HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 20 DECEMBER  2019
 

SECRETARY-GENERAL’S TRAVEL
This morning the Secretary-General was at the Holy See in Rome, where he had a private audience with His Holiness, Pope Francis. During their meeting, they discussed a wide-ranging number of issues, including the climate crisis, poverty and inequality and many others.
Following the private audience, the Pontiff and the Secretary-General recorded a very rare joint video message together.
The Secretary-General thanked Pope Francis for his exceptional global engagement and strong support for the work of the United Nations. “You are a messenger for hope and humanity – for reducing human suffering and promoting human dignity,” the Secretary-General said, adding that our world needs that now more than ever.
He also expressed his deep appreciation for the Pontiff’s extraordinary service in promoting interfaith relations. We need to do more to promote mutual understanding and tackle rising hatred, said the Secretary-General.  
This audience concluded the Secretary-General’s visit to Italy and the Vatican.
 
SYRIA
Geir Pedersen, the Special Envoy for Syria briefed the Security Council by VTC and said that the past 12 months have seen a steady stream of violence, punctuated by escalation, in many areas of Syria. All of this serves as a constant grim reminder of the need for a political process in Syria.
He said that he hopes that agreement can be reached promptly on an agenda for the Constitutional Committee, but until that happens, he sees no reason for new sessions of its Small Body.
Mr. Pedersen said that northwestern Syria has seen a deeply troubling escalation of violence in recent days and he warned that the cost of a full-scale offensive in the area is one we that cannot afford to pay.
He also added that we must enable de-escalation, leading to a nation-wide ceasefire, and pursue the release of detainees, among other steps.
 
IRAN
Yesterday in her briefing to the Security Council Rosemary DiCarlo, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacebuilding and Political Affairs, said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear issue, and resolution 2231, are crucial to nuclear nonproliferation as well as regional and international security, adding that we therefore regret the withdrawal of the United States from the JCPOA in May of last year and the recent steps taken by Iran to reduce its nuclear-related commitments under that Plan.
 
DECADE OF ACTION
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, yesterday afternoon briefed the Member States on kickstarting the Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.
Four years after the historic agreement of 2015, she said, we are seeing growing awareness and pockets of progress, but our collective efforts are not approaching the scale we need, if we are to deliver on the SDGs by 2030. We have an enormous hill to climb, she added.
The Deputy Secretary-General said that, based on outreach thus far, we have identified three fronts on which we must advance our work: mobilization, raising ambition and finding solutions. Her remarks were distributed.
 
UGANDA
The UN and other humanitarian organizations have dispatched medical supplies to treat 10,000 people due to the heavy rains that have affected some 300,000 people.
The UN has supplied oral rehydration salts, malaria medicines, health technical personnel, and vehicles. The UN Refugee Agency also provided space for 7,000 people displaced in a transit centre and the UN in Uganda has also requested funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund to support the Government-led efforts.
At least 38 people have been reportedly killed, and 65,000 have been displaced since September.
 
MIGRANTS
The UN Migration Agency, IOM, today said there has been a sharp decline in the number of migrants dying while attempting to cross international borders. 
Migrant fatalities reached 3,170 by mid-December, compared to just over 4,800 this time last year, representing a 34 per cent fall.
Despite this, IOM said this year was still a stark one for migrants and for refugees. The death rate among migrants departing Libya’s shores increased as smugglers put them at ever great risk, the outflow of people from Venezuela has left millions of people in severe hardship, and more than 200,000 migrants remain in reception centres in Europe.
 
LESOTHO
The UN team and its partners in Lesotho launched today a $34 million Flash Appeal to help more than 260,000 people who are facing food insecurity due to a severe drought in Lesotho.
The Government declared a national disaster on October 30th, and the new Flash Appeal will support the Government’s Drought Response and Resilience Plan.
The UN estimates that, at the peak of the lean season, between January and March, an estimated 71,000 people will be one step away from famine.
 
DR CONGO
The Demcratic Republic of the Congo continues to face an acute and multifaceted humanitarian crisis which will require, in the months to come, substantial funding and reinforced coordination.
With more than five million displaced people to date, the DRC is the African country most affected by internal displacement, mainly due to violence. The country is also home to some 517,000 refugees from neighboring countries.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in 2019, almost 16 million people face severe acute food insecurity. Epidemics have also affected the lives of millions of Congolese.
Despite shortage of funding this year, the UN and humanitarian partners reached over four million people with food aid; and over 2.5 million people with health care. The UN also distributed more than $20 million in cash assistance.
In 2020, the UN will have to redouble its efforts to respond to the needs and it is asking for $1.8 billion to assist some 8.1 million people.
 
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN SOLIDARITY DAY
Today is International Human Solidarity Day.
This observance aims to celebrate unity in diversity, to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements and to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
CONTRIBUTIONS
Tajikistan has become the 145th Member State to pay its budget dues in full.