HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC​,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 08 MARCH 2021

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL/ WOMEN’S DAY 
Happy International Women’s Day. The theme this year is “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world on the way to the Generation Equality Forum.” 
This morning, the Secretary-General took part in the virtual dialogue with the Group of Friends on Gender Parity. He said that for the past year, we have been dealing with the impact of the pandemic on all our work, including our efforts on gender parity, but added that the pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to put gender parity efforts on hold. 
“Gender parity is a necessity, not an add-on extra. A global pandemic makes it more important than ever,” he said. 
The Secretary-General stressed that we need to make a strong commitment and a conscious effort to make up any lost ground. 
When it comes to the UN, he said we are on a positive trajectory towards gender parity. We achieved the goal of 50-50 gender parity amongst senior leadership ahead of schedule. In the Secretariat, the proportion of women in the professional categories and above has increased to over 41 per cent from 37 per cent in 2017. However, in field operations progress has been slow. The gender balance there is 31 per cent women and 69 per cent men. 
The Secretary-General outlined various measures to ensure that qualified female candidates are hired and to monitor the accountability and implementation of recruitment policies and called on Member States to support these efforts.  
He also had a video message for the Day which is available online. 
Staying on the topic, The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today released a report that says that ten million additional child marriages may occur before the end of the decade. School closures, economic stress, service interruptions, pregnancy, and parental deaths due to the pandemic are putting the most vulnerable girls at increased risk of child marriage. UNICEF added that even before the pandemic, 100 million girls were at risk of child marriage in the next decade, despite significant reductions in several countries in the past years.   
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today warned that the impact of the pandemic is threatening the lives and rights of refugees, displaced and stateless women and girls. UNHCR called on the international community to support programmes that combat gender inequality, including gender-based violence, and promote the expansion of education, and vocational and self-reliance initiatives.

PEACEKEEPING/ WOMEN’S DAY
On this International Women’s Day, our peacekeeping colleagues report that Bangladesh, for the first time, is deploying four justice government-provided personnel (GPPs), all of them are women. The GPPs will depart to their respective missions, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), later this month.
Bangladesh responded to a call for nominations for women justice officers, thereby helping to achieve gender parity goals for government-provided personnel in line with DPO's Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy.

MYANMAR/ WOMEN’S DAY
Also marking International Women’s Day, the UN team in Myanmar today said that women across the country are once again demonstrating their leadership and agency following more than one month of political instability and violence.    
The team there says that, across Myanmar, they see women - young and old - leading the call for peace, justice and democracy. They do so with courage, braving bullets and beatings, death and detention, challenging patriarchy and social norms in the process. 
The UN team reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for Myanmar’s military and police to ensure that the right of peaceful assembly is fully respected and that demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals. It also echoed the Secretary-General’s strong condemnation of the violent crackdown and the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators.   They are deeply concerned over the reported occupation by security forces of a number of public hospitals in Myanmar, calling this completely unacceptable. The team says that hospitals are, and must remain, places of sanctuary and unequivocal neutrality - to ensure that patients undergoing medical care are safe. This is particularly essential during a global pandemic.

SECRETARY-GENERAL/MYANMAR
The Secretary-General is following closely developments in the Sanchaung district of Yangon, where hundreds of peaceful protestors have been barricaded inside residential apartment complexes for hours.  He calls for maximum restraint and urges for the safe release of all without violence or arrests.
Many of those trapped are women, who were peacefully marching in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
The UN again calls for respect of the rights to freedom of assembly and expression of the people of Myanmar as they demonstrate peacefully and express their hopes and desires for the future of their country.

MYANMAR/HUMANITARIAN SITUATION
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today said that the humanitarian situation in the country remains dire and that aid operations have been disrupted by the coup. More than 1 million people - identified at the beginning of the year as needing assistance, including more than 350,000 internally displaced people - still need help.   
The UN humanitarian partners across the country are making all efforts to resume life-saving activities but the operating environment remains difficult.  
There are continued disruptions to communication, transportation and supply chains, as well as shortages of cash for operations due to limitations. Banking services and market prices in some areas are rising as a result. COVID-19 testing capacities and vaccination planning have also been severely impacted.

YEMEN 
The UN condemns the multiple drone and ballistic missile attacks reportedly carried out yesterday against multiple locations in Saudi Arabia for which the Houthis, who also call themselves Ansar Allah, have claimed responsibility. 
The UN is also concerned about Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes reportedly carried out yesterday on Sana’a and Hudaydah, apparently in response to the initial attacks. We urge all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law. 
The UN once again reiterates that such actions are detrimental to the mediation efforts being carried out by Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, who will continue to work with all parties to advance the political process to reach a negotiated settlement to end the conflict.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA 
The Secretary-General expresses his deep condolences to the people and Government of Equatorial Guinea following the explosions yesterday in the port city of Bata.  The explosions killed at least 15 people, left more than 500 people injured, and caused extensive damage.
The UN is in close contact with the authorities to discuss how we can support them in responding to the tragic incident.

SUDAN 
The Under-Secretary-General for Operational Support, Atul Khare, has completed his visit to Sudan and is now in Kenya.  In his last days in Sudan, he traveled to Abyei, where he met with the staff and leadership of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA), as well as with members of the UN Country Team.  
Mr. Khare held a meeting with Ngok Dinka community leaders and the Government of South Sudan Chief Administrator. In Diffra, he met with Misseriya community leaders and representatives of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC).  
Finally, in Abyei, M. Khare saw a COVID-19 hospital supported by the UN Mission, as well as other capacity-building measures.

LIBYA
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) welcomes the convening of a formal House of Representatives session today in Sirte.  The session will deliberate on a vote of confidence for the cabinet list proposed by the Prime Minister-designate. The Mission is pleased with the significant number of House of Representatives members participating in the session.
The Mission says that this session is an important step towards meeting the long-standing aspiration of the Libyan people to reunify the country and all state institutions.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
In the Central African Republic, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) continues to support the preparations for the March 14th legislative elections.  
As part of the Mission’s efforts to facilitate a conductive environment to hold these elections, Mission colleagues in Marcounda (Ouham Prefecture) met on Friday with the local commander of the CPC/ FPRC (Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement/ Front Populaire pour la Renaissance de la Centrafrique). The commander expressed his commitment to facilitate peaceful legislative elections in Marcounda and the surrounding areas. 
Also, this week, the Mission is also completing the deployment of election materials in all 16 prefectures.  And the Mission is providing security in the context of the elections.

PARAGUAY
In Paraguay, over the weekend, the country’s Resident Coordinator, Mario Samaja, and the UN team there expressed deep concern over the violence that took place on Friday in the capital, Asunción. 
The team called on authorities and all Paraguayan society to refrain from any acts of violence and abide by the Rule of Law.  They ask all to continue taking the necessary measures to prevent the spread of COVID. 
They also renewed their commitment to the Government and to the people of Paraguay in this crucial moment to respond and recover better from the pandemic.

AFRICA/COVAX 
More doses of COVAX-backed COVID-19 vaccines were delivered to nine African countries: Mozambique, Togo, Ethiopia, Malawi, Liberia, Djibouti, São Tome and Principe, Uganda and Mali.
This morning, Mozambique and Togo have received a total of nearly half a million doses. The first phase of vaccination starts off with health workers and other at-risk people. 
Yesterday, COVAX delivered 2.2 million doses to Ethiopia, with vaccinations to begin in the coming days. 
Malawi, Liberia, São Tomé and Principe, and Mali received vaccine doses from COVAX on Friday.
Djibouti will start vaccinations on 11 March.
In Uganda, authorities received more than 850,000 doses of vaccines supported by COVAX to support the country’s plans to vaccinate close to half of the population – more than 20 million people – in phases.

SECRETARY-GENERAL/CRIME 
On Saturday, the Secretary-General delivered remarks to the opening of the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which is under way in Kyoto, Japan.
He said the disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis is presenting criminals with new opportunities to exploit the marginalized and those at risk.
The Secretary-General said recovering from the pandemic presents an opportunity to address the grave injustices and inequalities that have plagued societies for generations.
He pointed to the key role played by crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law in renewing the social contract between states and their populations.

SECRETARY-GENERAL/SOMALIA 
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the deadly terrorist attack that took place in Mogadishu on Friday. He extended his profound condolences to the families of the victims and called for the perpetrators of this attack to be brought to justice.
The Secretary-General reiterated the full support and solidarity of the United Nations with the Government and people of Somalia in the face of such crimes.