HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 17 SEPTEMBER 2020
COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS
I have been asked about the Secretary-General’s response to a recent letter sent to him from the Committee to Protect Journalists concerning restrictions on the press as well as the death of journalists while in detention.
It’s clear that, during the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary-General has been concerned about the number of restrictions and attacks against journalists - who are just doing their job. Many have been subjected to harassment, acts of intimidation, sanctions, killing and also arbitrary detention. We know that prisoners, detainees and those deprived of their liberty in general are highly vulnerable to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The Secretary-General calls on governments to immediately release journalists who have been detained for exercising their profession.
It is the Secretary-General’s firm belief that a free press is essential for peace, justice, sustainable development and human rights. No democracy can function without press freedom, which is the cornerstone of trust between people and their institutions. When media workers are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price.
Last week we issued a statement saying that the Secretary-General is appalled at the continued and increased numbers of attacks against journalists and media workers around the world.
The Secretary-General told the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on Yemen today that with the coronavirus pandemic, the urgency of reaching a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict has only grown. He said that there are more than 2,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Yemen, but experts estimate that there are possibly up to 1 million affected by the virus, with a fatality rate as high as 30 per cent.
The Secretary-General urged all parties to cease hostilities. And he said he was also deeply concerned about the SAFER oil tanker, moored off the western coast of Yemen. An oil spill, explosion or fire would have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences for Yemen and the entire region, he warned.
The Secretary-General added that to date, only 30 per cent of the UN response plan is funded – the lowest level ever this late in the year. Fulfilling all pledges to date, and increasing them wherever possible, is vital to prevent a devastating famine, he said.
SECRETARY-GENERAL/INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE
The Secretary-General spoke in person this morning at the UN Peace Bell Ceremony on the 39th anniversary of the International Day of Peace. He said that peace is never a given – it is an aspiration that is only as strong as our conviction and only as durable as our hope.
The Secretary-General noted that, today, the COVID-19 pandemic is expanding risks to peace everywhere, stressing that we need to silence the guns and focus on our common enemy: the virus.
Following that, the Secretary-General spoke to a virtual student observance of the International Day of Peace.
He said that he is always inspired by how much meaningful action young peacebuilders take every day to make our world a better place. Now, he stressed, we need them to inspire combatants engaged in battle to stand down and think of the common good.
ENVIRONMENT AND SECURITY
In the Security Council, this morning, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Ibrahim Thiaw, briefed Council members on the humanitarian effects of environmental degradation. He said that a large number of threats to international peace and security today are linked to the environment.
Mr. Thiaw stressed that conflicts over access to natural resources are not new, but he said the intensity and the frequency are unprecedented. Droughts hit more frequently, more severely and regularly affect some 70 countries. In the last three years alone, more than 25 countries declared a national emergency due to drought.
He said that an increasing population, combined with weak governance, weak institutions, and limited capacities to respond to emergencies are worsening the situation in many parts of the world.
He added that to prevent conflicts we ought to tackle environmental degradation in a coordinated way to avoid, reduce, and reverse land degradation.
The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, briefed the Security Council yesterday on the humanitarian crisis in Syria. He highlighted the humanitarian impact of the economic downturn, noting that the price of a standard food basket has increased by more than 250 per cent since last year.
Mr. Lowcock raised concerns about the protection of civilians, noting that while the situation remains relatively stable in northwest Syria, there are reports of shelling close to frontlines in Idlib. In southern Syria, reports of kidnappings and targeted attacks also continue on an almost daily basis.
On humanitarian access, Mr. Lowcock said that the UN is adjusting its cross-border operations into north-west Syria to meet the needs of millions who rely on these operations for lifesaving assistance.
On Sudan, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its efforts to reach nearly 160,000 people affected by devastating floods, the worst the country has seen in a century.
Some 650,000 people are believed to have been impacted by these floods so far.
WFP says it is working tirelessly with the Government of Sudan and our partners to ensure that food reaches those who need it and to increase the number of people who receive aid.
In Burkina Faso, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has increased by 30 per cent – from 2.2 million in January to 2.9 million in July.
Worsening insecurity has forced more than one million people to flee their homes. Many have been displaced several times.
Climate shocks have also contributed to the country’s worst food crisis in a decade. Since the beginning of April, floods and windstorms have impacted more than 71,000 people across Burkina Faso, more than 60 per cent of them in the two regions most affected by conflict.
15 per cent of the population is now facing crisis levels of food insecurity or worse, according to government data. Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Burkina Faso has increased to 1,733 with 56 deaths and 1,141 recoveries reported.
Despite increasing needs, funding for the humanitarian response remains low with just 36 per cent of the US $424 million required received.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Adidas, and the Nairobi-based start-up named Internet of Elephants today announced the release of a challenge through the Adidas Training mobile application. It challenges people to outrun endangered wild animals to rally support for biodiversity protection worldwide.
By using the free Adidas running app, users can sign up to the Run Wild challenge and match the distance covered by a pangolin, a tiger or even the journey of elephants that migrate between Angola, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia.
Run Wild aims to recruit one million runners, symbolizing the one million animal and plant species threatened with extinction, as reported by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
The challenge is open between 25 September and 4 October, providing citizens with a platform to call for conservation action around the UN Biodiversity Summit, which will take place on 30 September.
U.N. RESIDENT COORDINATORS
Our colleagues in the UN Development Coordination Office (UNSDG) tell us that Arnaud Peral of France has taken up his new post as Resident Coordinator in Tunisia this week. His appointment follows confirmation by the host Government.
Mr. Peral and 128 other Resident Coordinators are boosting coordination among UN entities to support national and local efforts to address and recover better from COVID-19 to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
We are proud to remain with full gender parity among all of these senior UN leadership positions, with our Resident Coordinators serving 162 countries and territories.
PREVENT VIOLENT EXTREMISM
Tomorrow morning, there will be a High-Level Meeting on Preventing Violent Extremism through Sport Values.
This event is organized by the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) and the International Centre for Sport Security.
There will also be a panel discussion with Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Envoy on Youth, as well as several sports personalities – including José Mourinho, the Head Coach of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, and Amadou Gallo Fall, Vice President and Managing Director of NBA Africa and President of the Basketball Africa League.
The event will be broadcast live on webtv.un.org.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS MOMENT
Tomorrow morning, the Sustainable Development Goals Moment event with leaders and stakeholders convened by the Secretary-General will take place. And the film “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times”, will air Saturday, 9:00 a.m. NY time, on the UN’s YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter and WebTV, and also on a number of other partner broadcasters.
I want to thank our friends at the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who have paid their regular budget in full, bringing us to 116 fully paid-up Member States.