The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Afghanistan

Just a quick humanitarian update.  Our humanitarian colleagues in Afghanistan tell us that that, today, while the armies have left, the UN is committed to staying in the country.  Operations to supply medical and humanitarian goods, as well as to support in other materials are continuing, but more resources are needed.  Our colleagues have already delivered humanitarian aid to 8 million people since the start of the year.  The current funding appeal for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is $1.3 billion, is only 39 per cent funded up to now, and we may have new appeals coming up.

**Afghanistan/Children

In a joint statement, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba and the Special Representative on Violence against Children, Najat Maalla M’jid, today called on the Taliban and other parties in Afghanistan to respect the dignity and human rights of all Afghans, including boys and girls.  They noted that at least 45 per cent of the Afghan population is below the age of 15, and that the international community must not abandon the children of that country.  The two UN officials strongly condemn the horrific and deadly attack against Kabul airport in which children have reportedly been killed and maimed.  They are particularly concerned about the rights of girls, including sexual and gender-based violence, as well as their right to education.  Ms. Gamba and Ms. Maalla M’jid said that the children of Afghanistan have suffered enough.  They stressed that protecting the rights of all Afghans, including the rights of children is the only sustainable solution to peace.

**International Day for People of African Descent

Today is the first International Day of People of African Descent.  In his message, the Secretary-General said that this day is a celebration of the enormous contributions of people of African descent to every field of human endeavour.  He added it is also a long‑overdue recognition of the profound injustices and systematic discrimination that people of African descent have endured for centuries, and continue to confront today.  Twenty years after the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the Secretary-General said we are experiencing unprecedented momentum towards ending the global scourge of racism.  We must not squander this opportunity.  This international day is an urgent call for action for everyone, everywhere, to commit to rooting out the evil of racism.  The full message is online.

**Guest Tomorrow

Tomorrow, you will be glad to know that we will be joined by the UN’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Ramiz Alakbarov who will brief you from Kabul, on the current situation in the country.  We will start off the briefing with him.  And then, you will have the pleasure to question Florencia, who will be sitting in for me tomorrow.  And at 2 p.m., there will be a briefing in this room by Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Ireland, who will lead the Security Council during the nicest month in New York, that is September, and also the busiest at the United Nations.  On that note, Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you very much, Steph.  A couple of questions on Afghanistan.  On this first day of Taliban rule in Afghanistan, what is the Secretary‑General’s message to the Taliban?  And could you give us some specific details of what the UN is actually doing today on the ground?

Spokesman:  Well, I spoke a short while ago with one of our colleagues in Kabul.  She had mentioned that we’re continuing to support humanitarian operations in most parts of the country.  There was an Assessment Mission, I think, that went out today in Kabul.  We are concerned with the internally displaced situation and, obviously, the disruption of our pipeline of humanitarian goods.  I don’t think you were here yesterday, but you must have seen we there was a plane from WHO [World Health Organization] which landed in Mazar.  The UNHAS World Food Service Programme has also been able to resume, though not in Kabul.  So, for us, the day after is just another day in Kabul.  We’ve been present in Afghanistan for over 60 years, and we are remaining and standing shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan people.  The Secretary‑General’s message to the Taliban, I think, is something he’s said before, which is what he would like to see and he hopes the international community would like to see is the formation of an inclusive government, full respect for human rights, for Afghanistan’s human rights obligations, especially when it comes to women, and to ensure that the hard‑won gains of especially the last two decades do not evaporate and ensuring that Afghanistan is not used as a base for terrorism.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Following up on Afghanistan, is the UN talking to the Taliban about using the airport to get supplies into Kabul?  Any discussions started there?  And any feedback or readout of the Secretary‑General’s meeting with Security Council members yesterday afternoon?  Can you tell us what they discussed?

Spokesman:  Yes.  So, the SG had quite a lengthy meeting with the representatives of the five permanent members of the Security Council.  He met with them at the residence.  I mean, he told me that the atmosphere was pleasant and constructive.  This is part of his ongoing efforts of good offices to try to get unity within the Security Council, to also get a convergence of the different approaches of the international community on the situation in Afghanistan.  The meeting yesterday was part of the intensive diplomatic contacts he’s had since the beginning of this phase of the crisis.

Question:  [Inaudible]?

Spokesman:  The airport, I’m not aware of any direct discussions that we’re having with the Taliban on the airport.  I know it’s something that ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization], obviously, our colleagues in Montreal, are following closely through their regional office.  We’ve been able to use other airports in Afghanistan.  Obviously, as soon as it meets safety standards that are recognised by the international community, we would like to see the airport.  Obviously, a critical part of that are really the people who operate the planes and who insure the planes, feel that there is a level of service, of security that the aircrafts can go in and out of Kabul airport.  Yep, and then we’ll go to Alan.

Question:  I’m Yuki Sugimoto from NHK, and my question is, will UN support… such as providing documents and airplanes for Afghan people who want to escape from their country, or will UN respect Taliban’s decision on requesting Afghan people to stay?

Spokesman:  I think it’s very important that people in any country have the right to choose whether they want to stay or whether they want to leave.  Our concern is about a massive flow of people trying to leave Afghanistan who are fleeing persecution, who may be fleeing violence.  And it is important that, in the immediate phase, the neighbouring countries open up their doors.  We do not want to see any refoulement, to use a refugee law term.  People who are refugees who are seeking safety have a right to be granted protection.  But, it’s also, I think, important to note that the global responsibility towards Afghan refugees is not limited to those countries which happen to be bordering Afghanistan.  It will need a global show of solidarity.  Mr. Bulkaty.

Question:  Thank you.  I appreciate it, Stéphane.  Yesterday, the US command announced finally that the troops of the country have withdrawn from Afghanistan.  Any assessment from your part on this milestone?  How do you assess the mission that the US and the allies were conducting during all these 20 years?

Spokesman:  Look, I will leave the historical analyses to historians and analysts.  I think, for us, others may have left for whatever reasons.  The UN is remaining in Afghanistan, has been in Afghanistan for over 60 years, will remain in Afghanistan, standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Afghanistan.  I think it is very important moving forward that the gains that we have seen in human rights in Afghanistan, especially over the last 20 years, especially when it comes to women, to girls, to their access to education, to medical care, to the jobs market, not be lost.  Okay.  Let’s go to the screen.  Okay.  I don’t see or hear anybody on the screen.  I see Philippe.  Welcome back.  But, otherwise, I will not be here tomorrow.  Florencia will be answering your questions.  And as I mentioned, we’ll have Ramiz brief you from Kabul at the top, and that’s part of our continuing efforts to get some voices from the field as opposed to here.  Cheers.

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