HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 10 AUGUST 2020
The Spokesman said he had seen the reports regarding changes in the Lebanese Government and that he may have more to say on the political situation later today or tomorrow.
This morning, the Secretary-General said Lebanon is going through a very difficult period but it’s a resilient country and it has immense spirit. The UN will continue to support Lebanon in every way possible through the current emergency and in these difficult times.
Also this morning, the Secretary-General briefed Member States on the situation there. He expressed his total solidarity with the people of Lebanon in the aftermath of the horrific explosion. He offered condolences to the families and the loved ones of all those who were killed and a full recovery to the many thousands who were injured.
The Secretary-General in his remarks called for robust international support for all people in need in Lebanon, especially women and girls who are most vulnerable in any time of crisis. He urged donors to give speedily and generously.
He recalled that yesterday’s Conference in support of Beirut, which was co-chaired by the United Nations and the French Government, generated much-needed financial support and reaffirmed the commitment of Lebanon’s many partners, including world leaders, international humanitarian organizations and key multilateral and regional financial institutions. He added that we are assessing the results and are committed to quick and effective follow-up and as you know the Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed represented the UN during the conference on Sunday.
The Secretary-General continues to follow with great concern the ongoing situation in that country, including reports of post-election protests and violence overnight in the capital Minsk as well as other cities. The Secretary-General calls on the Belarusian authorities to show maximum restraint and to ensure full respect for the rights of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. He emphasizes the importance of its citizens exercising their rights peacefully in accordance with the law. The Secretary-General urges all relevant actors to avoid actions that would further enflame tensions and to approach the issues in the spirit of dialogue.
The tragedy in Beirut last week only underscores the urgency of resolving the ongoing threat posed by the SAFER oil tanker which is anchored off the coast of Yemen. The aging vessel is carrying more than one million barrels of oil and has had almost no maintenance since 2015. Two months ago, seawater began leaking into the engine room, which could have destabilized and sunk the entire vessel, potentially releasing all of the oil into the Red Sea. A temporary fix was applied, but it is unclear how long this might last. A major spill would be catastrophic for the environment and would destroy livelihoods of coastal communities in Yemen. Most of the oil would likely wash up on Yemen’s west coast in areas controlled by Ansar Allah. As you will recall, on 14 July last month, the UN submitted an official request to Ansar Allah to undertake an assessment and initial repair mission to the SAFER tanker. The UN is in contact with the authorities on this and is urging them to expedite the necessary procedures so this work can begin.
Eight people, including six aid workers, were killed in a brutal armed attack yesterday in Kouré, 60 kilometres east of the capital, Niamey. Two of them were from Niger - a driver and a guide. The six aid workers were from the French international NGO ACTED-Niger. The staff from ACTED had recently arrived in Niamey and had just completed their 14-day quarantine. The group was visiting the Kouré Giraffe Park when they were shot, and their car set ablaze. The Secretary-General condemns this brutal killing. He expresses his deepest condolences to the bereaved families, as well as to the Governments and the people of Niger and France. The Secretary-General calls on the Nigerien authorities to spare no effort in identifying and swiftly bringing the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice.
[The Spokesman later clarified that seven of the eight people killed were aid workers with the NGO ACTED-Niger. The driver of the vehicle was also employed by ACTED.]
Yesterday, the Secretary-General had a message to the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Ceremony on the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. The Secretary-General noted that, sadly, three-quarters of a century after Nagasaki was incinerated by an atomic bomb, the nuclear menace is once again on the rise. He said that the historic progress in nuclear disarmament is in jeopardy, as the web of instruments and agreements designed to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons and bring about their elimination is crumbling. This alarming trend must be reversed, the Secretary-General underscored, and he added that 75 years is far too long not to have learnt the lessons of the nuclear horror and the hibakusha. The Secretary-General further emphasized once more that there can be no more Hiroshimas, no more Nagasakis. His message was delivered by Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, who was present there.
The Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in Cameroon, Siti Batoul Oussein, strongly condemned the killing of an aid worker in the North West region of the country. The staff member of the Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD) - an implementing partner for several UN agencies - was kidnapped from his home on Friday and later killed by unidentified armed individuals. This killing is the latest in a series of attacks, violent extortion and harassment against humanitarians in the South West and North West regions of Cameroon and it comes barely a month after the killing of a community health worker in the South West region.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is concerned about the escalation of intercommunal violence in several areas of the South Kivu province. Violent clashes between armed groups and the country’s armed forces, as well as attacks against civilians in the region of the Hauts Plateaux in South Kivu, including villages and camps for the displaced, have left at least 128 dead between February 2019 and June 2020. The Head of the UN Mission, Leila Zerrougui, said that “violence is neither a viable option, let alone a solution to resolve grievances that may exist between communities.” With the support of the UN, the defense and security forces deployed in the region have stepped up efforts to neutralize the armed groups involved in the attacks and ensure the protection of the civilian population, in particular in sites for displaced people.
There are more than 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths in Mauritius. The UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Christine Umutoni, has been working with partners to respond to the pandemic.
The World Health Organization is supporting the Ministry of Health on technical matters and to implement a system to share information in real time.
Also there, a state of environmental emergency was declared on August 7th after a ship ran aground and began spilling oil.
The UN team has been mobilizing in full emergency mode to support local authorities and is coordinating with international development partners and civil society organizations. The UN agencies are providing rapid on-site expertise, including technical support for the assessment of the impact of the oil spill, as well as on public health, support for vulnerable people and forensic investigations.
The UN team in Mauritius is working closely with other UN offices in the region, including the UN Environment Programme and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The UN Mission in South Sudan says that its engineering troops, together with local youth, are working to repair levees damaged by flooding in Bor in Jonglei State. This swift action has helped to save the main market and Jonglei’s only hospital from being submerged. A temporary drainage system was also created to steer water from the overflowing White Nile River away from critical roads and from the town. Some 135,000 people are believed to be displaced across Bor due to the flooding.
Today, the World Health Organization and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, kickstarted the second phase of a COVID-19 awareness-raising campaign in the high-risk areas of Thi Qar and Missan, south of Baghdad.
Later in the month, the campaign - whose theme is “Your health is important” will be rolled out to the governorates of Basra and Wasit, and to Sulaymaniyah, north of Baghdad.
The International Organization for Migration and the International Chamber of Commerce today released employer guidance for measures to protect migrants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance includes a set of general principles for employers, such as treating all workers with “equality, dignity and respect”, notwithstanding their gender or migratory status.
IOM noted that migrant workers are susceptible to job loss, salary cuts, and various health and safety concerns. Apart from often being far away from family and support networks, they face language and cultural barriers, as well as lack of social protection and many of them suffer from discrimination.
In addition, overseas economies that rely on remittances from migrant workers face a steep decline in those cross-border cash flows.
This morning, during an in-person Council session on Guinea-Bissau, the Head of the Peacebuilding mission, Rosine Sori-Coulibaly, said that with dire health infrastructure and limited resources, the country is in a particularly fragile situation to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. With the Mission scheduled to close at the end of the year, the Special Representative said that Guinea-Bissau needs to remain high on the international community’s agenda, with a focus on reforms and the strengthening of State institutions. She said that the recent political crisis, linked to the electoral dispute, highlighted the structural weaknesses of the country. Regretfully, therefore, Ms. Coulibaly added that the Mission’s mandate is unlikely to be fully implemented before its departure. Coordination with the UN Country Team on the transition is ongoing, she said. She also called for more contributions to the Peacebuilding Fund, to help ensure long-term sustainable support for the implementation of peacebuilding priorities that remain crucial.