HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC​,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2020

 

SECRETARY-GENERAL/NIGERIA
In a statement the Secretary-General said that he is following closely developments in Nigeria and called for an end to reported police brutality and abuses. He condemns the violent escalation on 20 October in Lagos, which resulted in multiple deaths and caused many injuries. The Secretary-General expressed his condolences to the bereaved families and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured. He calls on the Nigerian authorities to investigate these incidents and hold the perpetrators accountable. 
The Secretary-General also urges the security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint while calling on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence.  
The Secretary-General encourages the authorities to swiftly explore avenues to de-escalate the situation and reiterates the readiness of the United Nations to support national efforts towards finding a solution.

VERIFIED PAUSE CAMPAIGN 
The Secretary-General today launched a new global campaign calling on people to #PledgetoPause before they share content about the COVID-19 pandemic online. 
In a video message, the Secretary-General said that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the wrong information can be deadly. He called on people to take the pledge to pause and help stop the spread of misinformation. 
Our hope is that his message will be replicated by other leaders, influencers and concerned citizens. 
This new campaign is part of Verified which, as you know, is a UN initiative launched in May to communicate accessible science-backed health information in compelling formats and share stories of global solidarity around the fight against the virus. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL/ASEAN 
This morning the Secretary-General spoke at the annual ministerial meeting between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Nations. 
He said that, at this time of global challenge and uncertainty, regional partners remain indispensable allies, stressing that we need to work together to protect lives and jobs, and to keep businesses and economies afloat.   
The Secretary-General thanked ASEAN for its support of his appeal for a global ceasefire and said that he looked forward to its advocacy to help end hostilities around the world, including ongoing conflicts within its region.  
He also noted that, today, the second five-year ASEAN-UN Plan of Action was adopted, which has many new and expanded priority areas for our future cooperation, including the youth, peace and security agenda, cyber-security and action to prevent hate speech. 

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL/COVID-19 
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, this morning delivered remarks at an event on investing in COVID-19 vaccines and primary healthcare delivery systems. 
Amina Mohammed said that the pandemic is undermining our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and secure Universal Health Coverage. 
She underscored that the pandemic will need a global response to address both the health and the economic impact, adding that the path out of it is built on strong health systems underpinned by robust primary health care, without which we cannot deliver a vaccine effectively.

COVID-19/SIERRA LEONE 
In Sierra Leone, where schools reopened this month after being closed for six months, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator Babatunde Ahonsi, is supporting the national school feeding programme targeting 330,000 children in 11 districts.  
Since March, the UN has been supporting the national response, focusing on providing life-saving supplies, including food for the most vulnerable people. We have also transported medical items. 
The UN has also been working with farmers to double their productivity and incomes. 
Our communications experts have been working side by side with the Government on a communications strategy looking at how women and men are impacted differently by the pandemic. Gender experts were also deployed to five districts to ensure that gender concerns are a crucial component to the response.
The UN team continues to support authorities in ensuring that gender dimensions are included in data to help them tailor a comprehensive response that saves lives and livelihoods and leaves no one behind.

SECURITY COUNCIL/KOSOVO 
This morning, the Security Council held a virtual meeting on the situation in Kosovo. Briefing to Council was the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo and head of the UN mission, Zahir Tanin. He noted that in the UN’s 75-year history, the need for global solidarity and international cooperation has never been as clearly demonstrated as it is today. He stressed that for places such as Kosovo, cooperation, unity of political voice and vision, dialogue and preventing extreme polarization should be the highest order priorities. 
Mr. Tanin said that during the past seven months Kosovo has persevered through multiple, overlapping challenges, triggered by the ongoing worldwide pandemic. Severe socio-economic consequences of the virus have created a negative impact on the economy, particularly affecting youth, women and other vulnerable communities.  
Mr. Tanin said that the UN Mission, alongside the UN Kosovo Team of Agencies, Funds and Programmes, have significantly adapted their activities to help meet the unprecedented challenges brought by the virus.

WESTERN SAHARA  
The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) says that, as of this morning, it observed some 50 people, including men, women and children, present in the buffer strip at Guerguerat. They were blocking the traffic that passes through the area.  
The Mission deployed additional staff this morning to the area to help defuse any tension and unblock the traffic. We urge all concerned to exercise restraint and to take all necessary steps to defuse any tensions. 
We recall that regular civilian and commercial traffic should not be obstructed and that no action should be taken which may constitute a change to the status quo of the buffer strip.    
The Mission will continue to monitor the situation closely.

LIBYA 
The Acting Special Representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, briefed the press in Geneva following the first two days of face-to-face direct talks between the two Libyan delegations to the 5+5 Joint Military Commission. She reported that the two sides have reached agreement on several important issues which directly impact the lives and welfare of the Libyan people.  This includes agreeing to the opening of the land routes that connect all of the regions and cities of Libya, as well as the opening of air routes throughout Libya. 
The Acting Special Representative have also said that the two sides today will take up the issue of arrangements for Libya’s central region, paving the way for a ceasefire agreement. The talks are expected to continue through Saturday and her remarks have been shared.

SYRIA 
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that hostilities in northwest Syria continue almost daily despite the 5 March ceasefire agreement, while across the country, civilian casualties continue to be reported. 
Despite the reduced airstrikes in the northwest following the ceasefire, there are increasing numbers of reported incidents involving improvised explosive devices, clashes between non-state armed groups, and targeted attacks across Idlib and northern Aleppo.  
Humanitarians continue to be injured and killed by hostilities. including two humanitarian workers and their driver who were injured during an airstrike in the Idlib on 15 October. 
In total, across Syria in August and September, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights verified at least 117 incidents in which 108 civilians were killed and at least 172 civilians were wounded as a result of the conduct of hostilities 
We once again reaffirm the Secretary-General’s call for a full country-wide ceasefire, and call on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

SOUTHEAST ASIA/FLOODS 
In Southeast Asia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rains have caused severe and widespread flooding and landslides in Vietnam, Cambodia and parts of Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Thailand since the beginning of this month.
Across the region, more than 100 people have reportedly died, and more than 110,000 people have been displaced.
In Vietnam, where nearly 900,000 people been directly affected, the UN, the Government and NGOs are carrying out assessments in affected areas. We and our partners are supporting the Government’s response efforts by providing food and other items.
The UN Resident Coordinator met with the Vietnamese Prime Minister today to offer support in areas where the needs are greater.
In Cambodia, we are also working with the Government to assess needs and damage.

REPORT/MEDITERRANEAN BASIN 
A report today released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that rising inequality, biodiversity loss, the growing impact of climate change and unrelenting pressure on natural resources could lead to irreversible environmental damage in the Mediterranean basin. 
The report, called The State of the Environment and Development in the Mediterranean, reveals that, unless urgent and resolute action is taken to halt current trends, environmental degradation could have serious and lasting consequences for human health and livelihoods in the region. 
The region – one of the world’s most coveted tourism destinations - and one of its busiest shipping routes - is polluted by an estimated 730 tonnes of plastic waste every day. The presence of more than 1,000 non-indigenous species also poses threats to biodiversity, and the region is warming 20 per cent faster than the global average.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION 
We end with some good money news. Our thanks go to our friends in Belarus and Chile, as both Member States have paid their regular budget dues for 2020. That’s 130 nations that have paid in full so far this year.