HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 14 MAY 2021
SECRETARY-GENERAL/GAZA AND ISRAEL
The Secretary-General appeals to all parties to immediately cease the fighting in Gaza and Israel.
The ongoing military escalation has caused great suffering and destruction. It has claimed scores of civilian lives, including, tragically, many children. The fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.
The parties must allow for mediation efforts to intensify with a view to ending the fighting immediately. The UN is actively involved in such efforts, which are also crucial for delivering much needed humanitarian aid to the affected people in Gaza.
The Secretary-General reiterates that only a sustainable political solution will lead to lasting peace. He reiterates his commitment, including through the Middle East Quartet, to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports from Gaza that given limited fuel reserves in Gaza, there are now daily rolling electrical power cuts of 8-12 hours per day.
Another 230,000 people from Gaza City and Khan Younis have limited access to piped water due to increasing power cuts and damage to networks.
Over 12,000 people have reportedly sought shelter from the fighting, with many situated in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Twenty-nine UNRWA schools in Gaza have been opened as designated emergency shelters for displaced people. UNRWA and humanitarian partners are providing food, water and non-food items to those people. As previously mentioned, funding for the humanitarian appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory is only 29 per cent funded.
The Secretary-General has just concluded his visit to Moscow.
Earlier today, he met Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin for a discussion on a wide range of issues, including climate and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General also had a virtual meeting with President Vladimir Putin. They discussed a number of international and regional peace, security and humanitarian issues and the need to resolve conflicts through political dialogue, mutual respect and understanding.
They also talked about the importance of renewed commitment to multilateralism, solidarity and cooperation for the international community to address the unprecedented global challenges in the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
The Secretary-General expressed the interest of the UN to deepen its cooperation with the Russian Federation in the three pillars of the Organization’s work – peace and security, sustainable development, including climate change and biodiversity, and human rights.
This morning, the Secretary-General also had a meeting with the Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly, Valentina Matviyenko. They discussed climate issues, gender and other topics.
Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General received an honorary doctorate degree from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations – better known in Russia as MGIMO. In his remarks to students there, he highlighted some of the challenges we currently face, including, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and climate.
The roll out of vaccines is a light at the end of the tunnel, he said, as he reiterated his call for the world to unite to produce and distribute sufficient vaccines for all. This, he told students, means at least doubling manufacturing capacity around the world.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
The Secretary-General has appointed Martin Griffiths of the United Kingdom as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.
He will succeed Mark Lowcock of the United Kingdom, to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for his dedicated service to the Organization as well as his commitment in mobilizing assistance and resources to protect and alleviate the conditions of the many people affected by humanitarian crises.
Mr. Griffiths brings extensive leadership experience in humanitarian affairs at headquarters and country levels, both strategically and operationally, as well as senior level experience in international conflict resolution, negotiation and mediation. Most recently, you will recall, he has served as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen (since 2018), a position he will continue to serve until a transition has been announced.
Mr. Griffiths, who is currently the Special Envoy for Yemen, will continue to serve in that position until the transition plan has been announced.
From Myanmar, the UN team on the ground said that, more than 100 days on from the military takeover of the Government, it remains very concerned over the military’s restrictive policies and practices towards media outlets.
The UN team urges the military to release all people detained arbitrarily, including the journalists that have been jailed.
To date, the military authorities have revoked the operating licenses of eight media outlets, while at least 84 journalists have been arrested. Of those, at least 48 journalists remain in detention as of today. A journalist was found guilty and jailed for three years earlier this week.
Our colleagues on the ground stress that the freedoms of expression and the press are fundamental human rights underpinning all civil liberties and must be protected.
Next Tuesday, May 18th, the 2021 Joint Response Plan for the Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis will be launched, hosted by the Government of Bangladesh, together with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Ahead of this, the UN Refugee Agency calls for renewed international commitment, support and solidarity for Rohingya refugees.
The 2021 Joint Response Plan will target nearly 1.4 million people – Rohingya refugees and host communities – this year, bringing together the efforts of the Government of Bangladesh and 134 UN agencies and NGO partners.
Some 740,000 Rohingya fled from violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State in 2017. UNHCR says that, with the refugee crisis in its fourth year, Bangladesh needs robust and sustained international support to ensure the safety and wellbeing of stateless Rohingya refugees. This must not become a forgotten crisis.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded vulnerabilities for both refugees and communities hosting them.
Bosnia and Herzegovina received this week three additional shipments of COVAX-backed Pfizer vaccines, which amounts to a little over 150,000 doses. These complement other vaccines the country is receiving from separate agreements. The UN team is also delivering more than 11 million pieces of life-saving medical equipment, testing kits and necessary supplies.
Georgia also received a second shipment of more than 43,000 vaccines, about half of the total expected through the COVAX. Authorities there expect to vaccinate 60 per cent of the 3.7 million people by the end of the year. UN entities also procured and delivered essential supplies including hospital equipment, PPE, test kits, lab consumables, computers and vital medical supplies.
And in Egypt, the COVAX facility delivered an additional 1.7 million doses of the vaccine yesterday, in addition to the over 850,000 received in March.
Costa Rica received yesterday its second batch of COVAX-backed vaccines, which was nearly 90,000 doses.
In India, the UN team there continues to provide equipment and supplies for the response to the COVID-pandemic.
This includes 72 oxygen generating plants; 13,000 oxygen concentrators; and 400,000 COVID-19 testing kits and 85 testing machines installed in labs across the country.
The UN team is also supporting migrants and vulnerable groups by setting up helplines to provide psychosocial support and information on social welfare and livelihood opportunities.
Our team is also helping authorities care for children who have lost both parents to the pandemic.
The Resident Coordinator, Renata Dessallien, today said that this COVID-19 wave has caused unfathomable suffering and loss for the people of India. She noted that the people of India have responded with extraordinary acts of altruism, selflessness, courage, ingenuity and mutual help. The Resident Coordinator stressed that the UN team in India stands with the people and Government.
Tomorrow is International Day of Families, and the theme this year is “Families and New Technologies”.
Sunday is International Day of Living Together in Peace. The Day aims to uphold the desire to live and act together, united in differences and diversity, in order to build a sustainable world of peace, solidarity and harmony.
And Sunday is also International Day of Light. The Day celebrates the role light plays in science, culture and art, education, and sustainable development, and in fields as diverse as medicine, communications, and energy.