SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS CONFERENCE
Tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., the Secretary-General will hold a press conference on his priorities for 2021.
Earlier in the day, he will deliver remarks to the General Assembly.
Speaking by video message at the virtual event to mark the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the Secretary-General paid tribute to the memory of all the victims of the Holocaust.
Today’s meeting takes place under the shadow of the pandemic, he said. COVID-19 has put societies to the test, revealing longstanding fractures and injustices, adding that the pandemic has also contributed to a resurgence in xenophobia and hate speech, including antisemitism.
In Europe, in the United States and elsewhere, white supremacists are organizing and recruiting across borders, shamelessly flaunting the symbols of the Nazis and their murderous ambitions.
This must be a year of healing, he said.
There is no vaccine for antisemitism and xenophobia, and the most effective weapon remains the facts and the truth, the Secretary-General concluded. The UN will continue to stand for the truth, and against lies, bigotry, antisemitism and hatred.
The Secretary-General spoke by pre-recorded video message at a high-level webinar today on the African COVID-19 vaccine financing and deployment strategy.
He again stressed the need for vaccines to be accessible and affordable to all, calling for everyone to work together to prioritize those most at risk in all countries and to close the financing gap.
The Secretary-General commended the African Union’s efforts to secure an additional 270 million vaccine doses for African countries.
He again called on all countries, economies, and manufacturers to work with and through the COVAX facility to realize the commitments of equitable access, especially for the most vulnerable.
The Secretary-General said that, as additional vaccines come through the development pipeline, he calls on manufacturers to prioritize the review of data [by] the World Health Organization, so they can be deployed by COVAX as quickly as possible.
In Yemen, the risk of famine continues to rise. Our humanitarian colleagues inform us that around 50,000 Yemenis are already living in famine-like conditions today, with five million more just one step away.
With food prices at 150 per cent higher than the average before the conflict and the depreciation of the Yemeni Rial, the threat of hunger for millions is a reality.
We must do all that we can to prevent widespread famine now. We need more humanitarian funding; greater support for the economy through foreign-exchange injections; and an end to the violence.
To date, the 2020 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan has only received 56 per cent of the money it needs – $1.89 billion of the $3.38 billion needed to fund the operation.
Turning to Syria, where we just want to give you an update on the dire situation regarding floods and winter conditions and the impacts they have had on the vulnerable people throughout the country.
As of yesterday, 26 January, more than 67,000 internally displaced people in almost 200 sites throughout the northwest of the country have been affected, with nearly 11,500 tents either destroyed or damaged. One death and three injuries have been confirmed as a result.
Heavy rainfall has also impacted internally displaced people elsewhere in the country, including in the southern rural Tartous area, where families have been forced to relocate.
Winter conditions are of particular concern for the estimated 2.2 million internally displaced people living in inadequate shelter conditions across Syria.
We, alongside our humanitarian partners, are mobilizing additional assistance to support impacted families. As of 1 January, more than 1.6 million individuals across Syria were reached with winter-related assistance. This includes 850,000 people in northwest Syria, 250,000 people in northeast Syria and almost half a million people in Government-held areas.
We remain concerned that many vulnerable families are not sufficiently prepared for winter due to the continued funding gap of $24.5 million for winterization efforts across Syria. More than half a million people could be unreachable with winter assistance.
In South Sudan, we have been updating you about the deadly clashes there.
The UN Mission in the country recently trained traditional leaders on conflict management and reconciliation processes in Malakal in Upper Nile state.
More than 30 local chiefs residing in Malakal and in the Mission’s protection of civilians site in the town took part in this training, which featured conflict management skills to promote reconciliation and social cohesion in and between communities.
This month marks the 30th anniversary since the civil war broke out in the country.
Today, James Swan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, paid tribute to the courage and resilience of the Somali people who have persevered through some of what he called the toughest conditions in any country on the planet in the past three decades.
Speaking at a press conference, Mr. Swan noted that, while enormous challenges remain, it is important to acknowledge that progress has been made.
He pointed to successes, including the functioning of national and federal member state institutions and private sector investment.
On the country’s current impasse over the elections, Mr. Swan reiterated his call for Somalia’s leaders to pursue compromise and dialogue for the good of the country.
The Security Council here held a closed-door meeting this morning and heard from the head of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA), Natalia Gherman, who also serves as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.
In Brazil, the UN team has been supporting the public health system in the Northern state of Amazonas, which is currently struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic.
In the last five days, the UN teams has delivered more than 160,000 items to hospitals and emergency rooms. These include 60 cylinders of oxygen to maternity wards, as well as personal protective equipment and hospital beds.
The head of the UN team, Niky Fabiancic, met virtually yesterday with authorities in the Northern region to discuss how to support people’s needs. This includes creating a funding scheme to help authorities immediately respond and recover better in a sustainable way.
The Governor of Amazonas, Wilson Lima, thanked the UN for its support during this emergency and said it is essential to complement existing local and national efforts.
The Governor of Maranhão, Flávio Dino, who chairs the consortium of governors of the Amazon region, thanked the UN for the proposed funding scheme and highlighted that the continental dimensions of the region and the isolation of the states pose severe challenges for the fight against COVID-19 and other integrated sustainable development initiatives.
In Egypt, we have been supporting national efforts to fight the pandemic.
Egypt’s massive vaccination plan – one of the largest among Arab States – began this week with technical support from UN experts. The UN conducted risk assessment as part of the COVAX requirements.
We are working with authorities to include migrants and refugees in the vaccine rollout plan. Priority is being given to the frontline health workers and other vulnerable groups.
Our UN team also focused on coordination, procurement and distribution of vaccines, as well as supply-chain management and healthcare waste management.
We are also working with the Government on its communication strategy and community engagement to halt the spread of the virus and curb misinformation to ensure widespread public vaccination.
CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT/HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL REPORT
In her annual report to the Human Rights Council, Virginia Gamba, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said that she is deeply concerned about the pandemic’s adverse impact on children affected by armed conflict.
She urged Member States to take child rights into account in their measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure that child protection services can continue despite the pandemic. Ms. Gamba also stressed the importance for parties to conflict to respect the civilian nature of schools, health infrastructure, and associated protected personnel.
This is her report to the Human Rights Council; the annual report to the Security Council will come later this year.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) released its 2021 strategic action plan today, calling on the international community to do more to save lives of refugees taking risky routes towards the Mediterranean.
UNHCR is seeking over $100 million to enhance refugee protection in African countries en route to the Mediterranean.
Offering safe and viable alternatives to the perilous journeys, during which too many people are facing abuse and deaths, is the critical priority.
We warmly thank Slovakia for making it onto the Honour Roll, bringing the total number of countries which have paid their budget dues in full to 20.
***The guests at the Noon Briefing were Achim Steiner, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and Cassie Flynn, UNDP Climate Change Advisor. They briefed reporters on the results of UNDP’s global opinion poll on climate action, which was done in partnership with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.