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14 June 2021

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 Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Group of Seven

All right.  I’ll get started now.  The Secretary-General had very useful informal discussions with the leaders attending the G7 [Group of Seven] Summit in Cornwall over the weekend.

On Sunday, the Secretary-General participated in the last two sessions of the Summit.  First, he attended a session on how open societies and economies can apply the democratic model to best address global challenges.  Before leaving, he also joined the G7 group, and other guests, for a discussion on the fight against climate change.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General had a bilateral meeting with the host of the G7, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom.  The Secretary-General encouraged the leaders attending the G7 Summit to adopt bold commitments in the fight against climate change.  They also discussed a host of other issues, including Myanmar, Cyprus, Yemen and Afghanistan, among others.

That afternoon, the Secretary-General attended a G7 session focused on global health and the pandemic.

And you’ll have seen the press remarks we issued Friday afternoon, on the eve of his participation in the Summit, which underscore his call for bold commitments on climate change and the supply of COVID vaccines.

**Syria

Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, strongly condemned the attack on Al-Shifaa hospital in Afrin city in northern Syria, which resulted in the killing and injuring of civilians, including medical personnel, and the destruction of parts of the hospital.

He said that such appalling attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health-care facilities and workers, are unacceptable and must cease.  All parties must fully comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and civilian objects.

He added that this attack and the continuing violence once again underscore the importance of putting in place a nationwide ceasefire in Syria and a renewed effort to make progress in the implementation of Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).

**Security Council

The Head of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), El-Ghassim Wane, briefed the Security Council on Mali this morning.  He said that while the President and Prime Minister of the Transition have reassured international partners that they would respect the transitional calendar, immediate action is required to initiate critical reforms and lay the groundwork for a credible electoral process.

The time has come for Malian leaders to rise above partisan politics and personal interests, Mr. Wane said.  The UN Mission’s support will remain critical in this regard, he added.

Turning to the security situation, the Special Representative said it remains of utmost concern in northern and central Mali.  Its impact on the everyday lives of people is devastating and continues to take a heavy toll, he added.

Insecurity, and the lack of access to education and water and other basic services were identified as major challenges impacting the lives of Malian people outside Bamako.

Mali is at a critical juncture, Mr. Wane told Council members.  We cannot allow it to slide into further instability with drastic consequences for the subregion and beyond.

**Nigeria

On Nigeria, our humanitarian colleagues say they continue to receive alarming reports of clashes between insurgent groups and Nigerian Armed Forces in Dikwa in Borno State, as well as reports of armed groups and military personnel attacking and harassing internally displaced people (IDPs) living in camps.

Some IDPs have started moving out of a camp in Dikwa and are settling in neighbouring host communities due to these recent attacks.

Following violence last week, military personnel allegedly conducted a spontaneous search at the camp, with some displaced people assaulted and more than 20 shelters set on fire.

Humanitarian work has been impacted by these stepped-up clashes.

Our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) continue to follow up on the situation and advocate with military high command on the need for military operations and personnel to comply on civilian protection and human rights.

**Burkina Faso

Just a short note to let you know that the Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), Mahamat Saleh Annadif, has just concluded a two-day visit to Burkina Faso.

This visit was part of his regional tour we mentioned a few days ago, to meet with the authorities in the subregion.

In Ouagadougou, Mr. Annadif met President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré.  He also had talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of State in charge of national reconciliation, as well as with technical and financial partners of Burkina Faso.

As you can imagine, discussions particularly focused on the deteriorating security situation, and on the need to pool forces and efforts to effectively combat terrorism.

The Special Representative reiterated his condemnation of the terrorist attacks against the people of Burkina Faso.  He expressed his deep sympathy and solidarity with the Government and the people in their fight against terrorism.

**Ethiopia

Moving to Ethiopia, the UN Children’s (UNICEF) Fund Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, today said that UNICEF projects that 56,000 children under the age of 5 in Tigray will need treatment this year for severe acute malnutrition.  This is almost six times higher than the average annual caseload for the region.

In a statement, Ms. Fore warned that at least 33,000 children in inaccessible parts of Tigray are severely malnourished and face imminent death without immediate help.  These children are among more than 2.2 million in northern Ethiopia who are acutely food insecure.

Ms. Fore pointed out that the malnutrition crisis in the region has coincided with extensive damage to essential systems and services on which children depend for their survival.  She added that the situation, while already a catastrophe, could deteriorate further as food insecurity is expected to worsen over the coming months, especially if crops cannot be planted.

**Myanmar

On Myanmar, more than four months since the military took over the Government, our colleagues on the ground remain deeply concerned over the security forces’ use of violence, with reports of deaths and injuries on a daily basis.

The UN Country Team said that at least 861 women, children and men have been killed across Myanmar since 1 February, while thousands more have been injured.

More than 4,800 people are under detention — including politicians, authors, human rights defenders, teachers, health-care workers, civil servants, journalists, monks, celebrities and ordinary citizens.

Our colleagues in Myanmar again call on security forces to protect civilians, as widespread and systematic breaches of human rights law — such as extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture and ill treatment, and enforced disappearance — continue.

**UN Central Emergency Response Fund

Today, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, released $135 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to boost humanitarian operations in 12 countries in Africa, the Americas and the Middle East.

The announcement follows the release of data last week showing that more than 350,000 people are experiencing catastrophic conditions in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.  Threat of famine also looms in Burkina Faso, southern Madagascar, north-east Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.

Mr. Lowcock warned that famine is appearing in several places right now, so there is no time to waste.  He added that this UN Central Emergency Response Fund allocation could mean the difference between life and death for millions of people who rely on aid to survive.

**COVAX — Ecuador

I have a COVAX update for you, today from Ecuador which, on Friday, received more than 330,000 doses of COVAX vaccines.

This was the third shipment from COVAX, bringing the total number of doses sent to more than 750,000.

Vice-President Alfredo Borrero of Ecuador thanked UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and COVAX.

**Climate

Today, the UN Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action released its first Progress Report, which details climate action milestones in the fashion sector.

The report shows that since its inception in 2018, the Charter has seen considerable progress on industry-wide climate ambition.  This includes growing the signatory base to 125 members, who now represent $450 billion in revenue and over 10 per cent of total fashion industry greenhouse gas emissions.

The Charter also requires its signatories to publicly disclose their emissions.  So far, 70 per cent of signatories submitted climate disclosures with one third reporting for the first time in 2020.  In addition, 38 Charter signatories have set — or have committed to setting — science-based targets.

The report also makes recommendations in specific areas such as increasing the use of renewable energy in the supply chain, phasing out coal in manufacturing, and promoting broader climate action and consumer engagement.

The full report is online.

**William Swing

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General expressed his deep sadness at the passing of William Swing, the former Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and past leader of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General called him a true humanist, who dedicated his life to serving the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable in our world.

He added that he will never forget Mr. Swing’s dedication and compassion as they worked together side by side in the face of some of the worst displacement crises.

To his wife, his family and his former colleagues, the Secretary-General expressed his deepest condolences and profound solidarity.

**World Blood Donor Day

Today is World Blood Donor Day, and this year’s theme is “Give blood and keep the world beating”.  The message highlights the essential contribution that blood donors make to keeping the world pulsating by saving lives and improving the health of others.  It reinforces the call for more people all over the world to donate blood regularly.

A special focus of this year’s campaign is on the role of young people in ensuring a safe blood supply.

**Press Encounters Tomorrow

For press encounters, tomorrow, we expect to have a virtual stakeout by the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, following his briefing to the Security Council on Yemen.  As you know, this will be his final briefing to the Council in his capacity as Special Envoy.

Then at noon, we will have a press briefing in this room on the fourteenth session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which starts tomorrow.  Once that briefing is over, Stéphane [Dujarric] will be back to brief you.

And I will now turn the floor over to your questions.

**Questions and Answers

Edie, over to you.

Question:  Thank you very much, Farhan.  Two questions and apologies if you addressed this; I came in a few minutes late.  First, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the formation of a new Israeli Government and expectations for possibly moving ahead on trying to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians?

And secondly, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the start of the trial in Myanmar by the military junta of Aung San Suu Kyi today?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding your first question, of course, we’re always hopeful for any developments that can encourage progress between the parties.  So, we’re hoping that as this new Government takes office and starts its functions that it will move forward in good faith in terms of dealing with the Palestinians on the core concerns that the parties have.  The Secretary-General congratulates the incoming Government and looks forward to working with them.

Regarding your question on Aung San Suu Kyi, our position on Aung San Suu Kyi is clear.  We wanted her and all of the senior members of her Administration to be freed.  The Secretary-General has called for and continues to call for a reversal of the 1 February coup and the restoration of the legitimate Government of Myanmar, of whom Aung San Suu Kyi is a member.

Yes?

Question:  Hi, Farhan.  Thanks.  Nice to see you.  Just following up on Myanmar, we note that the Special Envoy will brief the Security Council on Friday.  Can we request some press availability from her on Friday, as well?

Deputy Spokesman:  We are on the same page as you, and we’re working to get that happening, and we’ll see whether we can bring her [virtually] to the stakeout.  But, yes, we’re in touch with them on that.

Question:  Thanks.  And just two questions, the French Ambassador said, on MINUSMA peacekeeping in Mali, that he would like to see an increase in the troop ceiling.  Do you know if MINUSMA is prepared for this contingency, and how do they feel about it?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, regarding that, of course, we will let the members of the Security Council discuss this proposal amongst themselves.  Whatever the Council members agree to, we will carry out, and if that means having to boost our numbers, we’ll do that.  But first, we have to cross that bridge when we come to it.  Right now, the matter is under discussion, and we’ll let the members discuss it.

Question:  Thank you.  And just a quick question, any update on Afghanistan peace talks?

Deputy Spokesman:  There’s nothing new to say in terms of a programme for another round of talks.  As we’ve pointed out, Jean Arnault is talking to various Governments, including here at the permanent representative level, and we’ll see what further progress can be made.

Kristen, you had your hand up.

Correspondent:  Toby asked my question already.

Deputy Spokesman:  Oh.  Excellent.  Let me go to the chat.  I didn’t see anything yet.  Hold on.  Do any of you over there…  Oh, I see Sylviane’s hand.  Sylviane Zehil, please, you have the floor.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Good afternoon.  I have a question today on Lebanon.  There are calls for establishing Lebanon under trusteeship system, United Nations should establish a Trusteeship Council for Lebanon that would govern the country for five years.  Any comment from the United Nations?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I don’t have any comment on those proposals.  What I can say is we’ve made clear our concerns about the sort of problems that Lebanon faces.  It’s very critical that an effective Government be put in place in Lebanon, and it’s very critical that Lebanon get the help, particularly the financial support, that it needs for the Lebanese people to weather the current crises they face, and the Secretary-General will continue to press for that.

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesman:  And… oh, Abdelhamid…

Question:  And anything on the trusteeship system, establishing a trusteeship system?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Trusteeship Council of the United Nations has ceased to function.  It wrapped up its work some years ago.  So, that is not a working branch of the United Nations at this point.

Yes, Abdelhamid.  You have a question?

Question:  Yes, Farhan.  Thank you very much.  Tomorrow, the Israeli settlers will do their Jerusalem Flag Day march, and it’s expected to be… to open a new chapter with clashes.  I haven’t seen any statement.  I looked at the Tor Wennesland Twitter, and there’s nothing about it.  He only congratulated the new Government in Israel.  And you know, they’re promising to expand settlements.  So, he’s, in fact, endorsing a Government that is promising to expand settlement.

And also, in a related development, on Friday, 15-year-old boy Mohammad Hamayel was shot and killed in the village of Beita, and there is no word.  And on Saturday, a woman, Ibtissam Kaabneh, was shot in Qalandia checkpoint, and there is no word.  Only he issued a statement to congratulate this racist Government of Israel promising to expand settlement.  So, do you have any comment?

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding tomorrow’s march, we have made clear — Tor Wennesland has made clear — the need for all sides to refrain from unilateral steps and provocations, for them to exercise restraint and allow for the necessary work to be done to solidify the current ceasefire.  We warned that the current cessation of hostilities is fragile, and so, we’re trying to do what we can to bolster that.

Regarding what you said about the recent casualties, of course, we are concerned about all such reports and want them to be looked into thoroughly.  And, of course, any such incidents like that will be reported during the periodic briefings to the Security Council.

And with that, I will cede the floor to my colleague, Amy Quantrill.  Amy, come on up.

For information media. Not an official record.