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2 November 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.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary‑General began his second day at the twenty‑sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, in meetings with a number of regional delegations involved in the negotiations.

He held separate meetings with groups representing the Independent Alliance of Latin American leaders, the Alliance of Small Island States, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) and the least developed countries.

He told them that we know what needs to be done:  to deliver on the commitments already made on 1.5°C, 50 per cent of climate finance for adaptation, and $100 billion, starting in 2020.

We also know, he said, that we have a specific problem with adaptation and loss and damage:  entire communities everywhere are getting hit now.  We need a concrete plan by the end of the COP session, he underscored.

The Secretary‑General said that countries need to act on their pledges — now.  This means, for example, revising their climate plans every year, not every five or ten years, until we are sure that global emissions are cut by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels.

The Secretary‑General also welcomed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use as an important step to halt deforestation.  Implementation is the critical part, he added.

This morning, the Secretary‑General also met with H.R.H. Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and the finalists for the Earth Shot Prize.  He congratulated the Prince and the winners on the projects, stressing the importance of young global citizens keeping the pressure on governments to act in the face of climate change.

He also had a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.  They agreed to work together to tackle issues such as climate change, launching the Common Agenda, and global challenges.  The Secretary‑General thanked the Prime Minister for [Japan’s] recent contributions on climate change, and for their strong support of and contributions to the United Nations and the multilateral system.

During the day, the Secretary‑General also met with his Youth Advisory Group to hear from them on how he can best support their efforts.

He’s expected to have more bilateral meetings today before travelling to Cambridge University tomorrow, where he will receive an honorary doctorate.  The Secretary‑General will be back in the office on Friday.

** Climate

Staying on climate, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today released a new analysis that found that just 34 per cent of national climate policies address the needs and priorities of children.

UNICEF examined the Nationally Determined Contributions that were updated ahead of COP26, and found that of the 103 country plans, just 35 of them — or about one‑third — are child sensitive.  Only one in five reference child rights or intergenerational justice and equity in a meaningful way and only 12 per cent report that children participated in the development of the plan.

UNICEF called on countries to include young people in all climate negotiations and decisions and to create safer communities for the children affected now and agree on a path forward to prevent the worst impacts of climate change for people everywhere.

**Central African Republic

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) strongly condemns what appears to be a deliberate and unjustifiable attack on its Blue Helmets.

Yesterday afternoon, in the capital, Bangui, ten peacekeepers from the Mission’s Egyptian Police Unit were shot and wounded, including two seriously, by members of the Presidential guard.

The Egyptian police officers had landed at Bangui’s airport earlier in the day, as part of the periodic rotation and deployment of troops in the country.  They were on their way to their base when they suffered heavy fire from members of the Presidential guard.  The Mission said in a statement that the police officers were fired at without any warning or response.  They were unarmed.

In its attempt to leave the site of the attack, located about 120 meters from the Presidential residence, the bus transporting the Egyptian Police Unit hit a woman, who died.  A MINUSCA delegation later met the victim’s family to offer condolences.  They also deplored this tragic accident.

The leadership of our UN peacekeeping mission and members of the Central African Government immediately initiated a dialogue for the opening of the necessary investigations into this incident, and to ensure accountability, in accordance with the obligations under the Agreement between the United Nations and the Government of the Central African Republic.

**Afghanistan

Moving to Afghanistan, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that earlier today, a hospital in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul City came under attack.  The number of civilian casualties has not yet been confirmed.

We express condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and a swift recovery to the many people who were injured.  This is a reminder that health facilities and infrastructure are not a target, and that all civilians must be protected.

Our colleagues also tell us that humanitarian aid delivery and needs assessments continue countrywide.  The World Food Programme (WFP) said that 170 trucks are delivering assistance across Afghanistan daily.  This year, WFP has reached 11.5 million people with food assistance, including 4.7 million people in October alone.

For its part, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that a plane carrying winter relief from the Agency’s global stockpiles in Dubai landed today in Kabul.  The UNHCR‑chartered plane took off from Sharjah carrying 33 tons of winterization kits for displaced Afghans.

This was the first of three UNHCR flights, with the next two scheduled to land in the Afghan capital on 4 and 7 November.  UNHCR warns that humanitarian needs are rising rapidly in Afghanistan ahead of winter, when temperatures can dip to -25°C.

Afghanistan’s Flash Appeal, seeking $606 million to help 11 million people through the end of 2021, is currently 50 per cent funded.

**Saint Vincent and The Grenadines

From Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the UN team there continues to support authorities to recover, six months after the La Soufrière Volcano emergency.

We are helping to clean up ash and also provide people with emergency cash, water and sanitation, food assistance, temporary housing and healthcare.

The Resident Coordinator, Didier Trebucq, just visited the country and met with people and Government partners.

Nine shelters hosting nearly 130 evacuees remain active and most healthcare facilities have reopened.

The World Food Programme has helped more than 3,500 families with emergency cash transfers while UNICEF provided psychosocial support to people affected by the volcanic eruption, hygiene kits and support for remote learning in dozens of schools.  The Pan‑American Health Organization (PAHO) is also helping to improve 20 health-care facilities.

More than 1,200 metric tonnes of humanitarian relief cargo have arrived in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

**Myanmar

On journalists, from Myanmar, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) again voiced its concern over the plight of dozens of journalists detained in the country, nine months after the military seized control over the democratically-elected Government.

At least 126 journalists have been arrested in Myanmar since 1 February, while at least 47 journalists, including seven women, remain under detention, according to UNESCO.

Nine media outlets have had their licenses revoked.  Since 1 February, 20 independent media outlets have suspended operations, while four media outlets have been charged and nine newsrooms have been raided.  Dozens of journalists remain in hiding due to outstanding arrest warrants.

UNESCO says that threats of violence and attacks against journalists in Myanmar have created a climate of fear for media professionals, impeding the free circulation of information, opinions and ideas for all.

Our colleagues in Myanmar continue to be concerned over the systematic imposition of restrictive policies and practices by the military authorities on media outlets in Myanmar and continue to urge the military to release all persons detained arbitrarily, including journalists.

**International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists

And, in line with that, today is the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

In a message for the Day, the Secretary‑General points out that, last year, according to UNESCO, 62 journalists around the world were killed just for doing their jobs.

The Secretary‑General notes that many lost their lives while covering conflict, but in recent years, the number of media workers killed outside conflict zones has risen.

The Secretary‑General says that crimes against journalists have an enormous impact on society as a whole because they prevent people from making informed decisions.  He urges Member States and the international community to stand in solidarity with journalists around the world today and every day, and to demonstrate the political will needed to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and media workers with the full force of the law.

And I will now turn to journalists before we go to Monica Villela Grayley [the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly].

**Questions and Answers

Yes, Edie?

Question:  Thank you very much, Farhan.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on the latest situation in Ethiopia?  There's a report that the Tigrayan forces have actually linked up with the Oromo fighters against the Government forces.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary‑General has made clear his concerns about all of the fighting that's been happening in Ethiopia, whether it's in Tigray or elsewhere.  As you know, we have been in touch with officials in Ethiopia, and the Secretary‑General himself has spoken repeatedly with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to see what can be done to bring the violence to a halt and also, of course, to allow for the full‑scale return of humanitarian assistance to the places that need it, including places like Mekelle and Afar.

So, we're continuing at that, and the reports you're citing, which we have no first‑hand confirmation of, add to our concern about the overall situation.

Yes, please?

Question:  Farhan, it's always very nice to say those words about journalists who have been killed and are in jail or tortured, but what really could be done with the countries or towards the countries that we know are not allowing journalists to do their jobs?  Because nice words, okay, but what else could be done?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have also drawn attention to the countries that are violating the rights of journalists.  You saw that just now I gave the details about the situation in Myanmar.

All of the countries that are violating the rights of journalists are violating some of the fundamental rights that are inscribed in the UN system, and they need to be taken to account.  And we have called, as you know, when journalists are murdered, for investigations into all of the various cases, wherever they may be. 

Yes?

Question:  You mentioned that the Secretary‑General has spoken to Prime Minister Ahmed.  Has he done so since the state of emergency was declared in Ethiopia?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I believe we mentioned the conversation he had with the Prime Minister a week ago, so it's been during…  it's been prior to the latest round of fighting that happened over the weekend.  But we also have been in touch at various levels with the authorities in the Ethiopian Government to relay our concerns, and he had been talking about them, as we were making clear, prior to this latest round. 

Yes, Benno?

Question:  Thank you.  So, there was a quite juicy exchange on Twitter between David Beasley and Elon Musk.  I think you saw that, like one or two days ago?  And basically, Mr.  Beasley said, like, give up some of your fortune and help to fight world hunger, and it ended in a…  kind of a — how do you say — cliffhanger a bit, because it was like, Elon Musk, come here, let's meet me anywhere, and then I can open the books, and you can donate money.  Will they meet or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it…  I don't speak for Elon Musk's schedule.  I do know that the offer from WFP is a sincere one, that the World Food Programme made clear that their books are open, indeed, as with other institutions, other UN agencies, funds and programmes.

They have a process by which all of the Member States, who are their donors, are informed of exactly where all the money goes.  And, so, our Member States see these…  see our books, and Elon Musk and other members of the public can see exactly the information that we provide to the Member States.

But beyond that, the basic point is, if there are good‑faith efforts by individuals to support our work, we'll provide them with the information that they need, because what's essential for us is that we have the money to go about our work and, in this case, to prevent people from starving.

Question:  Just a follow‑up.  So, you're not aware of any scheduled meeting now between the two of them.

Deputy Spokesman:  No.  For that, you can check with either Mr. Musk's people or with the World Food Programme, but the offer is on the table.

Yes?

[Sneeze] Bless you.

Question:  There's been an agreement reached at COP26 on deforestation.  World leaders, more than 100 countries committing to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on that agreement?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.  As I said at the start of this briefing, he…  the Secretary‑General did welcome the Glasgow leaders' declaration on forest and land use.  He believes that that's an important step to halt deforestation, but his basic point is, as always, implementation is the critical part.

And with that, I will turn the floor over to Monica.

For information media. Not an official record.