During a Security Council meeting this morning on peace operations and human rights, Michelle Bachelet, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that, as COVID-19 continues to gather pace, its impacts on health, societies and economies threaten development, and amplifies or creates new grievances and tensions.
She said that the human rights components integrated in all UN peace operations bring missions closer to the people they serve.
Only action to address the human rights violations inflicted on people can prevent the recurrence of conflict, she said.
The UN's peace operations are among the Organization’s most significant achievements, Ms. Bachelet added. She called on Council members to ensure that Missions have the resources they need, as well as strong political support, to bind together all UN operations around a common effective approach to crisis, from prevention to recovery.
The head of the peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, David Shearer, also spoke at the same Council meeting. He reiterated the importance of human rights in the implementation of his Mission’s mandate.
You will have seen that we issued a statement yesterday afternoon in which the Secretary-General said he is deeply saddened by the reported death of at least 40 people following flooding and a landslide in Kumamoto in Japan’s Kyushu region. The Secretary-General expressed his deep condolences to the families of the victims, as well as to the people and Government of Japan.
We would also like to offer our condolences following the death of two humanitarian mine clearance workers on Sunday in southern Tripoli. We continue to be concerned about the ongong threat posed by explosive devices left behind in civilian neighbourhoods in southern Tripoli.
Since late May, these devices have reportedly killed and injured 81 civilians and 57 non-civilians, including mine clearance workers.
I have an update for you from Mali, also unfortunately involving mines. Yesterday morning, in the town of Kidal, a vehicle from the UN peacekeeping mission there, part of a logistics convoy, hit a mine. Three peacekeepers were injured, including one who sustained serious injuries. We wish them a speedy recovery and are following up on this incident.
We want to thank our good friends in the Republic of Korea for their decision to contribute 60,000 face masks to support our efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic in two UN peacekeeping missions, and those are the mission in South Sudan and the one in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We welcome the Republic of Korea’s strong participation in and support for peacekeeping and look forward to the Peacekeeping Ministerial, which the country will host in 2021. The Secretary-General was informed by the Permanent Mission in early June that it would take place from 8-9 April in Seoul, obviously subject to changes involving the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, we continue to work with Member States and missions to strengthen medical systems and preventative measures. Social distancing, proper hygiene and the use of personal protective equipment is our first line of defense against the virus. The response of our UN peacekeeping missions to COVID-19 remain guided by four main objectives to protect our personnel and their capacity to continue critical operations; to help contain and mitigate the spread of the virus and ensuring that our own people are not a contagion vector; and to support national authorities, as possible, in their response to the virus; and, of course, to help protect vulnerable communities and continue to deliver on our mandates.
In South Sudan, the UN Mission there is training young community influencers to raise awareness on COVID-19 in Eastern Equatoria. The training sessions were held in communities where awareness-raising had not been previously conducted. The trainees will educate others about behavioural risks during the pandemic, so that local communities can work together to prevent the spread of the virus.
Posters and information brochures in multiple languages are among the tools being used and disseminated.
In Zambia, we, along with our partners, continue to work with the Government to respond to COVID-19 and its impacts. The UN has helped 166 healthcare facilities and isolation centres improve their water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and have provided chlorine, handwashing stations, and medical waste bins. Our colleagues on the ground are helping procure 10 ventilators. We are helping to distribute hygiene supplies to more than 700 schools and helped to produce child-friendly messages on COVID-19 to air over the radio in local languages. More than a million people have been reached with messages on safe hygiene practices, gender-based violence services and virus prevention.
Starting this month, the UN will provide cash transfers to some 656,000 vulnerable and food insecure people for the next six months in Zambia.
Our colleagues at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that more than 3,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived in Uganda between Wednesday and Friday last week during a temporary opening of two border crossing points in north-western Uganda.
UNHCR and its partners have provided essential items, including tents, water tanks, toilets, and others to help the newly-arrived refugees.
UNHCR welcomes the decision by the Government of Uganda to allow the group of refugees to enter the country and receive life-saving help as well as protection. UNHCR says that this effort demonstrates how, through quarantines, health screenings and other measures, States can uphold their obligations under international law during the pandemic while, at the same time, limiting potential transmission of the virus.
The High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) began today with the theme of “Accelerated action and transformative pathways: realizing the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development.”
The Forum this year is examining the severe impacts of the pandemic on the progress in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today’s opening session examined how the SDGs can serve as a guidepost for building back better and leaving no one behind. It also highlighted the importance of international solidarity and a multilateral response to the pandemic.
Regional dimensions and countries at different levels of development, including middle-income countries, data and institutions for integrated policy making, were also in focus during the morning session.
This afternoon, the HLPF will convene to discuss protecting and advancing human wellbeing and ending poverty, ending hunger and achieving food security.
BEYOND THE LONG SHADOW
I wanted to flag an interesting new and timely series put together by our colleagues in the Department of Global Communications’ Outreach Programme on the transatlantic slave trade, the Holocaust and the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
Tomorrow, at 11:00 am, they will launch a live virtual discussion series named “Beyond the Long Shadow: Engaging with Difficult Histories.” The aim of the series is to develop a deeper understanding of the legacies of these painful histories and to consider how to best build a world that is just, where all can live in dignity and peace.
In the first episode, an expert panel will consider what role statues, memorials, museums and memorialization after atrocity crimes might play in furthering the interests of justice.
The event can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2VMIsLB.
COUNTER-TERRORISM WEEK VIRTUAL EXPO
Yesterday, we mentioned the beginning of the Virtual Counter-Terrorism Week. Today, I’d like to flag that the Counter-Terrorism Centre has launched a virtual exhibit that showcases its work to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism through capacity building around the world.
You can see the expo online at http://www.un.org/counter-terrorism-expo.
Finally, we give a hearty thank you to our friends in the Marshall Islands for their full payment to this year’s regular budget, which brings us up to the beautiful number of 103.
*** The guests at the Noon Briefing were Liu Zhenmin, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), along with DESA’s Francesca Perucci, Chief of the Statistical Services Branch, and Yongyi Min, Chief of the Sustainable Development Goals Monitoring Section. They briefed reporters on the key findings of the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals report, which was launched today at the opening of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF).