HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 18 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS MOMENT
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the first Sustainable Development Goals moment. He emphasized that the pandemic has pushed us towards the worst recession in decades, with terrible consequences for the most vulnerable. But he added that there is still a path that brings health to all, revives economies, brings people in from the margins of society and builds long-term resilience, sustainability, opportunity and peace. That path is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said, which is designed to address the very fragilities and shortcomings that the pandemic has exposed.
He stressed that the 2030 Agenda provides the guiding light we need to end the pandemic, to respond to its socio-economic impacts and to chart a course for a transformative recovery.
The Secretary-General noted that young people, businesses and civil society have been pushing for transformative change but political will is still lacking. He called on governments to listen to science and to their citizens.
“This is no time to procrastinate. The decisions taken over the next few months and years will have enormous impact on where we will be by 2030,” Mr. Guterres added.
The SDG moment will happen every year to highlight actions and solutions by Member States and their partners that can drive the change needed to steer the world back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Tomorrow at 9 a.m., NY time we will premiere the film “Nations United: Urgent Solutions for Urgent Times”. This was done in collaboration with our partners from Project Everyone and 72 Films productions.
You can watch the film on our various web platforms, including the UN YouTube channel, the WebTV, Facebook, as well as on the platforms of our broadcast partners.
Today, the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth announced the names of the latest class of 17 Young Leaders for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As you know, 17 young change-makers are chosen every other year for their efforts to combat the world's most pressing issues.
These young leaders — between the ages of 18 and 29 years old — represent the diverse voices from every region of the world and are collectively responsible for activating millions of young people in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. The new group includes representatives from: Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Ireland, Liberia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Senegal, Turkey, Uganda, and the United States of America.
Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council on the diplomatic process for that country. He said that a faint but real ray of hope shone from Geneva when, in the last week of August, we were able to convene, after a nine-month hiatus, a Third Session of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.
He told the Council that the discussions within the Committee were mostly substantive and on the agreed agenda, and there were practical suggestions from members on how to identify such common ground and how the discussion could move forward.
The Special Envoy warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is emerging as a major challenge to the Syrian people, who are acutely vulnerable after 10 years of conflict.
He appealed to all relevant actors to contain recent violent and destabilizing incidents, build on the relative calm that exists, and, as resolution 2254 calls for, establish a nationwide ceasefire to protect civilians, maintain international peace and security, and support a political process.
In Lebanon, we, along with our humanitarian partners, are focusing on medium-term interventions to pave the way for longer term recovery and reconstruction.
In terms of the humanitarian response, more than 1,000 households have been helped with multi-purpose cash-based assistance across three affected neighbourhoods in Beirut. Close to 200 micro, small and medium enterprises have also been supported with rehabilitation works.
Shelter partners have concluded the distribution of 7,500 weatherproofing kits for more than 25,000 people. These emergency measures will help ensure adequate shelter, pending the completing of repairs and reconstruction.
Protection partners have given more than 2,200 people various psychosocial support services, and more than 1,300 women and girls have received sexual reproductive health and gender-based support services.
Water supply connections have been restored for more than 3,000 buildings reaching more than 15,000 people. Rehabilitation activities continue the Lebanese capital, with plans to install more than 2,500 water tanks and 80 new pumps to help meet basic water and sanitation needs.
To date, the UN-coordinated response to the explosions seeks $354 million to address immediate lifesaving needs for three months, but it is less than 17 per cent funded. Support is needed to scale up emergency relief efforts for the most vulnerable and to prevent the situation from worsening.
Early this morning, Stephanie Williams, the acting Special Representative for Libya, commended the courageous decision by Fayez al-Serraj, the President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord in Libya, in announcing his intention to hand over power to a new executive authority by the end of October.
She said that the President’s announcement comes at a decisive turning point in Libya’s longstanding crisis when the situation is no longer sustainable. The onus is now on concerned Libyan parties to fully shoulder their responsibilities before the Libyan people, to take historic decisions, and to accept mutual concessions for the sake of their country and their people.
Ms. Williams said that we have an opportunity to restart the fully inclusive intra-Libyan political dialogue, which the United Nations Mission there intends to move forward with at the earliest opportunity. During this period, it is crucial that the international community fulfills its responsibilities to respect Libyan sovereignty, to cease interference in Libya’s internal affairs, and to fully respect the arms embargo imposed by the Security Council.
This morning, the Human Rights Council held an urgent debate about human rights in Belarus. Nada Al-Nashif, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, read a statement on behalf of High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet.
She noted that, despite the violent crackdowns by the Belarusian security forces and thousands of arrests, peaceful mass demonstrations had continued. She expressed alarm due to the hundreds of allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody and stressed that instability and conflict were destructive and expensive.
She urged authorities to facilitate independent, prompt, effective, thorough and impartial investigations into the allegations of serious human rights violations, adding that the fundamental rights of all Belarusians should prevail over political interests and geopolitical calculations.
SECURITY COUNCIL/FOOD SECURITY
Yesterday afternoon, in a meeting of the Security Council on the protection of civilians in armed conflict that focussed on food security risks, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, made a direct appeal to billionaires across the globe, to step up their assistance to the most vulnerable.
As 270 million people are marching toward the brink of starvation, governments and people around the world are strapped financially. He said there are over 2,000 billionaires with a net worth of $8 trillion.
It’s time for those who have the most to step up to help those who have the least in this extraordinary time. It’s the right thing to do, Mr. Beasley concluded.
For his part, Mark Lowcock, our Emergency Relief Coordinator, added that history proves that even in the midst of conflict, famine can be prevented. He also called for urgent support for humanitarian relief operations because, as he said, in too many places, time is running out. The Head of The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), QU Dongyu, also spoke at the meeting.
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 in July. Worsening insecurity has forced more than one million people to flee their homes. Many have been displaced several times.
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 COVID-19 cases in Burkina Faso has increased to 1,733 with 56 deaths and 1,141 recoveries.
Despite increasing needs, funding for the humanitarian response remains low with just 36 per cent of the $424 million required received.
In Djibouti, the UN team there, led by Resident Coordinator Barbara Manzi, is supporting the national COVID-19 pandemic response. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) helped to supply medicine and two ambulances to boost emergency treatment capacity. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) worked with the Government to train leaders of vulnerable communities, including more than 1,000 refugees and migrants, on COVID-19 prevention.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to provide food to more than 6,000 vulnerable households, including children, pregnant and lactating women, as well as older people in refugee settlements. UNHCR, along with the WFP, are working with community leaders to take action against the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and girls in refugee camps during the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNHCR are supporting the Government’s efforts to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 cases during the school reopening period.
EQUAL PAY DAY
Today is the first International Equal Pay Day. Across all regions, women are paid less than men, with the gender pay gap estimated at 23 per cent globally. In his message, the Secretary-General said that we need to ask why women are relegated to lower-paid work; why professions that are female-dominated have lower salaries – including jobs in the care sector; why so many women work part-time; why women see their wages decrease with motherhood while men with children often enjoy a salary boost; and why women hit a ceiling in higher-earning professions. He added that equal pay is essential not only for women, but to build a world of dignity and justice for all. And this morning the Equal Pay International Coalition hosted a virtual Global Call to Action to encourage all businesses to take the necessary steps to ensure that equal pay is at the heart of recovery efforts worldwide.
Today, 117 Member States have now paid their regular budget dues in full. The most recent payment was from our friends in Manila, and we thank the Philippines for that contribution.