HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC​,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 17 MAY 2021

MIDDLE EAST
Our colleagues on the ground in Gaza have reported continued Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, as well as outgoing rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian groups into Israel.
We continue to receive reports of significant displacement of Palestinians, with over 38,000 internally displaced people seeking protection in 48 schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) across the Gaza Strip. Over 2,500 people have been made homeless due to the destruction of their homes.
Forty-one education facilities – including schools, two kindergartens, an UNRWA vocational centre, and a higher education facility - have been damaged, according to our people on the ground.
The power supply across Gaza has been reduced to six to eight hours per day, on average, with a number of feeder lines not functioning. That, in turn, disrupts the provision of healthcare and other basic services, including water, hygiene and sanitation.
The Humanitarian Coordinator, our colleague, Lynn Hastings, has appealed to the Israeli authorities and Palestinian armed groups to immediately allow the UN and our humanitarian partners to bring in fuel, food, and medical supplies and to deploy humanitarian personnel in Gaza. All parties must always adhere to international humanitarian and human rights laws, she said.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has started providing emergency assistance for more than 51,000 people in north Gaza in response to rising humanitarian needs. This is especially strong among families in that area.
However, the closure of crossings into Gaza may soon cause a dearth of commodities, including food, and this is bound to push up food prices. WFP warns that prices of fresh produce are already on the rise, as farmers are unable to reach their land.
We continue to actively engage all sides towards an immediate cessation of fire between Israelis and Palestinians.
Our Special Coordinator, Tor Wennesland, is working tirelessly with all sides to restore calm.
For his part, the Secretary-General, as you saw in yesterday’s Security Council meeting, continues to urge a halt to fighting, saying, “Fighting must stop.  It must stop immediately.  Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop.”
He said that the hostilities have already caused unconscionable death, immense suffering and damage to vital infrastructure. The Secretary-General added that he was appalled by the increasingly large number of Palestinian civilian casualties, including many women and children, from Israeli strikes into Gaza.  He said he also deplores Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza.

BOUGAINVILLE
Turning to Bougainville, the Secretary-General welcomes the beginning, this week, of consultations between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. This follows the referendum on the political future of Bougainville that held in late 2019. The consultations are an important step in the implementation of the Bougainville Peace Agreement, which the United Nations has consistently supported since its signing in 2001.

SUDAN
Turning to Sudan, the Secretary-General sent a pre-recorded video message to the International Conference to Support the Sudanese Transition, which was hosted by the Government of France.
The Secretary-General said that we have a responsibility to help Sudan consolidate its democratic transition, rebuild its economy, and deliver sustainable peace and development for all its diverse society.
The Secretary-General commended the Government of Sudan for undertaking difficult economic reforms and for its peacemaking efforts with both the signatories and non-signatories of the Juba Peace Agreement.
Mr. Guterres stressed the importance of donor support to help Sudan turn the page on its economic crisis.

SOUTH SUDAN
In neighbouring South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Nicholas Haysom, expressed his alarm over the fresh escalation of violence in Pibor.
He pointed to the likelihood of revenge attacks, the further displacement of thousands of civilians, and threats to the distribution of life-saving food aid.
You may recall that a UN human rights report found that, last year, thousands of fighters from Dinka, Nuer and Murle militias conducted coordinated attacks on villages. Those attacks killed and wounded hundreds of men, women and children.
Mr. Haysom called on authorities to prevent a repeat of this violence, to take steps to address the root causes, and fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians.
For its part, the UN Mission is setting up temporary bases and stepping up patrols to deter violence. It also is working to promote reconciliation through peace conferences.

ABYEI
Staying in the area, in Abyei, the UN peacekeeping mission there spoke out today against an attack in the village of Dungup in which 11 people were reportedly killed.
Unidentified people attacked a Dinka community early yesterday morning. The injured are being treated at a UN Mission hospital.
UN peacekeepers have stepped up their patrols to protect civilians and to search for the perpetrators of the attack.
The Mission said this attack could lead to an increase of inter-community tensions and is calling for a defusing of tensions in that area.

MYANMAR
From Myanmar, our UNICEF colleagues in the country today called for an immediate halt to the violence and for security forces to protect children in the town of Mindat, in western Chin State, following an uptick of violence over the weekend.
Martial law was imposed in the area on May 13th.
The UN Human Rights Office is investigating credible reports of at least six people being killed over the weekend, as well as of arbitrary detentions and arrests.
To date, our colleagues tell us that at least 797 civilians, including dozens of children, have been killed by security forces since the military seized control of the Myanmar Government on February 1st. Thousands more have been injured.

DEVELOPMENT REFORM
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, will kick off a three-day virtual session with Member States on the state of the UN development system.
During this session, organized by the Economic and Social Council, top UN officials at global, regional and country levels will discuss with Member States the ways to address the unparalleled challenges brought by the pandemic.
Last year alone, close to 250 million people received essential services backed by UN teams. Nearly half of them are in the Least Developed Country group, including 42 per cent of them in Landlocked Developing Countries and 2 million in Small Island Developing States. 
The session will be live on webtv.un.org

WORK/HEART DISEASE
A new analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (WHO) shows that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016. This is a 29 per cent increase since 2000.
The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35 per cent higher risk of a stroke and a 17 per cent higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35 to 40 hours a week.
 
COVAX
A couple of COVAX updates for you:
The Dominican Republic received its second batch of COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX last Friday. The Resident Coordinator from the UN, Mauricio Ramírez Villegas, welcomed this development.
And also receiving its second COVAX shipment on Friday was Uruguay. The new batch of more than 50,000 doses will be used in the country’s national vaccination campaign.

GLOBAL ROAD SAFETY WEEK
Today marks the start of the 6th UN Global Road Safety Week. The so-called “Love30” campaign promoted during the week is calling on policymakers to limit speeds to 30 km/h on streets where pedestrians, cyclists and others who are most at risk mix with motorized traffic. 
This year, the Week also aims to build momentum towards the launch of the Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which will be 2021-2030.
Every year, more than 1.3 million people die in road traffic crashes – that’s one person every 24 seconds. In high-income countries, 1 in 3 deaths on the roads is attributed to speed.

LGBTIQ+
Today is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General says that LGBTIQ+ people around the world face discrimination simply because of who they are.  This has only worsened with the pandemic.
Since the start of the pandemic, the United Nations has documented a worsening of discrimination, violence, hate speech, social and economic exclusion, stigma and obstacles in accessing healthcare, education, employment and basic services faced by the LGBTIQ+ community. 
The Secretary-General says that we need to take concrete steps to repeal discriminatory laws, address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, and combat the root causes of these injustices.
He calls for all of us to work together for an inclusive world where everyone can live free and equal in dignity and rights, no matter who they are, where they live or whom they love.

WORLD TELECOMMUNICATION AND INFORMATION SOCIETY DAY
Today is also World Telecommunication and Information Society Day. In his message for that Day, Mr. Guterres notes that digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people.
But he points out that in the face of COVID-19, businesses, governments and the digital community have proven resilient and innovative, helping to protect lives and livelihoods. Yet, he says, 3.7 billion people, that’s almost half the world’s population, remain unconnected to the Internet. And the majority of the people who are unconnected are women. 

PRESS ENCOUNTERS
Tomorrow, the Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN, Ambassador Juan Ramón de la Fuente, will brief reporters virtually, following this afternoon’s Security Council briefing on the International Criminal Court and Libya.
Tomorrow, at 11 a.m., in the Press Briefing Room, there will be a briefing by Ambassador Sofiane Mimouni, the Permanent Representative of Algeria and Chair of the Arab Group for the month of May. He will be joined by Ambassador Abdou Abarry, Permanent Representative of Niger and Chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for May. The two will be joined by Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN.