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25 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.

Good afternoon.  Happy, happy, happy, happy Friday, if I’m not mistaken.

**Secretary-General — Human Rights Side Event

I’ll start off with the Secretary-General, who this morning at a side event on “participation, human rights and the governance challenge ahead”, he said that overcoming the multiple crises political leaders face requires approaches driven by unity, solidarity and compassion.  The key to reinvigorated and reimagined governance, he added, lies with truly meaningful participation of people [and civil] society in the decisions that impact their lives.  Yet, the Secretary‑General said that in many places around the world, participation is being denied and civic space is being crushed.  A global pushback on human rights has placed participation in its crosshairs, Mr. [Antonio] Guterres added.  The Secretary-General said the Call to Action for Human Rights commits the United Nations to strengthening its partnership with civil society, and ensuring the protection, promotion and participation of human rights defenders and community leaders in our work.  The Secretary-General concluded with a call for Participation as a critical element to strengthen societies and meet the urgency of our time.

**Deputy Secretary-General — COVID-19

This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General spoke at a high-level event on the theme, “Beyond COVID-19, public-private partnership for the Sustainable Development Goals as a model for building back better”.  Amina Mohammed said that we have seen unprecedented alliances, innovation and achievements.  She pointed to examples such as rapid migration, digital technologies, and a new generation of finance products and infrastructure, and ambitious social protection programmes implemented at a scale never seen before.

**Financing for Development

I also want to flag that, on Monday, after my briefing, the Deputy Secretary-General will be here to brief you on the high-level meeting with Heads of State and Government on “Financing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond”.  That meeting will take place on Tuesday morning.  The meeting is convened by the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica, as well as the Secretary-General.  As you know, the first meeting of this kind was convened on 28 May with the purpose of enabling discussion and finding concrete financing solutions to the development emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Mohammed will also brief on the ACT-Accelerator/COVAX Facility event, which will take place on Wednesday.  She will discuss how to make solutions to the pandemic accessible to everyone.  This event is convened by the Secretary-General, the President of South Africa, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the World Health Organization (WHO).  I want to add that Tuesday late morning, early afternoon, around midday or so, the Secretary-General will have a press briefing with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica after the COVID-19 Financing for Development meeting.  That will be a virtual meeting only, that will be a press briefing only as the Secretary-General will remain in Conference Room 8, where the meeting is taking place, but we’ll share details with you on that a bit later.

**Security Council — Sudan

The Security Council held an open meeting on Sudan today.  The Under‑Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, said that, despite the pandemic, Sudan’s political transition continues to move in the right direction but that we are also mindful of the significant work ahead.  Ms. DiCarlo said that planning for the new UN Mission in Sudan, to be known as UNITAMS, is progressing and is intended to enable a new and innovative way of working, fostering maximum cooperation and integration among various UN entities.

Also briefing the Council was the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, and he welcomed last month’s initialling of a peace agreement between the Transitional Government of Sudan, the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minawi, which he said is an important milestone in the often-troubled history of Darfur.  Nonetheless, he added, much of the work remains to ensure that the goodwill shown in the negotiating process is translated into lasting and sustainable change on the ground, stressing that the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and the UN are ready to step in, excuse me, stand ready to help.

**South Sudan

On neighbouring South Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues inform us that, since July, some 625,000 people have been affected by devastating flooding along the White Nile river.  The Humanitarian Coordinator, Alain Noudéhou — together with South Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, as well as the [heads] of UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations] — travelled yesterday to Unity County, where they met with people who have been impacted by the floods.  The UN along with our partners are providing food, temporary shelter, fishing kits, water purification tablets, medicine and other supplies.  To date, some 360,000 people have received assistance.  We need more than $80 million for the overall flood response, including $46 million for immediate assistance to 360,000 people until the end of the year.  In the meantime, the Humanitarian Coordinator is releasing $10 million from the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund for the flood response.

**United Nations Peacekeeping Update

I have an update from the work of our peacekeeping missions in Mali and the Central African Republic.  In the town of Kidal, in northern Mali, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has built three floating platforms to help people and goods safely cross the “wadi”, a riverbed that separates the Aliou district from the city centre.  The riverbed is the main crossing point in the city.  It is usually dry but gets flooded during the rainy season.  As a result, these floating platforms will contribute to improving living conditions and safety for people there.

And turning to the Central African Republic, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) continues to support the organization of the forthcoming Presidential and legislative elections.  Earlier this week, a meeting was organized [with] representatives of a women’s group called the Organization of Central African Women.  This was done on the margins of the International Day of Peace.  The women gathered to discuss achievements under Security Council resolution 1325 (2000), as well as the positive influence of women in conflict resolution.  They also took stock of the contribution of women to last year’s Peace Agreement and reflected on their role during difficult times, as well as strategies to be developed by peacemakers.

**Libya

Earlier this week, the acting Special Representative in Libya, Stephanie Williams, and the Ambassador-designate of the European Union to Libya, José Sabadell, met with the new leadership of the General Electricity Company of Libya to discuss plans to address the country’s unacceptable electricity crisis.  Libyans across the country have been facing daily power outages, sometimes lasting 16 hours per day or more.  The Deputy Chairman of the electricity company, Abdul Salem al Ansari, presented a plan to address the current 3,000-megawatt deficit with short-term and long-term efforts.  There are more details in a press release from our friends at the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

**Nuclear Weapons

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.  In his message for the day, the Secretary-General said that, almost 75 years since the adoption of the first General Assembly resolution committing the UN to the goal of nuclear disarmament, our world continues to live in the shadow of a nuclear catastrophe.  Relationships between States possessing nuclear weapons are characterized by divisions, distrust and the absence of dialogue, he added.  As they increasingly choose to pursue strategic competition over cooperation, the dangers posed by nuclear weapons are becoming more acute.  The Secretary-General called on the States that possess nuclear weapons to lead, and to return to real, good-faith dialogue to restore trust and confidence, reduce nuclear risk and take tangible steps to nuclear disarmament.  Next week, on Friday, the General Assembly will hold a high-level event to mark the day.

**World Tourism Day

Sunday, 27 September, is World Tourism Day.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General highlighted that many millions of people around the world rely on tourism for income, especially women and young people.  He noted that tourism has suffered enormously during the pandemic, with some 120 million jobs at risk.  The impacts could lead to the loss of between 1.5 and 2.8 per cent of the global gross domestic product (GDP), particularly impacting the most vulnerable countries.  The Secretary-General emphasized that as we look to recover from this profound crisis, the safe restart of tourism is essential, not least for rural development — the focus of this year’s World Tourism Day.  He said that we must ensure a fair distribution of its benefits and advance the transition to a carbon‑neutral and -resilient tourism economy.

**Financial Contributions

I need to apologize to our friends in Bolivia, Lebanon and Sierra Leone.  Yesterday, I should have announced publicly on camera that these three countries have made full payments to the regular budget dues.  The payments came in over the last few days.  We are now at the happy number, or at least the good number of 121.  All right.  Let's go to the chat.  Well, let's go in the room since we don't need to have a chat function.  Hey, Ray.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Hi.  Thank you, Stéphane.  You know, there has been many new cases of COVID‑19 in… not only in Europe, like Italy, France… yeah.  But, only here in New York City and some hot‑spots in Brooklyn and Queens.  Will this affect the current UN75 UNGA [United Nations General Assembly]?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, we're, obviously, in close touch with our colleagues in the New York City Government, especially the health authorities.  Our Medical Services are what I assume in almost daily touch with them.  We're keeping an eye on the numbers here.  But, we have so few… we really don't have anyone that is travelling into New York for this event.  So, the people who are coming into the building are the ones who are already living in New York.  But, we're, obviously, keeping an eye on the numbers, what the city decides to do and how that may impact the return to the building.  Okay.  I actually don't see anyone in the chat.  If you have any questions, open your mic or wave your hands.  Excellent.  This looks like a victory for me.  Okay.  We will turn it over to Brenden [Varma] and hit him with hard questions like you just did to me.

For information media. Not an official record.