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23 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

**Colombia

All right.  Good afternoon to all of you.  Before I get to answering all the questions that I’ve been bombarded with this morning, I just want to give you an update on my boss, the Secretary-General, who arrived in Colombia last night.

Speaking with journalists at the airport, he said that this is a visit of solidarity with the Colombian people that gives the world a very important example of affirming peace.  The Secretary-General added that in a world in which we unfortunately see so many conflicts, it is very important to visit a country where peace is actually being built.

As we speak, the Secretary-General, together with the President of Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, is in the province of Antioquia, visiting a training and reintegration area.  The Secretary-General will also be meeting with Rodrigo Londoño, President of the Comunes political party.

This afternoon, he will travel on to Apartadó to learn about the progress of the Territorial Development Programme in the region and to attend an event in commemoration of the peace process.  Later tonight, the Secretary-General will have a meeting with civil society representatives.

Tomorrow is his last day in Colombia; the Secretary-General will meet several Government officials and will participate in the commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the signing of the Final Peace Agreement.  He will also attend the “La Paz Es Productiva” fair in Bogota.

**Ethiopia

So, I was asked several questions this morning about the security situation in Ethiopia concerning UN staff and I can tell you that given the security situation in the country, and out of an abundance of caution, the United Nations has decided to reduce its footprint in the country by temporarily relocating all eligible dependents.  It is important to note that staff will remain in Ethiopia to deliver on our mandates.

We will monitor the situation as it evolves, keeping in mind the safety of our staff and the need to continue to stand and deliver and to continue our operations and support all the people that need our assistance.

**Libya

I was also asked this morning about the situation in Libya and the situation regarding Jan Kubiš, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, and I can tell you that Mr. Kubiš has tendered his resignation and the Secretary-General has accepted it with regret.  The Secretary-General is working on an appropriate replacement.

We are all fully aware of the electoral calendar and are working as quickly as possible to ensure continuity of leadership.

I would also add that we have a strong presence on the ground in Libya and all of our colleagues will continue, as they have done, working with Libyan institutions in light of the upcoming elections, not to mention the humanitarian challenges that the Libyan people face.

**Press Encounter

Following today’s Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya in the afternoon, Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente, the President of the Security Council and Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN, will brief you at the Stakeout.  He will speak on behalf of the informal caucus of States Parties to the Rome Statute.

**Yemen

One more update on our envoys:  This time from the Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, was in Cairo yesterday, where he met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the Secretary General of the Arab League, Mr. [Ahmed] Aboul Gheit.  He discussed ongoing developments in Yemen and the role of the region in supporting our efforts.  He also met a diverse group of Yemenis to consult on ways to start an inclusive political dialogue to reach a durable political settlement.

I was asked about the situation in Hudaydah yesterday and I can tell you that the UN Mission on the ground in Hudaydah (UNMHA) is closely monitoring alarming reports of intensive clashes and escalation of fighting in the southern districts of the Hudaydah governorate, [specifically] in Hays and At Tuhayta areas, with significant civilian casualties reported.

The UN Mission reiterates its call for all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint.  It reminds the parties of their obligations to protect civilians and take all measures to prevent any further escalation.

And our humanitarian colleagues report that we along with our partners are responding to increased displacement and humanitarian needs in Hudaydah.  Aid agencies are helping families displaced from Hudaydah to southern districts (Al Khukhah and Al Makha).  They have provided rapid response kits, with emergency food rations, basic hygiene and women’s dignity kits, as well as emergency shelter kits, and that’s to about 4,800 people.

Needs assessments, registration of internally displaced people and the repositioning of supplies are ongoing.  We continue to work to ensure that the humanitarian response in areas now under the control of the Houthi de facto authorities continues without interruption.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

Turning to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN peacekeeping mission on the ground there (MONUSCO) reports that on Sunday, members of the armed group known as CODECO launched several deadly attacks in the area of Drodro, in the province of Ituri.

Our colleagues are telling us that around 16,000 people fled to a camp located in the vicinity of the peacekeeping Temporary Operational Base.  This camp already hosts more than 21,000 displaced people.

Peacekeepers deployed two companies of their special forces to reinforce security in the area.  They escorted displaced people, the local population, as well as humanitarians and nuns from the Catholic Centre of Drodro to the camp.

The Congolese Armed Forces has since regained control of Drodro.

**South Sudan

To the east, in South Sudan, following the killing of two Dinka men in a road ambush, and a subsequent revenge attack that resulted in the deaths of seven Murle community members, peacekeepers are closely monitoring the security situation in Jonglei and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area.

The Mission (UNMISS) immediately deployed special patrols into Bor and neighbouring Anyidi to calm tensions and engage with local authorities and the communities impacted by the violence.

Our colleagues are also telling us that local authorities responded swiftly to these attacks, condemning them and calling on the communities involved to refrain from further retaliation.

In an effort to address the broader issue of the persistent cycle of cattle-raiding and intercommunal conflict, particularly during the dry season, the peacekeeping mission is also establishing a special UN-wide taskforce to intensify reconciliation and peacebuilding activities in the area, which is already suffering from a dire economic situation aggravated by the worst flooding in 60 years.

**Iraq

As you will have seen, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Special Representative for Iraq, briefed the Security Council by VTC (video teleconference) from Baghdad this morning on last month’s elections.  She noted that the elections were assessed as generally peaceful, well run, featuring significant technical and procedural improvements.

However, she condemned the 7 November assassination attempt against Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.  She said that under no circumstances must terrorism, violence or any other unlawful acts be allowed to derail Iraq’s democratic process.

The Special Representative repeated the UN’s consistent calls for political dialogue to prevail, adding outstanding electoral concerns must only be dealt with through established legal channels.

**COVAX

A quick COVAX update for you.  Our UN teams in Latin America and the Caribbean have received several batches of COVAX-backed vaccines.  Today, Bolivia received over 90,000 doses of vaccines donated by the Government of France, to which we say thank you.  That was all done through COVAX, bringing the total doses received to over 3.5 million.  The UN team there is supporting authorities to tackle the health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is also carrying out the largest vaccination deployment in its history.  Together with the COVAX Mechanism and the solidarity of countries such as Sweden, Spain, the United States and France, vaccines are reaching the country’s urban and rural populations.

And last week Guatemala received over a million doses, and now the total COVAX-backed vaccines there is over 3.2 million.

In the Caribbean, over 19,000 doses landed in Antigua and Barbuda also last week, with over 60,000 vaccines being administered via COVAX.  And Ecuador and Nicaragua also received over 620,000 and 134,000 doses respectively, bringing the total numbers to over 1.8 and 2.8 million doses respectively through COVAX.

**Noon Briefing Guests

Tomorrow we will have a briefing.  Farhan [Haq] will be here.  We will have some guests from UN-Women to present a new report entitled “Measuring the shadow pandemic:  Violence against women during COVID-19”.  Kalliopi Mingeirou, Chief of the Ending Violence against Women section, and Papa Seck, the Chief of the Research and Data section at UN-Women, will be in the room to answer James’ questions.

**Questions and Answers

Yes, please?

Question:  So, on Mr. Kubiš, was the Secretary-General taken by surprise by this resignation?  And what is your reaction and his reaction to the timing?  This is supposed to be, in a month and a day, the Libyan elections, which is supposed to be the culmination of the UN peace process.  He was the man in charge of this process.

Spokesman:  As I said, we have a very big Mission on the ground.  Technical people are there, continuing to work as they have with the Libyan electoral authorities and all of the technical support we’ve briefed you on.

We are working expeditiously to fill the leadership… to fill the post to ensure continuity, but I think it’s important to state that the support of the UN for the Libyan people, the support of the UN for the electoral process and in our technical capacity is continuing unabated.

Question:  That close question, was the Secretary-General taken by surprise by this?  And in his resignation letter, did Mr. Kubiš give any reasons?

And one other thing, just so we’re clear, is this a resignation with immediate effect?  Because the existing mandate of the Mission only goes on until maybe January.

Spokesman:  No, no.  It’s… I think it is… Mr. Kubiš has made it clear that he’s not slamming the door today.

Question:  So, he’ll briefing tomorrow in the Council?

Spokesman:  Yes, he will be briefing in the Council.  I think he more than anyone does not want to have the Mission destabilized in any way, shape or form.

Question:  So, he’ll be in post by the time of the elections, while the elections take place, if they take place on time?

Spokesman:  I’ll… we very much hope they will take place on time.  What I’m just saying to you is they will be… Mr. Kubiš will not leave the seat and leave the Mission hanging.

Madame?

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Libya, just to clarify, so, you’re saying that he’s going to be in his post until he’s replaced?

Spokesman:  That’s not what I said.

Question:  So, his resignation is…

Spokesman:  I said… I used the words that I used to keep it… to be as clear as I can possibly be, given these circumstances.  What I’m saying to you is that we’re working as quickly as possible to make sure that there’s a smooth transition with Mr. Kubiš.

Question:  So, he’s still in his post?

Spokesman:  He is in his post today, and he will be briefing the Council tomorrow.

Question:  Is he here?

Spokesman:  It’s a very valid question.  I don’t believe he’s… no, I don’t think he’s here.

Question:  Can you tell us where he is?

Spokesman:  He’s based out of Geneva.  We’ll find out, hopefully before the briefing, where he is living and breathing right now.

Question:  Okay.  I have another question on Ethiopia.  Can you tell us how many international staff you have in Ethiopia and how many people will you be relocating?

Spokesman:  We are looking at about probably a few hundred eligible dependents.

Question:  And they’re going to be the families of your international staff.

Spokesman:  Exactly.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Benno?

Question:  Follow-up to Mr. Kubiš.  Was there a disagreement between the Secretary-General and him before that resignation?

Spokesman:  No, not at all, not at all, not at all.

Question:  Follow-up on Kubiš again.  Why is he resigning?  What’s the reason?

Spokesman:  It’s a very… I don’t mean to brush it off.  I think it’s a question you’ll have to ask him, but I think there is… it’s… I’m not sure this comes as a complete surprise.

Question:  Was the Secretary-General surprised?

Spokesman:  As I said, I don’t think this comes as a complete surprise.

Question:  Okay.  And I have a question on Iraq.  Today there was a meeting by UNAMI (United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq).  The Secretary-General’s report commend the election, but it’s… there are very powerful parties in Iraq with militias that reject it.  I just… are you concerned that this will turn into something resembling a civil war in Iraq?

Spokesman:  I’m not going to go as far as your characterization.  What is clearly important, as the Special Representative herself said, is that anyone who has disagreements or issues with the way the elections were run, with the results, needs to address them through established legal and constitutional means.  I don’t think… dealing with a political disagreement anywhere through violence is not in the best interests of any country.

Señora?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Any reaction to the election in Venezuela on Sunday?  Today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed her office concern to the reports of blockage of some of the journalists to be able to cover a shooting outside a polling centre, the possibility of forcing some of the state employees to vote for a particular party.

Spokesman:  Yes.  I mean, we’ve taken note of the fact the elections, in fact, took place largely peacefully.

We have, as you know, a Panel of Experts that will stay in the country for a few more days.  As you recall, they’re not an observer mission, but they will… and they won’t issue any statements, but they will be reporting back on an internal report to the Secretary-General with recommendations to strengthen future electoral processes.

We’ve seen some isolated reports of violence, which we deplore, and we hope the authorities will conduct the appropriate investigations into these cases.

And to… my answer to Majeed, who apparently left the room, any disputes about the conduct or the results of the elections needs to be addressed through the established legal and constitutional means.

Madame, welcome.  Nice to see you.

Question:  My question is on Lebanon.  Is there any travel plan for the Secretary-General to Lebanon early December?

Spokesman:  When there is an official travel announcement, I will make it.

Question:  But it was, like, in the… I think I heard that it was confirmed.

Spokesman:  I mean…

Question:  In Lebanon, they are expecting him to go…

Spokesman:  As always, when the Secretary-General travels, there are often announcements made from various parties, but a trip is confirmed when we announce it from here.

Question:  Okay.  Another question.  Who will be briefing the Security Council on the 29th on the… on Lebanon, on the SG report, 1701?

Spokesman:  I will check if it will… it… usually, it’s the head of DPPA (Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs), but I will double-check for you.  [He later said the briefings would be by the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, and by the UNIFIL Force Commander, General Stefano del Col.]

Correspondent:  Okay.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Benno, and then we’ll go to the screen.

Question:  I want to follow up again on Kubiš, Mr. Kubiš.  Sorry.  You said, it didn’t come as a complete surprise, his resignation.  What do you mean by that?

Spokesman:  That it didn’t come as a complete surprise.

Question:  I mean, like, it came as a complete surprise to me, so you know more.

Spokesman:  Well, you know, I’ll be honest with you.  I mean, it may have come to a complete surprise to some, but it did not come as a complete surprise to the Secretary-General.

Okay.  Iftikhar, I think you had a question and then Michelle.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  On Monday, one of the most prominent Kashmiri human rights activists, Khurram Parvez, was arrested in Indian-occupied Kashmir, prompting UN human rights expert Mary Lawlor to condemn the Indian action.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction on his arrest?

Spokesman:  I just saw those reports.  Let me look into it, and I will revert back to you.

Correspondent:  Thank you very much.

Spokesman:  Michelle and then Abdelhamid.

Correspondent:  Thanks, Steph.  I’m actually all good.  You’ve answered my question.  Thanks.

Spokesman:  No problem.  Abdelhamid, you all good?

Question:  Yeah, most of my questions were [inaudible] by the person before me, but my question, again, who will meet the Security Council today on Libya?  Would Mr. Kubiš…

Spokesman:  On Libya?  My understand… it’s… no, today, it’s, I think, an ICC (International Criminal Court)-focused briefing.

Correspondent:  Oh.

Spokesman:  So, it is not Mr. Kubiš.  We expect… I do expect him to brief tomorrow.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Okay.  James, and then we’ll go to Paulina.

Question:  Yeah.  One last one on Mr. Kubiš.  You couldn’t answer all the questions.  When we asked you the reasons, you said we’ll have to ask him.  So, can we request that he does us a stakeout…

Spokesman:  We already have requested it.

Question:  Tomorrow, he might do a stakeout.

Spokesman:  I mean, we’ve put in the question.  We’ve asked… I mean, we’ve asked…

Question:  Not just about his resignation.

Spokesman:  No, no, of course.

Question:  Libya is at an absolute crucial moment.

Spokesman:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I understand.

Question:  It would be important for reporters to be able to question the head of UNSMIL (United Nations Support Mission in Libya) at this time.

Spokesman:  Yeah.  Okay.

Miss [Paulina] Kubiak.  Happy Tuesday.  And I will see all of you on Monday, insha’Allah.

For information media. Not an official record.