26 October 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.

**Noon Guest Today

Good afternoon.  It’s 12:09 p.m.  Today, our guest will be Mary‑Ellen McGroarty, the World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director for Afghanistan.  She will be joining us from Kabul to speak to you on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification for Afghanistan.  Then, afterwards, we will of course hear from Monica [Grayley], on behalf of the President of the General Assembly.


Staying on Afghanistan, as winter approaches and temperatures drop in Afghanistan, we, along with our humanitarian partners, are assessing and responding to the humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable Afghans.  Our humanitarian colleagues warn that this year, more than 678,000 people have been displaced and are at heightened risk of exposure, due to the harsh winter conditions.  Overall, the humanitarian community aims to reach more than 9 million people in need with an integrated winter response.  For its part, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will provide shelter and non‑food items for up to 7,000 people.

Humanitarian partners are also selecting beneficiaries, including female-headed households and hundreds of vulnerable families, to receive cash aid and non‑food items in Kapisa, Parwan and Daykundi Provinces.  While donors generously pledged $1.2 billion to the humanitarian response appeal for Afghanistan about six weeks ago, the Flash Appeal, which is seeking $606 million to help more than 11 million people through the end of this year, is only 47 per cent funded at $286 million.  We call again on Member States to allow the swift and unfettered movement of humanitarian supplies and personnel in and out of Afghanistan, and to provide humanitarian financial exemptions to allow funds to reach aid organizations in the country.


Turning to Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues there report that access to the northern parts of the country remains challenging.  As we have been mentioning repeatedly, people there need urgent humanitarian assistance.  In Tigray, the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate due to the restrictions imposed on the delivery of humanitarian supplies into the region via the only route, and that is through Afar.  That is the Semera-Abala-Mekelle road.  Since 18 October, there has been no movement of convoys with humanitarian supplies in the region… since 18 October.  A reminder that an estimated 100 trucks with food, non‑food items, and fuel are required in Tigray daily to meet critical humanitarian needs.  Fuel for the humanitarian response has not entered Tigray since August.  Sixteen fuel tankers - each with a capacity of about 45,000 litres — remain idle in Semera.  Due to the severe fuel shortages, many humanitarian partners have been forced to significantly reduce or suspend their activities; that includes food deliveries and water trucking.

In addition to this, the suspension of the UN’s humanitarian flights that follows last Friday’s incident also means that much needed cash cannot be transported into Tigray.  The humanitarian situation in Afar and Amhara regions is also deteriorating, as conflict expands in multiple locations and causes massive displacements of people, the disruption of livelihoods and food insecurity.  Ongoing hostilities are blocking the delivery of humanitarian assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in both regions.


Quick update on the Sudan, as you know, closed consultations at 4 p.m. today on the Sudan.  The Secretary‑General’s Special Representative [for Sudan], Volker Perthes, will brief the Council from Khartoum.  The United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) continues to encourage all of the parties to de-escalate tensions, maintain the constitutional partnership, and advance the political transition under the provisions of the Constitutional Document.  And of course, you all heard and saw what the Secretary‑General said this morning, calling for the immediate release of all those who have been detained.

Just to provide a humanitarian snapshot to Sudan, what is going on in Sudan: We are working with our partners to provide life‑saving assistance to 9 million vulnerable people across the country.  It is critical that these operations continue unimpeded to prevent a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation, and that people’s access to humanitarian assistance is ensured wherever they are, including access to medical facilities.  From January to June, humanitarian organizations reached 7.4 million people in Sudan with protection and humanitarian assistance.  We also call for continued international support to Sudan’s 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan, which is seeking $1.9 billion, but is only 30 per cent funded.

**South Sudan

And from neighbouring South Sudan, the United Nations Mission in the South Sudan (UNMISS) has organized a workshop in collaboration with the Eastern Equatoria State Technical Committee on the topic of children associated with parties to armed conflict — also known as child soldiers.  Around 25 commanders of the Sudan People's Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) attended the workshop, which focused on international humanitarian law and human rights principles.  Meanwhile, in Saura and Sakure, in Western Equatoria province, we have handed over two newly constructed police posts to improve law and order in the area.  The posts will help to ensure that law enforcement personnel have adequate office spaces; that prisoners can be held properly in cells without compromising their human rights and dignity.  The police posts also have dedicated spaces for women to report crimes.

**Climate Action

Back here this morning, the Secretary‑General spoke at the High‑Level Meeting on Delivering for Climate Action — for People, Planet and Prosperity, convened by the President of the General Assembly, which you will hear more from Monica about.  He said that the General Assembly — and governments around the world — face a moment of truth as leaders will be put to the test at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow in six days.  Their actions — or inactions — will show their seriousness about addressing this planetary emergency.  And he said, adding that if governments — especially the G20 governments — do not stand up and lead efforts on climate action, we are headed for terrible human suffering.  All countries need to realize that the old, carbon‑burning model of development is a death sentence for their economies and our planet.  And you also saw that earlier today, here in this room, he launched the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Emissions Gap report, along with the Executive Director of UNEP, Inger Andersen.  Those remarks were shared with you.

**Secretary-General/Hate Speech

Earlier today, much earlier, he spoke at the virtual Global Ministerial Conference on Addressing Hate Speech Through Education.  He pointed out that he called for the conference because the issue of hate speech cuts to the heart of the polarization and divisions plaguing our world.  He said that hatred takes root in the soil of ignorance — ignorance of historical facts and ignorance of science.  He noted that from the horrors of the Second World War to the Rwandan, Bosnian and Cambodian genocides, hate speech was a precursor to the worst atrocities of the twentieth century.  The Secretary‑General added that today, social media provides a global megaphone for hate and that hatred is a danger to everyone — and so fighting is everyone’s business.

**COVAX/Latin America

A couple of COVAX updates, this one from Latin America.  Bolivia has received 1 million COVID‑19 vaccines through a US donation to COVAX, and we thank them.  The vaccines will be used to vaccinate about 500,000 young people, 16 to 17 years old, who are returning to school.  With this shipment, Bolivia has now received over 3.4 million vaccine doses through COVAX.  And in neighbouring Peru, the country received 79,200 doses of COVID vaccines from a Spanish donation to COVAX, and we thank Spain.  So far, the country has received over 2.6 million doses through COVAX since March.  Peruvian health authorities said that in total, more than 33.5 million doses have been administered, and 53 per cent of the population is vaccinated.  For its part, Colombia has received over 2.2 million doses of COVID vaccines through COVAX.  They will be used as first, second and booster doses.  To date, the country has received close to 11 million vaccine doses through COVAX.  And lastly, Nicaragua received 625,000 vaccines doses from Spain, we thank them.  And that was also through COVAX, bringing the total number of vaccines the country has received to more that 2.4 million.


I failed to mention that Egypt has also received its third COVAX shipment of 1.4 million doses, for a total of 4.6 million doses received so far from the United States, and we thank them.  This shipment is part of more than 8 million vaccines that the U.S.  is planning to send to Egypt until the end of the year.  So far, COVAX has provided more than 12 million doses of vaccines in Egypt.

**Briefings Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m., there will be a hybrid press briefing on the launch of United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) climate and inequality campaign, with Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator; along with Aissa Maiga, who is an actor; Nikiloj Coster-Waldau, also an actor and UNDP Goodwill Ambassador; and Anjali Kwatra, UNDP Director of Communications.  Then at noon, our guest will be Yasmine Sherif, the Director of Education Cannot Wait — the UN global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises.   And voilà.  Before we go to our guests, I'm happy to try to answer some questions.  Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Couple of questions.  On Afghanistan, on the flash appeals and the regular appeals, what's the Secretary‑General doing to call in this $1.2 billion in pledges?

Spokesman:  Well, this was a message, I think, that he gave throughout his bilateral meetings when he had during the General Assembly high‑level debate.  If you'll remember, he launched this appeal for Afghanistan before the General Assembly in Geneva in early September.  It's a message that Martin Griffiths is pushing out to all his interlocutors, and it's something we're doing from here.  We're using every available channel to pass the message that pledges are very much appreciated, and cash is much more appreciated.

Question:  And on Ethiopia, what kind of contacts is the UN undertaking to try and get trucks into the north?

Spokesman:  We continue on the ground to reach out to the authorities in Addis to try to help to facilitate the movement of aid and also to pass on the message, which the Secretary‑General has passed on directly also to the Prime Minister on a number of occasions, to put a halt to the fighting and to resume a political dialogue.

Question:  Is the Secretary‑General planning any future imminent call to Abiy [Ahmed]?

Spokesman:  We will let you know when those happen.  Kristen?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  You called on… or you talked about the need for life‑saving humanitarian assistance to continue in Sudan.  The US suspended $700 million in emergency assistance.  Presumably, that was going directly to the Government.  Is there any assistance from the UN that goes directly to the Government that is going to be affected or halted or affected in any way because of that?

Spokesman:  I have to see what the impact of the US announcement will be on our operations, but we have operations throughout Sudan.  There've also been issues with some goods being… not flowing through Port Sudan as they should be.  Obviously, as it is in any case, unrest… military unrest makes it that much more complicated for us to deliver the aid that we need to deliver to those who need it the most.  Pamela?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Ethiopia, have there been any contacts in terms of what's happening with the UN staff there and any contacts about the… in other words, the people who were sent out, were they replaced per se?  And in terms of the attacks, what's your sense of how to avoid those in the future or what contacts have been made…?

Spokesman:  I mean, to avoid the violence would be for all those involved to engage in a political dialogue instead of a weapons dialogue.  Right?  On the staff, as we've been saying for quite some time, we've been reducing our footprint in Tigray.  Obviously, the halting of flights makes that much more complicated, but the more immediate need that we have is for humanitarian aid to get in and fuel, especially, to get in.  I mean, I talked about the fuel trucks with 45 litres each that were sitting idle.  Without fuel, you can't do water distribution.  You can't do food deliveries.  I mean, we still have some fuel supplies in Tigray, but those are running dangerously low.  Once the fuel runs out, you can't deliver aid, especially when you're talking about reaching people who are already in remote areas.

Question:  Were there any more direct contacts, liaison people…?

Spokesman:  No, I mean, nothing more than what I answered earlier to Edie.

Question:  Nothing?  Okay.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  No problem.  Michelle Nichols?

Question:  Thanks, Steph.  Couple of follow‑ups on what you just said about Afghanistan.  We've heard a lot from the Secretary‑General about the issues of getting cash into the country and into the economy.  You said that you're calling on… calling for humanitarian financial exemptions to allow funds to reach aid groups and, presumably, the UN in the country.  Who… which countries need to give you that?

Spokesman:  In terms of the exemptions?

Correspondent:  Yeah.

Spokesman:  I mean, all those countries that have bilateral sanctions.

Question:  So, the United States?

Spokesman:  Among others, no doubt.

Question:  And how is the UN currently getting money into Afghanistan?

Spokesman:  I have no information on that.  All right.  Any other questions before we turn to our guests?

Question:  Can you flesh out… sorry.  Can you flesh out any of the bilateral meetings, or will we get a list of what the SG's doing at COP26?  I mean…

Spokesman:  Yes, we will… sorry.  I hate when my boss tries to reach me during the briefing.  Sorry.  The question?  Oh, yes.  Sorry.  We will… sorry.  I'm sorry.  We will probably have an official trip announcement for his movements likely tomorrow or the day after.  I mean, the fact that he's going to COP and the G20 is no secret.  At the COP26, he will participate in the opening session and deliver remarks.  He will have a number of bilaterals there with regional groups and others that's still being worked out.  He will also have a number of bilaterals in Rome on the side‑lines of the G20, obviously, with the Italian host but others, but we will likely be able to confirm those after they've happened given the fluidity of how things work in these summits.  Okay.  I'm going to ask Daniela [Gross de Almeida] to come to the podium to moderate our guest.  Mary‑Ellen, you're on in about a second.  And thank you, all.  And see you tomorrow.

For information media. Not an official record.