HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,​
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 04 DECEMBER 2020

 

NAGORNO-KARABAKH 
In a statement, the Secretary-General takes note of the 3 December joint statement on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh by the Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries. He welcomes the continuing adherence to the ceasefire in accordance with the 9 November joint statement by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia, and the President of the Russian Federation, and he calls on all concerned to continue implementing their obligations, notably as they relate to international humanitarian law and human rights law. 
The Secretary-General underlines that the United Nations is prepared to respond to the humanitarian needs in all areas affected by the conflict, and to scale up ongoing assistance in Armenia and Azerbaijan, as required. He calls on all relevant actors to cooperate fully with the United Nations entities to ensure their unfettered access. 
The Secretary-General urges Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE’s Minsk Group Co-Chairs to reach a lasting peaceful settlement. He encourages the Governments and the people of Armenia and Azerbaijan to embark on a path of dialogue and to foster regional peace, stability, and prosperity.

GULF
The Secretary-General is encouraged by the statement by the Foreign Minister of Kuwait and other reports that the Gulf rift is close to a resolution. The Secretary-General welcomes the efforts and contributions of Kuwait in building bridges of understanding in the Gulf region and beyond, and he hopes that all countries involved in the dispute will work together to formally resolve their differences. He stresses the importance of Gulf unity for regional peace, security and development.

CLIMATE CHANGE/UNITED KINGDOM 
On climate change, you will recall, in his speech at Columbia University earlier this week, the Secretary-General called on the major emitters to lead the way in taking decisive action now to get on the right path towards achieving net zero by mid-century, which means cutting global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 compared with 2010 levels. 
In this light, the Secretary-General welcomes today’s historic announcement by the United Kingdom of its new National Determined Contribution with a 2030 target of at least 68 per cent greenhouse gas emissions reductions as compared to 1990 levels.   
The Secretary-General looks forward to all leaders submitting more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions before COP 26, in line with achieving global carbon neutrality before 2050.

SECURITY COUNCIL 
At a virtual Security Council session on cooperation between the UN and the African Union (AU), the Secretary-General pointed out that our collaboration with the AU, as well as African economic communities and other regional mechanisms, has never been stronger.  
He commended the leadership and solidarity demonstrated in the pandemic response on the African continent. Mr. Guterres also highlighted important achievements resulting from our cooperation with the African Union, but reminded Council members that the challenges loom large. 
The Secretary-General said that our organizations and our actions in Africa would benefit from a stronger institutionalization of our cooperation at every level. He also called for more action to involve and engage women and youth in the peace and security agenda.  
He reiterated his appeal for African-led peace and counter-terrorism operations to receive Security Council mandates, under Chapter VII, as well as predictable funding guaranteed by assessed contributions.  
Finally, the Secretary-General repeated his appeal for a global ceasefire. 

COVID-19/DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL
The Deputy Secretary-General of the Unites Nations spoke at the General Assembly’s Special Session in Response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Amina Mohammed said that our strategy has three complementary tracks: supporting the continued delivery of health services, responding to humanitarian needs; and supporting national Governments with their emergency socio-economic response and recovery efforts. 
So far, she said these efforts have helped 71 countries implement over 300 social protection policies, supported the provision of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene supplies to 25 million people, and helped more than 100,000 companies stay afloat. 
But, the Deputy Secretary-General added that we are keenly aware that our response must go further, stressing that the decisions taken over the next twelve months will have impacts for decades to come.

ETHIOPIA/HUMANITARIAN 
On Ethiopia, following the agreement between the United Nations in Ethiopia and the Federal Government on access for aid organizations, UN agencies are ready to ramp up assistance to people in need in the Tigray region. 
In the town of Shire in Tigray, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have distributed water, food, clothes, blankets and other supplies to some 5,000 internally displaced people. 
UNHCR says that it continues to receive disturbing reports regarding Eritrean refugee camps in the region with which there are no communications.  
UNHCR is also in talks with the Federal Government’s refugee agency on logistics and on the need to assess the security situation before the resumption of humanitarian activities.  
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) says its priority is to locate 50,000 refugees who received WFP food assistance in four camps in Tigray prior to the start of the conflict. The agency says that it is possible some of these people may have fled during the fighting. 
WFP says that, overall, some 1 million people had been receiving support before the fighting. It said that the latest violence may have disrupted its existing operations in Tigray and led to more people to needing support.

SUDAN 
Meanwhile, in neighbouring Sudan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that more than 47,000 Ethiopians have now arrived in search of safety. 
A small number of Eritrean refugees have also arrived from the Tigray region in recent days.  
UNHCR and the Sudanese authorities have now moved more than 11,000 refugees from the Hamdayet and Abderafi border points to Um Rakuba camp, 70 kilometres away from the [Ethiopian] border.  
UNHCR says that many refugees say they prefer to remain near the border to wait for family members still in Ethiopia, or in hopes they will be able to return home. But refugees also say they are fearful of more violence inside Tigray.

SYRIA
On Syria, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Geir Pedersen, spoke to the press today in Geneva at the conclusion of the Fourth Session of the Small Body of the Constitutional Committee.
He said that a wide range of topics was discussed. While there were many differences, they were expressed respectfully and in a business-like manner. Mr. Pedersen said that there were also quite a few areas where it is possible to see common ground.
The Special Envoy said the Co-Chairs and the Small Body Committee members will return to Geneva for a Fifth Session from 25-29 January 2021, COVID-19 permitting.
They will begin, in accordance with the Mandate, Terms of Reference and Core Rules of Procedure of the Committee, to discuss constitutional principles and basic principles of the constitution.

COVID-19/BHUTAN
The UN team in Bhutan, led by Resident Coordinator Gerald Daly, has been supporting local authorities to respond to the health and socio-economic impact of the pandemic, mobilizing more than $1 million in additional resources.  
UN agencies provided cleaning, protective and medical supplies and equipment, as well as support to the Government on how to expand cold storage infrastructure for potential vaccines.  
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting an assessment of COVID-19 on the tourism and manufacturing sectors, while the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) worked with the Prime Minister and the Ministers of Agriculture and Health to communicate the importance of boosting local agricultural output.  
The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) supported the creation of emergency shelters and partnered with its Goodwill Ambassador, Her Majesty Queen Mother Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, on preventing gender-based violence and providing access to safe counselling and reproductive health support.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
On the Central African Republic, today, in a joint statement, we joined the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the European Union (EU) to call on national actors to respect the decisions of the country’s Constitutional Court, and to refrain from any action that could compromise peace and stability.
They renewed their appeal to national authorities and the political class to work for peaceful, transparent, inclusive and credible elections that respect constitutional deadlines and are accepted by all.
They also call on the armed groups to respect their commitments by immediately ceasing violations against the population and to avoid any action that could hinder the electoral process, including the free movement of voters, candidates and their militants, as well as the proper conduct of elections at the end of the month.

WORLD SOIL DAY 
Tomorrow is World Soil Day. This year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization campaign, named "Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity", aims to raise awareness of the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being. 
In a report released today, FAO noted that soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, remediating polluted sites and combating climate change. The report stresses that despite the fact that biodiversity loss is at the forefront of global concerns, the biodiversity that is below ground is not being given the importance it deserves and needs to be fully taken into account when planning interventions for sustainable development. 
FAO highlights that soils host more than 25 per cent of the world's biological diversity. In addition, more than 40 per cent of living organisms in terrestrial ecosystems are associated with soil during their life cycle.

INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY
Tomorrow is also International Volunteer Day. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General says that this year, we are highlighting the important contributions of volunteers to the response to COVID-19.  
The Secretary-General notes that as we gradually recover from the pandemic, volunteers will have a key role to play in accelerating the transition to green, inclusive and just economies. He appeals to all governments to promote volunteering, support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 
Volunteers deserve our heartfelt thanks, he said.