On Myanmar, we’ve been asked by many of you about the travels of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener.
What I can tell you is that we will continue to support ASEAN’s important role, as reflected in the Special Envoy’s visit to Jakarta, Indonesia, where she held ministerial and other meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April.
Timely and comprehensive implementation of ASEAN’s five points of consensus from that meeting will be important. They include a call for immediate cessation of violence and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint, ASEAN humanitarian assistance and constructive dialogue among to seek a peaceful solution.
We continue to urge the release of all detainees and for the full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Secretary-General and his Special Envoy continue to urge for a unified response by Member States and appeal for support to the UN system and regional efforts that can help deter further escalation of the crisis.
The Secretary-General is in Geneva, where tomorrow he will convene the informal 5+1 meeting on the Cyprus issue.
Stephane Dujarric will brief the press in Geneva tomorrow morning to share more details on the meeting, including the heads of delegations.
Over the weekend, Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, voiced his alarm at the recent escalations in Jerusalem and around Gaza. He condemned all such acts of violence and reiterated his call upon all sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan and this politically charged time for all.
He said that the provocative acts across Jerusalem must cease. The indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centres violates international law and must stop immediately, he added.
The UN is still actively working to de-escalate the situation.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, expressed shock and pain yesterday at the enormity of the tragic incident that befell COVID-19 patients at the Ibn Khatib hospital in Baghdad on Saturday night. She offered her deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives and wishes the injured a full and speedy recovery.
The Special Representative called for stronger protection measures to ensure that such a disaster cannot reoccur.
I’d like to add that the Secretary-General shares those sentiments.
The Security Council met this morning on Sudan and South Sudan.
Briefing Council members, the UN Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, expressed hope that Sudan and South Sudan will continue to build on their improved relations. So far, he said that Sudan and South Sudan have been focusing on their respective political transitions and the fast-moving broader regional dynamics.
Mr. Onanga-Anyanga said he was pleased to report that significant progress has been achieved on resolving the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states with last month’s signing of a Declaration of Principles. This provides for the establishment of a civic, democratic, and federal state where freedom of religion, belief, practices, and worship shall be guaranteed.
Also speaking to the Council was Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, who noted that the general security situation in the Abyei Area has been relatively calm but is volatile and unpredictable.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Lacroix said the UN and its partners have continued to provide vital humanitarian and other assistance in Abyei.
Meanwhile the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative and the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, has arrived in the country.
He said that the United Nations is strongly committed to working with the people and leaders of South Sudan to secure stability and eventual prosperity for the world's newest nation.
Mr. Haysom said that South Sudan is entering a new phase and people's expectations are high, adding there is real hope for progress in the implementation of the peace agreement and, ultimately, achieving a more durable peace.
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO
Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Today, UNICEF is warning that a surge of violence in the province of Ituri is worsening the plight of children.
Since January, nearly 175 grave violations against boys and girls have been reported. These include cases of recruitment of children into armed groups, the killing and maiming of children, sexual violence and attacks against schools and hospitals.
More than 1.6 million people are estimated to be displaced in Ituri, out of a total population of 5.7 million. Over 100,000 children under five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Through its Rapid Response Mechanism, UNICEF has provided non-food and hygiene items to more than 8,000 people fleeing recent attacks.
UNICEF is appealing for additional support as its 2021 humanitarian appeal is currently only 18 per cent funded.
Turning to Ethiopia, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the security situation in the Amhara region remains tense and volatile due to inter-communal clashes that have resulted in massive population displacement, and the looting and destruction of property and infrastructure. The number of casualties is undetermined.
Fighting erupted in Amhara’s North Shewa Zone on 18 March after a person was killed. Attacks two days later displaced at least 60,000 people across North Shewa and Oromia Special Zones. A second wave of attacks on 17 April, in urban centres and along major roads, caused much larger displacement and devastation.
Humanitarian partners haven’t verified displacement figures because of insecurity. However, regional authorities estimate that at least 330,000 people are displaced in both North Shewa and Oromia Special Zones.
Needs and risks assessments will be conducted once the security situation permits.
In neighbouring Somalia, the Federal Government, in consultation with the UN, yesterday declared drought conditions in the country following delayed and poor successive rain seasons and harsher, warmer weather.
More than 80 per cent of Somalia is experiencing moderate to severe drought conditions, with the worst affected areas including parts of Somaliland and Puntland, and the central and Gedo regions.
At least 3.4 million people are projected to be affected by drought by the end of 2021, of whom around 380,000 are expected to be displaced. So far, more than 116,000 people have been displaced by severe water shortages and drought conditions between October 2020 and April 2021.
The UN and its partners have reached 353,000 people with temporary safe water services, 40,000 with improved sanitation and 25,000 with health services. But funding shortfalls are a major challenge in scaling up the response. So far, only 15.5 per cent of the $1.09 billion required to help four million of the most vulnerable Somalis in 2021 has been received.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) today said they’re deeply saddened by the loss of at least two lives after a boat capsized off Venezuela’s shores on Thursday.
According to local authorities, at least 24 people including several children are believed to have been on board the boat heading towards Trinidad and Tobago.
Eduardo Stein, the Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, called for the establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of adequate reception mechanisms to prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.
On Colombia, the country has received its second shipment of 912,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Acting Resident Coordinator Jessica Faieta commended Colombia’s efforts to speed up vaccinations and to contribute financially to the COVAX Facility.
Also in Colombia, the UN team today rejected and condemned violence against human rights defenders, social and community leaders, communities and former combatants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP).
The UN team reiterated the Secretary-General’s call for the immediate cessation of hostilities to enable a proper response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN team also calls for strengthening measures to effectively safeguard the life and rights of all people in territories affected by conflict and violence.
A new report released today by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) says that progress in protecting the world’s forests – and the people who rely on them – is at risk due to the devastating impacts of the pandemic and the escalating climate and biodiversity crises.
According to the report, the world had been making progress in key areas, such as increasing the global forest area through afforestation and restoration. However, these advances are being threatened by the overall worsening state of our natural environment, including land degradation, pests and invasive species, fires, storms and droughts.
The report is being launched as countries begin meetings of the UN Forum on Forests today, which will review progress of the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2030 and its six Global Forest Goals.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, today warned that while immunization services have started to recover from disruptions caused by COVID-19, millions of children remain vulnerable to deadly diseases. Campaigns to immunize against measles are the most impacted.
To help tackle these challenges and support the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and other partners today launched the Immunization Agenda 2030, an ambitious new global strategy to maximize the lifesaving impact of vaccines through stronger immunization systems. If fully implemented, the Agenda will avert an estimated 50 million deaths.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today announced the appointment of popular TV personality Raya Abirached as a Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa.
Ms. Abirached has been working as a High-Profile Supporter with UNHCR since 2017 and is a powerful voice and advocate for the forcibly displaced around the world. She is the first female Arab to be appointed as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
INTERNATIONAL CHERNOBYL DISASTER REMEMBRANCE DAY
Today is International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. In his message for the Day, the Secretary-General noted that today we mark the 35th anniversary of the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 26 April 1986. He said that hundreds of thousands of people were affected by radiation and their suffering must not be forgotten.
The Secretary-General highlighted that the Chernobyl disaster was contained by governments working with academics, civil society and others, for the common good. He added that it holds important lessons for today’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretary-General stressed that disasters know no borders, but together, he said, we can work to prevent and contain them, support all those in need, and build a strong recovery.
WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY DAY
Today is also World Intellectual Property Day. This year, the Day focuses on the critical role of small and medium-sized enterprises in the economy and how they can use intellectual property rights to build stronger, more competitive and resilient businesses.
SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT
I have a senior personnel appointment to tell you about. Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Courtenay Rattray of Jamaica as High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
He will succeed Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu of Tonga, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for her dedication and commitment to the United Nations.
Currently Permanent Representative of Jamaica to the UN in New York, Mr. Rattray brings to the position broad-based managerial and leadership experience with a focus on addressing the developmental challenges faced by countries in special situations, particularly in the area of development finance. Much more in our announcement being sent out now.
And last, but by no means least, we say thank you to our friends in Tokyo.
Japan has paid its full payment to the regular budget. We are now at 93 fully paid-up Member States, and we have just 100 more to go!