HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES

TUESDAY, 26 JANUARY 2020

SENIOR PERSONNEL APPOINTMENT 
The Secretary-General is appointing Khassim Diagne of Senegal as his Deputy Special Representative for Protection and Operations in the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Diagne succeeds David Gressly of the United States to whom the Secretary-General is deeply grateful for his dedicated service to the UN peacekeeping operations in the DRC. Mr. Diagne brings to the position more than 25 years of experience in refugee protection, political affairs, management and oversight. Most recently, he is serving as Director of the Political, Peacekeeping, Humanitarian and Human Rights Unit in the Secretary-General's Executive Office. 

SECRETARY-GENERAL – PEACEBUILDING FUND 
At the virtual Replenishment Conference for the Peacebuilding Fund, held this morning, the Secretary-General said that in the current context, we need an approach that goes beyond crisis response and boosts long-term investments in prevention and peacebuilding.        
The impact and cost-effectiveness of the Peacebuilding Fund have been widely recognized and appreciated by the 50 nations it has supported, the Secretary-General said in his remarks. Yet, we continue to massively underinvest in it.  
The Fund prioritises areas that may otherwise be considered too risky, or that are chronically underfunded. In addition, as part of the Comprehensive Response to COVID, the Fund quickly responded to the risks and tensions heightened by the pandemic.  
The Secretary-General called on all Member States and partners to contribute to the Fund, even a small amount. Doing this would allow us to finally accomplish the much needed ‘quantum leap’ and send a clear signal that together, we can successfully invest in building and sustaining peace.  

MIDDLE EAST 
Tor Wennesland briefed the Security Council this morning for the first time in his new role as the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. He told the members that Nickolay Mladenov’s performance as Special Coordinator is a hard act to follow. 
He added that he joins the Secretary-General in welcoming the Presidential decree issued by President Mahmoud Abbas to hold legislative, presidential and Palestinian National Council elections this year. 
Mr. Wennesland warned that the COVID-19 crisis continues to take a staggering toll across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and Israel. Concerted efforts to contain and halt the spread of the virus have succeeded in lowering the overall number of active cases in the West Bank and Gaza.  However, the cost in lives and livelihoods remains high, particularly in the Gaza Strip.  
In this context, he said, the UN continues to encourage Israel to help address the priority needs of the Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to support COVID-19 vaccine availability more generally. 
 
ETHIOPIA 
From Ethiopia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is receiving reports of rising hunger and malnutrition in Tigray. 
It is still not possible to determine the full impact of the crisis on food insecurity, but months of conflict and the dire lack of access to food is worsening an already dire situation caused by the pandemic and locust infestation.  
Many farmers have missed the harvest season, and food is scarce in local markets due to regional trade being blocked. 
While certain services have been restored in some major towns, electricity, banking, communications and transportation services have yet to be restarted in most of the region. Access to cash and banking services is only available in the province’s capital, Mekelle. 
Our colleagues at the World Health Organization warn about increasing risks of the spread of disease. Nearly 80 per cent of the hospitals are still not functional and insufficient medical supplies are being delivered. Clean water is another concern, with hundreds of water pumps also not functioning properly. 
Our humanitarian colleagues stress that the overall situation is dire. Although supplies have increasingly been allowed to enter the region, most of the critical staff needed to scale up the response have still not been able to access the area.                                                                          
We continue to call for immediate, unimpeded and safe passage of humanitarian personnel and supplies to Tigray to reach all people who need assistance.  

ETHIOPIA JOURNALIST 
Today, the Head of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, has called for an inquiry into the killing of journalist Dawit Kebede. He was found dead on January 19th, in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray.   
Kebede was working for Tigray regional television at the time.

YEMEN 
In Yemen, the U.N. is aware of the new general licence issued by the US yesterday afternoon. This licence exempts all transactions with the Houthis from sanctions-related enforcement by the US authorities until the 26th of February. 
As you know, Yemen brings in nearly all its food and everything else by commercial imports. As we have said for months, it is the reaction of private companies all along the global supply chain that will determine life and death for people in Yemen. 
Yemen’s heavy import-dependence is why the Security Council has unanimously agreed for years that commercial imports to the country through all ports must be protected. This is even more important now as famine is stalking the country. 
The US announcement is still being digested both by aid agencies and the private sector. We have heard concerns that companies are still planning to cancel or suspend business, given that this move does not resolve underlying uncertainties. 
With millions of civilians at risk of starvation, Yemen cannot afford even a temporary disruption in commercial activity, and it is not yet clear that the new licence will prevent those kinds of disruptions. 
The UN continue to call for the reversal of the designations on humanitarian grounds. 

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC  
The UN Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) dispatched a patrol to Mangrao, on the Grimari- Bambari axis in Ouaka Prefecture yesterday, after combatants from the CPC (Coalition Patriotique pour le Changement) set a local fuel truck on fire. This led the combatants to flee the area.   
Meanwhile, the Mission continues to provide support towards the completion of the electoral process. Yesterday, the Mission supported a weekly videoconference between the Government and the Prefects to assess the security situation and the preparations for the second round of the legislative elections, currently scheduled for the 7th of February.  

SOUTH SUDAN 
In South Sudan, more than 8 million people in the country are believed to need humanitarian assistance this year. This includes 310,000 refugees and asylum seekers and is an increase from the 7.5 million people who were in need in 2020.  
Years of conflict and the impact of climate change are driving up humanitarian needs, including hunger. More than 7.2 million people are projected to be severely food insecure during 2021, with some communities facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity. 
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to severe economic contractions, spikes in basic commodities, and the loss of livelihoods. 
The already serious situation has been compounded by severe flooding. People also continue to be highly vulnerable to diseases, due to low immunization coverage, a weak health system and poor hygiene and sanitation. 
In 2020, we, along with our partners, provided assistance to more than 6 million people across South Sudan. 

COMOROS/COVID-19 
In the Comoros, the UN team, led by Resident Coordinator François Batalingaya, is supporting the authorities’ response to a new COVID-19 outbreak on all fronts. 
While the country had been officially COVID-free for nearly 100 days, officials confirm that it took only one imported case, reported last month, for the virus to spread swiftly and widely. 
WHO has chartered a plane carrying medical equipment and a team of medical professionals to help Comoros’ smallest island, which is at the epicentre of this new wave. WHO has helped nearly 500 COVID patients there. 
Both WHO and the UN Development Programme have provided more than 3,000 units of personal protective equipment. UNDP helped to install a solar energy system, which has provided electricity for patient care, including maintaining respirators. 
We have reached thousands of people on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 through awareness and community engagement caravans. 
 
UN ENVIRONMENT 
A report released today by UNEP says that climate litigation cases have spiked in recent years. This makes the courtroom increasingly relevant to efforts to address climate change around the world.  
The background of plaintiffs is becoming increasingly diverse as well, with NGOs and political parties joined by children, senior citizens, migrants, and indigenous peoples.  
 
HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE  
Last night, the Secretary-General addressed a virtual ceremony at Park East Synagogue to commemorate the remembrance of the Holocaust. In his remarks, he said that the pandemic has contributed to a resurgence of xenophobia, antisemitism, and hate speech.  He said that propaganda linking Jews with the pandemic by accusing them of creating the virus as part of a bid for global domination would be ridiculous, if it were not so dangerous.  
He warned that Holocaust denial, distortion and minimization are resurgent.  In Europe, the US and elsewhere, white supremacists are organizing and recruiting across borders, flaunting the symbols and tropes of the Nazis and their murderous ambitions. The Secretary-General said that there is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia, but our best weapon remains the truth.
 
There will be a virtual screening on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. of the Commemorative Programme to mark the International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. This usually takes place in the General Assembly, in non-pandemic years. The Programme will be screened live on UN WebTV. Angela Merkel, Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, will deliver the keynote address, and the Secretary-General will also speak, as will Audrey Azoulay, the head of UNESCO and others. 
A panel discussion on Holocaust denial and distortion will follow the ceremony.  That will start at 12 p.m. on Thursday, with diverse experts in the field.                              

NOON BRIEFING GUESTS TODAY AND TOMORROW
Myrta Kaulard, the UN Resident Coordinator in Mozambique, briefed reporters on the situation in Mozambique.
 
Tomorrow the Noon briefing guest will be Achim Steiner. He will discuss the results of UNDP’s ‘Mission 1.5’ climate action poll - a global opinion poll on climate action, in partnership with Oxford University. 
 
HONOUR ROLL 
Belgium and Cuba have made their full payments to the regular budget. The Honour Roll now includes 19 Member States.