HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 10 MAY 2021
The Council started its work this morning with closed consultations on the Middle East. Council members heard an update on the situation in occupied East Jerusalem from the UN Special Coordinator, Tor Wennesland.
As for the situation on the ground, a number of you have been asking me before the briefing and I can tell you that the Secretary-General is following with deep concern the latest security developments, which risk triggering yet another dangerous escalation leading to further violence and loss of lives. He condemns in the strongest terms the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, which have reportedly been claimed by Hamas, particularly the targeting of civilian population centres. He urges all parties to exercise maximum restraint. Special Coordinator Mr. Wennesland is working closely with all concerned parties to restore calm. His office is monitoring the situation closely.
In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern over the continuing violence in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as the possible evictions of Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighborhoods. He urges Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, in line with obligations under international humanitarian and international human rights law.
Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement. The Secretary-General urges that the status quo of the holy sites be upheld and respected, and if we have more, as the situation is unfolding, we may have more for you later this afternoon.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
In the Central African Republic, peacekeepers have been deployed since yesterday morning to help secure the town of Bakouma, which is about 130 km north of Bangassou.
Bakouma is one of the towns where security concerns had prevented the holding of elections in December of last year and again in March.
The deployment of 300 UN peacekeepers there was made possible following the rehabilitation of bridges damaged by armed groups a few weeks ago.
While there, the peacekeepers will work to protect the civilian population, and will also help with the organization of legislative elections later this month.
Our colleagues on the ground say they remain appalled by the ongoing violence at the hands of security forces since the military took over the Government on 1 February.
The UN Human Rights Office says that, as of today, at least 781 peaceful protestors, many of them women and children, have been killed, while thousands more people have been injured.
Now in its fourth month, the situation in Myanmar has fast become one of the worst protection and human crises in the world today.
In Pakistan, our team there, led by Resident Coordinator Julien Harneis, tells us that that the first batch of more than 1.2 million doses of the vaccine from COVAX arrived in the country on Saturday. The second shipment of another 1.2 million doses is expected in the coming days. The UN team is working with COVAX to supply enough doses to vaccinate 20 per cent of Pakistan’s population.
Our colleagues are also helping on the health front, including enhancing water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare centres, as well as training frontline health workers on COVID-19 infection prevention and control. Our team has provided personal protective equipment to more than 1 million health workers and police officers.
Meanwhile, Madagascar has received 250,000 doses over the weekend. The country’s vaccine campaign started today.
The UN team, led by the Resident Coordinator Issa Sanogo, will help authorities to vaccinate frontline workers, such as healthcare workers, law enforcement officers, social workers, as well as other vulnerable groups. We have also helped train health workers on how to roll out a vaccine campaign.
In Nepal, our team there, led by Resident Coordinator Sara Beysolow Nyanti, is stepping up its support to address the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases by deploying staff and additional financial and technical support.
We have been providing critical health supplies, such as oxygen concentrators. With the return of thousands of people to Nepal from neighbouring India, UNICEF and the International Organization for Migration are helping border authorities by providing health and safety equipment, as well as disseminating information, travel advisories and health messages.
To date, Nepal has received more than 2 million vaccine [doses] from COVAX and other supply sources. To date, more than 1.8 million people have received a first dose, with more than 360,000 having received two doses. UNICEF helped to set up the Media Crisis Hubs so that health authorities can quickly communicate accurate information about the pandemic and the vaccines.
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE
I just want to flag an announcement from our colleagues at the Department of Management Strategy, Policy and Compliance. They say that the United Kingdom has donated $1.1 million to the Trust Fund of Victims of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. That bring the toal money in the Trust Fund to 3.8 million dollars. This represents more than 25 per cent of the total Trust Fund revenue, the biggest contribution so far among the 23 contributors. So we thank the UK and welcome their commitment and invite other Member States to contribute.
The Trust Fund is the only dedicated mechanism to provide financial support for services and assistance to victims of sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel. It empowers communities and raises awareness to this scourge not only in the Central African Republic, but in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and Liberia.
Over the weekend we expressed our sadness and condolences of the Secretary-General following the passing of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Erskine, of Ghana, at the age of 86. He served as the first Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon from 1978 to 1981.
I was also asked late on Friday about the announcements from Somalia and Kenya regarding the efforts underway towards restoring diplomatic relations. We welcome that announcement and recognize the role played by the State of Qatar in this regard.
We hope the announcement will lead to the full restoration of friendly relations between Kenya and Somalia, which are crucial for stability and cooperation in the region.
Over the weekend we issued another statement in which the Secretary-General welcomed the appointment of John Mahama of Ghana as the African Union High Representative for Somalia. The Secretary-General expressed the full support of the UN for this African Union initiative.
Over the weekend we issued a statement following the horrific attack in Kabul in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the attack that killed and injured scores of civilians, including many girls.
The Secretary-General expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and the Government and people of Afghanistan and stressed that those responsible for this heinous crime must be held accountable.
The Secretary-General underlines the urgency of ending the violence in Afghanistan and achieving a peaceful settlement of conflict.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ARGANIA
Today is the International Day of Argania. The argan tree is a native species of the sub-Saharan region of Morocco, in the southwest of the country. The tree grows in arid and semiarid areas.
Argan trees provide forest products, fruits and fodder, and include the world-renowned argan oil. This multipurpose tree supports income generation, increases resilience and improves climate adaptation. It plays a very important role in achieving the three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - at the local levels.
NOON BRIEFING GUEST TOMORROW
Tomorrow we will have guests to brief on the World Economic Situation and Prospects Mid-year Update.
Hamid Rashid, the Lead Author, and Helena Afonso, an Economics Affairs Officer, both of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will join us virtually and I think I can now take your questions. Okay, let’s go to Ibtisam.