HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

MONDAY, 24 FEBRUARY 2020

 

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
The Secretary-General spoke at the opening of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that he came there to launch a Call for Action. He added that he has decided to do it now – during the 75th anniversary of the United Nations – because of the centrality of human rights in all of the UN’s work, and because human rights are under assault.
The Secretary-General said that all our societies have benefitted from human rights movements led by women, young people, minorities, indigenous peoples and others. Our Call to Action, he said, singles out seven areas where concerted effort can achieve a quantum leap in the progress or avert the risk of backsliding.

SECRETARY-GENERAL VISITS WHO
Following his remarks at the Human Rights Council, the Secretary-General visited the World Health Organization’s crisis center, met with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros, and also spoke to reporters.
He praised WHO colleagues for their courage and dedication, noting he saw first-hand how their work to fight the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo helped save many lives.
On the COVID-19 outbreak, he also commended WHO for its work to contain the epidemic. He appealed for all countries to assume their responsibilities and to do everything to be prepared to contain the disease, reiterating that this is possible.
He appealed for donors to support Who’s funding appeals. If there is truly something stupid to do, it is to not fully fund WHO appeals, the Secretary-General said, because WHO appeals are vital to support Member States to avoid these tragic diseases become truly global nightmares.
And earlier in the day, during his daily updapte, WHO’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros, said he is concerned by the sudden increases of cases in Italy, Iran as well as the Republic of Korea.
However, he added, this does not mean the epidemic has become a pandemic. He reiterated his call for all countries and communities to focus on preparing, and on protecting health workers, people who are most at risk of severe disease, as well as countries that are the most vulnerable.
 
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL IN ZIMBABWE
The Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, spoke at the opening of the Special Session of the Regional Coordination Mechanism for Africa, that took place in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. She said that the significance of the African Union as a strategic partner of the United Nations cannot be overstated.
The Deputy Secretary-General told participants that, like the rest of the world, Africa is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and the goals of Agenda 2063. While Africa has made notable progress in education, health and other social outcomes, she said that the pace of poverty reduction is slow, and inclusive growth—leaving no one behind—remains elusive.
Adding that there is no better example of a strong partnership around an SDG solution than the African Union’s initiative on Silencing the Guns.
Her remarks have been shared with you.
 
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
The Secretary-General is appointing Major General Ishwar Hamal of Nepal as the Head of the Mission and Force Commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, otherwise known as UNDOF.
Major General Hamal succeeds Major General Shivaram Kharel, also of Nepal, who served as the Acting Head of Mission and Force Commander from June to October of 2019.  The Secretary-General thanks Major Kharel for his dedicated service during this challenging period.
Major General Hamal has had a long career in the Nepali Army since entering as an artillery officer in 1983 and he has had extensive experience with UN peacekeeping. 
 
SECURITY COUNCIL 
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council this morning by VTC and he warned that more than 60 rockets had been fired into Israel since last night by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, while Israel has mounted attacks on Islamic Jihad forces.  Mr. Mladenov called for an immediate stop to the firing of rockets and mortars, which he said would only risk dragging Gaza into another destructive round of hostilities with no end in sight.
He added that women increasingly bear the brunt of the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, and also highlighted what he called the ongoing health disaster in Gaza, where stock levels for 46 percent of essential medicines have been completely depleted.
 
AFGHANISTAN
In a statement on Afghanistan, the Secretary-General welcomed the announced nationwide reduction of violence in the country. He said he hoped this critical step will lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a comprehensive peace process.
And over the weekend, the UN Mission in the country released a report which says that parties to the conflict in the country killed and injured more than 10,000 civilians in 2019. This is the sixth year in a row that the number of civilian casualties exceeded 10,000. In addition, after more than a decade of systematically documenting the impact of the war on civilians, the UN found that last year, the added number of civilian casualties had surpassed 100,000.
 
SOUTH SUDAN
In a statement, the Secretary-General welcomed the establishment of the Transitional Government of National Unity in South Sudan. He commended the parties for this significant achievement and applauded regional and international efforts that contributed to the result. He also called on the members of the transitional government to fully follow to the letter and spirit of the Agreement, so that the people of South Sudan can finally realize the benefits of a durable peace and stability.
 
FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION
We say thank you to our friends in Kiribati for a full payment of the 2020 regular budget.