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18 September 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.

Our friend Brenden Varma will have the pleasure of briefing you on this Friday.

**Global Goals

This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the first Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) moment.  He emphasized that the pandemic has pushed us towards the worst recession in decades, with terrible consequences for the most vulnerable.  But he added that there is still a path that brings health to all, revives economies, brings people in from the margins of society and builds long-term resilience, sustainability, opportunity and peace.  That path is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said, which is designed to address the very fragilities and shortcomings that the pandemic has exposed.

He stressed that the 2030 Agenda provides the guiding light we need to end the pandemic, to respond to its socioeconomic impacts and to chart a course for a transformative recovery.

The Secretary-General noted that young people, businesses and civil society have been pushing for transformative change but political will is still lacking.  He called on Governments to listen to science and to their citizens.

“This is no time to procrastinate.  The decisions taken over the next few months and years will have enormous impact on where we will be by 2030,” Mr. [Antonio] Guterres added.

The SDG moment will happen every year to highlight actions and solutions by Member States and their partners that can drive the change needed to steer the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

And as a reminder, tomorrow, 9 a.m., New York time, we will premiere the film Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times.  This was done in collaboration with our partners from Project Everyone and 72 Films productions.  That is the name of the film production.  And you were briefed on that by the creator of the film, Richard Curtis, at a press briefing yesterday, also joined by the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed.

You can watch that on our various web platforms, the YouTube channel, the WebTV, Facebook and as well as on the platforms of our broadcast partners.

**Young Leaders

Today, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth announced the names of the latest class of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  As you know, 17 young change-makers are chosen every other year for their efforts to combat the world’s most pressing issues.

These young leaders — between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, yes, 29 is still young — represent the diverse voices from every region of the world and are collectively responsible for activating millions of young people in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.  The new group includes representatives from Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Ireland, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Turkey, Uganda, and the United States of America.

More information online and on Twitter.

**Syria

Geir Pedersen, our friend, the Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council on the diplomatic process for that country.  He said that a faint but real ray of hope shone from Geneva when, in the last week of August, we were able to convene, after a nine-month hiatus, a third session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.

He told the Council that the discussions within the Committee were mostly substantive and on the agreed agenda, and there were practical suggestions from members on how to identify such common ground and how the discussion could move forward.

The Special Envoy warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is emerging as a major challenge to the Syrian people, who are acutely vulnerable after 10 years of conflict.

He appealed to all relevant actors to contain recent [violent] and destabilizing incidents, build on the relative calm that exists, and, as resolution 2254 calls for, establish a nationwide ceasefire to protect civilians, maintain international peace and security, and support a political process.

**Lebanon

Turning to Lebanon.  We, along with our humanitarian partners, are focusing on medium-term interventions to pave the way for longer term recovery and reconstruction.

In terms of the humanitarian response, more than 1,000 households have been helped with multi-purpose cash-based assistance across three affected neighbourhoods in Beirut.  Close to 200 micro, small and medium enterprises have also been supported with rehabilitation works.

Shelter partners have concluded the distribution of 7,500 weatherproofing kits for more than 25,000 people.  These emergency measures will help [ensure] adequate shelter, pending the completing of repairs and reconstruction.

Protection partners have given more than 2,200 people various psychosocial support services, and more than 1,300 women and girls have received sexual reproductive health and gender-based support services.

Water supply connections have been restored for more than 3,000 buildings reaching more than 15,000 people.  Rehabilitation activities continue [in] the Lebanese capital, with plans to install more than 2,500 water tanks and 80 new pumps to help meet basic water and sanitation needs.

To date, the UN-coordinated response to the explosions seeks $354 million to address immediate lifesaving needs for three months, but it is less than 17 per cent funded.  Support is needed to scale up emergency relief efforts for the most vulnerable and to prevent the situation from worsening.

**Libya

Early this morning, Stephanie Williams, the acting Special Representative for Libya, commended the courageous decision by Fayez al-Serraj, the President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord in Libya, in announcing his intention to hand over power to a new executive authority by the end of October.

She said that the President’s announcement comes at a decisive turning point in Libya’s longstanding crisis when the situation is no longer sustainable.  The onus is now on concerned Libyan parties to fully shoulder their responsibilities before the Libyan people, to take historic decisions, and to accept mutual concessions for the sake of their country and their people.

Ms. Williams said that we have an opportunity to restart the fully inclusive intra-Libyan political dialogue, which the United Nations Mission there intends to move forward with at the earliest opportunity.  During this period, it is crucial that the international community fulfils its responsibilities to respect Libyan sovereignty, to cease interference in Libya’s internal affairs, and, of course, as we have been saying, to fully respect the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council.

**Belarus

And this morning, the Human Rights Council held an urgent debate about human rights in Belarus.  Nada Al-Nashif, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, read out a statement on behalf of Madame [Michele] Bachelet, the High Commissioner.

She noted that, despite the violent crackdowns by the Belarusian security forces and thousands of arrests, peaceful mass demonstrations had continued.  She expressed alarm due to the hundreds of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody and stressed that instability and conflict were destructive and expensive.

She urged authorities to facilitate independent, prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations into the allegations of serious human rights violations, adding that the fundamental rights of all Belarusians should prevail over political interests and geopolitical calculations.

That statement is online.

**Security Council

And yesterday afternoon, in a meeting of the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict that focussed on food security risks, the Head of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, made a direct appeal to billionaires across the globe to step up their assistance to the most vulnerable.

As 270 million people are marching toward the brink of starvation, Governments and people around the world are strapped financially.  He said there are over 2,000 billionaires with a net worth of $8 trillion.

It’s time for those who have the most to step up to help those who have the least in this extraordinary time.  It’s the right thing to do, Mr. Beasley concluded.

For his part, Mark Lowcock, our Emergency Relief Coordinator, added that history proves that even in the midst of conflict, famine can be prevented.  He also called for urgent support for humanitarian relief operations because, as he said, in too many places, time is running out.  The Head of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), Qu Dongyu, also spoke at the meeting.

**Burkina Faso

And turning to Burkina Faso, our humanitarian colleagues report that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by 30 per cent — from 2.2 million in January to 2.9 in July.

Worsening insecurity has forced more than 1 million people to flee their homes.  Many have been displaced several times.

15 per cent of the population is now facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, according to Government data.

Meanwhile, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Burkina Faso has increased to 1,733 with 56 deaths and 1,141 recoveries.

Despite increasing needs, funding for the humanitarian response remains low, with just 36 per cent of the $424 million required received.

**COVID-19 — Djibouti

And an update for you about our work in Djibouti to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.  The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Barbara Manzi, is supporting the national response.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) helped to supply medicine and two ambulances to boost emergency treatment capacity.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worked with the Government to train leaders of vulnerable communities, including more than 1,000 refugees and migrants, on COVID-19 prevention, and the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping us to provide [food] to more than 6,000 vulnerable households, including children, pregnant and lactating women, as well as older people in refugee settlements.  UNHCR, along with the World Food Programme, are working with community leaders to take action against the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls in refugee camps during the pandemic.

WHO and UNHCR are also supporting the Government’s efforts to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 as schools reopen.

**Equal Pay Day

And today is the first International Equal Pay Day.  Across all regions, women are paid less than men, with the gender pay gap estimated at 23 per cent globally.  In his message, the Secretary-General said that we need to ask why women are relegated to lower-paid work; why professions that are female-dominated have lower salaries — including jobs in the care sector; why so many women work part-time; why women see their wages decrease with motherhood while men with children often enjoy a salary boost; and why women hit a ceiling in higher-earning professions.  He added that equal pay is essential not only for women but to build a world of dignity and justice for all.  And this morning the Equal Pay International Coalition hosted a virtual call to action to encourage all businesses to take the necessary steps to ensure that equal pay is at the heart of recovery efforts worldwide.

**Financial Contribution

And today, 117 Member States have now paid their regular budget dues in full.

The most recent payment was from?  Our friends in Manila, and we thank the Philippines for that contribution.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Okay.  Let’s put on the glasses.  Let’s read the chat.  Let’s not miss anyone and let’s answer some questions, and I won’t forget to turn it over to Brenden.

Joseph Klein, let’s see if you can ask a question.  Go ahead, Joe.

Question:  Perfect.  I hope I’m having better luck than I did yesterday, due to the technical difficulties. 

My question has to do with the Secretary-General’s support that he’s repeated several times for the COVAX facility and WHO (World Health Organization) kind of leading the effort for vaccine distribution.

And I’m wondering what his thought would be on some criticism of, at least phase one as proposed by COVAX, which is that the vaccine is distributed solely based on a portion of the population, so that 3 per cent of each country’s population would receive the vaccine in the first phase. 

It’s unrelated to high risk, to the amount of transmission in a given country, and this is why some people do question, let’s say, the wisdom of some of the global organizations like the WHO coming up with a formula…

Spokesman:  Joe, the Secretary-General supports the work of the facility.  For him, it’s very important that there is a global effort, as he’s put it, and I think it’s plain to everyone, that if only the richest countries, or the richest people in any country, rich or poor, get it, it’s not going to serve anyone’s purpose.

The work of COVAX is being led by scientists, epidemiologists, doctors and whatever.  We are led by the science, so, you know, we support the work that they are doing, and I think, as to the explanation of exactly why they’re choosing certain paths, I would ask them.

Question:  Yeah.  But some scientists are on the record, let’s say on the more liberal side, criticism of this 3 per cent of population formula, because it doesn’t give us a real location of high-risk populations and high transmission, so… so the issue is not… you know, the Secretary-General often poses the issue as between multilateralism and internationalism.  Usually, it’s really smart multilateralism, but…

Spokesman:  I’m… you know, as I often tell you, I’m not a lawyer so I’m not going to get into legal aspects.  I’m not going to get into the weeds of the science of epidemics.  We are trusting the scientists that are working on the COVAX facility, and that’s as much as I can tell you about today.

Mr. Majeed, please, and then Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question is on Syria.  Today, there was a Security Council meeting on Syria, and I was wondering if there’s anything during UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) special about Syria, first of all.

And is Secretary-General going to… I don’t want you to talk about his speech, but will he focus on Syria?  Especially given the fact that the political process is not going anywhere, and the humanitarian situation as we heard is still… is getting worse in certain parts of Syria.

Spokesman:  Well, I mean, there is, as far as I know, no side event on Syria, but that does not mean that it will… you know, and the Secretary-General will mention Syria in his speech to the General Assembly, as he will mention other crises. 

I mean, as far as his position, you know, I think he had Mr. Pedersen… excuse me, Mr. Pedersen brief the Security Council today, and he did that on behalf of the Secretary-General, so his position is the one of Mr. Pedersen, as well.

Iftikhar, and then Edie.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Now, that it is clear from official reports from Washington that President [Donald] Trump won’t come in person to the UN… for the UN General Assembly, is there… is he going to do it virtually?

Spokesman:  Well, we very much hope that if he does not come in person, that he will deliver his speech by video and we have no indication that he won’t, so we look forward to those remarks, as we look forward to the remarks of all Heads of States and Government and ministers who will address the General Assembly.

Question:  Thank you.  And no confirmation?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, we have… let me put it that way:  We fully expect to have some video presentation from the President of the United States, as to who is inscribed on the speakers list, as we do for every Head of State or Head of Government that’s inscribed on the speakers list.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Edie?

Question:  Thank you very much, Steph.  A follow-up on that. 

Can we be assured that we are going to get speedy copies of the text and video, which the UN is getting at least four days in advance, so there should be absolutely no excuse?

And then I have a question.

Spokesman:  First of all, we… I will not give assurances to everything.  The only assurance I will give is that our colleagues will do their utmost to ensure that there is speedy delivery. 

There is, as you may know, a briefing conducted by colleagues in DGC (Department of Global Communications) this afternoon, I think at 3:00, where they will go into the whole details of the coverage of the General Assembly and the logistics, so I encourage you to go and ask that question there and figure out exactly what the workflow will be, because I know we have everyone… we will all want to get that delivery speedily, and I know they are working in that regard.

Correspondent:  That wasn’t my question.

Spokesman:  I figured as much.

Correspondent:  That was a follow-up to Ifty’s question. 

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  I want to know.  The President of Belarus is threatening to close the country’s borders, and I wonder whether the Secretary-General has any comment on what impact this would have?

Spokesman:  Look, we’re not going to speculate on decisions that have not been taken.  I think you heard the remarks delivered on behalf of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which the Secretary-General fully supports.  He has expressed his concern about the repression against peaceful protesters, and he very much expressed his concern about attacks on the media, which we’ve seen, and not just in Belarus, but in other places.

So let’s… for the Secretary-General, the most important thing is really for Belarusians to engage in dialogue based on democratic processes in order to get out of this ongoing crisis.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  You’re welcome.  Lenka?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  It seems that not many people are coming over, but still is the Secretary-General having any bilateral meetings next week?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  I’m waiting to hear… to get the final schedule for the Secretary-General to see if he will have any virtual bilaterals.  At this point, I don’t have anything to share with you.

James Reinl, please.

Question:  Hi, Steph.  You spoke before about Mr. [Fayez] al-Sarraj of Libya stepping down in favour of a new executive authority.  What, according to the UN’s understanding, is this new executive authority?  Are you and the Mission involved in its creation?  And what do you advocate for, at this critical time in Libyan politics?

Spokesman:  Look, first of all, the future of Libya, the future of their institutions, will have to be decided by the Libyan people themselves.  That’s… and through a process in which they can be heard. 

We are there to facilitate intra-Libyan dialogue.  There will be a meeting co-hosted by the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Germany next week on October… not next week, in two weeks on 5 October.  That will be an opportunity for the international community to take stock, to see how things are on the situation in the country and encourage the further implementation of what was already agreed to in Berlin.  And the high-level meeting will bring together the foreign ministers of Member States, as well as senior representatives of key regional and subregional organisations that have participated in Berlin, as well as neighbouring countries. 

So we… when we have more details on the format of that meeting, we will share that with you.

Question:  Thanks, that’s great.  And may I do another one on Iran?

Spokesman:  You may.

Question:  Yeah, sure.  So over the weekend, the sanctions against Iran will either snap back or not snap back, depending on who you listen to.

Obviously, the Secretariat, you guys, don’t want to come down on one side or the other on this one, I understand that, and you think it’s something that needs to be decided among Council members, but there are some decisions the Secretariat alone has to make.  The key one is whether or not the Secretary-General appoints a new panel of experts to monitor compliance with the sanctions regime.

So turning that into a question:  Is it the SG’s intention to reappoint members of the panel experts or not?

Spokesman:  Look, at this point, we have nothing to add to what we’ve already said, which will be guided and inspired by what comes out of the Security Council.  Questions have been raised by various parties, and those will be answered at the appropriate time, but I don’t have anything else to add for you at the moment.

Okay.  Ray Bouchefra?

Question:  Stéphane, I put my name after Iftikhar.  You passed me again and again.  Why?  Can you not see my screen?

Spokesman:  Don’t… Abdelhamid, I will… to prove the fact that it’s the technology, I will take a screen shot of my screen and I will send it to you to show that I’m not intentionally hiding from you or…

Correspondent:  This is really… I sent you two messages.  I put my name, and then said I put my name as the second message after Iftikhar so what happened… what’s wrong with the screen?

Spokesman:  I don’t know…

Question:  Why only my name?

Spokesman:  Make sure you send it to all panellists.

Correspondent:  I did!

Spokesman:  Okay.  You know what?  Abdelhamid, I’ll give you the phone number of one of our technicians, who can kind of try to figure out where the problem is because… but fadaleh.

Correspondent:  You already gave it to somebody.  I’ll come back.

Spokesman:  All right.  Okay.  Ray, and then James Bays.

Correspondent:  And then me.

Spokesman:  And then you.  Okay.  Ray?  Ray Bouchefra.  Okay.  Let’s go to James, then, if Ray can’t… James?

I think we’re having… I don’t know if, Bob, one of our technicians can help, but we seem to be having some audio issues here. 

James, are you trying again?  Okay.

Question:  I’m resetting mine.  Can you hear me now?

Spokesman:  Yes, I can hear you perfectly.

Question:  Sorry, I was using an external microphone, which it doesn’t seem to have found, even though it normally does.

Anyway, so first point, not question, was an endorsement of Edie’s point.  I know we’ve got another briefing this afternoon; we’ll raise this.  Until about two years ago, we used to have excellent service during UNGA.  The moment someone stood up, the transcript came out and really, we could do our jobs very, very well.  Something happened and the transcripts were woefully late the last couple of years, almost like someone’s trying to make our jobs difficult — probably that wasn’t the case, but that’s what it felt like.

So you’ve got four days’ advance, there’s no excuse for you not to translate them all, have them all, and the moment the person stands up send it to us so we can do our jobs properly, please.  That’s just a plea.

Second, my question, which again is about the UNGA organization within the UN.  As we’ve already heard, we already know that President Trump is not traveling to UNGA, so I want to ask about what that means, if there are no world leaders coming for the UN’s resources and organization?  I assume there are no special arrangements needed, no special security needed because it’s basically a normal day.  All you’ve got is the PGA (President of the General Assembly) and the SG in the GA and lots of recorded tapes which someone just has to press a play button.  I’m assuming you can do this incredibly cheaply.  Tell me that’s the case?

Spokesman:  Well, you know, there are costs that are not going to be incurred obviously on overtime with security.  I assume we’ve probably brought in fewer technicians, but we also have increased costs due to cleaning and maintenance.  I’m not sure you know, what the… if there’s such a… it may be a bit of a wash in the end.

There will be… in terms of the first day and during the GA, there will be special arrangements around the General Assembly Hall, to make sure that we don’t exceed a certain capacity.

We expect a bit from what I’m told, a bit over 200, probably 210 or so people in the room, as opposed to that first Tuesday when we’ve had as many as 2,500 people, standing room only, in that room.

So we… there will be increased security and screening to make sure we keep the numbers to the bare minimum in the room for the safety of diplomats, the safety of staff, and everyone else.

Okay.  Let’s go back to Ray, see if you can get back on.

Okay.  Richard Roth, let’s see if we can finally hear you.

Question:  Can you hear me?

Spokesman:  Yes, I can hear you, Richard.

Question:  Wow, that is amazing.  I want to thank you for your playful insult a few days ago when you couldn’t hear me.  This is the only reason I’m talking now is to test the audio, but I would ask, and it could be General Assembly spokesman time, I realize that, but what do you think of using your wit and wisdom… what happens when you have a recording that perhaps does not play correctly and is stopped, as we can imagine the technical issues that the UN has been battling with for months now.  Any contingency plans?  International incident?  Tape starts again at the beginning?  And do you happen to know, and I’m sure for Brenden, how many tapes have actually been received because I think they were supposed to be in at least four days before.  I think we’re in that window.

Spokesman:  I have full confidence in my colleagues from BCSS (Broadcast and Conference Support Section) and UNTV that everything will go according to plan.  It is live television, as you, Richard, I’m sure have encountered in your brief career, that sometimes things do go wrong and we have backup plans and backup plans for those plans, as well, so let’s hope for the best.  Let’s hope for no international incidents.  Let’s hope for the video to roll, as videos used to roll back when I was in broadcasting, but we should hopefully all go well. 

What I can tell you because, in fact, I asked for those numbers earlier today, we have received about… a bit over 100 videos for the Monday event, for the UN 75 event, and we’ve received about 26 videos for the GA week event. 

As a reminder, Member States were encouraged to send the video clips about four days before they spoke, so given that the GA high-level event will go on for eight or nine days, you know, if you’re speaking towards the later end, you don’t need to send in your video as of now.

Okay.  Let’s give Ray one more try.  Ray from Sky Arabia?  Okay.

Abdelhamid, do you want to try it?

Question:  Yes.  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have two questions.  One, yesterday the US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, raised the issue that the US is considering replacing Mahmoud Abbas by another puppet leader, his name is Mohammed Dahlan, who served as a consultant for MBZ (Mohammed bin Zayed) in the United Arab Emirates.  Do you have any comment on that?

Spokesman:  No, I haven’t seen those comments and I have no comment, except to say that whether it’s the Palestinian people or people anywhere, people have the right to choose their own leaders.

Okay.

Correspondent:  My second question.

Spokesman:  Go ahead.

Question:  Sorry.  Just a few hours ago on a checkpoint near Jenin, a Palestinian doctor died instantly.  His name is Nidal Jabarin.  He’s 54, when Israelis threw smoke and sound bombs at the crowd, so he had heart problems so he died instantly, so I hope that will… this incident will make it to [Nickolay] Mladenov’s office.

But my question:  Don’t you see that Israeli… Israel has been emboldened by these treaties to become more brutal with the Palestinians?  There are more number of people arrested, more houses being destroyed, more killing in the last few days since the beginning of August to (rustling) 4 September, so it’s going from bad to worse, the situation.  How could the UN wait from these treaties when, in fact, emboldened Israel and became more brutal with the Palestinians?

Spokesman:  Look, the Secretary-General [audio cutting out]

Sorry.  Let me start again.

Correspondent:  I couldn’t hear you.

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General will continue to report on the events on the ground through his Special Coordinator, Mr. Mladenov, as he sees them.  We will leave the analysis to others, including journalists, and I think the Secretary-General is very clear in his position on the accords that he gave during the press conference.

Okay.  Any other questions?

Question:  Yes, may I ask a question?

Spokesman:  Go ahead, Mr. Sato.  Go ahead.

Question:  So sort of a question from my curiosity.  Yesterday, at the Peace Bell Ceremony, I was surprised to see the Secretary-General mentioned about one of the Japanese traditional ways to restore the pottery with the gold and the lacquer.  It is called kintsugi.  I didn’t know about that.  He seemed to be know much about the Japanese culture when he talk about how to make peace.  Do you know, how did he know the Japanese traditional kintsugi?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is a man of many layered mysteries.  He’s much more cultured than I am and I have no doubt that he has come across this and very interested in all cultures and artistic traditions, which he thoroughly enjoys studying.  Okay.

Question:  Are you saying he’s an international man of mystery?

Spokesman:  Yes, and his spokesman is an international man of no mystery.

All right.  Edie, it’s nice to see you back in your clean office.

Correspondent:  Yes!

Question:  Stéphane?

Spokesman:  Yes, go ahead.  Go ahead, Dulcie.

Question:  International woman of no mystery, speaking of Beijing 25.  What’s that format going to look like? Nobody’s talking about it.

Spokesman:  No, it’s on the side events that we’ve announced that will be on the week ahead and like all of these other meetings, it will be done virtually.  We will be sharing an update a week ahead before the end of the day.  And the Secretary-General will, in his remarks, also address issues related to Beijing and the decades that follow, and the many challenges that remain.

Question:  So no… no physical presence?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, the Secretary-General will likely speak from either a conference room or from his office, but like all meetings, it will be mostly virtual.

Question:  But you don’t have any special guests coming, besides the Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  In terms of speakers?  We’ll find out.

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thanks.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Anyone else.  Yes, Paula?  Your microphone, please.  Okay.  Go ahead.

Question:  Sorry, I’m new at this, your platform.  So I just wanted to know.  Now, that the General Assembly… [inaudible] done virtually, how is you know, this lack of networking, lobbying, you know, bathroom talks and so, how is that going to affect your [inaudible] particularly the… the determination of the… or yeah, the defining of the agenda at the UN?  And particularly on humanitarian emergencies other than the big health emergency?

Spokesman:  Well, it will be missing clearly, and that’s something that we’ve talked about here, or the Secretary-General has mentioned, that one big piece will be the informal chats, which are often critical to unlocking crises, unlocking money, the pull-asides, the meetings by happenstance, the discussions that go on, even at the annual lunch of Heads of State and Government.

I mean, that’s one of the amazing things that we’ve all seen every year is the… how the UN shines as a convening platform, and bringing together Heads of States that don’t see each other or world leaders that don’t see each other during the year, either for political reasons or for travel reasons or calendar reasons.  And sometimes, things start and get unlocked by just these small side conversations or the bilaterals the Secretary-General will be having.

So the informality for all of you, all the access that you don’t have to ministers and presidents and prime ministers, kings, queens and so on, not to mention the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and also… it’s missing, but we’re all in the same boat, right? We all have to deal with this new way of working.  We’re moving forward. 

The… you know, the GA will be completely different, a big chunk of it will be missing.  That being said, the work of the UN is continuing, and as we’ve talked about for the last months, whether it’s the humanitarian, the development work, the work in the field, that’s going on, and that’s being pushed forward.

But there will, obviously, be… that spark, that magic, that excitement that all of us diplo-geeks get on that first day of the General Assembly, we won’t have.

Correspondent:  Great.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  It’s Friday, so any other questions?  Okay.  On that note, let’s leave… hope you still have some energy for Brenden, and Mr. Varma, take it away. 

Just hold on for Brenden.  I’m sure he’ll be connected very shortly. 

While we wait, let’s see.  I’m being told there’s a lot of information on the Beijing meeting on the UN website already.  We can send you the link if you haven’t seen it.

For information media. Not an official record.