21 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.

All right.  Good morning, and happy birthday to us, all of us, because it is our UN.


As you heard from our friend and colleague Brenden Varma, the ceremony to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN got under way today.  The Secretary‑General, who was speaking in person, highlighted some of the Organization’s accomplishments.  Never in modern history have we gone so many years without a military conflict between the major Powers, he said.  Most recently, he added, unanimous support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement provided an inspiring vision for the twenty-first century.

But, today, the Secretary-General said, we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions.  He welcomed the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth anniversary declaration and highlighted that the more than 1 million people who participated in the global conversation this year expressed how they see the United Nations as a vehicle to make the world a better place.  He called for a networked multilateralism, in which the UN family, international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs and others work together more closely and more effectively.  The Secretary-General concluded by saluting all staff, past and present, for their dedication in bringing the ideals of the United Nations to life.  And a quick note to add that the UN75 Report, launched today, is also available online.


And a couple of notes for you.  Our friends in Geneva, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and their partners, today launched the FOCUS‑Africa — an $8.2 million initiative funded by the European Commission to increase resilience and adaptation in Southern Africa over the next four years.  FOCUS will deliver tailored climate services in four key sectors: agriculture and food security, water, energy and infrastructure.  The project, which embraces about 10 partners from Africa and 10 from Europe, will benefit not just African countries, but the European consortium partners who will enhance their scientific knowledge and climate know-how.  More information online.

**COVID-19 — Malawi

An update from our colleagues in Malawi to highlight what their country team, led by Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres Macho, is doing to help save lives and livelihoods in the face of the pandemic.  On the health front, the World Food Programme (WFP) provided storage for medical and personal protective equipment supplies, while the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is working with universities on a contact tracing mobile app to map outbreaks and hotspots.  The UN team is reaching more than 2 million people through communications campaigns and community engagement, and UNDP has created more than 4,000 campaign products in braille, and the UN has also produced a COVID-19 prevention song in local languages to reach a wider and younger audience.  For its part, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) helped spread prevention messages through community theatre and broadcast media.  Ahead of schools reopening, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is working to prevent sexual and gender‑based violence, while UN‑Women is providing bicycles and sanitary supplies to vulnerable women and girls.

**Resident Coordinators

And our colleagues in the UN Development Coordination Office tell us that we have two new UN Resident Coordinators – one in Angola and the other in Sierra Leone.  These appointments follow the confirmations by their respective host Governments.  The Secretary-General appointed Zahira Virani of Canada as the new Resident Coordinator in Angola, while Babatunde Ahonsi of Nigeria will serve as the new Resident Coordinator in Sierra Leone.  They will work to enhance coordination among UN entities to support national and local efforts to tackle and recover better from COVID-19 and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.  We remain with full gender parity among all our Resident Coordinators covering 162 countries and territories.  The UN Sustainable Development Group website has all details.


Sorry, I just missed a note.  In response to questions I received that in Mali, we take note [of] the nomination of the President and Vice-President of the Transition by the CNSP.  We understand that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is expected to meet on this issue tomorrow afternoon and we continue to monitor the situation closely.  The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) continues to implement its mandate, as well as [its support] to national and local authorities to the fight the COVID-19 virus.  And over the weekend, in the town of Gao, members of the UN police conducted a joint patrol with Malian security forces.  The patrol was focused on increasing "community policing", which aims to bring the police closer to the populations and acts as an opportunity to exchange information to better understand their security concerns.  In addition to joint patrols, MINUSMA continuous to provide technical and material support for the Malian security forces.  For example, the UN Mission recently rehabilitated the Gao Police Station as part of its support through the peace and security trust fund for Mali.

**Financial Contribution

I am delighted to say thank you to our friends in Eswatini.  They have come on our list of fully paid-up Member States.  We are now at 118.


And as Brenden mentioned, we are not briefing tomorrow and Wednesday, but we’ll be back on Thursday and the highlights will be posted.  Myself and another one of my colleagues will be physically in the office should you have any personal questions we can help you with.  Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi.  Good morning.  Ray Bouchefra from Sky News Arabia.  The US considered that Iran, instead of being a country that contributes to the world peace and stability, it's creating troubles through armed militia groups, like in Iraq, Yemen and Syria.  As a result, it has resumed and done some sanctions to this country.  Any comment on that?  Thank you.

Spokesman:  No.  I mean, the only comment that we have is, as you know, the Secretary‑General has written to the Security Council to explain his position, which is mainly that, pending clarification, the Secretariat stands ready to provide required support.  Yes.  Go ahead, Toby, if that is you.  Yes.  Okay.

Question:  Nice to see you, Steph.  Thank you very much.  We were expecting to see President [Donald] Trump today kick off the seventy-fifth commemoration activity in the GA [General Assembly], and we didn't see him.  Are you able to confirm whether you've received a video from the US delegation for the general debate?

Spokesman:  No, I don't have that information, but we do expect… I mean, I have no reason to believe that we will not have video participation by the President of the United States tomorrow.

Question:  And then, just as a follow‑up, the US Ambassador, Kelly Craft, rather than participate in today's commemoration event is having a press conference in Washington, D.C., about Iran's sanctions.  I know you just talked about that, but do you have anything more to add to the UN's response in addition to the letter?

Spokesman:  No, the response is the letter.  The letter, if it's not, will be up on the Security Council website as an official document of the Security Council.  Ms.  Lederer?

Question:  I was going to ask a similar thing, but as one follow‑up, can you confirm that the US President will not be here or at least that you have no indication that he will be here tomorrow to deliver his speech in person?  And then I actually have two other little questions.

Spokesman:  Let me put it this way.  I have zero indication of that, but I don't speak for him or for… but on my end, I have zero indication that he will be here in person.  But, obviously, that's a question best raised with the US authorities.  Yes, go ahead.

Question:  Right.  Okay.  On my other two questions, first, Mr. [Alexei] Navalny said today that a nerve agent was found in and on his body.  And I wondered whether the Secretary‑General had any comment on that.  And, also, does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the student‑led demonstrations that are going on in Thailand, where a lot of students are demonstrating for democracy and a reformed monarchy?

Spokesman:  On your last question, I think my answer would be what we say wherever we see demonstrations - that people need to be allowed to express themselves, demonstrate peacefully and, as a matter of principle, security forces and Governments should always show restraint to allow people to express themselves.  On Mr. Navalny, nothing new to what we've already said, and I think the High Commissioner for Human Rights has also spoken out on this issue.  Oh, sorry, we do have people on screen.  I keep forgetting.  Abdelhamid, I see you in the chat.

Correspondent:  Oh, thank you.


QuestionAlhamdulillah.  Yeah.  I have a question similar to Edie.  She always steals some of my ideas, because she comes ahead of me all the time.  My question is similar but about Egypt.  Today, thousands of people took to the street protesting the… that economic situation, bulldozing their homes, and other grievances.  It is said that the political prisoners in Egyptian jails reached between 60,000 and 100,000.  The Human Rights Watch spoke out and Amnesty International spoke out; the UN didn't.  So, if those people don't find an ally with the UN, so, isn't that like a carte blanche for the government to oppress them further?

Spokesman:  Look, no… whether… whatever country you're speaking about, there is… no one should ever have a carte blanche to stifle public expression or political expression.  I think, as the Secretary‑General very clearly said, no one in the twenty-first century should be in jail for what they believe, for their political views.  People need to be allowed to express themselves, and Governments need to listen to the people.  This is what the Secretary‑General has been saying for quite some time, and this applies to many, many different situations throughout the world.  All right.  I don't see anything else in the chat.  You're free to wave your hands in the air like you just don't care if you have a question.  Okay.  We will take it as done.  And we shall see you… not tomorrow, not Wednesday, we'll see you Thursday.  And if that changes, we'll let you know.  Thank you, and happy GA.  Yay.

For information media. Not an official record.