HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC​,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 4 FEBRUARY 2021
 

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon about the situation in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General took note of the final results of the first round of legislative elections, proclaimed by the Constitutional Court on Monday. He also said that he remains very concerned about armed clashes and threats to civilians in the country and strongly condemns the violence and reiterates his call for a global ceasefire.  He urges all parties to immediately halt hostilities.
The perpetrators of grave violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as serious crimes, including the killing of civilians and UN peacekeepers, must be held accountable, he said.

PALESTINIANS 
The Secretary-General earlier today discussed the challenges over the coming year for Israelis and Palestinians, in remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian people. 
He said that the pandemic has had a severe impact on the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. The UN and its partners are supporting the Palestinian Government’s work to control the spread of the pandemic. The Secretary-General added that the Special Coordinator continues to encourage Israel to support the COVID-19 vaccine availability, which is in line with Israel’s obligations under international law.
Mr. Guterres said that President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for an international peace conference under the auspices of the United Nations – and an expanded Middle East Quartet – provides a positive opportunity to advance peace in the region.  
He also called on the parties to refrain from unilateral acts that can jeopardize the possibility of restarting the peace process. 
That event took place in person in the General Assembly Hall.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL/ SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 
This morning, the Deputy Secretary-General – Amina Mohammed - spoke via a video message at the Global Engagement and Empowerment Forum on Sustainable Development. She stressed that to ensure that societies rebuild in a sustainable and resilient manner, our collective response and recovery efforts must be rooted in the 2030 Agenda and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
She added that we need more targeted assistance for the furthest behind who are most vulnerable and have the least resilience. 
Ms. Mohammed also said that we must act multilaterally to mobilize more development assistance and socially conscious investments and enhance our social protection systems.

GLOBAL INTER-GENERATIONAL DIALOGUE & LAUNCH OF GLOBAL PEACE FUTURES FORUM                  
Tomorrow morning, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, will join Graꞔa Machel at the virtual Global Inter-Generational Dialogue (IGD).  They will join an international panel of young leaders, in an event designed to give them a voice and to establish dialogue with current leaders. 
This event, organized by Global Peace, will also include the launch of the Global Peace Futures Forum, a platform that will catalyse youth to build innovative solutions to global challenges.  
Graꞔa Machel is a member of the Sustainable Development Goals Advocacy Group. She is also the Chair of Global Peace, an initiative of the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Dispute, launched in 2018 by South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa.

ETHIOPIA 
In Ethiopia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today said that the situation in Tigray is dire, with hundreds of thousands of people still not receiving aid.
Economic activity, electricity, communications and basic services remain largely disrupted, especially in rural areas, where two-thirds of the population live.  
Banks remain closed, except in Tigray’s capital, Mekelle. This hinders aid organizations and others from providing basic services. 
It has been reported that there is a lack of food in markets due to fighting having broken out during harvest season which left crops unharvested.  
Even before the conflict, malnutrition was already on the rise because of the pandemic and desert locusts.  
The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that nearly 80 per cent of the hospitals remain unfunctional.  
Some 1.3 million children have been out of school since the beginning of the conflict. Many schools are now sheltering internally displaced people. There are reports of children having been separated from families, as well as forced recruitment, and serious allegations of sexual and gender-based violence. 
The continuing conflict and administrative bureaucracy are still making it difficult to scale up humanitarian assistance.  
The UN continues to call for full, immediate, safe, and unimpeded humanitarian access to provide urgent assistance and protection to those in need. We are encouraged that recent high-level visits have resulted in productive exchanges with Ethiopian authorities, who understand the potential for greater risk.

SOUTH SUDAN 
From South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, David Shearer, said today that political parties must speed up efforts to finalize the constitution so that elections can take place.  They must also form state and county institutions and reconstitute the national legislature. Mr. Shearer said that positive progress has been made by political parties in the past year.  He pointed to the formation of the transitional government and other developments. 
But he stressed that the pace of implementing the 2018 peace deal has been too slow. This has heightened doubt and frustration. 
Mr. Shearer said he fears that the slow pace of reform as set out in the Peace Agreement will deteriorate further, pointing to increased violence in places such as Warrap, Tonj and Jonglei.

LIBYA 
The UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) welcomes the convening of the seventh round of the 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC), which takes place in Sirte, from 4 to 7 February. This session is intended to continue the planning for the implementation of the ceasefire agreement that was signed on 23 October 2020 in Geneva. 
The meeting will also focus on expediting the opening of the coastal road to enable the safe passage of citizens and goods, building on the progress achieved in previous rounds.  Demining experts from both sides, in addition to UNSMIL staff, will attend the meeting to provide technical support and discuss the way forward to clear mines and remnants of war in the areas under the control of each party. 
The JMC will also finalize discussions with the UN Mission on the necessary requirements for the deployment of UN monitors in support of the ceasefire monitoring and verification mechanism.

LEBANON 
The Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, today expressed her shock and sadness over the assassination of Lebanese activist Lokman Slim. Ms. Rochdi extended her deep condolences to Mr. Slim’s family and friends and voiced solidarity with the Lebanese people. She said that the killing of a courageous and engaged intellectual is a loss to all the Lebanese people and she called for a thorough, quick and transparent investigation and judicial process to bring all those responsible for this outrageous act to justice.  
Mr. Ján Kubiš, the departing Special Coordinator, added in a tweet, that “You can kill a journalist but you cannot kill his or her message. You can muzzle the media but you cannot silence the truth.” 
Also, today, marks the six months since the Beirut explosions that left nearly 200 dead and some 6,500 injured. The UN and our humanitarian partners have provided immediate humanitarian assistance to at least 300,000 people since the beginning of the response. And today, our thoughts go out to all the victims of this blast, as well as all the families that were impacted, including a number of our own UN friends and colleagues.

PERU 
In Peru, the UN team there has helped the Government secure the country in the initial phase of the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX facility. Led by Resident coordinator Igor Garafulic and the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN has worked with authorities to fulfill the COVAX requirements to receive and deploy the vaccines, targeting healthcare workers and other key vulnerable groups.
These requirements include a national vaccination plan, target vaccination groups and the purchase of equipment to preserve and ensure the efficacy of the vaccine. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also helped the Government to buy cold chain equipment. Peru is expected to receive an initial shipment with over 1.7 million doses of vaccines in the next few weeks.

WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME/DRONES  
The World Food Programme (WFP), with support from the United Kingdom, is stepping up global cooperation on the use of humanitarian drones. 
With low-operating costs and rapid deployment, even in difficult weather conditions, drones can be a game-changer for fast, accurate, disaster impact assessment and response.  
However, WFP says that the responsible use of drone technology in humanitarian work requires careful evaluation, cooperation and protocols that focus as much on data protection and public trust as on aviation safety.  
To ramp up engagement from leading public, private and academic experts, WFP has launched a web platform - at drones.wfp.org - to facilitate the safe and ethical use of this technology.  

FAO/FOOD PRICES  
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) today said that global food prices rose in January for the eighth consecutive month. This was led by cereals, vegetable oils and sugar. 
The FAO’s Food Price Index saw a 4.3 per cent increase from December 2020, reaching its highest level since July 2014. 
  
WORLD CANCER DAY 
Today is World Cancer Day, with the theme “I can and I will”. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the past two decades, the overall number of people diagnosed with cancer nearly doubled, from an estimated 10 million in 2000 to 19.3 million in 2020. Today, one in 5 people worldwide will develop cancer during their lifetime. 
WHO notes that the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the problems of late-stage diagnosis and lack of access to treatment. These occur everywhere but particularly in low- and middle-income countries.  
In addition to having to cope with the disruption of services, people living with cancer are also at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness and death. 

HONOUR ROLL
Azerbaijan and Montenegro have now paid its regular budget dues. This rounds up the number of Member States on the Honour Roll to 30.