HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2020
In a statement on Myanmar, the Secretary-General said that he will follow the upcoming general elections on 8 November. He notes that the holding of peaceful, orderly and credible elections is an important opportunity to help advance inclusive sustainable development, humanitarian action, human rights and democratic reforms, including civilian control over the military. He hopes they will also help pave the way for refugee returns in dignity and safety.
The Secretary-General renews his appeal for a ceasefire across the country to allow all to focus on combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. He remains concerned about armed conflict in many areas of Myanmar, especially the intensifying clashes in Rakhine and Chin states, which continue to take a heavy toll on vulnerable civilians.
The Secretary-General urges all parties to the armed conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. Unimpeded humanitarian access for the United Nations and its partners is crucial.
Also, at this critical juncture for the people of Myanmar, the Secretary-General reaffirms the support of the United Nations in their pursuit of lives in dignity and peace.
CHIEF EXECUTIVES BOARD
The Secretary-General this morning began a virtual meeting of the Chief Executives Board, the body that brings together the heads of the UN system organizations.
The purpose of this session is to reflect on the main characteristics of a post-pandemic world and brainstorm on possible key elements of a Common Agenda report that the Secretary-General has been asked to submit to the General Assembly.
The Secretary-General will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, with a focus on the risks for human rights, global economic prospects, deepening inequalities and climate action. And among other topics, he will also discuss the key priority of combatting sexual exploitation and abuse within the United Nations and across the UN system.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, today called on all relevant actors in Ethiopia to de-escalate the volatile situation in the Tigray region and to engage in an inclusive dialogue to resolve grievances without resorting to violence.
She urged all sides to halt the violence, to avoid additional loss of life, mass displacement and further destabilization.
Ms. Bachelet expressed concern about the restrictions imposed on the people of Tigray, including on the rights to freedom of movement and freedom of expression, and added that she is concerned at reports of armed assailants assaulting members of the Amhara ethnic group in the Oromia region on Sunday.
For his part, the Secretary-General has spoken on the phone with the Chairperson of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, and the Prime Minister of Sudan, Mr. Abdalla Hamdok, in his capacity as the head of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). He has also spoken to his envoys, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, who is the Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, as well as Hanna Serwaa Tetteh, his Special Representative to the African Union.
I have been asked about the indictments in Kosovo, and I can say that we have noted the reports of the confirmation by the Kosovo Specialist Chambers of indictments against President Hashim Thaçi and other individuals in Kosovo on charges filed by the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office, and the President’s subsequent resignation.
Continued respect for due process and full cooperation with the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office and the Kosovo Specialist Chambers is essential. The Kosovo Specialist Chambers are an important demonstration of Kosovo's commitment to the fundamental principles of justice and accountability and addressing the difficult legacy of the past.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today issued an urgent call to action to avert major measles and polio epidemics as COVID-19 continues to disrupt immunization services worldwide. The UN agencies warn that this is leaving millions of vulnerable children at heightened risk of preventable childhood diseases.
UNICEF and WHO estimate that $655 million is needed to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups. They noted that in recent years, there has been a global resurgence of measles with ongoing outbreaks in all parts of the world. Vaccination coverage gaps have been further extended in 2020 by COVID-19.
UNICEF and WHO also noted that poliovirus transmission is expected to increase in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in many under-immunized areas of Africa. Failure to eradicate polio now would lead to global resurgence of the disease, resulting in as many as 200,000 new cases annually, within 10 years.
In Kenya, our UN team there, led by Resident Coordinator Siddharth Chatterjee, is working – despite the COVID-19 pandemic – to help refugees and host communities in Turkana County in the country’s northwest. This area of the country has seen a 50 per cent increase in the number of refugees in the past seven years.
The UN team has helped to provide more than 50 medical facilities staffed by 300 trained workers to help nearly 200,000 refugees and 320,000 people from host communities to address the pandemic. More than 120 schools are also in place.
The Government and UN agencies have worked to provide cash for refugees to build their own permanent shelters and to have bank accounts.
A new report by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warns that four countries have areas that could soon slip into famine if conditions continue to deteriorate. The countries are Burkina Faso, northeastern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
The Early Warning Analysis of Acute Food Insecurity Hotspots –that is the name of the report– says that in these countries, a toxic combination of conflict, economic decline, climate extremes and the COVID-19 pandemic, is driving people deeper into the emergency phase of food insecurity.
The report also warns that acute food insecurity levels are reaching new highs globally. Another 16 countries are at high risk of rising levels of acute hunger.
FAO said this report is a clear call to urgent action.
How the situation evolves in the highest risk countries will depend on conflict dynamics, food prices, the impact of the pandemic on food systems, rainfall and harvest outcomes, humanitarian access, and the readiness of donors to continue funding humanitarian operations.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said today that around 400 migrants have been intercepted or rescued off the coast of Mauritania since mid-October.
An estimated 200 boats have arrived in the Canary Islands since the end of September, carrying at least 5,000 migrants. This is a tenfold increase compared to the same period last year. In the first two weeks of October, the agency’s Missing Migrants Project also recorded over 414 disappearances on the West Africa route to the Canaries.
IOM is appealing for more support to ensure rapid and adequate assistance to migrants. They are also working with authorities and other humanitarians to develop standard operating procedures to guarantee a more coordinated and human rights-based response to these emergencies.
Today is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict. In his message, the Secretary-General said that while climate disruption and environmental degradation are not the direct cause of conflict, they can worsen conflict risks. Degradation of natural resources and ecosystems adds to the challenges faced by communities who are already vulnerable in the short and long term he said, with women and girls being disproportionately affected.
He also noted that all too often, the environment is among the casualties of war, through deliberate acts of destruction or collateral damage, or because, during conflicts, governments fail to control and manage natural resources.
The Secretary-General said that if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to act boldly and urgently to reduce the risks that environmental degradation and climate change present for conflict and commit to protecting our planet from the debilitating effects of war.
Starting Monday, the High-Level Champions for Global Climate Action, Nigel Topping from the UK and Gonzalo Muñoz from Chile, are convening the Race to Zero Dialogues.
The Race To Zero Dialogues will serve as input to the Climate Dialogues of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which will take place from 23 November to 4 December. Together, both Dialogues will set the stage for the Anniversary of the Paris Agreement on 12 December, which is also the day of the Climate Ambition Summit.
The events are being hosted across multiple time-zones, allowing speakers from all over the world to reflect on progress made on mitigation and adaptation. More information is on the UNFCCC website.
The Department of Global Communications is launching a campaign to empower kids to take climate action and protect the planet.
The Climate Action Superheroes campaign, launching on UN social media platforms tomorrow, targets kids under the age of twelve as agents of change. Eight superheroes – the Energy Expert, Fashion Fixer, Fume Fighter Green Guide, Recycle Ranger, Truth Talker, Veggie Vindicator and Water Wizard – will engage children, and parents, in fun missions on topics such as reducing single-use plastic, saving energy and water, fixing and reusing clothes, eating more vegetables, and sharing scientific facts. Campaign materials include downloadable activity sheets, certificates of completion, animated social media cards and stickers.
For more information you can visit un.org/sustainabledevelopment
PRESS BRIEFING MONDAY
On Monday, at around 12:30 p.m., there will be a virtual press briefing on the 15th Internet Governance Forum, under the theme, “Internet for Human Resilience and Solidarity.” Speakers will include Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, along with Wai Min Kwok, Senior Governance and Public Administration Officer and Chengetai Masango, Programme Management Officer in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.