In a video message today, the Secretary-General said that our world has reached a heart-wrenching milestone, with the COVID-19 pandemic having claimed two million lives.
The Secretary-General said that, in the memory of those two million souls, the world must act with far greater solidarity, stressing now is the time.
The United Nations is supporting countries to mobilize the largest global immunization effort in history and we are committed to making sure that vaccines are seen as global public good. This, the Secretary-General said, requires full funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator and its COVAX facility.
He warned that we are seeing a vaccine vacuum. Vaccines are reaching high income countries quickly, while the world’s poorest have none at all.
While science is succeeding, the Secretary-General said that solidarity is failing.
He said that our world can only get ahead of this virus one way — together, and that global solidarity will save lives, protect people and help defeat this vicious virus.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENTS
Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Nicholas Haysom of South Africa as his Special Representative for South Sudan. He will lead the UN peacekeeping mission there, otherwise known as UNMISS.
He will succeed David Shearer of New Zealand to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his exemplary leadership of the UN Mission during the time of critical developments and challenges for South Sudan.
Currently the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Southern Africa, a position he has held since October of last year, Mr. Haysom is a lawyer with a long international career with a focus on democratic governance, constitutional and electoral reforms, reconciliation and peace processes.
The Secretary-General is also announcing the appointment of Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir of Iceland as his new Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance in the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Ms. Gísladóttir succeeds Alice Walpole of the United Kingdom, who will complete her assignment at the end of February. The Secretary-General is grateful to Ms. Walpole for her dedicated service since 2017 for the UN in Iraq.
Ms. Gísladóttir brings a wealth of diplomatic and political experience to the position, including from her recent role as the Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and most recently as the Head of its Election Observation Unit.
The UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) says there has been significant progress made in the ongoing talks of the Advisory Committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, which is underway in Geneva. The Mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection mechanism proposals.
Today, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) held a ceremony in Naqoura in south Lebanon to mark the transfer of authority of its Maritime Task Force from Brazil to Germany.
The Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will be in Mali from this Sunday. He will be there until the 21st. In Bamako, Mr. Lacroix is expected to meet with the transitional government, other national stakeholders, regional and international partners as well as leadership and staff of the UN Peacekeeping Mission (MINUSMA).
During his visit, Mr. Lacroix will also travel to field offices to interact with Mission personnel. He will express his gratitude and support for their work in very challenging circumstances, as we know. He will also be able to see first-hand the work involved in the implementation of the Mission’s mandate.
Sadly, while in Mali, Mr. Lacroix will participate in a ceremony to pay tribute to the peacekeepers killed in this week’s attack in the region near Timbuktu.
The Secretary-General is indeed concerned about the persistent violence in the North-West and South-West regions, in which civilians continue to pay a terrible price. He takes note of the willingness of the Government of Cameroon to launch an investigation into the 10 January incident in Mautu in the South-West Region. That incident reportedly left at least 10 civilians dead.
He also condemns the attack on the convoy of the prefect of the department of Momo that took place last week and extends his deepest condolences to the bereaved families and also wishes a speedy recovery to the wounded.
The Secretary-General urges the Cameroonian authorities to take all necessary measures to swiftly bring the perpetrators of both attacks to justice and enhance the protection of civilians. The Secretary-General further reiterates his call on all parties to cease hostilities and engage in a political dialogue to end the crisis in the North-West and South-West regions.
I also just want to add some words on Yemen and I want to make clear that the Secretary-General fully backs the call expressed by his envoys yesterday in the Security Council for a reversal – on humanitarian grounds – the designation by the US of the Houthis of a foreign terrorist organization.
I think, as you heard very eloquently yesterday from Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock; the Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths; and especially World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley, many lives are at stake.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, Alice Wairimu Nderitu and Karen Smith, have issued a statement expressing their deep concern over the escalation of violence in the Central African Republic, as well as attacks by unidentified armed combatants on Government forces and UN peacekeepers.
A week ago, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was telling us that 30,000 people had fled the Central African Republic following election-related violence. Today, UNHCR says that number has doubled to nearly 60,000 people.
In Ethiopia’s Tigray Region, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that today hundreds of thousands of people there are facing food and water shortages and lacking health services. There has also been a reported rise in malnutrition and water-borne diseases.
Meanwhile, humanitarian relief operations continue to be constrained by the lack of full, safe and unhindered access to Tigray caused by both insecurity and bureaucratic obstacles imposed by federal and regional authorities.
Our colleagues say though that we have had some progress: The road between Gondar and Shire has been accessible in recent days and aid partners have helped people in Shire for the first time since the conflict began two and half months ago.
But delays in clearance processes and the need to engage with multiple people for approval to access certain areas are hampering operations.
We renew our call on all parties to allow the immediate and safe passage of humanitarian personnel and supplies to Tigray so we can reach all people who need help.
In Indonesia, an earthquake struck West Sulawesi Province.
Our colleagues on the ground are in close contact with the Indonesian Government and are ready to support the response to the earthquake. The Indonesian Red Cross and NGOs are also mobilizing help.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
If you recall, we had talked about the horrendous conditions in a camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I just wanted to update you and tell you that our team there tells us that, following efforts by the UN, the European Union and others, we are pleased that authorities are working to address the situation of migrants and refugees.
Our colleagues there say that life-saving solutions are being put in place at the Lipa site. People there are being temporarily being accommodated in tents set up by the national armed forces.
The International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency have visited Lipa and say the situation there is becoming more manageable.
However, we are stressing that much more needs to be done, including at Lipa, to ensure all people affected needing safe and dignified shelter obtain better reception conditions and efficient services.
Our colleagues on the ground say there are still several hundred people stranded, mostly in the Una-Sana Canton of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They said there needs to be more distribution centres across the country to alleviate the burden, since overcrowding is aggravating health and protection risks, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 VACCINES FOR REFUGEES
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) tells us that Jordan has become one of the first countries in the world to begin COVID-19 vaccinations for refugees.
The first UNHCR-registered refugee in the country to receive the vaccine was Raia Alkabasi, an Iraqi refugee living in the city of Irbid. She got her jab yesterday as part of Jordan’s national vaccination drive.
In a statement, Filippo Grandi, the head of UNHCR, appealed to all countries to do the same, and to include refugees in their vaccination drives.
The Secretary-General also wants to thank Jordan for this initiative and joins the High Commissioner in his appeal that others do so.
***The guests at the Noon Briefing were John Wilmoth and Clare Menozzi from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs who briefed reporters on the International Migration 2020 Highlights report.