HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 8 JULY 2021

COMMON AGENDA
The Secretary-General spoke this morning with the Member States in a closed interactive session on the Common Agenda. They discussed how to follow up on the declaration on the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. That declaration calls on the Secretary-General to deliver a report on the common agenda, which he will.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL/TRAVEL
This morning, our Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, arrived in London on a trip to meet with senior United Kingdom Government officials and other stakeholders to discuss efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and tackling climate change. As you know, the UK will host the next COP meeting in Glasgow in November.
She will be back in the office on Monday.

SECURITY COUNCIL
This morning, the Security Council held its biannual briefing on West Africa and the Sahel. The Special Representative and the head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, stressed to Council members that the UN System is fully mobilized to ensure that development aid efficiently reaches the people of the Sahel through inclusive, sustainable, and people-centred responses.
Mr. Annadif said that, in the face of persistent farmer-herder conflicts across the region, his office continues to co-chair a UN regional working group on farmer-herder issues and conflict prevention.
Also, this morning, the Security Council held a private meeting on the situation in Haiti. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the political office, Helen La Lime, is briefing Council members and she will be speaking to you afterwards in a virtual stakeout.
This afternoon, the Security Council will convene in-person on an ongoing disagreement involving Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, under the agenda item, “Peace and Security in Africa.”
There will be two UN briefers: one is the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga. He is expected to stress how more needs to be done, given that recent negotiations have yielded little progress and it is undeniable that the Dam is a matter of critical importance. Also briefing will be the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen. She will underscore the readiness of the UN system to assist the parties in any way we can.

SECRETARY-GENERAL/COVID-19
You will have noted that, last night, we issued a statement marking the grim mark of the four millionth death due to the COVID-19 virus.
In a statement, the Secretary-General noted that this tragic toll is more than the population of one out of three countries on earth.
He noted that, while vaccines offer a ray of hope, the virus is outpacing vaccine distribution.
The Secretary-General stressed how many millions more are at risk if the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire. The more it spreads, the more variants we see — variants that are more transmissible, more deadly and more likely to undermine the effectiveness of the current vaccines. 
Bridging the vaccine gap requires the greatest global public health effort in history, he said, calling for a Global Vaccine Plan.

COVID-19/AFRICA
Staying on topic, the World Health Organization (WHO) today said that Africa has marked its worst pandemic week ever.
COVID-19 cases have risen for seven consecutive weeks since the start of the third wave in May. During the week ending on July 4th, more than 251,000 new cases were recorded – a 20 per cent increase over the previous week.
They warned that the worst is yet to come, with the end to the precipitous rise in cases still weeks away.
WHO said there are signs of progress on the vaccine front, with COVAX deliveries to Africa picking up pace. In the past two weeks, more than 1.6 million doses were delivered, and an additional 20 million doses are expected to arrive soon from the United States through COVAX.

MALAWI/COVID-19
Staying on the continent and on the same topic, the UN team in Malawi, led by Resident Coordinator Maria Jose Torres Macho, is working to help Malawian authorities address the multiple effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19 infections have risen sharply there in the past month and the Government is restricting travel and public gatherings to reduce the spread of the virus.
To address the vaccine shortage, WHO and UNICEF are facilitating the delivery of the remaining 900,000 vaccine doses through COVAX. The agencies are also helping authorities to intensify the screening of travelers, testing and contact-tracing. We have provided nearly 10,000 testing kits.
The UN team is working to promote the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 through communications campaigns and community engagement.
We have also provided cash transfers to more than 100,000 of the most vulnerable people to cushion the economic impact of the virus.

SOUTH SUDAN
From South Sudan, ahead of the country’s 10th anniversary tomorrow of its historic achievement of independence, the UN peacekeeping mission there said that this is an important opportunity to inject fresh momentum into the peace process to deliver the stability, peace, and prosperity that the country’s citizens deserve.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Haysom, said that, tomorrow, we celebrate this important occasion alongside the people of South Sudan who fought long and hard for their independence and endured great suffering to secure a better life for themselves and future generations.
The UN Mission says that, while significant progress has been made since the signing of the 2018 peace deal, the implementation of the revitalized agreement is slow and peace remains fragile, with a lack of a unified security force, insecurity due to intercommunal fighting and crime driven by economic deprivation.
Mr. Haysom urged the country’s political leaders to seize this opportunity to make the hopes and dreams of a decade ago a reality by securing the sustainable peace needed to enable full recovery and development.
He stressed the need to fully implement the Revitalized Peace Agreement and for the international community to continue its support for the country.

CLIMATE FINANCE
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke, via prerecorded video message, to the first Climate Vulnerable Finance Summit hosted by Bangladesh.
Mr. Guterres said that he is inspired by the leadership of climate vulnerable countries, who stand at the front lines of the climate crisis and continue to take climate action even as they continue to suffer the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General also said that, for the COP26 in Glasgow to be a success, we need to see the same level of commitment from all countries. He noted that developing countries will also need reassurances that their ambition will be met with financial and technical support.
“Solidarity begins with $100 billion dollars,” he said, adding that he will emphasize this point to G20 finance ministers at their meeting in Venice tomorrow.

HYDROMET REPORT
Today, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and its partners released the first Hydromet Gap report. The report says that an estimated 23,000 lives per year could be saved and potential benefits of at least $162 billion per year could be realized by improving weather forecasts, early warning systems, and climate information – known as hydromet.
In a message, the Secretary-General said that these services are essential for building resilience in the face of climate change. In particular, he noted that Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries would benefit the most from improving their basic weather data.  He called on donors, the multilateral development banks and private finance institutions to work with vulnerable countries on the development of innovative financial instruments to make this a reality.

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COUNCIL
The High-level Political Forum of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) continued today in a morning session, which explored the situation and linkages among the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 10, 16 and 17, the discussions identified ways forward toward more peaceful, equal and inclusive societies, including next steps in the health response to the pandemic, protecting past advances in the area of health.  It also addressed the issues of inequalities within and across countries.
The morning also included a short session on how to support local authorities in implementing the SDGs and how to build on voluntary local reviews.
Also, the President of ECOSOC, Munir Akram; the President of the Ad Hoc ECOSOC Group on Haiti, and the Security Council issued statements and condolences on the death of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING/REPORT
A new study released today by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on victims and survivors of human trafficking. According to the report, traffickers took advantage of the global crisis, capitalizing on peoples’ losses of income and the increased amount of time both adults and children were spending online.
The study found that children are being increasingly targeted by traffickers who are using social media and other online platforms to recruit new victims and profit from the increased demand for child sexual exploitation material.
It’s a tragic report that is worth being looked at.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF said today that at least 80,000 children under the age of five are currently at risk of severe acute malnutrition across the Central African Republic. This is a 29 per cent increase compared to the projections for 2021.
The UN agencies also warned that more than 632,000 people, which represents more than one in eight people in the Central African Republic, will fall into a catastrophic hunger situation between the first week of July and the end of the lean season without urgent action.

GLOBAL FOOD PRICES
The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today said that food commodity prices fell in June for the first time in 12 months. The FAO Food Price Index was down 2.5 per cent from May, but still 33.9 per cent higher than the same period last year.
FAO noted that the drop in June reflected declines in the prices of vegetable oils, cereals and, somewhat more moderately, dairy products.
According to the latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report, which will also be released today, the effects of the pandemic have increased vulnerabilities and heightened existing levels of food insecurity. FAO assesses that, globally, 45 countries, including 34 in Africa, 9 in Asia and 2 in Latin America and the Caribbean, are in need of external food assistance.
Also today, WFP warned that high food prices, driven by conflict, economic fragility and the impacts of La Niña, are making nutritious food unaffordable for millions of families already struggling to cope with income losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. WFP points out that a record 270 million people are estimated to be acutely food insecure or at high risk in 2021. This is a 40 per cent jump from 2020, driven by conflict, economic shocks, natural disasters, the socio-economic fallout from COVID-19, and now, food price hikes.    

WEST BANK
Lastly, I was asked about the recent demolition of Palestinian housing.  
I just want to update that, yesterday, in the Jordan Valley, representatives from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), non-governmental organizations and Member States sought to gain access to the community of Humsa Al-Baqi’a, but were refused access by the military while the demolitions were taking place. As of noon today, no assistance had been allowed in and an OCHA team had entered the community was requested to leave the site by Israeli forces.
The Secretary-General is, indeed, very deeply concerned by yesterday’s demolition of Palestinian property in the Bedouin community of Humsa Al-Baqi’a, in Area C of the occupied West Bank. He reiterates his call on the Israeli authorities to cease demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property in the occupied West Bank.
Such actions are contrary to international law and could undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.