HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY FARHAN HAQ​,
DEPUTY SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
WEDNESDAY, 25 NOVEMBER 2020

ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at a virtual event to mark the Day and said that the COVID-19 crisis has further exposed violence against women and girls as a global emergency requiring urgent action.
He reiterated his appeal to the international community to work to end this shadow pandemic once and for all, adding that the world needs to hear the voices and experiences of women and girls and take their needs into account, especially survivors and those who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General also called for prioritizing women’s leadership in finding solutions and engaging men in the struggle.

ETHIOPIA/SECRETARY-GENERAL 
In a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the unfolding situation in the Tigray region and its surrounding area. 
Amid reports of a potential military offensive into the regional capital of Mekelle, he urges the leaders of Ethiopia to do everything possible to protect civilians, uphold human rights and ensure humanitarian access for the provision of much-needed assistance. 
The Secretary-General also calls for the free and safe movement of people searching for safety and assistance, regardless of their ethnic identity, across both national and international borders.
The Secretary-General reiterates the full support of the United Nations to the initiative of the Chairperson of the African Union, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, to facilitate peaceful solutions. He urges all parties to seize this opportunity to de-escalate tensions.  
 
ETHIOPIA/HUMANITARIAN
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that it continues to receive reports of people fleeing Mekelle in search of safety.
OCHA said violence and insecurity are also increasing in other regions of Ethiopia after the relocation of security forces to Tigray, with several reports of clashes and attacks in other places. 
More than 95,000 people are estimated to be newly displaced in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region, following clashes reported last week. Food, water and shelter are urgently needed in that region, as most of the displaced people are in open spaces. 
Nearly 42,000 people have now crossed the border to Sudan. 
The UN and partners have finalized our refugee response plan and it calls for $147 million to help a projected 100,000 refugees between November and June of next year. 
The Sudan Humanitarian Fund has allocated an initial $425,000 for the most immediate needs, such as health, water, sanitation and hygiene, in the Um Raquba Camp in east Sudan.

SYRIA
Khawla Matar, the Deputy Special Envoy for Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning.  She informed Council members that plans are being finalized for the fourth session of the Constitutional Committee Small Body to convene from 30 November to 4 December in Geneva. The Co-Chairs further agreed to hold a fifth session in January 2021. She added that a constitutional track on its own cannot resolve the crisis, and the Syrian-led committee’s work needs to be accompanied by mutual and reinforcing steps by Syrian and international players on the range of issues contained in Resolution 2254.
Ms. Matar said that, while falling short of the nationwide ceasefire called for by Resolution 2254, a fragile and relative calm continues broadly to hold in Syria. That calm however continues to be ever more challenged, raising concerns, she added.
The acting Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ramesh Rajasingham, told the Council that 6.7 million people in Syria are internally displaced and about a third of them lack proper shelter. He estimated that more than three million people across all of Syria will need assistance this winter because of their shelter needs.
Also, he said, an estimated 9.3 million people in Syria are food insecure – that’s 1.4 million more people than a year ago and more than at any other time during the crisis. About one million of them are severely food insecure – twice as many as last year – and we expect this number to increase, he warned.

BURKINA FASO
In regards to questions about the elections in Burkina Faso, the Deputy Spokesman said the Secretary-General commends the people and Government of Burkina Faso for the peaceful and timely holding of elections on 22 November, despite the enormous security challenges in parts of the country. 
The Secretary-General urges all parties to maintain the atmosphere of peace and respect that has characterized the process. He urges all parties to continue to uphold the Code of Conduct and allow the process to continue to its conclusion. He calls on all stakeholders to address any differences or concerns they may have through legal means.  
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, in collaboration with the Resident Coordinator, is on the ground to engage with national stakeholders to facilitate dialogue. The UN remains committed to supporting Burkina Faso and Mr. Chambas is closely collaborating with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States and other partners to support the electoral process.  

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
The UN Peacekeeping Mission in the country, MINUSCA, has organized a four-day civic education training workshop for leaders of civil society organizations who will engage with the electorate in the run-up to the elections on 27 December.
The workshop, called “Support project for the electoral process”, included 80 participants from 27 civil society organizations, who will in turn conduct electoral training within their organizations and be deployed to the field to raise awareness about the election process. The training, which concluded yesterday, took place in partnership with the UN Development Programme, and in line with the Mission’s mandate to coordinate international electoral assistance.
Today, the Peacekeeping Mission expressed its concerned at growing tensions in the country. The Mission called on Central Africans to consider the elections as an opportunity to consolidate the democratic process and to find lasting solutions to the crisis.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the peacekeeping mission, Mankeur Ndiaye, continues to use his good offices and to promote inclusive dialogue between political actors, in order to ease tensions.
The mission also reiterated that it will fully carry out its mandate to protect the civilian population and institutions.

SAMOA
On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, UN teams around the world are promoting the “16 Days of Activism” campaign.
In several countries, some iconic buildings are being lit up in orange to raise awareness.
In the Pacific, our UN team in Samoa, led by Resident Coordinator Simona Marinescu, joined authorities and civil society organizations for a joint European Union-UN Spotlight initiative to tackle the urgent problem of violence against women.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to official figures, 86 per cent of women in Samoa experienced some form of violence and half of all women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported to have been victims of physical violence.
The UN and partners are also concerned that, in the past month alone, more than 90 per cent of children between the ages of 1 and 14 experienced physical or psychological aggression by their caregivers.
The Spotlight Initiative is helping to address the issue at the community level. Village Safety Committees now include the chiefs, the church and women’s committees. Samoa’s “16 Days Healing” campaign starts today and will be broadcast nationally and regionally.

UNHCR/COVID-19
The UN Refugee Agency warned today that one of the consequences of the pandemic has been a renewed wave of violence against women and girls who are refugees, displaced or stateless.
The Global Protection Cluster, led by UNHCR, reported increases in gender-based violence in at least 27 countries. The sale or exchange of sex as an economic coping mechanism was also reported in at least 20 countries.
Participants in the assessment described an increase of intimate partner violence, resulting from tensions over containment measures, movement restrictions and financial difficulties. UNHCR is also alarmed by increased risks of child and forced marriages.
Echoing this year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism, UNHCR is urging donor support to preserve and boost essential prevention and response services.

HIV/CHILDREN
The UN Children’s Fund today released a report showing that 320,000 children and young persons under the age of 20 were infected with HIV in 2019. This represents approximately 1 every 100 seconds, bringing the total number of children living with HIV to 2.8 million.
The report warns that children are being left behind in the fight against HIV. In 2019, a little more than half of children worldwide had access to life-saving treatment. Nearly 110,000 children died of AIDS that year.

PERSONNEL ANNOUNCEMENT
Following the recommendation of the Secretary-General, after consultation with Member States, the General Assembly confirmed Filippo Grandi of Italy as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for a further two-and-a-half-year term beginning 1 January 2021 and ending 30 June 2023. 
While the Secretary-General had intended to request the General Assembly to elect Mr. Grandi for a further term of five years, Mr. Grandi was agreeable, owing to personal reasons, to the shorter term. Mr. Grandi is currently serving an initial five-year term as UNHCR’s High Commissioner.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS
Madagascar and Oman have paid their regular budget dues in full. This means there are now 135 fully paid-up Member States.