HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 24 SEPTEMBER 2020
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council’s open video teleconference on global governance, post-COVID-19.
The Secretary-General said that the pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation, a test that we have essentially failed. He attributed this to a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity.
He noted that many of the cross-border challenges we face today – from the climate crisis to rising inequality to cybercrime – involve interest groups, businesses, organizations and entire sectors that cannot be addressed effectively by states alone.
He added that we need to broaden our idea of global governance, to take in businesses, civil society, cities and regions, academia and young people.
Our world is no longer bipolar or unipolar, he said, noting that it is moving towards multipolarity.
And the Secretary-General added that COVID-19 is casting a dark shadow across the world, but also warning that we must be spurred into action. We have no choice, Mr. Guterres said. Either we come together in global institutions that are fit for purpose, or we will be crushed by divisiveness and chaos.
In a video message to the Bahrain Visions meeting, the Secretary-General also said the virus is a major setback to our common efforts.
Moments ago, the Secretary-General spoke at the High-Level Roundtable on Climate Ambition.
He said that the damage to people and the environment due to climate disruption is immense and growing, and we must urgently reverse course.
He asked all leaders – governments, businesses, financiers, civil society and youth – to act on three urgent priorities: First, to implement sustainable COVID-19 recovery plans that tackle climate change. Second, to protect our economies by acting in line with what science tells us. And third, to prioritize the most vulnerable people and communities.
The Secretary-General once again stressed that we must not bail out polluting industries, especially coal, and that governments should accelerate the decarbonization of the global economy. “Any plan that supports economically costly and polluting coal and fossil fuel industries cannot be called recovery”.
GENDER DIMENSIONS OF THE DEATH PENALTY
This morning, the Secretary-General also spoke in another meeting, but this time by video message, at a side event on the Gender Dimensions of the Death Penalty. He stressed that the United Nations advocates for every country, in all circumstances, to abolish this cruel punishment.
The Secretary-General said that we should all be greatly concerned at the disproportionate and discriminatory application of the death penalty to women. He noted that research indicates that women are sentenced to the death penalty for drug-related offences far more than men. It is also rare for domestic abuse to be treated as a mitigating factor during capital sentencing.
The Secretary-General reiterated his call on States to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances.
Today is World Maritime Day. In his message issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General says that the pandemic has highlighted the professionalism and sacrifice of nearly two million seafarers who serve on the world’s merchant fleet. Many of them have remained at sea for periods far beyond the standards stipulated by international conventions, with some tours of duty now stretching more than 17 months.
The Secretary-General said that he remains very concerned about the growing humanitarian and safety crisis facing hundreds of thousands of seafarers who, despite the unprecedented conditions brought by the pandemic, have continued to tirelessly support the often-invisible global logistics chain.
He renewed his appeal to Governments to address their plight by formally designating seafarers and other maritime personnel as “key workers”, ensuring safe crew changes and implementing the protocols developed by UN agencies, as well as the International Shipping group and the International Transport Workers’ Unions.
In Yemen, the UN remains concerned about the increased risk of famine, as the lack of funding is crippling humanitarian operations in the country. Fifteen of the UN’s 41 major programmes have already been reduced or shut down. Thirty more will close or reduce services in the coming weeks unless additional funding is received.
Some 20 million people are food insecure, including almost 10 million facing acute food insecurity. Nearly half of all children are stunted by malnutrition. Some two million children require treatments for acute malnutrition, of which 360,000 are at risk of dying without treatment. In addition, one million pregnant or breastfeeding women require treatment for acute malnutrition.
Another three million people are at risk of worsening hunger as the pandemic sweeps across Yemen.
To date, the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is only 38 per cent funded – the lowest ever so late in the year.
We welcome recent announcements of new funding and call on all donors to pay outstanding pledges and increase their support, so we can help with this man-made crisis.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic reports that, yesterday, the National Assembly concluded its third special session of 2020. A bill was adopted to amend some provisions of the Electoral Code to allow the electoral management body, known as the National Authority on Elections, to continue preparing following a number of delays while ensuring that the elections are held within the constitutional timelines.
The United Nations Mission and our partners continue to advocate for the adoption of a legal framework that would allow citizens living as refugees to participate in the electoral process. Their inclusion remains a critical element for the credibility and inclusiveness of the elections, as well as the consolidation of peace and national reconciliation in the Central African Republic. It would also build on the democratic gains from the 2015-2016 elections[referendum], which provided the right to vote for refugees.
The UN and its partners – including the guarantors of the Political Agreement, the African Union and the Economic Community of Central African States –will continue to engage the Government with appropriate measures to address this issue.
Recent fighting between Afghan National Security Forces and non-state armed groups continues across the country with increased displacement in several provinces. This year, more than 172,000 people have been displaced by conflict.
The UN, along with humanitarian partners, has reached six million people with humanitarian aid in the first six months of the year. This includes food and livelihood assistance, access to water and sanitation facilities, home-based learning materials for children and nutrition interventions.
The UN will also continue to support the Government-led COVID-19 response. The 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan requires $1 billion, but to date, only $339 million has been received.
In the Philippines, the UN team continues its efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN mobilized nearly $30 million for some 150 virus rapid response activities being implemented throughout the country by 20 UN agencies. One-fifth of these activities are focused on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao.
The World Health Organization is helping to strengthen the national surveillance system for rapid detection of the virus, while the UN Children’s Fund is assisting communities most heavily impacted by the pandemic.
For its part, the World Food Programme is providing logistical and technical support to improve food security, and the Food and Agriculture Organization is providing seeds, fertilizers and other supplies to farmers and fisherfolk. The International Fund for Agricultural Development extended more than $130 million in loans and grants for projects aiming to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the agriculture and fisheries sectors.
And the UN is also applying our technical and analytical expertise toward recovery efforts.
KILLING OF JOURNALIST
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, today condemned the killing of online news journalist Jobert Bercasio in the centre of The Philippines.
Ms. Azoulay called on the authorities to investigate this crime and bring its perpetrators to justice. She added that the authorities must support the media’s ability to carry out their work without fearing death or violence.
The journalist, who hosted a current events and commentary programme on the online news portal Balangibog, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen when he was on his way home on September 14th.
GREECE/ ASYLUM SEEKERS
UNHCR is calling for urgent action to improve conditions and to ensure humane solutions for asylum seekers in reception centres in the Greek Aegean islands, including in the new emergency site on Lesvos.
UNHCR, however, emphasized the urgent need for adequate solutions for asylum-seekers. UNHCR estimates that there are at least 4,000 people on all islands, including 2,000 on Lesvos, who are eligible to be transferred to the mainland immediately.
UNHCR is calling on European states to continue their support to Greece through the offering of relocation places for the most vulnerable asylum-seekers and recognized refugees.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) appointed Nigerian musician and leading Afro-pop star Yemi Alade as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.
In her new role, she will help shine a spotlight on the disproportionate impact of the health and socio-economic crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable people, who are often women, especially in developing nations.
Earlier this year, she participated in the launch of UNDP’s Mission 1.5 degree Climate Action initiative and promoted UNDP’s COVID response efforts. Most recently, she joined UNDP’s head, Achim Steiner in delivering opening remarks at the High-Level Political Forum side event organized by UNDP on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on those without social protection.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
Gina Casar of Mexico was appointed as Senior Advisor for Workplace Culture at the World Food Programme, at the Assistant Secretary-General level.
She previously served as Associate Administrator at UNDP, as Assistant Secretary-General and Controller in the UN Secretariat, and as Assistant Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer for WFP.
This appointment was jointly announced by the Secretary-General, David Beasley, WFP’s Executive Director, and the FAO’s Director-General, QU Dongyu.
TRIBUTE TO REY NAVAL
The Spokesman paid tribute to a colleague who passed away this week. Below is the tribute read by the Spokesman:
We are all devastated by the sudden passing of our longtime friend and colleague, Reynaldo Naval, who we all knew as Rey.
Many of you, if not all of you know Rey from his work at the Media Documents Counter. He’s the one that flooded your email boxes with all the speeches and documents that you so anxiously crave.
Rey proudly served the United Nations for 39 years, keeping us informed of the comings and goings around the building.
We always appreciated his kindness and his sunny disposition - and even his corny sense of humour - as well as his near-magical abilities at finding the reports and key documents that we needed. He never hesitated to help and accommodate even our most obscure requests.
He was a dedicated staff member who truly believed in the work of the United Nations and who took pride in being a part of it. And he also served in Headquarters and in a number of field missions.
Rey was one of the thousands of UN staff members who remain in the background but without their tireless work, the story of what happens at the United Nations could not be told.
Rey was 59 and looking forward to retirement to work in the garden he had planted during the lockdown.
Our deepest sympathies go out to his wife, Chit, and his two stepsons and his extended family.
BRIEFINGS FRIDAY 25 SEPTEMBER
Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., there will be a virtual briefing to launch the report entitled "Protect the Progress - Rise, Refocus, Recover", on the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women's, Children's and Adolescents' Health.
The Speakers will include Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, the President of the Republic of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, and Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, and others.
Then at noon, the Spokesman will be joined by Achim Steiner, of UNDP and Cyrille Vigneron, the Chief Executive Officer of Cartier.
Three countries have made full payments to the regular budget in the past few days. We thank Bolivia, Lebanon and Sierra Leone whose contributions took us to 121 fully paid-up Member States.