This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at Columbia University’s World Leaders Forum on climate change.
He said that the lesson we must learn from 2020 is that we need to transform our relationship with nature and with each other, and he stressed that we must move forward together. “Solidarity is survival,” he said, and he reiterated his call to all countries to implement plans to become carbon neutral by 2050.
The Secretary-General said the pandemic and the climate crisis have brought us to a threshold, but he said we have the solutions we need to make 2021 the year in which we leap forward to carbon neutrality.
CLIMATE CHANGE REPORTS
Staying on the topic of climate, I want to flag two reports that were issued today.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its Production Gap Report, which says that governments must wind down fossil fuel production by 6 per cent per year to limit catastrophic warming.
The report measures the gap between Paris Agreement goals and countries’ planned production of coal, oil, and gas. It found that the “production gap” remains large: countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with a 1.5°C temperature limit.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) today launched its State of the Climate Report, which says that 2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record. Ocean heat is also at record levels and more than 80 per cent of the global ocean experienced a marine heatwave this year, with widespread repercussions for marine ecosystems already suffering with more acidic waters due to carbon dioxide absorption.
The Secretary-General today is speaking, by pre-recorded video message, at the International Conference in Support of the Lebanese People.
Four months after the 4th of August explosion in Beirut, Mr. Guterres will thank the international community for its support and technical expertise.
But he is also warning that the pandemic is another factor aggravating the country’s already fragile economic situation.
Poverty is increasing and, he will add that the Lebanese people have been waiting for the formation of a new government with the capacity to implement needed reforms.
The new “Reform, Recovery and Reconstruction Framework,” prepared jointly by the World Bank, the European Union and the United Nations, is designed to help the Lebanese people move beyond the emergency phase and onto the path for longer-term recovery and reconstruction.
As the framework begins its implementation, the Secretary-General will call for continued engagement of non-governmental stakeholders and for the voices of the people to be heard, as well as for more support for the urgent needs of families and businesses.
Turning to Ethiopia, we have been told by our humanitarian colleagues that the UN in the country and the Federal Government of Ethiopia have signed an agreement that seeks to enable unimpeded, sustained and secure access for humanitarian personnel and services in areas under the control of the Federal Government in Tigray, and the bordering areas of Amhara and Afar regions.
We, along with our humanitarian partners in Ethiopia, are engaging with the Federal Government and all parties to the conflict to ensure that humanitarian action in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions is strictly based on needs, and carried out in compliance with the globally-agreed principles of humanity, impartiality, independence and neutrality.
This includes working to ensure that people impacted by the conflict are assisted without distinction of any kind other than the urgency of their needs.
Today, an assessment and response mission is taking place in Afar, in the areas bordering Tigray, to reach people who have been internally displaced by the ongoing conflict.
Stephanie Williams, the Acting Special Representative for Libya, spoke today at a virtual session of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum. She warned the Libyan delegates that time is not on their side and that there is a direct cost for inaction and obstruction.
She said that there are now 20,000 foreign forces or mercenaries in the country, which she called a shocking violation of the Libyan sovereignty. She added, “You may believe that these foreigners are here as your guests, but they are now occupying your house.”
Ms. Williams added that, by next month, there will be an estimated 1.3 million Libyans in need of humanitarian assistance.
She reminded the delegates that they went a long way in Tunis and set the date for the elections. The best way to address Libya’s governance crisis, she said, is to unify the country’s institutions and Central Bank which needs to have a board meeting to address the exchange rate crisis immediately.
On Nigeria, you will recall that, earlier, on Sunday, we strongly condemned what the Secretary-General called a horrific attack on farm workers that took place over the weekend in Zabarmari in Borno state.
The Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, wrapped up a condolence visit today to the families of the victims of that attack. He also met with Borno state authorities.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that tens of civilian farmers harvesting on rice farms were killed in the attack. Details are still coming in, with the search for missing people continuing and more bodies being recovered.
In a meeting Mr. Kallon had, a farmer spoke of the trauma that people are facing due to many having been killed by assailants armed with machetes.
Following the attack, people living in rural communities are fearful for their lives and those of their children and have not returned to the farms. They worry that the harvest may be entirely lost.
Some 4.3 million people are critically food insecure in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. The number could reach 5.1 million over the lean season, between June and August next year.
Mr. Kallon also reiterated his call for abducted women and girls to be immediately released and for their safe return to their communities.
From Bangladesh, our colleagues there say they are aware of reports that the Government of Bangladesh may begin the initial movements of Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char in the Bay of Bengal in the coming days.
We have not been involved in the preparations for this movement or in identifying refugees, and we have limited information on the overall relocation exercise, say our colleagues in Bangladesh.
We reiterate our longstanding position that Rohingya refugees must be able to make a free and informed decision about relocating to Bhasan Char based upon relevant, accurate and updated information. The Government of Bangladesh has indicated that movements to the island will be voluntary, and the United Nations calls on the Government to respect this very important commitment.
We remain focused on supporting the Government’s leading role in delivering an effective and efficient humanitarian programme for the nearly 900,000 Rohingya refugees living in Cox’s Bazar, while also working toward a solution for them, including through their safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to Myanmar.
A report released today by the International Labour Organization (ILO) has found that, due to COVID-19, monthly wages fell or grew more slowly in the first six months of 2020 in two-thirds of countries for which official data was available. The ILO warns that the crisis is likely to inflict massive downward pressure on wages in the near future.
I also wanted to flag developments in Iran having to do with nationality, and the Secretary-General welcomes the Government of Iran’s recent decision to give nationality to thousands of children born to Iranian mothers and non-Iranian fathers.
UNHCR reported yesterday that, under a new law, which was amended in 2019, nearly 75,000 children who would otherwise be at risk of statelessness would now be allowed to apply for Iranian citizenship.
By allowing Iranian mothers to pass their nationality to their children, the law also marks a groundbreaking step towards reducing the gender gap in Iran, where nationality used to be passed on mainly by fathers.
The Secretary-General commends the Government for taking concrete steps towards the prevention and reduction of statelessness in the country.
Around the world, millions of stateless persons continue to face a lifetime of exclusion and discrimination and are often denied access to education, health care, and job opportunities – making them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General noted that this year’s global protests against systemic racism have brought renewed attention to a legacy of injustices all over the world whose roots lie in the dark history of colonialism and slavery. But slavery is not simply a matter of history, he said.
The Secretary-General pointed out that today, more than 40 million people are still victims of contemporary slavery. Women and girls account for more than 71 per cent of these victims.
The Secretary-General calls on Member States, civil society and the private sector to strengthen their collective efforts to end this abhorrent practice. He also called for support to identify, protect and empower victims and survivors, including by contributing to the UN Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.