HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 2020
Today, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, the 2020 Afghan Conference got under way. The ministerial pledging conference is being co-hosted by the Governments of Afghanistan and Finland, along with the United Nations.
The Secretary-General will participate in the conference tomorrow through a pre-recorded video message. In his message, he is expected to emphasize how the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency are making life even more difficult in Afghanistan, particularly for the most vulnerable.
The Secretary-General will also stress his concern about continued high levels of violence in the country. He will highlight the central role of the Afghan women in creating peaceful and inclusive communities.
And due to pandemic restrictions in Switzerland, the Conference is taking place virtually, with only the co-hosts meeting in person and you will be able to watch the whole event on UN web TV.
SECRETARY-GENERAL/ REGIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Earlier today, speaking to 23 regional organizations, the Secretary-General said that our partnership with them is more important than ever.
Regional organizations play a vital role in the global response to the pandemic, he added, and he reminded participants of his call for a COVID-19 response based on a New Social Contract and New Global Deal to ensure that power, wealth and opportunities are shared more broadly and fairly.
To achieve this, Mr. Guterres said that we need a new, reinvigorated inclusive, multilateralism, in which the UN, regional organizations, international financial institutions work together more closely.
Turning to conflicts, he also highlighted the importance of cooperation with regional organizations and underscored the positive developments following his global ceasefire call, but also added that several months on, the situation remains mixed.
Now is the time to double down on our efforts to reach a global ceasefire by the end of the year, Mr. Guterres said. International cooperation is essential to change the calculations of conflict parties, open the space for dialogue, and end these wars.
The Secretary-General spoke yesterday at the G20 Leader’s Summit, and renewed his call for solidarity and cooperation in the face of COVID-19.
He said that G20 leadership is vital to halt the spread of the pandemic, to mobilize the resources to build forward better and to align recovery efforts with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
In response to questions, the Spokesman said the Secretary-General is pleased by the strong commitment expressed in the final communique to have COVID-19 vaccines treated as a global public good, as well as the financial commitments made to COVAX, although obviously a financial gap remains.
On debt, the final communiqué was a step in the right direction, but the Secretary-General thought it was insufficient. He would have liked to see more comprehensive initiatives on debt and liquidity.
And he was also encouraged by the interventions and the commitment to build forward better by the participants at the meeting, as well as commitments on inclusion.
However, on the issue of climate change, he was disappointed by the final language, which does not reflect the movement we are seeing globally in business and governments regarding carbon neutrality.
On Ethiopia, the UN remains extremely concerned about the safety of civilians in the Tigray Region, especially the more than half a million people – including more than 200 aid workers – who remain in Mekelle following information that fighting might move into the city in the coming hours.
The UN and its humanitarian partners in Ethiopia are urgently calling on all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, and water systems.
Humanitarian colleagues also stress that it is urgent that all parties to the conflict enable the free and safe movement of affected people in search of safety and assistance, including across international and within national borders, regardless of their ethnic identification.
The UN, along with its partners in Ethiopia, is ready to provide humanitarian assistance to people impacted by the conflict. For this, free, safe and unhindered humanitarian access is urgently needed.
The UN continues to receive reports of internal displacement. Nearly 39,000 people have now fled to Sudan, including 17,000 children. The response is scaling up, but the influx of arrivals is outpacing the capacity on the ground and additional funding is urgently needed.
In Djibouti, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Barbara Manzi, is concerned about how the socio-economic impact of the pandemic will further deepen vulnerabilities.
The UN is working closely with authorities to prepare for a potential influx of people and respond to the economic consequences of the crisis.
Any such movement of people, even in small numbers, would have a major impact since it would add to an already sustained mixed migration phenomena. Today, one in 33 people in Djibouti is a refugee and one in ten is a migrant.
With 85 per cent of the trade through Djibouti’s port either going to or coming from Ethiopia, the UN team on the ground is concerned about the potential impact on trade, the economy and food security.
The UN is also looking into stepping up prevention measures for communicable diseases, including COVID-19, malaria and acute watery diarrhea.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the head of the Peacekeeping Mission, Leila Zerrougui, welcomed the sentence pronounced today against Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, the former head of the armed group NDC (Nduma Defense of Congo), as well as co-defendents.
Sheka was condemned to life in prison for war crimes against civilians – notably women and children – between 2007 and 2017 in the Walikale Territory, in North Kivu. These crimes include murder, sexual violence and recruitment and use of children.
In a statement issued a few minutes ago, Ms. Zerrougui said that the verdict shows that impunity is not inevitable. And it also testifies to the determination of the Congolese authorities to continue, with the UN’s support, the legal fight against war criminals in the country.
In Libya, the Secretary-General’s Acting Special Representative, Stephanie Williams, convened today the first virtual meeting of the second round of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF). The meeting aims to discuss the selection criteria of the unified executive authorities for the preparatory period preceding Libyan elections.
In her opening remarks, she welcomed the progress made in the first in-person round in Tunisia, especially the consensual agreement on a roadmap for the preparatory period and on setting 24 December 2021 as the date for the elections.
Regarding allegations of bribery, the Special Representative announced that these reports have been referred to the UN Panel of Experts, given that such activities, if proven to have occurred, could constitute obstruction of the political process and be subject to sanctions.
The second round has been adjourned to Wednesday to allow participants to fully study the selection options presented at today’s meeting.
This morning, the Security Council held an open video conference on Somalia.
Briefing Council members, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, James Swan, said that Somalia faces critical decisions, including an electoral process to choose the parliament and president in the coming months.
He said that, while a consensus was reached on an indirect electoral model and ended a political stalemate. Mr. Swan said that, while the model falls regrettably short of the constitutional requirements for direct universal suffrage election of parliament, this agreement reflected wide Somali political consensus and ownership.
The Special Representative also noted that humanitarian needs remain acute in Somalia. The country has been hard hit by the triple-shock of COVID-19, flooding and locust infestation. While the national trends in COVID-19 cases are broadly favourable, he said we must remain vigilant.
In response to questions, the Spokesman said that as the Secretary-General has made clear publicly, we hope that the cessation of hostilities will enable humanitarian actors to have the necessary access to all people in need in all areas affected by the conflict, including people displaced by the conflict, particularly in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
As the Secretary-General stressed in his most recent phone calls with the Foreign Ministers of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the UN stands ready to respond to the humanitarian needs and is prepared to work with all concerned accordingly. The same has been conveyed to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
In response to a request from the Russian Federation and pending further details on the role and operating modalities of the “Russian Inter-agency Humanitarian Response Centre”, the Secretary-General has confirmed that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and relevant UN entities are ready to cooperate and to discuss possible interaction and collaboration on the ground, including for the purpose of undertaking an initial independent inter-agency assessment in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas, as soon as conditions permit, in order to obtain a comprehensive picture of the humanitarian needs on the ground.
In response to questions about Guatemala, the Spokesman said that the UN reiterates that the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly must be respected. We trust that the authorities will conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the events. We call on all actors to work together to address the challenges facing Guatemala through peaceful means, with full respect for the rule of law and human rights.
WORLD METEOROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION
The World Meteorological Organization today said that carbon dioxide levels continue to be at record levels, despite the COVID-19 lockdowns around the world.
According to the WMO’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, carbon dioxide levels saw another growth spurt in 2019 and the annual global average breached the significant threshold of 410 parts per million. The rise has continued this year as carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for centuries and for longer periods in the ocean.
WMO said the lockdown-related fall in emissions is just a tiny blip on the long-term graph and stressed that we need a sustained flattening of the curve.