don’t think it’s about going back and reworking or re… looking back to what… the agreements that were already agreed to.  The Paris Agreement is clear.  Article 6 is clear.  What is expected is clear.  The science is clear.  What is lacking is the political will and the ability for Member States to come to a consensus.

The Secretary‑General will not give up.  He will continue to push and cajole Member States.  Meanwhile, we continue to work with other actors, the business community, civil society, who I think have all [been] moving in the right direction.  But it’s an issue of a lost opportunity and of lack of political will and ability to come to an agreement.

Yes, ma’am?

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  Hold on.  Your microphone’s not on.  There we go.

Question:  Okay.  The SG said he is disappointed at the COP25’s weak outcome.  The process set out in the Paris Agreement hinges on countries stepping up, emission cuts at next year’s Climate Summit.  What does the SG have to say about our way forward… forward to COP26?  What must be achieved at that conference?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, I think for… the Secretary‑General, I think, addressed your question in what he said yesterday, which is that he remains more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be the year in which all countries commit to what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 and no more than 1.5-degrees rise.

I think the next stop on the COP is Glasgow.  I think every lost opportunity increases the pressure.  For his part, the Secretary‑General will work hard during the upcoming year, as will the head of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change).

The Secretary‑General, as you know, appointed a new climate envoy, Mark Carney, who will start to work with us early next year.  But at the end of the day, the decisions are in the hands of Member States, but we will continue to deliver the same message privately and publicly.

Wait… yep.

Question:  What are the factors of these pretty bad results of COP25?  I remember… could we think that, because it was moved last minute, devoted to a… given to another country to be organized, could it be imputed for that?  Or, also, another thing I have in mind is, like, President [Emmanuel] Macron said that he would really try to link between last year and this year and play a role…

Spokesman:  Try to what?  Sorry?

Question:  To link.  To link and play a role, but how involved have the French… how involved have the French been?

Spokesman:  Look, I think the European Union, a number of critical global players were all involved.  I think blaming the move from Chile to Spain, I think, would… to me, seems to be out… missing the point, in a sense.  I think the Spanish did an amazing job in very few… in a very short time in putting together a COP.  I mean, I wasn’t in this one, but I’ve been to other COPs.  It’s not the kind of thing you want to have to put together in a few weeks, but they did.  They worked very hard.  The Chilean presidency worked very hard.  The Spanish authorities worked very hard.

The issue is there was an inability of Member States and groups of Member States to come to a consensus.  We’re not going to play the blame game in terms of targeting individuals, but what is clear is, for the Secretary‑General, this was an opportunity that was missed and an opportunity that we cannot really afford to miss.

Yes, ma’am.  Did you have a question?  Okay.

Question:  [inaudible]  Follow‑up?

Spokesman:  Why not?  [laughter]  It’s free.  Same price.  You’ve paid for me already so…

Question:  Is the reduction of the temperature to 1.5°C, is it still realistic after the outcome that now, after 25 years of negotiations, we seemed to reach the stalemate.  Is it realistic?

Spokesman:  We have to keep to the goals that we have.  They… those… that’s what should be driving the political action.  It is already what is driving action across the private sector, in a huge amount of sectors.  Right?  The missing piece, as we’ve seen was the political will and the ability for Member States to come to an agreement on… to consensus on a strong agreement.

MerciHasta mañana.

For information media. Not an official record.