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15 July 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 Eri Kaneko, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, welcome to the noon briefing.

**Guest Today

Today, after I’m finished, we will be joined virtually by the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mr. Ramiz Alakbarov, who will update you on the situation in Afghanistan.

**Libya

As you’ve seen, Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative for Libya, briefed the Security Council today and discussed the process towards holding elections in the country on 24 December of this year.

He said that the constitutional basis for elections should have been clarified by now.  Regrettably, he added, the House of Representatives, the mandated body to do so in consultation with the High Council of State, has not delivered yet.  And he noted the inability of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to decide on the issue.

Because of these failures, Mr. Kubiš said, the situation in Libya is getting more difficult, confrontational and tense.

He added that in line with Security Council resolution 2570, preparations are ongoing for the deployment of an UNSMIL (UN Mission in Libya) ceasefire monitoring component in support of the Libyan-led, Libyan-owned ceasefire monitoring mechanism.

**Sudan

The Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, Atul Khare, has wrapped up a visit to Sudan, where he held talks on the completion of the drawdown of the African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

Mr. Khare held talks with the Chairperson of the Sovereign Council; the Minister of the Interior; the Coordinator of the National Committee for the new UN Mission in Sudan in the Prime Minister’s Office; the Governor of the Darfur Region; and the newly appointed North Darfur Wali.

All of the Sudanese officials he met with extended their support.  They thanked the United Nations for a timely, transparent and efficient drawdown.

In Darfur, there are more than 600 UN personnel at the El Fasher Logistics Base.  While there, Mr. Khare discussed the drawdown and the mechanisms that have been put in place for the current liquidation period.

**South Sudan

In neighbouring South Sudan, the UN Mission there (UNMISS) has launched a new Peace Fellows programme today to increase participation in the peace process and accelerate the implementation of the peace agreement.

The programme was launched in the capital, Juba, by the Head of the UN Mission, Nicholas Haysom, and South Sudan’s Vice-President, Rebecca Garang.  The programme is also supported by the African Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, better known as IGAD.

The one-year initiative will bring together representatives from all 10 states and three administrative areas.  They will focus on education.  They will share information about the peace agreement, and they will also work to improve interactions between citizens and the Government.

The programme will also aim to galvanize grass-roots support for reconciliation and peace efforts in the country.

**COVID-19 — Haiti

Moving to Haiti, Haiti has received 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility.  This is Haiti’s first shipment of COVID vaccines.

Colleagues from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Haiti have worked with the [United States] and Haitian authorities, as well as with the COVAX Facility to ensure that these vaccines arrived promptly and are ready for deployment as soon as possible.

To speed up the vaccination campaign, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) has been working to enhance transportation, increase mass communication and strengthen the cold chain across the country.

**COVID — WHO

Our colleagues at the World Health Organization (WHO) are telling us that deaths linked to COVID-19 in Africa have increased by 43 per cent in the past week, compared to the previous week.

Namibia, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia accounted for 83 per cent of the new deaths recorded in the past week.

This COVID-19 surge is the fastest the continent has seen, and it comes amid inadequate vaccine supplies.  The continent has vaccinated 52 million people so far, which is less than 2 per cent of the total number of people vaccinated worldwide.

Also today, the World Health Organization and UN Children’s Fund published new data showing that 23 million children missed out on basic vaccines through routine immunization services in 2020.  This is 3.7 million children more than in 2019.

WHO and UNICEF said that most of these — up to 17 million children — likely did not receive a single vaccine during the year, widening already immense inequities in vaccine access.

You can read more about this online.

**COVID-19 — Algeria

We have a COVID-19 update, today from Algeria, which our colleagues tell us is enacting stricter prevention measures and stepping up its vaccination efforts as the number of cases and deaths climb to their highest since December of 2020.

The UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator, Eric Overvest, has been supporting authorities on a multifaceted response while COVAX has delivered 1 million vaccine doses so far.

The UN is working with our partners to procure testing and medical equipment and we are also training health workers.

Our team has helped to create an Internet platform for vaccinations to manage appointments, keep track of statistics, and provide reminders to people on when to get their next dose.

The UN is also helping vulnerable groups, including refugees and migrants, and we are also conducting awareness-raising campaigns.

**Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council High-Level Political Forum concluded its presentations today with a large slate of voluntary national reviews, including from Japan, Germany, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Cyprus, Indonesia, Iraq, Madagascar, Bhutan, Namibia, Spain and Zimbabwe.  All these countries were reporting for the [second] time, except for Indonesia, which was reporting for the third time.

In the afternoon, the Deputy Secretary-General and the President of the Economic and Social Council will provide closing remarks for the current session of the Forum.

**Population Award

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today announced in a virtual ceremony the winners of this year’s UN Population Award.  Commissaire Hassane Haousseize Zouera from Niger’s police force was named the individual laureate and the General Directorate of Population of Oaxaca in Mexico was named the institutional laureate.

The annual Award, which honours an individual and an institution for their outstanding contributions to population, development and reproductive health, recognized Commissaire Zouera as a leader in addressing gender-based violence and for her contributions in making Niger a safer place for women and girls.  It also recognizes the Directorate in Oaxaca for its pioneering work on reproductive health and other issues affecting indigenous people in Mexico.

More information on the winners is online.

**World Youth Skills Day

Today is World Youth Skills Day.  In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General noted that young people were already facing disproportionate levels of unemployment and under-employment before the pandemic and that the COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated this troubling situation.

The Secretary-General stressed that to recover better, we must address the long-standing disparities and challenges faced by young people.  He added that young people drive solutions and must have a seat at the table, including in policymaking processes at the local, national, and global levels.

**Questions and Answers

I’m done.  And before we turn it over to our guest, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, I think we have time for a few questions.

Toby?

Question:  Thanks, Eri.  Seeing some harrowing images of dead bodies in Myanmar from COVID; I’m wondering if the UN has a COVID update from Myanmar.

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have a COVID update today, but I think we had mentioned sometime earlier this week about our concern in the increase of cases and the impact that the continuing political and socioeconomic instability have had on our ability to reach the people who need help.

We’ve also raised our concerns about the attacks on medical workers and medical facilities, which further inhibits people’s access to the treatment that they need.

James?

Question:  Saad Hariri, the Prime Minister of Lebanon, has resigned, keeping the political chaos in that country going as the country faces economic collapse.  What’s the Secretary-General’s reaction?  And what is the UN up to?

Associate Spokesperson:  We note that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has stood down from his functions.  We regret that Lebanon’s leaders have been unable to reach agreement on the formation of a new government.

We reiterate the call for the country’s political leadership to swiftly agree on the formation of a new government that is able to address the country’s numerous challenges.

The Secretary-General and his Special Coordinator, Ms. Joanna Wronecka, will continue to closely engage with relevant stakeholders to support Lebanon and its people.

Question:  And can I ask, are we going to hear, the reporters — the press corps in this room or at the stakeout — from the Special Envoy for Libya today?

Associate Spokesperson:  Not that I’m aware of, but let’s double-check.

Question:  Well, can you?  Because it’s very rare that he travels to New York.  Libya is at a pivotal moment.  He’s here in New York.  I can’t understand why… when part of the job is surely public diplomacy and accountability to questions from the public and the press, I can’t understand, if he’s managed to come all the way to New York, he can’t find 15 minutes at the stakeout.

Associate Spokesperson:  We hear you.  We’ll check on that.  Thanks.

Benno?

Question:  Thank you.  There was a deadly flood in western Germany.  At least 30 people died.  I wonder if the Secretary-General has any message, any comment and if he links such incidents to climate change.

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ve seen the reports of the flooding in Germany and throughout Europe.  We send our condolences to those who have lost their lives and their families.

This is a bigger trend in… what we see with climate change is greater climate extremes.  And just this week, we were heartened by the European Union’s new announcement of its commitments towards climate change, and we hope that these are actions that all Member States can take to ensure that we see fewer incidents such as these that have just taken place.

Okay.  Let’s see.  I think Evelyn has a question.

Question:  Yes.  How do you do?  Nice to see you there.  On Haiti, what kind of vaccine was delivered to them?

And how… despite all the people that are working on it, all the aid groups, is it possible, in the midst of the chaos, to administer it, to distribute it properly to the people who need it?

Associate Spokesperson:  On the first part of your question, I’ll need to double-check on that.  I just know that… all we know is that the vaccines came from the United States.

In terms of distribution, our colleagues at PAHO, the Pan American Health Organization, were working closely with COVAX and the authorities, both American and Haitian, to make sure that we can get the vaccines out to people as quickly as possible.  So, let’s hope that happens.

Correspondent:  Yeah, I’m just curious if that’s possible at all in this chaos, but there’s no way for you to know sitting here.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check and see how the distributions are going.  Thanks, Evelyn.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  Let’s see.  Karina, you have… Karina has a question?

Question:  Yes.  Hi, Eri.  Thank you so much.

Associate Spokesperson:  Hi.

Question:  Can you confirm that the Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, is said to travel to Moscow on 22 July?

Associate Spokesperson:  I will check on that.  I don’t know the answer for that… to that right now, but we’ll get back to you as soon as I hear back.  Thanks.

And do we have any other questions, in the room, on the board?  Okay.  Then I think we will hand it over to our guest today, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Mr. Ramiz Alakbarov.  Are you on the line with us, sir?

For information media. Not an official record.