As we announced yesterday, the Secretary-General is heading off to Brussels tonight for a series of meetings with European leaders, as well as with Belgian authorities.
He will begin his programme tomorrow with a meeting with the European Commission, during which they will discuss several issues, including collaboration between the European Union and the United Nations, the promotion of a sustainable and inclusive pandemic recovery based on the Sustainable Development Goals, global access to COVID-19 vaccines, climate and multilateralism.
Also, as a reminder, on Thursday, the Secretary-General will deliver an address to the European Parliament in Brussels.
We will also keep you updated on his activities while in Brussels.
The Secretary-General this morning spoke by prerecorded video message today to the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security.
Mr. Guterres noted that, as a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the Security Council, the Russian Federation has always been a champion of the work of our Organization, and of multilateralism.
He stressed the important role of partnerships in addressing the full range of global peace and security challenges, from nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation to preventing the use of chemical and biological weapons; from cyber security to disinformation.
As we told you yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, is representing the Secretary-General physically in Moscow at this conference. While in Moscow, Mr. Lacroix will meet with senior Russian officials and he will thank Russia for its support and contributions to peacekeeping.
Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, briefed the Security Council by videoteleconference this morning. She said that she could not overstate her concern regarding the present situation in the country. She warned that all of the major trends – whether concerning politics, security, the peace process, the economy, the humanitarian emergency, or COVID – are negative or stagnant.
She said that the mid-April announcement that all international troops will be withdrawn in the coming months sent a seismic tremor through the Afghan political system and society at large. The withdrawal decision was expected, but its speed – with the majority of troops now already withdrawn – was not, she added.
The Special Representative noted the recent offensives by the Taliban, saying that more than 50 of Afghanistan’s 370 districts have fallen since the beginning of May. Ms. Lyons said that the UN Mission continues to work within its mandate and, in cooperation with Member States, to find ways to move forward in the negotiations. But she warned that the drivers of conflict seem, for now, to overwhelm the reasonable and hoped-for modalities of negotiation.
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is launching a $164 million humanitarian and early recovery appeal following the hostilities in Gaza in May.
This updated appeal incorporates the immediate emergency response actions implemented by UNRWA in Gaza and the West Bank between 10 and 31 May, as well as early recovery needs of Palestine refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
The appeal for this year outlines the needs for emergency shelter repairs, humanitarian assistance to displaced families and emergency repairs and maintenance of UNRWA installations.
The funds will also be required to temporarily subsidize rental payments for those Palestinian families, whose shelters have been completely destroyed or damaged, in the form of Transitional Shelter Cash Assistance.
The World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that famine – already present in four countries – could become a reality for millions of people around the world, without urgent funding and access to families cut off by conflict.
Recent WFP analyses show that 41 million people are teetering on the very edge of famine in 43 countries, and the slightest shock would push them over this precipice. This includes over half a million people in Ethiopia, Madagascar, South Sudan and Yemen. Other countries of particular concern are Nigeria and Burkina Faso.
WFP said that conflict, climate change and economic shocks have been driving the rise in hunger, but this is compounded by soaring prices for basic foods this year. I think we’ve been flagging to you on a regular basis the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Price Index which keeps going up. In many countries like Lebanon, Nigeria, Sudan, Venezuela and Zimbabwe, currency depreciation is adding to these pressures and driving food prices even higher.
This year, WFP is undertaking the biggest operation in its history, targeting 139 million people. With sufficient funding and access, WFP said it will be able to provide all those who risk famine in 2021 with life-saving food and nutritional assistance. For that, they need $6 billion.
As a case in point of the fragility of food systems, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, has warned that a combination of escalating conflict, displacement, and loss of livelihoods due to COVID-19 could heighten the risk of hunger for millions of people in Nigeria’s northeast.
As many as 4.4 million people in the northeast are at risk of acute hunger during the lean season between June and September. This is the worst outlook in four years.
Mr. Kallon says the targeting of aid workers and their assets, including through kidnappings and violence, has limited access and freedom of movement for humanitarian workers and for people in need of support.
He warned that the effects of COVID-19 and climate change, which has increased conflict over natural resources, on top of a funding shortage, has brought the humanitarian situation to a potential tipping point.
Nigeria’s Humanitarian Response Plan for 2021, which calls for just over $1 billion, is only 19 per cent funded.
In Mozambique, another forgotten emergency, our humanitarian colleagues say that the clashes in the country’s north are driving one of the world’s fastest-growing displacement crises.
The number of people who have fled their homes in Cabo Delgado surged by nearly 650 per cent last year.
Currently, more than 732,000 people have been displaced, of whom at least 30 per cent have been forced to flee more than once, according to the International Organization for Migration.
An attack on Palma on March 24th and subsequent clashes across the district have forced nearly 70,000 people from their homes. Many had to walk for days, with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.
People are also trying to seek asylum in Tanzania but are systematically being forcibly returned to Mozambique. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that nearly 10,000 people were returned after entering Tanzania this year, half of them since May alone.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the situation is leading to a severe hunger crisis on top of multiple health and protection emergencies.
Aid organizations have helped more than 700,000 men, women and children this year, but they are hampered by insecurity, access challenges and underfunding. Only 11 per cent of the $254 million needed has been received so far.
Turning to Myanmar, where nearly five months after the military took over the Government, our colleagues on the ground say they remain deeply concerned over the continued reports of violence being used by security forces, with daily reports of deaths and injuries.
At least 872 unarmed women, children and men have been killed across Myanmar since February 1st, while thousands more people have been injured.
Our colleagues in the country continue to call on the military to refrain from violence and the disproportionate use of force, including the usage of live ammunition.
We have a COVAX update for you from Brazil and Honduras.
On Sunday, Brazil received more than 840,000 Pfizer doses from COVAX, adding to the more than 5 million doses it has already obtained from COVAX.
Brazil will receive a further 4 million additional AstraZeneca doses in the coming weeks.
Our colleagues tell us that nearly 79 million people in Brazil have been vaccinated to date.
Meanwhile, Honduras received more than 200,000 doses through COVAX, bringing the total number it has received so far to more than 450,000.
With this latest shipment, the Honduran Government has begun its fifth vaccination campaign.
And just a couple more notes I wanted to flag, but I was asked a question by your colleagues at Prensa Latina who will not be able to dial in from Havana where they are awaiting their visas. We were asked about tomorrow’s meeting of the General Assembly that will address the draft resolution calling for the end of the United States blockade against Cuba. I can tell you that, while this is a matter for Member States, in the context of the pandemic, the Secretary-General has encouraged Member States to waive sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support.
The resolution, which passes every year, reflects the overwhelming sentiment of the Members States of the General Assembly and that is something that of course we take note of.
Our colleagues in the UN Development Coordination Office tell us that we have two new Resident Coordinators. We want to share their names with you. They are taking up their positions today.
Amakobe Sande of Kenya is our new Resident Coordinator in Eritrea and Susan Ngongi Namondo of Cameroon is taking up her new post as the Resident Coordinator in Uganda, and we congratulate them both.
As you know, Resident Coordinators lead the work of our UN teams on the ground, including supporting authorities respond to the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to recover better towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Full biographies available in our office and on the web.
NOON BRIEFING GUESTS TOMORROW
Tomorrow, my guests will be Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, who is also Co-Chair of the High-level Dialogue on Energy, as well as Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sustainable Energy for All and Co-Chair of the High-level Dialogue on Energy. They will join us virtually to brief on the Ministerial Thematic Forums for the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, which are currently taking place.
The Thematic Forums bring together virtually key stakeholders over five days, from June 21-25, to mobilize actions as a major milestone on the road to the High-level Dialogue on Energy, which will take place in September 2021.
Lastly, we now have 111 Member States who have paid their budget dues in full, and 111, I’m sure, is an auspicious number in some culture. In fact, the country that paid its budget dues rhymes with auspicious. Can anybody guess what that country is? Mauritius.