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

Good afternoon, everybody, and Happy Friday.

**Guest Today

Today, after I have finished, we will be joined by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.  He will update you on the work of the mechanism.  Then we will also hear from Monica Villela Grayley, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.

**COP26

Today is Youth Day at the twenty-sixth Conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP206) in Glasgow.  The Secretary‑General’s Youth Advisory Group hosted an event bringing together young climate activists, with a focus on working for the inclusion of young people in formal decision-making processes.  The event also heard from indigenous youth leaders on the importance of traditional knowledge as a vital component of climate action.  The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Climate Action, Selwin Hart, addressed the meeting, and urged young people to continue raising their voices, and maintaining hope that the climate crisis can be overcome.  He thanked the Youth Advisory Group for their service, and for their valuable insights and advice to the Secretary-General.

Our colleagues there tell us that the youth protests outside the COP26 venue were heard inside COP26 as the Conference marked Youth and Empowerment Day.  Youth leaders presented a Global Youth Position statement, representing the views of over 40,000 young climate leaders from across the world to COP26 leaders.  The Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Patricia Espinosa, said she would take the demands, which she said were reasonable and justified, to the parties.  Negotiations proceeded on texts to finalize the Paris Agreement rulebook.  COP26 President Alok Sharma asked negotiators to clear as many items as possible by next week, in advance of the high-level ministerial segment.  This includes negotiations on article six, which covers trade, and which the COP26 President noted has eluded agreement now for six years.

**Sudan

From Sudan, the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in the Sudan (UNITAMS) has strongly condemned the detention — after a meeting with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Volker Perthes — of members of the Central Council of the Forces of Freedom and Change.  It was reported that three members of the Council were arrested near the Mission’s headquarters in Khartoum yesterday afternoon.  The Mission said that these arrests undermine the UN’s good offices role.  The Mission calls on the military leadership to stop arresting politicians and activists and to stop committing further human rights violations.  The Mission again urges the immediate release of people detained on or after the 25 October, noting that these arrests nullify the impact of the release of four of the detained ministers yesterday.

**Security Council

 This morning, the Security Council and the General Assembly voted to elect a new member of the International Court of Justice.  Hilary Charlesworth of Australia obtained an absolute majority of votes in both the Council and the Assembly.  Then, in the afternoon, at 3 p.m., the Council will hold an open debate, followed by consultations, on Ethiopia.  Martha Pobee, the Assistant Secretary-General for Africa in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, will brief Council members.

**Ethiopia

And also on Ethiopia, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, started his mission to Ethiopia today.  He met with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Demeke Mekonnen.  Mr. Griffiths had constructive discussions on the humanitarian situation in the country and the challenges that aid organizations face in getting assistance to all Ethiopians in need.  Tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), UN agencies and the diplomatic community to discuss efforts to provide relief assistance to the millions of people in need.  Conflict, drought, flooding, disease outbreaks and desert locust infestation continue to drive humanitarian needs across Ethiopia.  Some 20 million people are targeted for humanitarian assistance, including 7 million who are directly affected by the conflict in northern Ethiopia.

The funding gap for the humanitarian response in Ethiopia for 2021 stands at more than $1.3 billion.  An estimated $606 million has been mobilized for response towards the Northern Ethiopia Response Plan, and $474 million for response towards the draft Humanitarian Response Plan, which covers areas outside Tigray.  However, this is far from sufficient to cover the mounting humanitarian needs.  Also from Ethiopia, the World Food Programme (WFP), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Ethiopia’s national agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs today jointly appealed for $68 million to avoid cuts in food rations for more than 700,000 refugees.  The agencies warned of increased malnutrition and anaemia and stunted child growth, among other risks.

**Afghanistan

Moving to Afghanistan.  Our humanitarian colleagues warn that nearly 23 million people — or 55 per cent of the Afghan population — are estimated to be in crisis or experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity between November 2021 and March 2022.  Our colleagues tell us that reports of isolated clashes and violence affecting civilians and resulting in casualties continued countrywide this week.  In Jalalabad, in Nangarhar Province, gunfire directed at de facto authorities resulted in the deaths of two children on 1 November; and a roadside radio-controlled improvised explosive device detonation reportedly targeting the de facto authorities killed two civilians on 3 November.  Yesterday, armed clashed were reported in Bamyan Province, resulting in the injury of five people, including one civilian.  For its part, on 3 November, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) began the autumn season wheat seed and fertilizer distribution campaign in the east of the country.  Technical training sessions on agricultural best practices are planned, and FAO expects to reach nearly 140,000 people in the Provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and Nuristan.  The Afghanistan Flash Appeal, which targets 11 million people with aid until the end of the year, seeks $606 million and is currently 54 per cent funded.

**Senior Personnel Appointment

I’d like to read into the record an announcement that went out last evening, about the newly appointed Special Representative and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).  The Secretary-General has appointed Colin Stewart of Canada to the job.  He will also perform the role of Deputy to the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus.  Mr. Stewart succeeds Elizabeth Spehar of Canada to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her strong leadership and dedication over the course of her tenure.  Mr. Stewart, who most recently served as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) — from 2017 to 2021 — brings over 28 years of experience in peace and security and international affairs.  More on our website.

**Central African Republic

As you will have seen, yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned Monday’s attack by the Presidential Guard of the Central African Republic, which resulted in the wounding of 10 unarmed, newly deployed, Egyptian peacekeepers.  He called on the Central African authorities to spare no effort in investigating and promptly holding accountable the perpetrators of this unacceptable attack.

**United Nations Woman Police Officer of the Year

This year’s United Nations Woman Police Officer of the Year has been awarded to Superintendent Sangya Malla of Nepal.  She is currently serving in the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).  Superintendent Malla is the Chief of the MONUSCO Police Health and Environment Unit, which she helped to establish.  The unit is responsible for implementing policies and procedures concerning the health and well-being of personnel, as well as UN Police environmental initiatives.  Her work has been especially important as part of the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in past Ebola outbreaks, as well as natural and humanitarian crises such as the volcanic eruption in Goma last May.  Superintendent Malla will formally receive her award at a virtual ceremony on 9 November.

**International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict

Tomorrow is International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.  The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) notes that the environment has often remained the unpublicized victim of war, with water wells being polluted, crops torched, forests cut down, soils poisoned, and animals killed to gain military advantage.  UNEP adds that, over the last 60 years, at least 40 per cent of all internal conflicts have been linked to the exploitation of natural resources, and that conflicts involving natural resources have also been found to be twice as likely to relapse.

**World Tsunami Awareness Day

And today is World Tsunami Awareness Day.  In a message for the Day, the Secretary-General calls on countries, international bodies, and civil society to increase understanding about the threat and to share innovative approaches to reduce risks.  The Secretary-General notes that rising sea levels caused by the climate emergency will further exacerbate the destructive power of tsunamis.  He stresses that we must limit warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial averages and invest at scale in the resilience of coastal communities.  The Secretary-General emphasizes that science and international cooperation, as well as preparedness and early action, must be at the heart of our efforts to save lives from tsunamis and other hazards.  And that is all I have for you.  Yes, Benno?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  Two questions on Ethiopia.  First, the Security Council couldn’t agree so far to a mutual statement.  Silence was just broken, I heard.  Does the Secretary‑General have a message for the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, what the Secretary‑General wants to see — and this has been his case across the board with the Security Council — is a unified response.  If they can come together, that’s crucial in order to address the situation.  The Secretary‑General has made clear — and as you’ve seen in his recent statement — his worries about the current situation on the ground in Ethiopia.  And of course, we do have Mr. Griffiths there underscoring those concerns with authorities, and indeed, he met with the Prime Minister today.  But, we do need a unified response from the Security Council to lead the Member States in dealing with this tremendous threat that’s posed.

Question:  And about the situation on the ground for UN staff, as the United States allowed certain members of their diplomatic staff to leave the country, how does that work for UN staff?  Is there a part of this… of the people working for the UN that will leave, as well, or how does that work?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, I have no departures to relate to you.  We are looking at the situation on a day‑to‑day basis.  Of course, we’ll continue to evaluate what the security conditions are and make adjustments as needed.

Question:  Can you just tell me how many people do you have in the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have the… wait.  Let me see whether I do have that number.  One second.  We have 400 staff in Tigray, but in the country as a whole, let me just see.  That is not it.  I mean, I have our staffing numbers in Tigray, which is that there’s more than 400 UN staff in Tigray and also approximately 1,000 NGO staff on the ground.  But, in the country as a whole, I would need to find the number, and I’ll get it back to you when I can.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Follow‑up on the humanitarian situation.  Has the UN been able… and its partners, have they been able to deliver any humanitarian aid during this period of escalated fighting?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we have staff on the ground, and we have been trying our best to do aid delivery on the ground, but it’s been very frustrating because of the lack of humanitarian access.  This is something Mr. Griffiths is bringing up and the need to have a restoration of full and unhindered humanitarian access throughout the country.  As you know, things like the UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) flights to Tigray have been suspended, and so… and we’ve had problems delivering things, including fuel, which, of course, makes it harder to bring aid to different parts.  So, we want all that to be restored.  Yes, please, and then after that, Célhia.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Last Wednesday, there was an attack on three trucks running between Mauritania and Algeria.  Then there was conflicting report, one from the Algerian Presidency, that claimed that these trucks were attacked by Morocco; another one followed from the Foreign Minister, and he said that the trucks were destroyed east of the Berm.  My question is, since we have the Polisario out of the ceasefire and they are operating in the east of the Berm, what have happened?  Did MINURSO conduct an investigation on that issue?  And if so, if there is any results or not?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, yes, MINURSO did look into this.  We learned of the incident on 2 November, in other words, three days ago.  MINURSO then was able to send initial patrol to the site of the alleged incident the following day, 3 November.  And we can now confirm that the site is in the eastern part of Western Sahara near Bir Lahlou.  The Mission observed two trucks with Algerian license plates parked parallel to each other.  Both trucks had suffered extensive damage and charring.

Question:  Follow‑up.  A follow‑up.  Since the east of the Berm is considered a militarised zone and there is already an existing border checkpoint between Mauritania and Algerian, why did not use this route, the official checkpoint?  And why did these trucks have driven into a military operation area?

Deputy Spokesman:  I have no explanation for why the trucks are where they are.  This is a matter that’s being looked into, but I’ve just reported to you what the initial results are…

Question:  So, MINURSO did not cover that…?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have anything to report on that part.  What they were responding to was the report of these damaged vehicles.  Yes, Célhia, in the back.

Question:  Farhan, about the Central African Republic, why would the presidential guard attack the peacekeepers, and were they helped by Wagner?

Deputy Spokesman:  It’s a fair question to ask, and we, ourselves, believe that this is something that needs to be looked into, why our own peacekeepers would have been attacked.  So, we are waiting to see what the authorities are doing, but as you can see from the statement that the Secretary‑General issued, which was fairly strong in its language, that this needs to be looked into.  And as you know, as [he] put it, these acts could constitute war crimes.

Question:  But, do we know if Wagner was involved?

Deputy Spokesman:  That is something we’ll have to see what an investigation turns up.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  On the appointment of the new Special Representative for Cyprus, can you tell us when he is going to take over and he’s going to go to the island?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, he’s only just been named as of last night.  So, it will be a while longer, but we expect… we’ll try to get him on the ground as soon as we can.  We’ll let you know, if he also comes here, if we can set up things, because as you know, Mr.  Stewart, in his previous, jobs has been willing to speak to the press.  Abdelhamid, you have a question?

Question:  I do.  I might have missed that part about Sudan, Farhan.  Can you update me about the contacts of Mr. Perthes with the Sudanese military authorities and where we stand in the mediation now?

Deputy Spokesman:  Mr.  Perthes is continuing his work with the sides.  As you know, he’s met, in recent days, both with Prime Minister [Abdalla] Hamdok and with Lieutenant‑General [Abdel Fattah] Burhan, and he will continue his conversations with all sides.  At the start of this briefing, I talked about how the Mission, UNITAMS, had spoken out against the arrest of three people who had… after they had met with Mr. Perthes and our concerns about this, but his work is continuing.  And as for a contact, I’ll let you… I’ll give you a person you can contact later.  With that, let me turn the floor over to our guest.  Hold on one second, please.

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