HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 30 MARCH 2020
COVID-19/NEW YORK CITY
Over the weekend, the Secretary-General, together with the US Ambassador, Kelly Craft, announced the donation of 250,000 protective face masks to the United States. They were then picked up by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City on Saturday afternoon.
These masks were found in the United Nations in New York and were in surplus to our requirements.
The Secretary-General said they would be given to medical professionals in New York City who have been working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of the virus across the 5 boroughs in the hope that they play some small role in saving lives.
He added that we speak with one voice to express our resolute support for this great city and its proud people. To us, the Secretary-General said, New York is not just our home or the headquarters of the UN – it is a vibrant international capital through which the world communicates, debates, trades, and prospers.
The Secretary-General said he sincerely hopes this modest donation would make a difference.
Tomorrow, as a programming note, the Secretary-General will present, by videoconference, his new report entitled “Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19.” The report is a call to action across the many social and economic dimensions of this crisis, and is, above all, a call to focus on people.
That will take place virtually around noon tomorrow. Briefings will will resume on Wednesday.
In a document published today, the UN Conference on trade and Development is calling for a $2.5 trillion assistance package for developing countries, whose populations face unprecedented economic damage from the covid-19 crisis.
The consequences of a combined health pandemic and a global recession will be catastrophic for many developing countries and halt their progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
UNCTAD proposes a strategy that would include the injection of liquidity, debt relief, and a strong recovery plan.
The UN Development Programme said today the growing COVID-19 crisis threatens disproportionately to hit developing countries, not only in the short term but over the months and years to come.
UNDP said the income losses are expected to exceed $220 billion in developing countries, and nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost. With an estimated 55 per cent of the global population having no access to social protection, these losses will reverberate across societies, impacting education, human rights and, in the most severe cases, basic food security and nutrition.
UNDP, in coordination with the World Health Organization is already working to support health systems in countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Djibouti, El Salvador, Eritrea, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Nigeria, Paraguay, Panama, Serbia, Ukraine and Vietnam.
In the longer term, UNDP will work with countries to assess the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 and take urgent recovery measures to minimize long-term impact.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) warned today that the COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting the world’s inequalities and threatening to deepen them.
Some groups, such as migrant workers and workers in the informal economy, are particularly affected by the economic consequences of the virus, and women are especially exposed.
Across the world, 2 billion workers are in informal employment.
ILO emphasized that policy responses must ensure that support reaches the workers and enterprises who need it most, including low-wage workers, the self-employed and many other vulnerable people.
COVID-19 impact on children affected by conflict
And the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, issued a statement today to add her voice to the Secretary-General's call for a global cease-fire.
Boys and girls living in conflict zones need us more than ever, she said, adding that reducing violence is essential.
Ms. Gamba paid tribute to child protection actors who continue to provide vital support and bring hope to child survivors of grave violations. She also reiterated her commitment to work with the UN system to protect children impacted by armed conflict and to prevent violations committed against them from occurring in the first place.
From Abyei, the UN peacekeeping mission says that it is taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and will continue to prioritize and implement its core protection of civilians mandate.
The mission has suspended the travel for staff, except for critical travel, to the Abyei Administrative Area. Cargo flights will continue to operate.
The mission has also set up a COVID-19 taskforce to respond rapidly, including medical evacuations.
It is also conducting outreach and sensitizing efforts in communities to keep people abreast of the situation.
And from The Gambia, the UN team there is working to support the Government’s preparedness, with the third case of COVID-19 having been confirmed in the country.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is strengthening surveillance and lab preparedness, while the Resident Coordinator and other UN entities are supporting the Government’s communications efforts to prevent a full outbreak.
UNICEF is supporting with water and sanitation efforts, as well as on schools and community education.
UNFPA is training front-line health workers, while the UN Development Programme is working on the socio-economic impacts of the virus. UNAIDS is also studying the impacts of COVID-19 on people living with HIV\AIDS.
For its part, the International Organization on Migration (IOM) is helping to deploy a border management information system for travelers and is training border and health officials to screen, identify and refer threats of public health concerns.
In Guatemala, the Pan-American Health Organization and WHO are working together to support the Government since mid-January to address health needs, providing technical assistance and focusing on containment measures.
The UN Country Team is working with the Government to analyze the needs in health, water, sanitation, education, food security and nutrition, as well as on reactivating the economy.
The UN is also helping to address violence against women and girls; this is crucial at a moment when people are asked to stay home. Central America already has one the highest rates of femicide in the world.
On Friday, after the briefing, we shared a note in which the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, said that Israeli and Palestinian authorities continue to coordinate their responses closely and constructively to the response to COVID-19, especially in Gaza.
Mr. Mladenov noted that Israel has facilitated the entry of critical supplies – including swabs to collect samples for COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment – as well as equipment into Gaza since the beginning of the crisis. This is in addition to Israel's cooperation to allow for the movement and access of personnel involved in the virus response to and from both the West Bank and Gaza.
Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock provided updates on the situation in Syria while participating this morning in a videoconference meeting with Security Council members.
Mr. Pedersen reiterated his appeal for a complete, immediate nationwide ceasefire throughout Syria to enable an all-out-effort to counter COVID-19, and expressed his readiness to work with the Government of Syria and the opposition and all relevant players on the ground, as well as key countries with weight and influence who can support a scaling-up of action and ensure that the ceasefire holds.
The Special Envoy noted that there has been a decrease in violence in Syria’s northwest, especially in terms of airstrikes. He also noted that agreements in the northeast continue broadly to hold. However, current arrangements are not ideal for the kind of response across front-lines that the COVID-19 outbreak demands.
Mr. Lowcock told the Security Council members that, as of this morning, ten cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Syria, including one death. Judging from other places, he said, this is the tip of the iceberg, with the virus having the potential to have a devastating impact on vulnerable communities across the country.
He added that Humanitarian needs remain enormous, with the UN data showing clear evidence of deteriorating conditions since December. Mr. Lowcock said that we are seeing increased rates of stunting – a consequence of child malnutrition, from which it is rarely possible to fully recover. Almost three out of every ten displaced children in northwest Syria under the age of five are stunted.
And turning to Yemen, our Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, said he was alarmed by the continuation and escalation of ground and aerial activities in Yemen, in particular in and around Ma’rib governorate and the attacks against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia claimed by Ansar Allah. He reiterated the Secretary-General's call for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities to build a conducive environment to achieving a nation-wide ceasefire.
He recalled that Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr. Griffiths reiterated that indiscriminate attacks affecting civilians and civilian targets, whether inside or outside of Yemen, are unlawful and reprehensible.
Mr. Griffiths emphasized that the recent uptick in fighting runs counter to the stated commitments of all involved in the conflict to work on a ceasefire and their positive responses among diverse groups of Yemenis to the call the Secretary-General made to end the fighting in Yemen.
The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the National Liberation Army (ELN) of a one-month unilateral cease-fire starting on 1 April to facilitate the response in Colombia to the outbreak of the COVID-19. He hopes that this gesture, following on his global appeal for cease-fires, can bring a measure of relief to communities and vulnerable groups in conflict-affected regions in Colombia, and help the authorities to focus on fighting the pandemic.
The Secretary-General calls on other armed groups to do likewise.
In an update on figures of UN personnel killed in 2019, in deliberate attacks in the line of duty. And these are numbers for 2019, given to us by the UN Staff Union Standing Committee on the Security and Independence of the International Civil Service. At least 27 UN personnel – 23 peacekeepers and four civilians – were killed in deliberate attacks in the line of duty in 2019.
This brings the death toll to at least 423 UN and associated personnel who were killed in deliberate attacks in the last ten years from improvised explosive devices, rocket and artillery fire, mortar rounds, landmines, grenades, suicide attacks, targeted assassinations and armed ambushes.
For the sixth year in a row, in 2019, most of the attacks took place in Mali.
Yesterday, Mr. Sudhir Rajkumar has resigned from his role as the Representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of the assets of the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund. That’s effective at the close of business on tomorrow, March 31st. The Secretary-General has accepted his resignation and thanks him for his service in managing the assets of the Joint Pension Fund. The Secretary-General wishes Mr. Rajkumar the best in his future endeavours.
The Director of the Finance Division in the [Office of Programme Planning, Finance and Budget], Mr. Pedro Guazo, will be appointed as the Acting Representative of the Secretary-General while the Secretary-General launches a recruitment process to find a permanent successor to Mr. Rajkumar.
The Secretary-General is announcing the appointment of Antonia Marie De Meo of the United States as Director of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, UNICRI, which is based in Italy.
The Secretary-General wishes to extend his appreciation and gratitude to Bettina Tucci Bartsiotas, who will continue to serve as Acting Director until Ms. De Meo assumes her position.
Ms. De Meo brings to the position twenty years of experience in rule of law and human rights, including criminal justice, crime prevention, gender equality and migrants. She is currently Chief of the Human Rights, Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Service at the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Libya.