Let me recall Jean Monnet’s famous words. This is not a time for blind optimism or paralyzing pessimism. Now is the time to be determined. Determined to defeat COVID-19 and to emerge from the crisis by building a better world for all.
Thank you. And I’m at your disposal for some questions.
Spokesman: Thank you very much, Sir.
And the first question will go to Michelle Nichols from Reuters. Michelle, if you can open up your mic.
Correspondent: You can hear me?
Spokesman: Yes, go ahead. We can hear you.
Question: Okay. Oh, great. Hi. Thank you, Secretary‑General, for doing this briefing, and happy birthday.
A couple of questions for you. How concerned are you that a growing war of words between the United States and China… which President [Donald] Trump appeared to sort of reignite in an interview with Reuters last night. How concerned are you that this is harming international cooperation to combat COVID‑19?
And on North Korea, have any UN officials spoken to any North Korean officials about the health and whereabouts of Kim Jong‑un? What do you know? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, it is clear for me that the US and China are two extremely important elements in the international community, both from the economic dimension, from the political dimension, from the military dimension. These are two absolutely vital countries.
The contribution of China and the United States, both to fight COVID‑19 but to all other aspects in the development of international relations is, in my opinion, absolutely essential, and I hope that it will become possible in the future.
We have no information about the situation of Chairman Kim Jong‑un.
Spokesman: Thank you. Edie Lederer, Associated Press.
Question: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary‑General, and we certainly hope you’re staying safe and well.
My question goes to several things that you have talked about. The humanitarian appeal that you launched has gotten about half of what it wants. The UN Humanitarian Chief, Mark Lowcock, says $90 billion is needed to offset the costs of the impact of COVID‑19 on the poorest countries.
We haven’t seen much from the Group of 20 major industrialised countries. Who is in the lead or who should be in the lead of the international response to this crisis? I know that you yourself have actually been taking the only leadership… global leadership position that, I think, many of us have seen.
Secretary-General: Well, I believe the leadership has different aspects that are essential. There is a leadership in relation to the response to the pandemic itself. And there, I must confess, I was hopeful that the G20 would be able to agree with my proposal of a mechanism of coordination of the actions of a group of countries that represents 80 per cent of the global economy and 90 per cent of the number of cases at the time to be able to make sure that countries would be doing things in a coordinated way, would be doing things in a complementary way, instead of each country with a different strategy, which, of course, creates a risk for the pandemic not to disappear, because it can spread from one area to another and then come back.
And, so, it is unfortunate that it was not possible for the international community to find a mechanism of solid leadership in relation to the fight of the pandemic.
Now, in relation to the economic response, I think it’s important to underline that IMF and the World Bank are doing a very important job, but I think it’s also important to recognise that their resources are limited and that we need, as I mentioned, a double‑digit, which means more than 10 per cent, package to support the global economy.
Now, if you look at a country like the United States, the Congress already approved more than… about U.S.$2.5 trillion, which corresponds to a little bit more than 10 per cent of the US economy.
The problem is, we need to mobilise these resources for the developing countries. And, for that, we need to boost the capacity of the IMF and World Bank, and that’s why I’ve been appealing for the issuance of new Special Drawing Rights, which is the modern way to print money, and to allow… even without direct impact on taxpayers, to allow for support to the developing world to be much bigger.
And then I think it is absolutely essential that countries come together and that the big powers are able to overcome their difficulties in order to allow for the Security Council to be more active and more effective in relation to the aspects related to peace and security that are linked to COVID‑19 and, namely, to help push for ceasefires in a number of situations where we know that there are many spoilers; there are many forms of mistrust. It’s very difficult to overcome those difficulties, and we need unity and strength from the international community.
Spokesman: Thank you. Betul, Anadolu Agency.
Question: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General, for doing this. You expressed hope that the Security Council will be able to find unity to address COVID‑19. My question is, the Security Council hasn’t been able to find unity and hasn’t been able to adopt a resolution. Are you disappointed, in one of the most strong bodies of the United Nations, that it hasn’t been able to find
what you describe as the common enemy of humanity? Thank you.
Secretary-General: I think we need to be realistic. The Security Council is not an abstract thing. The Security Council is a group of countries, and we know that the relation between the major powers in the world today is very dysfunctional, and that makes it difficult for the Security Council to decide, as it makes it difficult, in many other areas, for international cooperation to work.
So, what we need is to make sure that we have the capacity of especially the biggest countries in this world to come together and to find ways to reach a consensus allowing for effective action, both fighting the pandemic and addressing the huge security and peace challenges that we are facing and, at the same time, helping to create the conditions for an effective recovery and for an effective support to the developing countries.
Spokesman: James Bays, Al Jazeera.
Question: Secretary‑General, thank you for doing this for us. Hello from the floor above you.
You’ve talked about the G20. We’ve had meetings of the G7. We’ve had the P5 talking about a meeting that they’ve been unable to arrange. We’ve had the Security Council, weeks trying to come up with a ceasefire resolution, as you’ve already discussed. Given the scale of this pandemic, has global leadership been adequate?
Secretary-General: It is obvious that there is a lack of leadership. It is obvious the international community is divided in a moment where it would be more important than ever to be united. There is, indeed, a problem of leadership or, if you want, a disconnect between leadership and power.
We see remarkable examples of leadership, but they are usually not associated with power. And where we see power, we sometimes do not see the necessary leadership. I hope this will be overcome sooner rather than later.
Spokesman: Toby, NHK.
Question: Hi, Mr. Secretary‑General, and thank you very much for speaking with us.My question is on climate change. Specifically, we’ve seen a drop… an improvement in emissions during… in many places around the world, during the period of the pandemic. And I’m wondering how specifically is COVID‑19 making the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and making improvements on climate change more difficult.
And my second question to you is, how does the UN, going forward, plan to address both climate change and COVID‑19? Is there a way to combine these efforts in the work of the UN? Thank you very much.
Secretary-General: Well, thank you very much. First of all, indeed, emissions are coming down, but that doesn’t mean that the solution for climate change is a pandemic. Obviously, when the pandemic will go, will disappear ‑‑ and we hope it will be sooner rather than later ‑‑ if nothing is done, emissions will go up as they were going up in the past.
So, what we need is to make sure, as you mentioned, that we combine the response to COVID‑19 with the climate change concerns. And there the key is in acting, and the UN will be totally committed to it, and I believe we will be mobilising many other actors, and I’m very happy to see many countries already expressing it clearly. I’m very happy to see international financial institutions saying it. I’m very happy to see different international organizations of different kinds saying it. I’m happy to see companies saying it. I’m happy to see banks saying it.
It’s clear that, when we do the recovery, this recovery must not be to replicate exactly what we had in relation to the gaps in social security systems, in relation to inequality, but also in related to climate change, which means we need to recover for a more green economy and a more green society.
We need to invest in the recovery, using the funds that will be applied to make sure that we move from a grey economy to a green economy, and that is why I’ve been saying it’s very important that the recovery is not done by bailing out pollution industries, that subsidies to fossil fuels be paid with taxpayers’ money, that it is essential that the public money that will be invested will be invested in renewable energies instead of enhancing the capacity in coal or other fossil fuel forms of producing electric energy and so on and so forth. And we could talk about transportation. We could talk about industry. We could talk about agriculture.
This is a fantastic chance we have to organise a recovery for a more sustainable and inclusive economy and society, and we will put the whole UN system, our UN agencies in the development, in the humanitarian side, our cooperation with international financial institutions, with other [inaudible] institutions, and our dialogue with Member States, we will put all of our capacity in order to make sense that we move in this direction.
And there will be an opportunity with the British and supported by Italy presidency of the COP (Conference of Parties). The COP has been postponed, but this is a moment in which we are acting together. We had just a meeting in… the Petersberg meeting just a few days ago. And we are acting together to push countries to prepare the so‑called Nationally Determined Contributions, which means their commitments in relation to the Paris Agreement that will be renewed now to make sure that they are renewed in line with the objective of reaching carbon neutrality in 2050.
Spokesman: Thank you. Ibtisam Azem. Ibtisam…
Correspondent: Can you hear me?
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Thank you, Secretary‑General, for the press briefing. My first question is a follow‑up on your… COVID‑19 and the Security Council answer. You said that you need… we need to… that the countries reach… need to reach consensus and work together.
So, if they’re not able to work together through the Security Council, how do we want them to work together? Do you have a specific point there whether to the General Assembly or not?
And then my question is on Syria and the cross‑border aid delivery. How important it is to re‑open Al Yarubiyah crossing from Iraq? And what is your comment to countries who claim it is unnecessary?
And the last one on Yemen, you praised… or you said that the Saudi‑led Coalition and their… declared a ceasefire, but since the Coalition air… declared a ceasefire, there are continuous air strikes, as well as shelling and fighting by all parties on the ground. Why are you praising… or why are you optimistic that you will reach an agreement there, considering what’s happening on the ground? And thank you again for the press briefing.
Secretary-General: Well, thank you very much. In relation to what I said when I expressed hope, I think hope is the last thing that ends. And I think we need to go on hoping and go on promoting the forms of dialogue that are necessary for understanding to be established and for countries to be able to come together. Of course, it’s not in my hands, but I’ll do everything I can to support that.
In relation to Syria, we have already presented to the Security Council our proposal with a number of different alternatives to allow for cross‑border operations. We still believe that cross‑border operations are needed, and we have presented the Security Council with a number of options to allow it to reach the whole territory, combined with the forms of cross-line that are also possible.
So, this is a matter of great interest to us related to the need to be able to have COVID‑19 humanitarian supplies reaching the entirety of the territory.
In relation to Yemen, what I believe is very important is that we have been engaging very actively with the parties to the conflict, and those discussions have been quite constructive. And we also have found, in all the regional and global actors, a lot of goodwill to support the effort for an agreement – an agreement for a permanent ceasefire and, hopefully, an agreement for the confidence‑building measures that are necessary related to the airport, the ports, and other aspects of access, the question of the public service payments and also about political dialogue for peace. And we hope that all the actors will understand that the suffering of the Yemeni people really now deserves the end of this conflict.
I went to Yemen many times in the past as High Commissioner for Refugees, and I always find the Yemenis extremely generous. I remember that they were granting prima facie refugee status, which means refugee status to everybody, to all Somalians coming to the shores of Yemen even when they were already in conflict inside the country.
So, this generosity that the Yemenis have always shown deserves peace, and we must do everything possible to overcome the mistrust, to overcome the difficulties, to overcome the problems, and to bring all the actors together for peace in Yemen. This is our objective, and we’ll do everything we can to reach this objective.
Spokesman: Thank you. Pam Falk, CBS News. Pam
Question: Thank you very much. Thank you… thank you, Steph. Thank you, Secretary‑General, for the briefing.
You mentioned the taxpayers’ money should not be used to subsidize fossil fuels, and you also asked countries, especially big emitters, to present enhanced NDCs, the Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris accord. You have… do you believe the United States should comply with this? Do you have a message for the US since the actual formal withdrawal doesn’t take place until November of this year? Thank you.
Secretary-General: Well, as matter of fact, the emissions in the west were decreasing already before the COVID‑19, and there has been an enormous movement of the US civil society, the US business community, in order to reduce emissions and to make the US comply also with the Paris Agreement. So, I’m always hopeful that the dynamics of the US society will prevail.
But I would like to give an example that I think is a remarkable example today and that shows how the two things can be put together, the COVID‑19 and the fight of climate change. And it is the Republic of Korea. The Republic of Korea has been extremely successful in addressing COVID‑19. It was announced today that, for the first time, there was no new case in the Republic of Korea.
At the same time, the Republic of Korea has presented plans for a Green Deal in the recovery and, namely, in relation to no more coal‑fired power plants, reduction of coal‑fired power plants, reduction of emissions and a very ambitious Green Deal.
This is an example that should be followed everywhere, a very determined capacity to really eradicate the COVID‑19, putting in place the mechanisms that are necessary to do it and, at the same time, prepare a green recovery and a recovery aiming at society that is simultaneously inclusive and sustainable
I hope that this example of the Republic of Korea will be followed by many other countries in the world.
Spokesman: Alan, RIA Novosti?
Correspondent: Thank you, Mr. Secretary‑General. Do you hear me? Can you hear me?
Question: In your appeal, you’ve urged for a global ceasefire, but since that time, it seemed that, in Libya, the hostilities are ongoing. So, the situation is really getting worse. So, don’t you think that there’s… the time has come to appoint a new… I mean, to appoint a Special Envoy to this country? Can you uncover, please, who are the candidates for this position?
And if it’s possible, may I ask a second question, please? Could you please unveil, are there any scenarios being explored regarding the UNGA high‑level week, given the situation with COVID‑19? I mean, are there any chances that the high‑level week will be postponed? Thank you
Secretary-General: Yes, indeed, it is time. And it was already time, and we have had some difficulties in having someone that can have the consensus of everybody that is necessary. We hope that this will be possible in the near future. We are very actively engaged… I will not go… going to give names, but we are very actively engaging in consultations with some names, and I hope that this will allow us to solve this problem very quickly.
In relation to the General Assembly, it is still early. We are making a research of the different technical possibilities that exist. I will be in contact with the President of the General Assembly on this very soon. But, of course, for us, the role is to provide alternatives. Decisions must be made by Member States. And, of course, it is important to follow the policies or the rules that are established in relation to gatherings by the host country and, in this case, also by the state of New York.
So, I believe that, when the time comes ‑‑ and we are approaching that moment ‑‑ consultations will have to be made to see which of the different alternatives is the most realistic and the best, but this will be a decision by Member States in consultation with the host country.
Spokesman: Great. Thank you very much, and we have to leave it here unfortunately. But we hope to have the Secretary‑General back here with us very soon. Thank you.
Secretary-General: Thank you very much. All the best. And stay safe.