This morning, Antonio Guterres took the oath of office for his second term as Secretary-General.
Speaking to the General Assembly, he said that serving the United Nations is an immense privilege and a most noble duty.
The Secretary-General said that we are writing our own history with the choices we make right now. He noted it can go either way: breakdown and perpetual crisis or breakthrough and prospect of a greener, safer and better future for all.
The Secretary-General said the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed our shared vulnerability, our inter-connectedness and the absolute need for collective action.
He pledged that he will do everything in his power during his second term in office to contribute to the positive, breakthrough scenario.
The Secretary-General also spoke to reporters after taking his oath of office.
LEAST DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the joint thematic event of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council on Least Developed Countries.
He said that, as the pandemic continues to rage and more deadly and contagious variants of the virus continue to emerge, the impact on the economies of the Least Developed Countries has been devastating.
He outlined a number of steps to help them recover.
First, he called for vaccines to be made available to all countries in need and to build on the progress addressing the unsustainable debt situation in lower- and middle-income countries.
The Secretary-General also said we must ensure that the goal to mobilize $100 billion in climate finance annually for developing countries is met or exceeded before this year’s United Nations Climate Conference, COP26.
He called on governments to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities.
Finally, he said that UN Conference for Least Developed Countries, to be held in January, offers a chance to recover precious ground on the Sustainable Development Goals that has been lost to the pandemic.
This morning, the Security Council held a private meeting on Myanmar, in which the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, participated.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, she said she had asked the Security Council for its timely support and action, noting the alarming situation on the ground for all civilians due to the collapse of the health system and increasing food insecurity.
The Special Envoy warned that, if the current situation continues, half of Myanmar’s population will be living under the poverty line next year.
She said she urged the Security Council to continue to speak in unity, especially against violence, and that political prisoners be released as quickly as possible.
Ms. Schraner Burgener will speak at a General Assembly meeting on Myanmar this afternoon.
In its annual Global Trends report released today, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) urged world leaders to step up their efforts to foster peace, stability and cooperation to halt and begin reversing nearly a decade-long trend of surging displacement driven by violence and persecution.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people fleeing wars, violence, persecution and human rights violations in 2020 rose to nearly 82.4 million people. This is a four per cent increase on top of the already record-high 79.5 million at the end of 2019.
By the end of 2020, there were 20.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, 5.7 million Palestine refugees and 3.9 million Venezuelans displaced abroad. Another 48 million people were internally displaced within their own countries and 4.1 million people were asylum-seekers. These numbers indicate that, despite the pandemic and calls for a global ceasefire, conflict continued to chase people from their homes, UNHCR said.
Ahead of World Refugee Day on 20 June, the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that millions of refugees are looking to a future of uncertainty and hunger as the effects of the pandemic on aid budgets play out in funding shortages for emergency operations.
WFP said significant funding shortfalls across East and Southern Africa, as well as the Middle East, have forced ration cuts upon some of the world’s most vulnerable people who rely on WFP food to survive.
In East Africa alone, almost three-quarters of refugees have had their rations cut by up to 50 per cent, while in Southern Africa, refugees in Tanzania who depend entirely on WFP assistance have had their rations cut by almost one-third.
Significant funding shortages for the Syria Regional Refugee Response mean 242,000 refugees in Jordan may be cut off from assistance at the end of August unless more funding is received.
WFP called for sufficient funding to avoid any cuts in food assistance, either through reduced rations or excluding people from assistance altogether.
VENEZUELAN REFGUEES AND MIGRANTS
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) have welcomed the pledges amounting to $1.5 billion, including $954 million in grants, during the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants.
The virtual conference, convened by the Government of Canada, in collaboration with IOM and UNHCR as co-leaders of the Inter-agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela, raised awareness and funds for the 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that are home to 4.6 million Venezuelans who have left their country.
The additional financial support pledged will allow States and humanitarian organizations to continue providing emergency assistance and lifesaving aid to Venezuelans most in need and their host communities, while also finding long-term solutions.
The Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan funding requirements in 2021 amount to $1.44 billion to provide humanitarian assistance through 159 partners to Venezuelan refugees and migrants and host communities.
Today, the UN and its humanitarian partners in Venezuela launched the country’s 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan which aims to help 4.5 million vulnerable people at a cost of about $708 million.
The Plan focuses on health, malnutrition and food insecurity, human mobility and protection risks, and providing access to essential services, through emergency assistance, improved access to basic services, and ensuring protection for the most vulnerable.
It builds on efforts made in 2020 when the UN and partners reached 4.9 million people with some form of assistance.
The UN calls for increased funding and access, including for national and international NGOs, to strengthen the response.
The UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi, yesterday in a joint statement expressed concern about the humanitarian impact of low water levels in the Euphrates River for millions of people, many already struggling to cope following 10 years of crisis.
Millions of people in Syria rely on the Euphrates for drinking water and electricity generation. Low water levels are affecting important infrastructure, including hospitals and irrigation networks, and leading to widespread blackouts.
The two UN officials warned of possible longer-term impacts should the situation not improve, including damage to agriculture, worsening food insecurity, livelihood losses and a severe undermining of overall public health.
UN and humanitarian partners are working to mitigate the worst impacts of the crisis through emergency water delivery to affected families. But this is not a substitute for the long-term, regular and reliable access to water, sanitation, electricity, and other basic services which the Euphrates provides.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
The Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, has acknowledged the important step taken on Thursday by the Parliament of Montenegro with the adoption of a resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
The Special Adviser emphasizes that convictions for the crime of genocide and other atrocity crimes committed during the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia are about individual accountability.
The Special Adviser, who is currently on an official visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, calls on all leaders, communities, organizations and media in the region to challenge the denial of genocide and other atrocity crimes committed in the past as a foundation for a future built on mutual trust, dignity, respect, understanding, peace and reconciliation.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, today called for the immediate release of all children in Nigeria who have abducted, including in the most recent incident in which presumably 80 children were taken from a school in the state of Kebbi.
Six years ago, the Security Council asked the Secretary-General to list, in his annual report, parties to conflict who abduct children.
The abduction of children was the fastest growing grave violation against children in situations of armed conflict in 2020.
The UN today launched its first Global Report on Protecting Young People in Civic Space.
The report comes alongside a high-level event organized by the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and partners focused on bringing young people’s protection concerns to the international agenda in a safe manner, with an emphasis on concrete recommendations for action
“Although the report presents a harsh reality of what it means to be young and challenge the status quo today, it also showcases the resilience, creativity and hope displayed by young people around the world,” said Jayathma Wickramanayake, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth.
In the lead up to the high-level event, the United Network of Young Peacebuilders, in collaboration with the Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, has rolled out a campaign amplifying the evidence base of threats and challenges youth face in civic space, with a specific focus on deconstructing the usual policy myths that intersect with protection issues youth face as well as developing young people's understanding and awareness of protection mechanisms.
Yesterday, the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund (UNJSPF) set new ambitious climate targets to reduce its investment-induced greenhouse gas emissions by 29 per cent in 2021 and 40 per cent by 2025. The UNJSPF will also monitor sector targets and intensify advocacy for climate action.
“Climate change is a critical challenge that we need to address. With this ambitious commitment, we want to accelerate the transitioning of our investments towards a 1.5°C scenario, addressing Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement,” said Pedro Guazo, Representative of the Secretary-General for the investment of UNJSPF assets.
With the decision taken yesterday, the Fund pledges to reduce the absolute greenhouse gas footprint of its Equities and Corporate Bonds’ Portfolios by 29 per cent in 2021, which is the higher end of the recommended sub-portfolio target by the Alliance by 2025, compared to the 2019 level. By 2025, the Fund targets a 40 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction from 2019.