HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,​
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 5 OCTOBER 2020

 
LIBYA
The Secretary-General just addressed the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on Libya, and he did so virtually, of course, and he said that the conflict there has been going on for far too long and today we have an opportunity to recommit to its ending.
In recent weeks and months, he has been encouraged to witness a lull in the fighting.
The Secretary-General called on all Libyans to continue to work towards a lasting ceasefire, to contribute constructively to the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, and to always act with the interests of the country’s people foremost in mind.
He added that the commitments made at the Berlin Conference on Libya in January of this year must be upheld and implemented. He said that we must come together to restore Libya’s ability to provide basic services and security to its population, whose living conditions have continuously deteriorated, not only as a result of the conflict, but also due to poor governance and rampant corruption.

SECRETARY-GENERAL/SUDAN
Over the weekend, you saw the Secretary-General issued a video message for the signing ceremony of the Juba Peace Agreement, which he said signals the dawn of a new era for the people of Sudan.
He commended the signatories for working towards the common objective of peace, despite the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General noted that the signing ceremony has a special meaning for the people of Darfur, offering hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future.
He underscored that achieving an inclusive, comprehensive and country-wide peace requires all parties at the table.
 
NAGORNO-KARABAKH CONFLICT
I have a humanitarian update on Nagorno-Karabakh: The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today said that they remain deeply concerned about the ongoing hostilities along the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. They urge an immediate end to the fighting.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the hostilities reportedly continue to cause the loss of civilian lives and injuries, as well as damage to civilian properties and infrastructure. From the beginning of the latest round of hostilities to today, more than 40 civilians have reportedly been killed and more than 200 others have been wounded on both sides. Hundreds of houses have been seriously damaged.
We call on all sides to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, in particular by ensuring the protection of the civilian population and by preventing damage to essential civilian infrastructure.
The UN Country Teams in both Yerevan and Baku stand ready to respond to humanitarian needs as they emerge. Neither government has requested international assistance from us.
 
YEMEN/HUDAYDAH
A couple of notes from Yemen:
The UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement says that it is alarmed by the recent escalation of violence in various districts of the Hudaydah governorate.
The mission calls on all sides to de-escalate to prevent a spiral of violence that could lead to more human suffering, loss of life and destruction.
The UN Mission urges all parties to immediately stop the fighting and return to the joint mechanisms established over the last two years, so as not to put the population at further risk and jeopardize the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
And, also, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported today that closure of its vaccination programme in Yemen has increased animal disease and mortality. More than 215,000 rural households facing crisis and emergency food insecurity are now without part or all of their main source of income. FAO says that $3 million is urgently needed to restart the programme.
 
YEMEN/TANKER
Also on Yemen, I have an update on the SAFER tanker. I can tell you that we remain extremely concerned about the oil tanker off the coast of Hudaydah, which is at risk of spilling more than 1.1 million barrels of oil into the Red Sea. A major spill would create a major humanitarian and environmental catastrophe, as we’ve been saying.
We remain eager to assist on this issue. For months, we have been proposing to send an experts’ mission to the tanker to conduct a comprehensive technical assessment and complete any feasible initial repairs that would minimize the risk of a spill. The assessment would then provide evidence for longer-term options to address the tanker issue safely and sustainably.
Over the last several weeks, UN experts have had several rounds of constructive technical discussions with representatives of the Houthi de-facto authorities who control the area. These discussions have sought to agree on technical specifications for the proposed mission.  
Based on these recent discussions, the UN has submitted a comprehensive mission proposal to the de facto authorities, and we are optimistic that this will be quickly approved. International donors have also committed to cover costs associated with the mission.
The UN needs formal approval of the mission from the de-facto authorities in order to begin procuring specialized equipment and making other arrangements. Based on current market availability of required equipment, we would need up to seven weeks from receipt of approvals until the mission staff could arrive on site with necessary equipment. The sooner the approvals come together, the sooner the work can get started.
 
SYRIAsecretar
We have an update on COVID-19 in Syria. To date, the Syrian Ministry of Health has confirmed 4,366 cases of the virus, including 205 deaths. This is in addition to the 1,839 cases and 69 deaths reported in the northeast and 1,190 cases and 14 deaths in the northwest.
While the official number of COVID-19 cases remains relatively low, all factors point to widespread community transmission.
In addition, given the limited testing across the country and challenges in contact tracing, it is likely that the actual number of cases far exceeds official figures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading UN preparedness and mitigation measures across Syria.
   
COVID-19/KOSOVO
Also an update on COVID-19 in Kosovo which, as you know, we are talking about within the context of Security Council Resolution 1244: the UN team there, led by Development Coordinator Ulrika Richardson, is helping to address the multiple challenges posed by the pandemic.
We have reached 2 million people through social media and outreach campaigns and have distributed thousands of posters on COVID-19 prevention in multiple languages for refugees.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners have a toll-free number to support hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Volunteers are providing personal protection equipment and allowances for food and transportation for dozens of volunteers in COVID-19 call centres who provide information and psychological support free of charge.
Several UN agencies assessed the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding that 56 per cent of businesses were forced to close and around half of the households surveyed experienced a significant drop in their incomes.
 
HAITI
Back here at the Security Council, Helen La Lime, head of the UN Office in Haiti, said that the country is once again struggling to avert the precipice of instability.
In the 12 months since the departure of peacekeeping troops, the UN office has carried out its mandate by seeking to foster a conducive environment to overcome the impasses in the country and set it on a path towards long-term stability and sustainable development.
However, Ms. La Lime said, apprehension about the future has been increasingly palpable, especially since the shocking assassination of the president of the Port-au-Prince Bar Association at the end of August. In the past months, she said, unrest has become increasingly prevalent, and perceptions of insecurity have grown more acute.
She said in conclusion that the ability of Haiti’s political and economic classes to compromise and resolve their differences without violence, as well as the capacity of the country’s institutions to take the necessary steps, will determine whether free, fair and inclusive elections will be held in a conducive climate; whether attempts to put the country back on a positive development trajectory will succeed; and whether the [issue of] impunity will finally be addressed.

CHAD
A quick update from Chad, where floods have now affected an estimated 388,000 people across the country:
In support of the Government-led response, the UN and our humanitarian partners have provided initial support – including food and non-food items – to nearly 2,650 households in the capital, N’Djamena. We have also provided food to 12,000 displaced people in the Lake area.
In the capital, an emergency accommodation site is being prepared with the construction of 100 shelters funded by the Government and tarpaulins provided by the UN. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will assist more than 36,000 people with water treatment products, as well as the construction of 827 latrines.
In the eastern, central and southern provinces, which are the most impacted, very little to no response has been possible so far due to a lack of resources and access constraints. An interagency needs assessment mission is scheduled to take place next week in the southern province of Mayo-Kebbi.
Immediate needs include water treatment, food, non-food items, and support to health structures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to work with the Government to monitor the evolving situation and to track the responses so far.
 
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
In a statement summarizing the outcome of the Virtual High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Central African Republic which took place on 1 October, the participants reiterated their firm commitment to supporting the holding of free, peaceful, credible, transparent, and inclusive elections, within the constitutional timelines, as well as to the timely and comprehensive implementation of the Political Agreement. 
They welcomed the progress achieved so far in the preparation of the elections and the dialogue initiated by the country’s President with opposition leaders, former heads of state, civil society actors, trade unions and religious leaders. Participants also called on national actors to combat hate speech and incitement to violence as well as disinformation campaigns that can create a climate of instability. 
Turning to the implementation of the Political Agreement, the meeting’s participants welcomed the significant progress made, in particular by the Government, but they also emphasized the importance of the region’s political role and commitment to support the peace agreement.
Participants deplored the obstruction and threats posed by certain armed groups to electoral operations and called on them to engage in the electoral process without conditions and delays, in accordance with their commitment under the Political Agreement. 
The participants stressed the importance that the Central African Republic population receive tangible peace dividends, particularly women and children. They stressed the importance of supporting efforts to implement socio-economic and infrastructure projects to promote sustainable development and better connect marginalized areas of the Central African territory.
 
AFGHANISTAN
You will have seen over the weekend we issued a statement from Nangarhar in Afghanistan and that took place on the 3rd of October and claimed the lives of at least 13 people.
The Secretary-General stressed that those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable. He expressed his deepest sympathies for the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
The Secretary-General reiterated the urgency of achieving a peaceful settlement of the conflict and said the UN remains committed to support the people and Government of Afghanistan in this important endeavour.
 
COVID-19/MENTAL HEALTH
The WHO said today that, while the demand for mental health services is on the rise due to COVID-19, the pandemic has disrupted or halted these critical services in more than 90 per cent of countries worldwide.
WHO’s new survey of 130 countries provides the first global data showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on access to mental health services and underscores the urgent need for increased funding.
Prior to the pandemic, countries were spending less than 2 per cent of their national health budgets on mental health.
The pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services, with bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones. COVID-19 itself can lead to neurological and mental complications, and people with pre-existing mental, neurological or substance use disorders are also more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.

WORLD TEACHERS’ DAY
Today is World Teachers’ Day, and the theme is “Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future.”
Celebrating the central role of teachers in supporting students during COVID-19, this year’s theme highlights the need for better training, professional development and leadership skills to mitigate learning disparities and support inclusive education.
In a video message for the day, the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, stressed that teachers are the backbone of all education systems and key to ensuring a quality and inclusive education.

YEMEN/TEACHER
On that same issue, in Yemen, for this World Teachers’ Day, The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education called for the resumption of salary payments for around half of the Yemeni teachers and school-based staff who have not received regular payments in salaries since 2016. They warn that further delay in paying teachers will likely lead to the total collapse of the education sector and impact millions of Yemeni children, especially the most vulnerable.

HABITAT
Today is also World Habitat Day, highlighting the centrality of housing as a driver for sustainable urban development.
In his message, the Secretary-General said the urgency of improving living conditions has been brought to the fore by COVID-19, which has devastated the lives of millions in cities. He noted that key measures to respond to the pandemic like access to clean water and sanitation, along with social distancing, have been difficult to implement in slums.
The Secretary-General called for heightened efforts to promote the partnerships, pro-poor policies, and regulations needed to improve housing in cities. 
“Now is the time to harness the transformative potential of urbanization for the benefit of people and planet,” he said. 

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION
We thank our friends in the Seychelles for their payment of their budget dues in full, bringing us up to 125 Member States which have done so.