8 July 2020

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.

Good afternoon to you all.  Sylviane, it’s nice to see you in your garden.  And happy hump day.  I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday.  Time is clearly flying when we’re having fun.


The Secretary-General, as you know, briefed the Security Council on Libya this morning and told Council members that time is not on our side in the country.  He said that the conflict has entered a new phase, with foreign interference reaching unprecedented levels, including in the delivery of sophisticated equipment and the number of mercenaries involved in the fighting.  The Secretary-General added that all opportunities to unblock the political stalemate must be seized. 

The Secretary-General said that de-escalation efforts, including the creation of a possible demilitarized zone, are being undertaken by the UN Mission (UNSMIL) to reach a negotiated solution and spare lives.  He noted that UNSMIL remains on the ground in Libya despite the difficult circumstances. 

The Secretary-General added that the designation of a new Special Representative will greatly facilitate the Mission’s efforts and he counts on the Security Council to expedite the process. 


Yesterday afternoon, as you all know, a draft resolution in the Security Council concerning border crossings in Syria failed to pass, due to the vetoes by two permanent members.

**World of Work 

Today, via recorded video messages, more than 50 Heads of States and Governments are addressing the International Labour Organization’s virtual Global Summit on COVID-19 and the World of Work.  Prominent employers and trade union leaders are also delivering messages during the summit’s Global Leaders Days. 

In a video message for the Summit, the Secretary-General said that the world of work is the world of people, of dignity, of opportunity, of hope, and that the COVID-19 pandemic has shattered that world.  The Secretary-General noted that the Global Summit is an opportunity for Governments, workers and employers’ representatives to shape winning responses and, above all, initiatives that are grounded in unity and solidarity.  He stressed that no country can solve this crisis alone and that we are in this together.  For the Secretary-General, strong, effective multilateral solutions matter now more than ever. 


And research released today by our friends at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows that the sudden increase in demand for medical products to address the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an expansion in the trafficking of substandard and falsified products.  According to this research, the virus has further highlighted the shortcomings in regulatory and legal frameworks aimed at preventing the manufacture and trafficking of such products. 

The UN Office warned that the falsification of medical products bears significant risks for the public health, as products may not properly treat the disease and may facilitate the development of drug resistance.  The emergence of the pandemic has also seen data-compromise frauds, including phishing, scamming and business email compromise, or the manipulation of corporate websites, convincing purchasers that the source is genuine. 


In Haiti, where there are more than 6,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 100 deaths, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Bruno Lemarquis, and the UN country team are working with authorities to address the many challenges brought about by the virus in Haiti. 

The UN Haiti team has helped to set up advanced triage stations and isolation rooms in six departments and to renovate quarantine zones at three border areas.  The UN has also strengthened local testing and tracing capacity.  We have also helped to procure and distribute more than 42,000 items of personal protective equipment, as well as providing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to 21 correctional facilities in order to reduce the spread of infection in prisons. 

To help the most vulnerable people, we have coordinated communication campaigns on gender-based violence and the rights of older people, people living with HIV and migrants — especially those on the border with the Dominican Republic. 

**Burkina Faso

I have an update from Burkina Faso, the site of one of the fastest growing displacement crises in the world.  In June, the number of people forced to leave everything behind had reached 921,000.  Increasing insecurity has also made humanitarian access more difficult. 

Our humanitarian colleagues say that the country’s 13 regions are now impacted, with 90 per cent of the displaced people living in host communities.  Food insecurity has also increased, and market disruptions will further affect areas hard hit by insecurity and displacement.  The temporary suspension of schools has impacted 5.1 million children, in a context where more than half of primary and lower secondary school age children were already out of school. 

Right now, 2.9 million people impacted need humanitarian assistance in the country, that’s compared to 2.2 million in January.  The revised humanitarian response plan seeks $424 million — about a third more than originally planned.  It is sadly only 22.8 per cent funded.

**South Sudan

In South Sudan, nine years since it gained independence, our colleagues at the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) are calling on South Sudanese leaders to reinvigorate efforts to establish a lasting peace and end Africa’s largest displacement crisis.  The High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said that, after years of conflict, the South Sudanese people deserve the chance to return to their homes, to live in safety in their communities and to focus on building a bright and prosperous future.  UNHCR also calls on all parties to the violence to urgently implement a ceasefire, particularly as the pandemic is expected to reach its peak in the coming months. 

**High-Level Political Forum

On the second day of the high-level political forum, addressing the key issues of “building back better” after the pandemic, including how to respond to the economic shock, re-launching growth, sharing economic benefits and addressing developing countries’ financing challenges.  The dialogue stressed that a fundamental reconfiguration is needed in economic policymaking and the production and consumption of goods and services, in tandem with a diminished environmental footprint and greater distributional justice that prioritizes gender equality, access to decent jobs, and social protection for all.  Another session, dedicated to the small island developing States, focused on mobilizing international solidarity and accelerating action to realize the 2030 Agenda and the Samoa Pathway. 

In the afternoon, the forum will feature thematic review sessions on protecting the planet and building resilience and sustaining efforts to ensure access to sustainable energy. 

**World Health Organization

I want to read into the record a note to correspondents we shared with you.  Yesterday we confirmed yesterday that on 6 July — that’s Monday — the United States of America notified the Secretary-General, in his capacity as depositary of the 1946 Constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO), of its withdrawal from the World Health Organization, effective 6 July 2021.   The United States is a party to the World Health Organization’s Constitution since 21 June 1948.  The US’ participation in the World Health Organization was accepted by the World Health Assembly with certain conditions set out by the United States for its eventual withdrawal from WHO.  Those conditions include giving a one-year notice and fully meeting the payment of assessed financial obligations. 

The Secretary-General, in his capacity as the depository, is in the process of verifying with the World Health Organization whether all the conditions for such withdrawal are met. 

**Press Briefings

Tomorrow, we are delighted to be joined by the Head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, the Under-Secretary-General Vladimir Voronkov.  He will brief you on the outcome of this week’s Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week under the theme “Strategic and Practical Challenges of Countering Terrorism in a Global Pandemic Environment.”

And that is actually it from me.  So, let's see who has the courage to ask a question and if I have the courage to answer that question.

**Questions and Answers

Ibtisam, please, welcome.

QuestionShukraan.  So, the first question is about Libya and the second one about the WHO.  Regarding Libya, you mentioned the…  what the Secretary‑General said in his statement in front…  in the Security Council, the de‑escalation…  or demilitarisation zone.  Could you elaborate more on that?

And then the second part on Libya, why is the Secretary‑General not speaking more openly or directly regarding the problems he's having to…  and the fact that the Americans are…  Americans and others blocking the new envoy?

Spokesman:  I mean, listen, I think the Secretary‑General, as you well know, is a diplomat who uses diplomatic language, which I think is fairly easy to decode. 

If you read what he said about asking the Security Council to come up with a solution for the issue of the lack of a permanent Special Representative, it's pretty clear that the issue lies with the Security Council, and its members have to come to an agreement. 

What is actually going on in the kitchens of the Security Council, I can't speak to that, but we do hope that they come up with a solution.

On your first question, I really don't want to over‑analyse the Secretary‑General's speech.  What he's calling for is for a halt to the fighting.  If it has to start with certain aspects, so be it, but I think the ongoing fighting, the increased use of mercenaries, the increased use of foreign weapons, including sophisticated weapons, is only making the situation worse.

Question:  Can I follow with a second question or…  on WHO?

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  Okay.  So, of course, I heard your statement.  I'm not sure if you can answer the question regarding the WHO.  What…  but what would this mean exactly for the UN and the WHO?  And is this…  because there is something in the text that wasn't really clear for me.  Is this regulation, the one year, is it only regarding the American or is it any Member State in the WHO?  When…  if they want to leave, they have the one year?

Spokesman:  I'm a little weary of kind of going into details on this, but what I can tell you is that, when the World Health Assembly accepted the UN's…  US's membership in WHO, it did it with certain conditions that the US itself had set out.  So, that has to do with the WHO‑United States relationship.  I can't speak to others.  Those are…  that's the kind of research you need to do.  There are now, obviously, all sets of discussions that will be going on. 

The Secretary‑General's position on the WHO has been very clear for a long time, is that he's always felt that this is a time that we should all support the WHO, but every Member State is a sovereign State and sovereign to make its own decisions.

Edie, please.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  I also have a question on Libya.  The Secretary‑General spoke about an unprecedented level of foreign interference in Libya, yet he didn't name any countries.  Is he at least…  he talked about speaking to the heads of the LNA (Libyan National Army) and the GNA (Government of National Accord).  Is he talking to these countries, which I assume he didn't name for diplomatic reasons, to try and get them to back off as…

Spokesman:  I think the…  he has delivered that message publicly, and he's delivered it privately and also through the contacts that the acting Head of the Mission, Stephanie Williams, has had.  I mean, I think we've been…  the Secretary‑General's language on this, I think, has increased in force because the situation has gotten worse.  And it is…  we've got…  arrived at a really tragic situation when we see these unprecedented levels of sophisticated equipment, mercenaries, drones, all these military hardware pouring into Libya, which is not helping the Libyan people, frankly.

Question:  I would also like to make a comment.  I was quite surprised to read the MALU (Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit) schedule, which was sent early this morning, when I woke up, having a major event on COVID‑19 with Dr.  Anthony Fauci and others scheduled for 10 in the morning, sponsored by the UN, having to do with the UN at 75 that I, at least, knew nothing about in advance.

Spokesman:  I think I will join you in the list of people who knew nothing, but we will follow up, and I hear you.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  All right.  I don't…  any other questions?

All right.  Well, hasta mañana, and we'll have Mr. Voronkov tomorrow.  So, please join in.  I think we'll try to have him go first since I'm always late.  Take care.

For information media. Not an official record.