HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 16 OCTOBER 2020

SAHEL/MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
Next Tuesday, on the 20 October, the Secretary-General will send a video message to a ministerial conference on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Central Sahel, a region that includes Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The conference will be hosted by our humanitarian colleagues – along with Denmark, Germany and the European Union – and aims to raise money for humanitarian action and to encourage both donor countries and countries of the region to come up with policy commitments to build resilience and stave off future humanitarian needs.
Our colleagues warn that people living in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger are now at the epicentre of conflict, poverty, and climate change. More than 13 million people need humanitarian assistance and 1.5 million people are internally displaced, a twenty-fold increase over two years. Lockdowns and other COVID-19 prevention measures have pushed an additional 6 million people into extreme poverty.
The UN will be represented at the virtual meeting by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock.

WORLD FOOD DAY
Today is World Food Day and this year’s theme is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future”.
In a message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General says that the awarding of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace to the World Food Programme (WFP) recognizes the right of all people to food and our common quest to achieve zero hunger. He stresses that, in a world of plenty, it is a grave affront that hundreds of millions go to bed hungry each night.

COST OF A PLATE OF FOOD    
According to a study released by WFP today, a basic meal is far beyond the reach of millions of people in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic joins conflict, climate change and economic troubles in pushing up levels of hunger around the world.
WFP’s Cost of a Plate of Food 2020 report highlights the countries where a simple meal, such as rice and beans, costs the most when compared with people’s incomes. South Sudan is once again at the top of the list, with basic ingredients costing a staggering 186 per cent of people’s daily income. If a resident in New York State had to pay the same proportion of their salary for a basic meal, the meal would cost $393. 
Seventeen of the top 20 countries featured in the index are sub-Saharan African countries. 
The report notes that conflict is a central driver for hunger in many, many countries.

KYRGYZSTAN
An update on the situation in the Kyrgyz Republic, as I have been asked by a number of you: As we said yesterday, we took note of the transfer of presidential power to Prime Minister Japarov following the President’s resignation.
We have also taken note of Mr. Japarov’s announcement before Parliament today regarding the convening of presidential elections.
In this context, we welcome all efforts to bring the country back to the path of stability within the constitutional and legal framework. We reiterate our call on all Kyrgyzstani political actors to ensure that decisions on the way forward in the Kyrgyz Republic are being made in an inclusive and transparent manner.
The United Nations is committed to provide all necessary support in that regard.
As you know, Natalia Gherman, our Special Representative for Central Asia, is in Bishkek and she met today with a range of local and international partners to discuss the current situation and UN engagement going forward. She will continue her dialogue with Kyrgyz authorities, the main political parties, civil society, women and youth groups, all in the coming days. We will try to update you on her activities.

SYRIA
Yesterday, one of you asked a question about the Al Hol camp, and our humanitarian colleagues are telling us that they are very concerned about the plight of more than 64,000 people living in challenging humanitarian conditions in the Al Hol camp in the northeast, particularly women and children who make up about 94 per cent of the camp’s population.
There are around 34,000 children under the age of 12 in Al Hol. More than 120 of them are unaccompanied or separated from their families and living in an interim care centre in the camp.
Conditions in Al Hol are difficult by any measure. In the past month, humanitarians have expressed alarm at the deteriorating security situation in the camp following a rise in violent incidents.
In addition, four cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed so far. Testing is relatively limited, and a wider outbreak remains a significant risk.
We, along with our humanitarian partners, are providing comprehensive assistance to the camp, the UN stresses that this cannot be a substitute for durable solutions for all the residents.
In the past two months, more than 1,000 people are reported to have left the camp. There have also been reports of plans by local authorities to expedite and increase departures of displaced Syrian families in the coming months.
Any departures must be voluntary, safe, fully informed and dignified, and in the best interests of the children.

MALI
You saw that, earlier this morning, we issued a statement on Mali where the Secretary-General strongly condemned the two attacks perpetrated against the UN Mission yesterday in which an explosive device hit a Mission vehicle, killing one Egyptian peacekeeper and seriously injuring another. In Timbuktu, indirect fire against the Mission's integrated camp resulted in the wounding of at least one peacekeeper from Burkina Faso.
The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the people and Governments of Egypt and Mali.

LEBANON
Turning to Lebanon, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Ján Kubiš, said today on the first anniversary of the start of the popular protests in the country that protestors have planted the seeds for systemic changes and their struggle continues.
He paid tribute to the people of Lebanon and remembers the martyrs and injured from among the protesters and the security forces. He added that their legitimate grievances and needs have gone unheeded.
Mr. Kubiš underscored the UN’s full support for the right to peaceful protests as part of freedom of assembly and of expression that must be protected, allowing the people to fully exercise these rights within the rule of law.
He said the UN will continue to stand closely by Lebanon and its people in their pursuit of a just, dignified, prosperous, stable and peaceful future.

COVID-19/LEBANON
And a quick note from our peacekeeping colleagues in Lebanon, who are continuing to implement their mandate and support national and local authorities in combatting the COVID-19 pandemic: In order to improve the food security situation of the host communities, UN peacekeepers launched a campaign this week in partnership with the Red Cross and community volunteers, to distribute over 30 tonnes of food packages over the coming weeks in five villages.
In addition, the UN Mission recently provided food processing equipment to an organization working towards women’s empowerment in one of the southern villages.

LIBYA
From Libya, our colleagues at the Mission there welcomed the arrest earlier this week of Abd Al-Rahman Milad, commonly known as ‘al-Bija.’ He was arrested by law enforcement agencies and the Government of National Accord. He has been on the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee list since June of 2018 for his involvement in human trafficking and fuel smuggling.   
The Mission stresses the imperative for a fair, transparent and speedy trial for Mr. Milad and all individuals currently held in pre-trial detention. We are committed to continuing our partnership with Libyan competent authorities to ensure due process and the supremacy of the rule of law. 

AFRICA/MIGRATION
Our colleagues at the UN Migration Agency and the African Union have launched their first ever report on African migration.
It found that African migration in the 21st century takes place mainly by land and not by sea, and that African migrants’ destinations are overwhelmingly each other’s countries, and not to Europe or North America.
While we often hear stories of desperate Africans on rickety boats trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe or embarking on the perilous trek to the Gulf States. Most African migrants, however, are moving across land borders, not across [oceans].

POVERTY
I want to flag that tomorrow is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General says that the COVID-19 pandemic is a double crisis for the world’s poorest. First, they have the highest risk of exposure to the virus and the least access to quality healthcare.  Second, estimates show that the pandemic could push 115 million people into poverty this year – the first increase in decades.
The Secretary-General will take part in a virtual event tomorrow hosted by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the NGO International Movement ATD Fourth World, with the support of the Permanent Missions of Burkina Faso and France. You can watch it on online.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
And lastly, we say thank you to two countries, Mozambique and Tanzania. Both of them have paid their regular budget dues in full for this year, taking us up to 128.