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29 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.

**Ethiopia

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, started a six-day mission to Ethiopia today.

Mr. Griffiths said that it was important to him that his first official mission in his new role be to Ethiopia, where humanitarian needs have increased this year due to armed conflicts in Tigray and Benishangul-Gumuz, as well as intercommunal violence in parts of Afar, Somali and SNNP regions, and drought in Somali, Oromia and Afar regions.

He said that these shocks come on top of existing challenges associated with floods, the desert locust infestation, chronic food insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic.

During his visit, Mr. Griffiths is expected to meet with high-level Government officials and representatives of the humanitarian and donor communities.  He said he looks forward to constructive discussions on scaling up the humanitarian response across the country.

He plans to travel to Tigray to hear from civilians affected by the conflict and to witness first-hand the challenges that aid workers face.  An estimated 5.2 million people — which is about 90 per cent of the population — need humanitarian assistance in the Tigray region.

Mr. Griffiths also plans to meet with Amhara regional authorities in Bahir Dar city.  We will keep you updated on Mr. Griffiths’ mission.

**Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs

The Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, was on an official visit to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 25 to 27 July, where she met with Ethiopian President Sahle Work Zewde.  They discussed Ethiopia’s priorities and how the UN can further support efforts to strengthen the participation in public life for all Ethiopians, including women, youth and civil society.

Later during the visit, she met with Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen and Minister of Peace Muferiat Kamil in separate meetings, where they exchanged views on steps to strengthen the region’s stability and national unity.  She also emphasized the UN’s support for a peaceful solution to the Tigray conflict.

Ms. DiCarlo then met with the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, and the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Adeoye Bankole, to discuss conflict prevention and peace efforts, including the involvement of women and youth in these efforts.

The following day, on 28 July, which was yesterday, she travelled to Khartoum in Sudan and met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.  She congratulated him on the recent progress achieved and assured him that the UN and the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) remain fully committed to supporting the Sudanese transition to democracy, including the completion and implementation of the peace process.  Her visit to Sudan will conclude on 31 July.

**Security Council

This morning, Security Council members voted to extend the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another six months.

Members of the Security Council also voted to extend the sanctions regime in the Central African Republic.

**Mali

The UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) reports that yesterday, peacekeepers repelled two attacks targeting its patrols.  The first took place in Kidal.  An armoured vehicle was damaged but there were no casualties.

The second attack happened north of Douentza, in the Mopti Region, in an area where peacekeepers had defused an improvised explosive device earlier in the day.

In the past three weeks, there have been 15 attacks against peacekeepers in Mali, including 11 that involved improvised explosive devices.  Fifteen Mission staff were injured in these attacks, which also caused extensive material damage.

Despite these challenges, the Mission remains committed to carrying out its mandate and reiterated its support for the full implementation of the peace agreement.

** COVID-19 — Benin

And we have a COVID-19 update for you from Benin.

On Monday, Benin received more than 300,000 doses of vaccines through COVAX.  These vaccines will be used at 115 vaccination sites across the country.

The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Salvator Niyonzima, is ramping up its support for the ongoing vaccination campaign.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has been supporting health authorities with surveillance of the virus, epidemiological investigation, case management, and risk communication and community engagement.

For its part, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) is working with partners to transport and distribute the vaccines.

The UN has been working to raise awareness of the vaccination campaign and is disseminating messages through text messaging.  We are also working with authorities to manage rumours and misinformation.

**Education

The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, delivered a video message to the Global Education Summit on behalf of the Secretary-General, in which she warned that we are in the middle of an education crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is already contributing to greater educational inequality, and a surge in child labour and child marriage, she said.

A year ago, she said, more than 90 per cent of the world’s students — or 1.6 billion young people — were out of school.  Some 156 million are still affected by closures, while nearly 25 million may never return.

The Deputy Secretary-General emphasized that an effective recovery from the pandemic requires investment in teachers, in digital learning, and in systems that are fit for the future.

**Apostolis

Before I finish, I just want to note that one of your colleagues is leaving his assignment at the UN after some 30 years covering this institution.

This journalist has outlasted four Secretaries-General and is retiring just as a fifth is starting his second term.  And I see him on the screen.

From the long-lasting Cyprus issue to the North Macedonia talks and many other events, he was there reporting on the intricacies and mysteries of UN negotiations for his readers back home.  He was also a worthy chronicler of the politics of Astoria!  The Cyprus News Agency was very fortunate to have him as their New York correspondent.

I know you will join me in wishing all the best to Apostolis Zoupaniotis as he goes home to Greece for a well-earned retirement.

Stéphane [Dujarric], who is coming back from Greece tomorrow, asked me to say this to you — and, Apostolis, I apologize in advance for my mispronunciation but — Kali synechia.  So, thank you for all that you’ve done and, on a personal note, thank you for all your kindness to me and to our office for all of these years.

So, that is it for me.  Does anybody have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Yes, Carla?

Question:  Does the UN have any comment on the meeting between Wendy Sherman and the Chinese Deputy Minister that took place in the past several days?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ve seen the reports.  As you are aware, the UN was not involved, but we welcome any talks between two members of the… two permanent members of the Security Council.

Question:  [inaudible]  The American readout and the Chinese readout appears to be very different on their take on the results.  There seems to be escalating tension.

Associate Spokesperson:  But you know, we here at the UN have always been calling for dialogue, and this is a prime example of dialogue, and we hope such talks can continue.

Yes?

Question:  If I may ask you a sports question, there was a quite big scandal at the Olympics with the German cyclist coach, who was using racist slurs to motivate a German cyclist.  He was sent home by the German National Committee.  I just wonder if you would have a broad or more specific position on this ex… including especially at the Olympics?

Associate Spokesperson:  So, we have no particular comment on this particular case, but not just for this instance but for all instances, we would hope that athletes and their teams express their sportsmanship through… by not using racial epithets and respecting the human rights and the equality of all people.  Thank you.  [laughter]

Do we have any other questions?  Edie?  Take your time.  No rush.  [laughter]

Correspondent:  I just wanted to say, on behalf of myself and, I’m sure, many members of the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), how much we will miss Apostolis, who has been a staunch member of UNCA for many, many years and a great help to me and others in writing about the Cyprus conflict.  So, cheers and a great retirement.  And when we all get to Greece, we’ll come find you.  [laughter]

Associate Spokesperson:  I hope you know we’re all coming, Apostolis.  [laughter]

Does anybody have any other questions?  Yes, Evelyn?

Correspondent:  No, I’m… no, none from me.  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  Abdelhamid.  Sorry.  And then we’ll get to you, Apostolis.  Sorry.  [laughter]

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Yesterday, 12-year-old boy — his name is Mohammed Allamy — was shot and killed by Israeli occupation forces in the village of Beit Ummar near Hebron.  Any comment on that?

Associate Spokesperson:  We’ve seen these reports, and we would urge the authorities to investigate the case fully.

And Apostolis.  Sorry.  Sorry to keep you waiting.  Oh.  [cross talk]

Question:  My second question is that four days after the emergency measures in Tunisia, Al Jazeera offices stay closed.  Have the UN or UN representative in Tunisia tried to reach out to the authorities to talk about the freedom of the press in Tunisia?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific comment on the situation, but I can tell you that contacts are being had at all levels, and the UN has raised their concerns about the need to respect these kinds of freedoms.

Correspondent:  Thank you.  Thank you.

Associate Spokesperson:  Okay.  Now I believe it’s your turn, Apostolis.  [laughter]

Correspondent:  I want to thank you very much, Eri, Farhan [Haq], and Stéphane, whose long hand can reach across the Atlantic from a Greek island to New York, and Edith [Lederer] and all my colleagues at the United Nations Correspondents Association for 33 years of cooperation and friendship and collaboration at the United Nations.

Unfortunately… I was fortunate enough to see one of the two big issues I was covering, the Greek and North Macedonia talks to succeed, but unfortunately, the Cyprus problem outlasted us all.  My only hope is that Edith is going to outlast this issue and see a solution.

Thank you very much.  You really touched me, touched my heart and, of course, I wait for you in Greece.

Associate Spokesperson:  Thank you so much, Apostolis.  You will be greatly missed, but we will see you soon in Greece, we hope.

All right.  Okay.  Thank you, all, very much.  Have a good day.  See you tomorrow.

For information media. Not an official record.