HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 19 FEBRUARY 2021
MUNICH SECURITY CONFERENCE
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke virtually at the Munich Security Conference segment on “Priorities for Global Action.”
He said that, while our global tests keep getting bigger and more complex, our responses remain fragmented and insufficient, pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General stressed that 2021 must be the year to get on track, with pandemic recovery being our chance.
He said there are four imperatives. First, there needs to be a Global Vaccination Plan, again calling on the G20 to bring countries, companies and others together with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities.
The Secretary-General said the second priority must be to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. He voiced hope that more countries will commit to that target by the Climate change Conference in Glasgow in November.
Third, he said that we need to ease geopolitical tensions and enhance diplomacy for peace, adding that we cannot solve the biggest problems when the biggest powers are at odds.
Last, the Secretary-General called for a redefining of global governance for the 21st century and a strengthening of multilateralism.
At 3:00 p.m. today, the Secretary-General will take part in a virtual conversation with the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, to mark the United States’ re-entry into the Paris Agreement. The chat will be part of the opening session of UNA-USA’s virtual 2021 Global Engagement Summit.
Human Rights Council
On Monday morning, the Secretary-General will address the opening of the 46th regular session of the Human Rights Council.
In his pre-recorded remarks, he will talk about the impact of the pandemic on human rights around the world. He will also ask for concerted action, including a call to combat racism, xenophobia and an appeal to fight for gender equality.
This event is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., Geneva time – and we will share his remarks.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that 10 years into the Syria crisis, humanitarian needs there are deepening.
A convergence of factors, including armed conflict, a sinking economy and COVID-19, are contributing to growing needs across Syria. Health, water and sanitation infrastructure are poor or non-existent all around the country.
As of January 2021, around 13.4 million people are estimated to require some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. This is an increase of more than two million people over the previous year.
Some of the greatest needs are in food insecurity. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that at least 12.4 million people, nearly 60 per cent of the population, are now food insecure. In one year, an additional 4.5 million Syrians have become food insecure.
About two million Syrians are estimated to be living in extreme poverty, and an estimated 2.4 million children are out of school.
Last year, an average of 7.6 million people was helped each month with humanitarian assistance – which was an increase of 1.9 million people compared to 2019.
The Special Envoy for Libya, Ján Kubiš, arrived today in Benghazi. The Special Envoy held a meeting with General Khalifa Haftar. They both agreed on the importance for all parties in Libya to commit to and facilitate the holding of the national elections on the 24th of December 2021. Their discussions focused on ways to expedite the full implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
Ján Kubiš and his team met yesterday with the President-designate of the Presidency Council for Libya, Mohamed Almenfi and a member-designate of the Presidency Council, Abdullah El Lafi, in Tripoli. They discussed ways the UN can support expediting the implementation of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) Roadmap, including the holding of an official House of Representatives vote of confidence session.
Special Envoy Kubiš also met with the Government of National Accord’s Minister of Defence and senior Defence Ministry officials. They discussed the security situation in the country and ways to expedite the implementation of the ceasefire agreement. And he met with the head of the electoral commission and stressed the UN’s readiness to provide the necessary technical support to ensure the success of the democratic process.
In response to questions about the death of a protestor in Myanmar, the Deputy-Spokesman said that the Secretary-General has been following the case of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing closely and is deeply saddened and disturbed. He extends his condolences to her loved ones.
The Deputy-Spokesman reiterated that the use of force against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable. The right of peaceful assembly must be fully respected.
Reports of continued violence, intimidation and harassment by security personnel are appalling. Such acts must stop.
The UN Country Team has also expressed its deep sadness at the passing of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing. The team once again called on security forces to respect human rights and avoid using force against demonstrators, including women and girls.
The United Nations in Somalia today said it is deeply concerned by armed clashes in Mogadishu overnight and into this morning.
The team calls for calm and restraint by all parties involved and urges that open lines of communication be maintained to help reduce tensions.
The UN in Somalia notes that the clashes in Mogadishu underscore the urgent need for the Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders to come together to reach political agreement on the implementation of the 17th of September electoral model.
A statement from the Secretary-General is expected later today.
SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND ABUSE
The Deputy-Spokesman provided an update about the preliminary investigation on the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse during the Ebola outbreak response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Secretary-General is unwavering in his determination to stamp out sexual exploitation and abuse. The policy of the organization is zero tolerance, and we will pursue all allegations whenever they arise.
The UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is currently reviewing these allegations. Because the investigative work is ongoing, we will not comment further on these critical efforts.
In all such inquiries and investigations, the rights and needs of the victims must be paramount. All victims identified have received and will continue to receive support.
The UN is committed to ending and preventing sexual abuse and exploitation everywhere, including in humanitarian settings, and we will continue to press for a victim-centred approach and punishment of perpetrators.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
In a new report, UNICEF says that the lives and futures of more than three million displaced children are at risk in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As we have mentioned in this briefing, attacks in the east of the country have forced entire communities to flee. Families, including children, have been killed. Health centres and schools have also been attacked.
UNICEF’s report recounts the testimony of children who have been recruited as militia fighters, subjected to sexual assault, and suffered other grave violations of their rights. They say that violations against children have increased by 16 per cent in the first half of 2020, compared to the previous year.
The agency is calling for renewed solidarity with the DRC. UNICEF’s 2021 humanitarian appeal for $384 million is currently only 11 per cent funded.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic, MINUSCA, reports that armed combatants from the CPC (Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement) have ambushed a UN patrol that was traveling from Baboua to Nguia Bouar. This is in the Nana-Mambere prefecture. Peacekeepers returned fire, forcing the combatants to retreat. We can report that no casualties were reported.
Meanwhile, in Bangui, the UN Mission participated in a two-day workshop organized by the Central African Project for Support to the Electoral Process. The workshop is part of our preparation for the next round of legislative elections, which is scheduled for the 14th of March.
Finally, in Berberati, located in the Mambéré Kadei prefecture, the Mission also supported the local peace and reconciliation committee, as well as local authorities, to organize an awareness campaign to sensitize people on the need to work together towards peaceful legislative elections.
HUMANITARIAN AIR SERVICE
The World Food Programme said that the UN Humanitarian Air Service – better known as UNHAS - urgently requires $204 million to continue existing operations beyond the end of the month.
The service, managed by WFP, transports humanitarian workers and lifesaving cargo to some of the most challenging and hard-to-reach locations. The Air Service has also played an important role in national pandemic responses by transporting test samples and critical medical supplies on behalf of governments.
The service currently runs 21 operations and carries up to 400,000 passengers every year to over 400 destinations using a fleet of aircraft and helicopters.
Air Service disruptions could impact major humanitarian operations including those in Yemen, Syria and Haiti.
In Mali are doing to support national efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and vaccinate the population:
The UN team, led by the Deputy Special Representative and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mbaranga Gasarabwe, is purchasing nearly 8.5 million doses of vaccine for the national immunization plan. The purchase is being made with nearly $5 million in financial support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
This brings the total to what the UN has contributed to the COVID-19 response in Mali to $15 million. UNICEF – together with the World Bank, the Global Fund, and GAVI – has procured, among other materials, half a million items of testing equipment, more than 640,000 masks and other personal protective items.
The World Food Programme scaled up emergency food and nutrition initiatives to help nearly 1 million people in the central and northern regions. WHO is helping community hospitals on how to manage COVID-19 cases.
The UN team is also working to sensitize people about the virus on social media. It is also working with community mobilizers to help young people, religious leaders, women's associations and traditional chiefs on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
The Secretary-General appointed Khardiata Lo N’Diaye of Senegal as his new Deputy Special Representative for Sudan. She will serve with the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan, known as UNITAMS. She will also be the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
Ms. Lo N’Diaye brings 35 years of experience in development, humanitarian assistance, women empowerment, democratic governance, conflict prevention and peacebuilding. Most recently, she served as Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in Niger in 2020, and as UNDP Representative ad interim in Nigeria in 2019. You can find lots more in a press release.
WORLD DAY OF SOCIAL JUSTICE
Tomorrow is the World Day of Social Justice, and the theme this year is “A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy”.
This year's commemoration supports efforts by the international community to search for solutions to achieve sustainable development, poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, universal social protection, gender equality and access to social well-being and justice for all.
INTERNATIONAL MOTHER LANGUAGE DAY
Sunday, 21 February, is International Mother Language Day. This year’s theme is “Fostering multilingualism for inclusion in education and society”.
In a message for the Day, the Director-General of The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Audrey Azoulay, said that the theme encourages us to support multilingualism and the use of mother tongues, both at school and in everyday life.
UNESCO notes that linguistic diversity is increasingly threatened as more and more languages disappear. At least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered.
Since our last briefing on Wednesday, we’ve received a few more very welcome payments to the 2021 regular budget.
Our sincere thanks go to our friends in Djibouti, San Marino, Slovenia and the United Arab Emirates. The total number of fully paid-up Member States is now 50.
PRESS BRIEFING MONDAY
On Monday, at 1:00 p.m., the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, will brief reporters from the Press Briefing Room. Mr. Lacroix will discuss peacekeeping operations in Mali, the Central African Republic, as well as other issues related to peacekeeping.