WORLD FOOD WEEK
In a video message in which he launched World Food Week, the Secretary-General reminded us all that the systems that bring food to our tables have a profound impact on our economies, our health and the environment.
This year, he added, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our food systems. Millions more people are hungry, and millions of jobs have been lost.
Food systems can also be the key to tackling the climate crisis and to building healthier societies, the Secretary-General said. He called for global engagement and action for inclusive and sustainable food systems.
Earlier today, the Secretary-General personally introduced the proposed programme budget for 2021 to the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee, the budget committee.
He told Committee members that, even as the pandemic continues to affect people around the world, the United Nations is open for business, with staff running this Organization from thousands of dining tables and home offices.
We are continuing our emphasis on development, including by sustaining an increase of 10 per cent that the Secretary-General had proposed last year for the regular programme for technical cooperation, to support Member States in their development efforts.
We are also investing in a communication strategy that has become more important in the context of the pandemic and investing in our IT infrastructure which is critical to ensuring business continuity to deal with the demands of the pandemic and how it has changed the way we work.
The Secretary-General said, to fully implement the mandates entrusted to us, the UN will require a total of $2.99 billion, which represents a net reduction of 2.8 per cent compared to last year, despite additional initiatives and mandated activities. This includes a net decrease of 25 posts.
He has also warned that the liquidity crisis has not abated and severely hampers the United Nations’ ability to fulfil its obligations to the people we serve.
Over the weekend, you saw that the Secretary-General issued a statement welcoming the agreement on a humanitarian ceasefire announced in Moscow by the Foreign Ministers of the Russian Federation, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Today, I can tell you that we are very disappointed to receive reports of ceasefire violations from the region and consider such violations unacceptable. The Secretary-General condemns any targeting and attacks against civilian-populated areas anywhere and regrets the loss of life and injuries.
The Secretary-General again reminds the parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to refrain from any action that could also risk widening the fighting beyond the immediate zone.
We also stress that we call on all parties again to fulfil their agreements to a humanitarian ceasefire and other commitments announced in Moscow. We also share the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ alarm at the suffering of civilians. We remain ready to respond to any humanitarian needs if so requested.
A quick update on the travels of the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths: He is currently on a visit to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia to meet with Yemeni and Saudi officials, including President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, as part of his efforts to advance the negotiations on the Joint Declaration. That Declaration, you’ll recall, aims to have the parties agree on a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process.
The Special Envoy has so far met with the Speaker of the Parliament, Sultan Al-Barakani, and representatives of the Hadramout Inclusive Conference.
On Libya, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Stephanie Williams, announced over the weekend the resumption of inclusive intra-Libyan talks, based on Security Council resolution 2510.
In view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in order to protect the health of the participants, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum will be held according to a hybrid formula, through a series of virtual sessions as well as face-to-face meetings.
The overall objective of the Political Dialogue Forum will be to generate consensus on a unified governance framework and arrangements that will lead to the holding of national elections in the shortest possible timeframe in order to restore Libya’s sovereignty, as well as the democratic legitimacy of Libyan institutions.
In advance of the in-person political talks in Tunisia, the UN Mission will convene participants of the Political Dialogue Forum through preparatory virtual meetings, starting on 26 October. The UN will then hold direct, face-to-face talks between delegations of the 5+5 Joint Military Commission in Geneva beginning on 19 October, with thanks to the hospitality of the Government of Switzerland.
In Syria, our humanitarian colleagues say three people reportedly died, 79 others were injured and hospitalized and as many as 25,000 people may have been displaced following dozens of recent wildfires in coastal regions of Lattakia, Tartous and Homs.
At least 156 wildfires were reported in the three governorates, with significant spread reported across several areas on 9 and 10 October. Local authorities said yesterday that all the fires had been contained but the risk of reignition remains in some areas.
Early estimates indicate that up to 140,000 people may have been impacted by the damage.
Our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs are coordinating with authorities and humanitarian partners to help develop a contingency response plan.
This morning, the Secretary-General addressed – via video message – the fourth meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action.
He said the pandemic is a dress rehearsal for the even greater climate emergency faced by all nations. He told ministers that their recovery plans will determine the course of the next 30 years.
The Secretary-General said the world needs finance ministers to align COVID recovery and stimulus plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement, to end fossil fuel subsidies, invest in green jobs and not bail out polluting industries.
On a related note, our colleagues at the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction today published a report which says there has been a dramatic rise in disasters over the last 20 years, explained by a rise in climate-related disasters, including extreme weather events.
The last twenty years have seen the number of major floods more than double. The report also records major increases in storms, drought, wildfires and extreme temperature events.
Over the last 20 years, major recorded disaster events claimed 1.23 million lives, impacting 4.2 billion people, many on more than one occasion, resulting in approximately almost $3 trillion in global economic losses.
The agency says that disaster management agencies are fighting an uphill battle against an ever-rising tide of extreme weather events. More lives are being saved but more people are being impacted by the expanding climate emergency.
Turning to Burkina Faso, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, is in Burkina Faso today, where he is starting a week-long pre-electoral mission.
The mission is part of his office’s activities in support of the organization of peaceful, inclusive and transparent presidential and legislative elections. The elections are scheduled to take place on 22 November in Burkina Faso.
During his visit, he will meet those involved in the electoral process, and we will keep you updated on the mission.
A quick note from Zimbabwe, where our colleagues there, led by Resident Coordinator Maria Ribeiro, marked the International Day of the Girl by calling for the protection of girls since they are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic compared to boys.
Girls in Zimbabwe face myriad challenges, including gender-based discrimination that results in fewer opportunities in education, training and employment.
By the of age 19, when most children are expected to be starting their university or tertiary education, half of the girls in Zimbabwe are already married. Girls and young women under the age of 24 account for one in three maternal deaths in Zimbabwe.
The UN team, along with our partners, are supporting national efforts to boost education, skills training, protection of children, support for those living with HIV and AIDS, as well as food security.
Through the Spotlight Initiative, the UN is working with the Government, civil society and communities to eliminate violence against women and girls.
SECRETARY-GENERAL/INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL
On a related note, yesterday was the International Day of the Girl. In his message, the Secretary-General said that this year’s commemoration takes place against the backdrop of the pandemic and resurgent movements for social justice.
He said that this year’s theme, “My Voice: Our Equal Future,” calls on us to amplify the voices of adolescent girls, and put their needs at the forefront of laws, policies and practices in every country and community around the world.
The Secretary-General noted that the gaps between girls and boys remain unacceptably wide, but that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Our colleagues at UNESCO announced the winners of this year’s Prize for Girls’ and Women’s Education.
The Shilpa Sayura Foundation is being awarded for helping increase young women’s participation in the emerging technology sector in Sri Lanka, while the Girl Child Network of Kenya is being recognized for advancing access to quality primary school education for vulnerable children, including girls, in Kenya’s hardest-to-reach areas.
HUMAN RIGHTS/U.N. FIELD MISSIONS
I want to flag the launch of a new study on the contribution of the UN’s human rights components to the implementation [of the mandates] of UN field missions.
Titled “Going Further Together,” the study presents case studies and analyses from different peacekeeping missions.
***The guest at the Noon Briefing was Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit, who spoke to reporters on the launch of World Food Day on 16 October and of a year-long global dialogue on food systems, which will culminate in a Summit in 2021.