DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 24 MARCH 2021
PRESS BRIEFING TOMORROW
Tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. the Deputy Secretary-General - Amina Mohammed - will be in the briefing room, to brief journalists on the launch of the Financing for Sustainable Development Report. The report shows that COVID-19 is sharply increasing stress on development finance and equality and that immediate action is needed to finance a sustainable recovery.
The report, which has inputs from 60 organizations, also shows the deep and widespread negative economic and social consequences of COVID-19 in both developed and developing countries. It looks at how the pandemic is affecting the development agenda and the lives of billions and offers concrete recommendations for overcoming the crisis.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed the announcement by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on steps to help end the fighting and restart the political process in Yemen. He thanked the Kingdom for its support for the United Nations efforts.
The Secretary-General welcomes all steps aimed at bringing the parties closer to a resolution in line with the efforts by his Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to secure a nationwide ceasefire, the re-opening of Sana’a airport, the regular flow of fuel and other commodities into Yemen through Hudaydah port and move to an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict.
Underlining that the needs of the Yemeni people must be put above any other considerations, the Secretary-General calls for fuel ships to be urgently allowed into the port of Hudaydah and for the removal of obstacles to domestic distribution.
Also on Yemen, we take note of the decision of the Government of Yemen to reportedly allow four fuel ships into Hudaydah port. This is a step in the right direction, as fuel shortages persist across the entire country.
Commercial imports of essential goods, including food, fuel and medical-related items, must be able to enter Yemen in adequate quantities through all ports, and obstacles to domestic distribution removed. Fuel is also essential to transport food, pump drinking water, power the delivery of basic services and run electricity grids. People need cooking gas to cook their meals, especially as we approach Ramadan.
We are alarmed by the reported claim by the Houthis (who also call themselves Ansar Allah) of a drone attack yesterday on Abha Airport in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We condemn all attacks targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.
We encourage all those involved to refrain from actions that are detrimental to the mediation efforts of Special Envoy Griffiths and call on them to continue working to advance the political process to reach a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.
As you saw yesterday evening, we issued a statement on Somalia. The Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern at the continued political impasse regarding the holding of elections in Somalia, despite several rounds of consultations amongst Somali political actors, both at technical and principal levels. He said that the protracted stalemate carries significant risks for the stability of the country and the welfare of the Somali people, who are already facing a dire humanitarian situation and precarious security conditions.
The Secretary-General urged the Federal Government of Somalia and all Federal Member State leaders to engage in dialogue and hold the planned summit urgently and without preconditions to resolve their differences on the electoral process and reach consensus on the way forward.
In another statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned Sunday’s heinous attack against civilians in Niger’s Tahoua region. As you know, the attack by unidentified gunmen reportedly killed at least 137 people.
The Secretary-General reaffirms the solidarity and support of the United Nations to the Government and people of Niger in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime. He urges countries in the Sahel to continue their efforts, in close collaboration with regional organizations and international partners, to address these serious threats to security and stability in the sub-region and beyond.
We have received a disturbing new update on the attack, this time from UNICEF. The agency was able to confirm that twenty-two children aged 5 to 17 were among the victims. Several others were injured or separated from their families.
UNICEF reiterates that killing and injuring children is a grave violation of human rights. The agency urges all parties to protect boys and girls and to keep them out of harm’s way.
Ján Kubiš briefed the Security Council this morning for the first time in his new capacity as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Libya.
He discussed the installation of the new interim government, and he said that the recent developments represent a trend and momentum that must not be lost.
Moving forward, he said, we all need to assist and encourage the new executive bodies to pursue an inclusive political process, to fulfil the objectives set by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum and to maintain momentum on all intra-Libyan tracks.
Mr. Kubiš told the Council that the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) embraces the key priorities identified by the interim executive authority and by Prime Minister Dabaiba, and it stands ready to support them.
He added that on 3 March, the UN Secretariat deployed an Advance Team to Libya to assess possible UN support to the Libyan-led Ceasefire Monitoring Mechanism. Preliminary findings were shared with the Security Council in the progress report issued on 22 March, he noted.
Today, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock made a virtual visit to Syria. He spoke by videoconference and by phone to families in different parts of the country, including displaced people. Mr. Lowcock also met with health care professionals, and patients receiving primary health care services.
This is in the run-up to 30 March, when the UN will jointly convene, along with the European Union, a virtual high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The event will mobilize resources to address the devastating humanitarian needs of millions of Syrians inside the country and in the region.
After a decade of conflict, around 12.4 million across Syria are now suffering from hunger, the most ever seen in Syria, affecting 60 per cent of the country’s population.
The UN along our partners are delivering one of the largest humanitarian aid operations in the world in Syria, reaching on average 7.6 million people in need every month.
The Envoys of the Middle East Quartet met virtually yesterday to discuss returning to meaningful negotiations that will lead to a two-state solution, including tangible steps to advance freedom, security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis, which is important in its own right. The Quartet, you will recall, brings together the European Union, the Russian Federation, the United States and the United Nations.
The Envoys also discussed the situation on the ground, in particular the COVID-19 pandemic, the unsustainable disparity in economic development between Israelis and Palestinians, and the need for the parties to refrain from unilateral actions that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve.
The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is continuing to work with national and local authorities to support the protection of civilians, as well as stabilization efforts in the country. In Timbuktu, the Mission is currently conducting a three-day training workshop on the rights and the protection of children.
This training is designed to benefit agents of the Malian Security Forces, who will in turn train their peers. Participants will strengthen their capacities in terms of the national and international legal framework for child protection, as well as on the role of Malian forces in interactions with children.
On Myanmar, the International Organization for Migration in the country today said it remains deeply concerned over the imposition of martial law in outlying areas of Yangon.
Thousands of migrants have left Yangon’s township of Hlaing Thar Yar, following the imposition of martial law on 15 March.
IOM estimates that approximately 100,000 migrants have returned to their communities of origin, mainly Rakhine State and Ayeyarwady Region, in search of safety and security.
They are returning to communities already in distress due to the impacts of the military takeover, including the suspension of banking services and scarcity of food.
Having left rapidly and using up their limited savings, many migrants cannot meet basic needs, including food and water.
Turning to Ethiopia: The World Food Programme today said that it has begun providing emergency food assistance to vulnerable people in the Tigray Region.
WFP says that it urgently needs $170 million to meet critical food and nutrition needs over the next six months. The Government estimates that 4.5 million people need emergency food assistance until late this year and has requested WFP support 1.4 million of them.
WFP noted that the outbreak of conflict in Tigray last November coincided with the peak harvest period, meaning employment and incomes were lost, markets were disrupted, food prices rose, and access to cash and fuel became very difficult.
In addition to delivering emergency food assistance in Tigray, WFP has started providing nutrition support for up to 875,000 vulnerable pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as children in the region over the next six months.
WFP is also providing transport and logistics support to the Government and its partners to deliver humanitarian assistance both to and within Tigray Region.
An update on COVAX: Jamaica has become the first country in the Caribbean to receive COVAX-backed vaccines. Last week, an initial batch of more than 14,000 doses arrived in Jamaica, with more on the way.
This first batch will go towards health workers, older adults and other priority groups.
Another 15 Caribbean countries are expected to receive 2.1 million doses of COVAX vaccines by May.
In El Salvador, the UN team there is supporting authorities to reopen schools safely, gradually and voluntarily.
UNICEF has provided a protocol for the safe return of teachers, other staff and students.
The UN team also helped to create educational content to ensure that education continues for 100,000 children with no Internet access and whose schools might not reopen immediately. This includes dozens of educational programmes over television and radio.
RIGHT TO THE TRUTH
Today is the International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.
In his message to mark the day, the Secretary-General reminded us that we are commemorating the life of Monsignor Oscar Romero, who was murdered for his vocal opposition to inequality, marginalization and injustice in El Salvador.
We honour all victims and survivors of gross human rights violations around the world, the Secretary-General said.
Acknowledgment, justice, and prevention, he added, can only begin with uncovering and acknowledging the facts. Without truth, there can be no justice or reparation.
WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY
Today is also World Tuberculosis Day. The theme this year is ‘The Clock is Ticking’, which conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.
The World Health Organization stresses that this is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to preliminary data compiled by WHO from more than 80 countries, an estimated 1.4 million fewer people received care for tuberculosis in 2020 than in 2019. This is a reduction of 21 per cent.
WHO notes that many people who have TB are unable to access the care they need, and the pandemic has greatly worsened the situation. WHO fears that over half a million more people may have died from TB in 2020, simply because they were unable to obtain a diagnosis.
UN REFUGEES GOODWILL AMBASSADOR
The UN Refugee Agency has appointed the football player Alphonso Davies as its newest Global Goodwill Ambassador.
Davies was born in a refugee camp in Ghana, to Liberian parents who had fled the civil war in their home country. Davies and his family were resettled to Canada when he was five. At 15, Davies began playing professional football and a year later, he had his national team debut, making him the youngest player ever on Canada’s Men’s National Team.
Now 20, Alphonso is keen to support the work of UNHCR and to harness the power of sport to help those forced to flee to build a better future.
In a statement, Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the agency is truly honoured to have him as a new goodwill ambassador.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
The Secretary-General is appointing Major General Ingrid Gjerde of Norway as Force Commander of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, or UNFICYP. Major General Gjerde succeeds Major General Cheryl Pearce of Australia, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her dedication and leadership during her two years of service.
Major General Gjerde has had a distinguished career in the Norwegian Defence Force, currently serving as Head of Strategic Plans. She is a graduate of the Norwegian Military academy as well as from the US Army command and staff college and from the US Army War college.