HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 22 FEBRUARY 2021
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
The Secretary-General strongly condemns today’s attack against a joint field mission of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Kibumba, near Goma. The attack was perpetrated by unidentified armed combatants. The attack resulted in the killing of three people, including the Italian Ambassador to the DRC, his bodyguard and a WFP national staff member.
The Secretary-General expresses his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased, as well as to the Governments of Italy and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He further expresses his solidarity with the World Food Programme colleagues and the entire United Nations team in the country.
The Secretary-General calls on the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to investigate swiftly this heinous targeting of a UN joint field mission and to bring the perpetrators to justice. He reaffirms that the United Nations will continue to support the Congolese Government and people in their efforts to bring about peace and stability, especially in the east of the country.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
Speaking in a video message at the opening of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General said the pandemic has deepened pre-existing divides, vulnerabilities and inequalities.
The failure to ensure equity in vaccination efforts, he added, is the latest moral outrage. Vaccine equity affirms human rights. Vaccine nationalism denies it.
Turning to the issue of racism, Mr. Guterres called for global coordinated action to defeat the grave and growing danger of resurgent neo-Nazism, white supremacy, as well as racially and ethnically motivated terrorism.
He also called for a special focus on safeguarding the rights of minority communities and we continue to push for policies that fully respect human rights, religious, cultural and unique human identity, he added.
Ending on a positive note, the Secretary-General said the pandemic recovery gives us an opportunity to generate momentum for transformation. Now is the time to recover better, guided by human rights and human dignity for all, he concluded.
This morning, the Secretary-General also spoke by pre-recorded video message to the opening session of the UN Environment Assembly.
He said governments and people need to understand in their very DNA that all environmental, social and economic challenges are interlinked, and they must be tackled together.
The Secretary-General stressed that we have no choice but to transform how our economies and societies value nature. We must put the health of the planet at the centre of our plans and policies.
Mr. Guterres also told participants of the Assembly that the UN is doing everything it can to support all UN meetings that are occurring virtually this year, including the biodiversity summit, scheduled for Kunming, China, and the COP26 Glasgow, in Great Britain, to ensure that all countries can participate in negotiations.
“We all know that words are not enough. Commitments must be underpinned by clear and credible plans.”
On Friday afternoon, the Secretary-General also spoke with the US Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry at the UNA-USA’s Global Engagement Summit.
He welcomed the US’ reentry into the Paris Climate Agreement.
And tomorrow, the Secretary-General will address a special session of the Security Council on the issue of climate.
On Myanmar, in his remarks to the Human Rights Council, Mr. Guterres said that you can see in the country the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations.
It is all coming together in a perfect storm of upheaval, he said.
He called on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately, as well as to release the prisoners, end the violence, respect human rights and the will of the people that was recently expressed in an election.
The Secretary-General stressed that coups have no place in our modern world.
And in a Tweet over the weekend, he called the use of lethal force, intimidation and harassment against all peaceful demonstrators “unacceptable.”
The UN Country Team also expressed it is profound concern over the events on Saturday in Mandalay in which two people were reportedly killed and dozens wounded when security forces used lethal force against demonstrators.
The team said the use of excessive force against demonstrators must stop and the fundamental right to peaceful assembly must be respected along with other human rights such as the freedom of speech.
For its part, UNICEF said that one of the two people reportedly killed in Mandalay was a child. UNICEF spoke out against the use of force against demonstrators and called on security forces to prioritize the protection and safety of children and young people.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, also expressed her solidarity with the people of Myanmar. She stressed that the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government, with the will of the people of Myanmar having been expressed by the elections in November. And she continues her contacts with various parties.
The Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he is expected to meet in the next few days with Yemeni and Saudi officials and diplomats. This visit is part of his efforts to achieve a nationwide ceasefire, alleviate the suffering of Yemeni people and resume the political process.
Meanwhile, the fifth meeting of the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Prisoners and Detainees Exchange Agreement between the parties in Yemen concluded yesterday.
During the talks, the parties discussed strategies and possibilities to fulfill their commitments under the Stockholm Agreement. Although the parties did not agree to releases during this round of talks, they are committed to keep discussing the parameters of a future expanded release operation.
Martin Griffiths said that he was disappointed and he urged the parties to continue their discussions and consultations.
Today, Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock made a virtual visit to Yemen. He spoke by videoconference, by phone, to families in many different parts of the country, from Sana’a to Marib. Mr. Lowcock also met COVID-19 first responders and discussed the economic crisis with the Governor of the Central Bank of Aden.
This is in the run up to March 1st, when the UN will convene a virtual high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which will be co-hosted by the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland. This event will mobilize resources to address the devastating needs of millions of people across the country for humanitarian assistance.
As you know, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the worst in the world. More than 20 million people require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 12.1 million who are in acute need, according to a Humanitarian Overview.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, took a virtual visit to Mekelle, on Friday. That’s the capital of Tigray.
The goal of the visit was to assess the impact of the conflict on the humanitarian situation in Tigray by hearing the personal experiences and observations of aid workers on the ground.
Despite some improvements in the humanitarian response, ongoing insecurity, bureaucratic obstacles and the presence of armed groups are seriously hampering the delivery of assistance in rural areas. As a result, the humanitarian response continues to be drastically inadequate compared to the magnitude of the needs across the region.
We and our partners continue to engage at the highest levels with the Government of Ethiopia to negotiate access. We renew the call for full access to aid organizations working in Tigray to scale up the response while ensuring that the assistance is principled and based on needs.
In addition to access challenges, we need urgent funding in areas such as health, water, sanitation, education and protection. We call on the international community to step forward and provide the necessary funding.
The Security Council held an open video teleconference on Somalia and heard from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, James Swan.
He told Council members that the growing political tensions threaten Somalia’s state-building progress and even security unless they are resolved through dialogue and compromise in the interest of the country.
Unfortunately, Mr. Swan said, instead we are seeing increased brinkmanship, pressure tactics, and tests of strength that can only heighten risks.
He noted that this is a tense moment in Somalia, as both rhetoric and actions are escalating.
Mr. Swan said the Somali people have waited long enough to see progress, and it remains fragile.
He urged all of Somalia’s political leaders to pull back from confrontation and to avoid risky winner-take-all tactics. Instead, he said, this is a time to pursue dialogue and compromise to reach an inclusive and credible political agreement to hold elections as soon as possible, based on the 17 September model.
This afternoon, the Council members will hear from the Head of the UN Mission in Haiti, Helen La Lime. She will present the Secretary-General’s latest report and will brief council members on recent developments.
And in response to questions on the kidnapping of Dominican citizens, the Spokesman said the UN has seen the news of this kidnapping out of Port-au-Prince. The two Dominican citizens were part of a film crew, as well as their interpreter. The UN is following the situation with concern and hope they will be swiftly released, safe and sound.
The UN team on the ground in Cabo Verde is proud to inform that the country is confirmed as one of the first African countries to receive the first allocation of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX facility. In the next few weeks, Cabo Verde will be able to purchase and deploy vaccines for nearly 200,000 people, which represents 35 per cent of the population. The focus will be on the most vulnerable groups.
For the past four months, the World Health Organization and UNICEF, under the leadership of the Resident Coordinator, Ana Patricia Graça, have been working with the World Bank to support the government to develop a national vaccination plan and apply for COVAX. Last week, the World Bank also approved an additional funding of $ 5 million for affordable and equitable access to vaccines.
This is the first World Bank-financed operation in Africa to support a COVID-19 immunization plan and to help purchase and distribute vaccines under COVAX. The additional financing will be used to buy 400,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, as well as personal protective equipment including masks and other medical supplies to ensure an effective vaccine rollout.
PRESS BRIEFING TODAY
At 1:00 p.m., there will be a briefing by Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. He will brief reporters on peacekeeping operations in Mali, the Central African Republic, as well as other issues related to peacekeeping.
PRESS BRIEFING TOMORROW
Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m., there will be a virtual briefing by Agnès Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions along with Caroline Horn, the senior legal adviser to Ms. Callamard. They will be discussing the findings of Ms. Callamard’s investigation into the January 8th 2020 shooting down of a Ukraine International Airlines Flight that took place in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Morocco has paid its 2021 dues in full. There are now 51 Member States that have paid their dues in full this year.