HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 6 APRIL 2020
SYRIA/BOARD OF INQUIRY
The Secretary-General has released a summary of the investigation by the Board of Inquiry on Syria.
As you will recall, the Secretary-General established this Board of Inquiry in August 2019 to investigate incidents that occurred in north-west Syria since the signing of the Memorandum on Stabilization of the Situation in the Idlib De-escalation Area between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Turkey on 17 September 2018.
The investigation covered the destruction of, or damage to, facilities on the deconfliction list and UN-supported facilities in the area.
In a letter to the Security Council, the Secretary-General said he is considering the Board’s recommendations, with some of the complex issues raised including the question of which parties to the conflict should be given information intended to support deconfliction.
The Secretary-General noted that he will appoint a senior independent adviser on how to address the Board’s recommendations.
He stressed that the impact of the hostilities on civilian and humanitarian sites in north-west Syria is a clear reminder of the importance for all parties to the conflict to observe and ensure respect for international humanitarian law. These include the obligations at all times to distinguish between civilians and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and to direct attacks only against combatants and military objectives.
The Syrian Government has now confirmed 19 cases of COVID-19, including two deaths.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is leading UN efforts to support the preparations and mitigation measures across Syria. The UN is also supporting Syria with testing and surveillance, providing protective equipment and training of health workers, and working with communities, health workers and other partners to disseminate messages on prevention and protection.
As the UN and humanitarian partners work around the clock to support with response, they face additional challenges as the result of nine years of crisis. These include a fragile health system; insufficient water and sanitation infrastructure; limited access to some areas due to ongoing hostilities; and the impact of sanctions; as well as global travel restrictions.
Yesterday, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, as well as the UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Kevin Kennedy, expressed their deep concern over persistent interruption to essential services, particularly those vital to safeguard community health against the virus.
SECRETARY-GENERAL ON VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
The Secretary-General released a statement on gender-based violence and COVID-19.
He made an appeal for peace at home — and in homes — around the world, stating that for many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be the safest - in their own homes.
He said that over the past weeks as economic and social pressures and fear have grown, we have seen a horrifying global surge in domestic violence. In some countries, the number of women calling support services has doubled. Some domestic violence shelters are closed; and others are full.
Mr. Guterres urged all governments to make the prevention and redress of violence against women a key part of their national response plans for COVID-19. “Together, we can and must prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes, as we work to beat the virus,” he added.
And our colleagues at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), based in Beirut, today also cautioned that the pandemic has worsened domestic violence and social challenges faced by women and girls in the Arab region.
The Commission’s Executive Secretary Rola Dashti warned that increasing food insecurity will not only place women and girls at heightened risk of domestic violence with rising household tensions, but that it will also reduce their immunity to the virus.
The global humanitarian response plan has now received $396.5 million out of a $2 billion appeal.
And the UN COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, launched by the Secretary-General last week has not formally received any funding yet, but we have been told that there is money making its way through the UN pipeline.
In Kosovo, this Sunday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN mission in the country, Zahir Tanin, warned about the importance of addressing human rights challenges that arise in the ongoing health crisis created by the pandemic as well as measures to contain it.
Mr. Tanin encouraged all institutions and stakeholders to remain vigilant for possible instances of stigmatization and discrimination related to combating the virus and called for an inclusive response to ensure that no one is left behind.
He also reiterated the recent call of the Kosovo Agency for Personal Data Protection to respect patients’ right to privacy and refrain from disclosing their personal information, including by the media.
A joint UN convoy in Ukraine, involving the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) arrived last Friday in Donetsk, in the Non-Government Controlled Area in eastern Ukraine.
In response to the pandemic, the convoy delivered medical supplies, 14,000 personal protective equipment items for healthcare facilities, and childcare items for 1,250 families.
The 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Ukraine requires US$192 million, of which $34 million is for COVID-19 in eastern Ukraine. However, the plan is only 5 percent funded so far.
Some 3.4 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the country, including 1.9 million people in the eastern part of Ukraine.
The UN team in Brazil is working with partners at the national and local levels to leave no one behind to prevent and respond to COVID-19.
The UN is supporting a national plan to prevent infection among indigenous communities, which includes stepping up the surveillance actions for acute respiratory problems, an effort led by the Pan-American Health Organization. The first COVID-19 case was confirmed among an indigenous woman in the Amazon region last week.
The UN – including UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration – and our partners are also supporting refugees and host communities by disseminating prevention information, distributing hygiene and cleaning kits, and providing technical advice to public authorities dealing with the pandemic. They are also addressing the needs of migrants and refugees from Venezuela, with UN-backed health experts deployed to states that border Venezuela, along with messages in Spanish that complement the national campaign in Portuguese.
Also, UNAIDS is circulating information on COVID-19 prevention for people living with HIV/AIDS via social media and working with public health authorities to ensure the availability of crucial medication for people living with HIV.
For its part, the UN Development Programme is working with judges to adopt non-custodial measures for pregnant and lactating women and mothers of young children, people with disabilities, indigenous people and other high-risk groups. This partnership also includes recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons, including reassessing preventive arrests that exceed 90 days and applying special measures in overcrowded prisons.
COVID-19/INTERNATIOBAL LABOUR CONFERENCE
The International Labour Organization said today that due to the ongoing pandemic, the upcoming session of the annual International Labour Conference, originally scheduled to start on May 25th in Geneva, is being deferred.
The 109th session of the Conference will now take place in June 2021.
As a consequence of this decision, the associated 338th and 339th sessions of the ILO Governing Body, also scheduled for May and June respectively, will also not take place.
Despite the deferral of the Conference, the ILO and all its offices around the world are operational and will continue to work closely with their constituents, development partners and the multilateral system.
INTERNATIONAL DAY OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE
Today is the UN International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. To mark the date, the UN, the World Health Organization (WHO) and FIFA have joined forces in supporting the #BeActive campaign, launched to encourage people to be #HealthyAtHome as the world comes together to fight the virus, today and every day.
WHO recommends that all healthy adults do at least 30 minutes a day of physical activity and children at least 60 minutes per day. Among the suggestions of the campaign as a way to stay healthy at home, are activities like dancing, skipping and online exercise classes (and also listening to press briefings).
The Secretary-General said that FIFA has asked the football community to show solidarity and put their rivalries aside, with a video campaign being published on FIFA digital channels.
The SG emphasized that this is an important lesson not only for today, but every day.
EDUCATION CANNOT WAIT
Over the weekend, Education Cannot Wait, announced a series of emergency grants, totalling $23 million, to provide education services to protect and support vulnerable girls and boys facing the COVID-19 pandemic in 26 crisis-affected countries.
This funding will provide support for children to continue learning while their schools are closed, including though a scaling up of distance education programmes, particularly via interactive radio.
The funds will also support information campaigns, as well as upgrades of water and sanitation facilities in schools.
In Yemen yesterday, six women, including a child, and at least 11 people were injured when shelling hit a women’s section of a prison in Taizz Governorate. The number of casualties is likely higher.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said that, at the time of the attack, there were reportedly no armed clashes between the warring parties in the area.
Furthermore, she said no apparent military presence in the vicinity of the prison.
The Humanitarian Coordinator, Lise Grande, said a strike like this, which results in the killing and injury of defenseless women and children, cannot be justified. She called the incident an appalling breach of international humanitarian principles.
Ms. Grande also called on the parties to sit together and find a political solution.
Turning to the Pacific, our humanitarian colleagues and their partners are aiming to provide support to and in Vanuatu which was hit yesterday by tropical cyclone Harold.
A Rapid Damage Assessment team, led by the Government will be carried out as soon as the situation allows. The UN is also providing remote support in coordination, assessments and information management.
San Marino has paid its dues in full which takes us to 78 fully-paid up Member States.