HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 21 JANUARY 2021
Yesterday afternoon, we issued a number of statements last night, responding positively to the decisions issued by the new United States President, Joe Biden.
The Secretary-General warmly welcomed President Biden’s steps to re-enter the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and join the growing coalition of governments, cities, states, businesses and people taking ambitious action to confront the climate crisis.
We look forward to the leadership of the United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero, including bringing forward a new nationally determined contribution with ambitious 2030 targets and climate finance in advance of COP26 in Glasgow this year.
Yesterday, the US notified the Secretary-General of its acceptance of the Paris Agreement of 12 December 2015.
The US signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016 and expressed its consent to be bound by the Agreement by acceptance on 3 September 2016, before withdrawing from the Agreement as of 4 November 2020.
A new instrument of acceptance of the Paris Agreement by the US was signed by President Biden on 20 January and deposited with the Secretary-General on the same day – that is, yesterday.
The Paris Agreement will enter into force for the US on 19 February 2021, in accordance with article 21 (3) of the Agreement.
The Secretary-General also welcomed the US’ stated re-engagement with the World Health Organization (WHO). Supporting the WHO is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts for a better coordinated response against COVID-19, the Secretary-General said. Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop this virus and its shattering consequences.
With vaccines being a critical tool in the battle against COVID-19, the US joining and supporting the COVAX facility will give momentum to efforts to ensure equitable access to vaccines for all countries.
Yesterday, the US formally informed the Secretary-General of the revocation of its notification of withdrawal of 6 July 2020 from the Constitution of the World Health Organization, which would have been effective, under certain conditions, on 6 July of this year. Accordingly, the United States remains a party to the WHO Constitution and, without interruption, a Member of the World Health Organization since 21 June 1948.
Lastly, we also welcomed the positive steps announced by the US administration relating to migration and refugees.
The Secretary-General looks forward to working with the new US administration to strengthen multilateral cooperation in these areas and hopes the US will join the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the deadly double suicide bombing targeting civilians at a market in Baghdad today. He expresses his deep condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government and people of Iraq and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.
The Secretary-General appeals to the people of Iraq to reject any attempts to spread fear and violence aimed at undermining peace, stability and unity. He calls on the Government to ensure that those behind these horrific crimes are swiftly identified and brought to justice.
The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to support the people and Government of Iraq in their efforts to consolidate peace.
The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said that such a despicable act will not weaken Iraq's march towards stability and prosperity. They offer their sincere condolences to families of the deceased and wish the injured a speedy recovery.
In a joint statement, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Syria, Imran Riza, and the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis, Muhannad Hadi, have expressed serious concerns over the deteriorating security conditions at Al Hol camp, in the north-east.
Between 1 and 16 January, we received reports of the murders of 12 Syrian and Iraqi camp residents, including one woman Iraqi refugee. Another person was critically injured in a violent attack.
These disturbing events indicate an increasingly untenable security environment at Al Hol. They also jeopardize the UN and the UN’s humanitarian partners’ ability to safely deliver critical humanitarian assistance to its residents.
SYRIA/INDEPENDENT ADVISORY PANEL
On 6 April 2020, the Secretary-General submitted to the President of the Security Council a summary of a report by the UN Headquarters Board of Inquiry to investigate certain incidents that had occurred in northwest Syria since 17 September 2017, in which facilities on the UN’s deconfliction list or supported by the United Nations were destroyed or damaged as a result of military operations. In his letter transmitting the report to the Council, the Secretary-General wrote at the time: “The Board has made a series of recommendations, which I am considering carefully. Some of the issues raised are complex, including the question of which parties to a conflict should be given information intended to support deconfliction. In order to help to determine how best to address the recommendations of the Board, I am planning to appoint a senior independent adviser with expertise and experience in this area. I will also be open to receiving views from Member States on this matter.”
As a result and following consultations, the Secretary-General has decided to appoint a three-person Independent Senior Advisory Panel on humanitarian deconfliction in Syria composed of the following members: Mr. Jan Egeland of Norway who will Chair, Ms. Erika Feller of Australia and Mr. Radhouane Noucier of Tunisia.
The Panel will conduct its work independently and will provide the Secretary-General with advice on how to strengthen the deconfliction mechanism operated by OCHA in Syria; on the recommendations related to the deconfliction mechanism presented by the Board of Inquiry; and on lessons that can be learned for the future. The Panel began its work on 11 January 2021 and is expected to report back to the Secretary-General with a final report by 10 May 2021.
In the Security Council this morning, the head of the Peacekeeping Mission in the Central African Republic, Mankeur Ndiaye, said that the country faces the grave risk of a setback. In remarks delivered by video, he said this could undermine everything that the Council and the partners of the Central African Republic have helped to build.
He made a forceful appeal for additional support.
Ongoing violence against civilians, authorities, security forces and peacekeepers is testing the capacities of the Mission, he said. To cope with the new threat, and to avoid that it takes a lasting hold on the country’s territory, the response of the Mission and especially of the Force must be frank, clear and robust.
He added that the situation remains tense following the creation of a new coalition of armed groups – the Coalition des Patriotes pour le Changement (CPC) – whose alliance with political actors, in particular former President François Bozizé, is now established. Their initial goal was to disrupt last month’s elections. Most recently, they are attempting to unseat President Touadera.
The head of the peacekeeping mission said the only sustainable answer to today's challenge is political.
During this crisis, Mr. Ndiaye said that Central Africans have demonstrated they are no longer willing to tolerate the use of violence to deprive them of their fundamental rights, such as the right to vote.
The UN team in Honduras, led by Resident Coordinator Alice Shackleford, is working with local and national authorities to address the needs of migrants returning from Guatemala.
Since yesterday, national authorities, with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have provided care to over 100 children. Over 80 per cent of them are traveling alone or are without the company of a guardian or adult.
In Guatemala, the UN team, led by Rebeca Arias, continues working with authorities to support migrants. Around 3,000 women, men and children have reportedly returned to Honduras.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) there continues monitoring a small group of up to 100 people who are currently in shelters.
TREATY ON THE PROHIBITION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Tomorrow, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is set to enter into force.
You may recall that on 24 October of last year, the Treaty reached its 50th ratification, fulfilling the conditions of its entry into force.
At the time, the Secretary-General said the Treaty represents a meaningful commitment towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons, which remains the highest disarmament priority of the United Nations.
We will have a statement, as well as a video message recorded by the Secretary-General, to mark the Treaty’s entry into force.
From South Sudan, the UN peacekeeping mission there (UNMISS) has received reports of sporadic intercommunal conflict caused by cattle raiding in Greater Tonj, in the Warrap State of South Sudan. Fighting there has reportedly led to deaths, injuries and population displacement.
The Mission is monitoring the situation closely and is preparing to intensify patrols to deter further violence. UNMISS is also working with State authorities to establish a temporary operating base in the Tonj area to reduce tensions and build confidence.
Additionally, the Mission is stepping up its community sensitization activities in Warrap through peace campaigns. Those campaigns are intended to raise awareness among residents on the need for social cohesion as well as the benefits of a peaceful cattle migration season.
Pramila Patten, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, said that she is greatly concerned by serious allegations of sexual violence in the Tigray in Ethiopia. This includes a high number of alleged rapes in the capital of Mekelle.
She said that there are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence.
Some women have also reportedly been forced by military men to have sex in exchange for basic commodities. In addition, there are increasing reports of sexual violence against women and girls. This is happening in a number of refugee camps.
She called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence. She also called on the Government to further exercise its due diligence obligations to protect all civilians from sexual and other violence.
Today, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) announced the members of its Second High-level Advisory Board on Economic and Social Affairs. The 20 members of the Board will closely collaborate with DESA to provide guidance and focused recommendations for the Secretary-General to respond to current and future socioeconomic challenges in the post-COVID-19 world and as well to advance the Decade of Action on the SDGs.
The list is online.
We thank our friends in Germany and in New Zealand for their full payments to the 2021 regular budget. We now have 12 members of the Honour Roll.
***The guest at the Noon Briefing was Marc-André Franche, the Head of Financing for the Peacebuilding Fund. He briefed reporters on the forthcoming high-level Replenishment Conference of the Peacebuilding Fund, which is scheduled to take place on 26 January.