HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
FRIDAY, 27 MARCH 2020
This morning, in a historic virtual briefing, the Secretary-General briefed Member States on the UN's response to COVID-19.
He outlined how, in this time of crisis, the UN Secretariat is continuing its work, both in field and at headquarters. “Staff are motivated and committed to fulfilling their functions – here in New York and across the globe,” he said.
Guterres said the UN is taking all measures possible to keep staff safe and stressed that the business continuity plan is working, and the UN’s critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted.
In addition, in early February, a Crisis Management Team was activated to mobilize work on critical issues. He said that country teams are engaging with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans, and a Field Support Group is assisting peacekeeping missions to address the health crisis while delivering on their critical mandates.
The Secretary-General also noted that the UN has a well-established mechanism to coordinate supply chain support to countries, and that we stand ready to place the global network of supply chain of the different UN entities at the disposal of Member States for health supplies, medical staff and other needs.
The Secretary-General also reiterated his call for a global ceasefire and said his Special Envoys and Special Representatives are working hard to ensure that this appeal is followed by necessary measures to allow the ceasefires to be effective.
Guterres also underscored that there is a need to stand up against the increase in hate crimes targeting individuals and groups perceived to be associated with COVID-19.
In closing remarks, he reiterated that the world needs to show massive solidarity with the pandemic, as it spreads increasingly to the developing world. This massive solidarity will need to support developing countries not only in dealing with the pandemic itself, but also, with the socioeconomic impact that it will come afterwards.
In response to an update on the response to the Secretary-General’s call for global ceasefires as the world deals with the pandemic, the Spokesperson shared a few other examples.
In Colombia, there were calls from civil society for a “humanitarian truce” to be put in place once the COVID-19 pandemic started to unravel, even before the appeal. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative there has been relaying the message on a global ceasefire both publicly and in private engagements with stakeholders.
In Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy, welcomed the positive response from the parties to the Secretary-General’s call, calling all of the parties to meet urgently to discuss how to translate their stated commitments to the Yemeni people into practice.
From Syria, the Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen, welcomed the statement made by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) expressing their support for the Secretary-General's appeal. The Secretary-General calls on all other parties to the Syrian conflict to support his appeal and the special Envoy will be in touch and working with the parties to follow through on that.
With developments on the statement from the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), they are calling on all parties in Afghanistan also to take all measures to protect civilians and work towards a ceasefire.
In the UN peacekeeping missions in Cyprus, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mali, South Sudan and Sudan have all put out messages for local ceasefires in those countries.
In Timor Leste, the UN country team has been working with the Government to prevent a potential COVID-19 outbreak. There has already been one case confirmed in Timor Leste.
The UN team is holding regular briefings with partners and the Government in order to provide coordinated support.
And is also working with news outlets, civil society organizations, businesses, youth representatives, women leaders and others for a whole-of-society approach to prevention, preparedness, and response to the potential outbreak.
Our colleagues from the World Food Programme have launched an interactive map that shows how children’s access to school meals has been disrupted by pandemic.
As of now, about 364 million schoolchildren worldwide are missing out on school meals.
This includes 11 million children, in 48 countries, who are no longer receiving WFP school meals - in many cases, that is the only nutritious meal they receive during the day. This number is unfortunately set to rise. More information on the WFP website.
COVID-19/SHIPPING OF VITAL SUPPLIES
UNICEF is also helping out by procuring and shipping vital supplies around the world, including desperately required personal protective equipment to affected countries.
The UNICEF is engaged with about 1,000 suppliers and industry leaders to find a solution to current market constraints.
COVID-19/WOMEN AND GIRLS
In a statement issued by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), its Executive Director Natalia Kanem warned that women, girls, and health workers must not be overlooked in the global response.
They have launched an appeal to donors, targeting countries with weak public health and social support systems.
The UNFPA that is important not to forget some of the people who are at great risk. Among them, pregnant women who need antenatal care but are unsure if it is safe to go to the clinic, or the women in abusive relationships trapped at home for the foreseeable future and fearing for their safety.
The International Migration Agency (IOM) is monitoring border movements in the Thailand region and looking at borders with Myanmar, Cambodia and the Lao, as migrant workers return.
There is a risk that these returns could lead to the seeding of new clusters of COVID-19 in those areas.
The UN authorities are helping to meet immediate needs on return, including shelter, food, and hygiene kits.
UNESCO today voiced its concerns about the safety of journalists when reporting on the global pandemic.
The agency emphasized that journalistic work can save lives in the current emergency situation and that journalists' physical and psychological safety should come first. UNESCO also warned that freelance journalists are especially vulnerable, as they do not always have access to the same resources and support as staff journalists.
Media organizations should ensure that they are trained on sanitary precautions and equipped with protective material.
And an update on how we are working at our various Headquarters stations around the world:
At UN Headquarters in New York, the number of swipes coming into the building today stood at 140. Prior to restrictions being put in place in early March, there were usually about 11,000 swipes.
In Geneva, the number of people coming to the Palais has dropped from around 4,000 people on a regular day to just about 70 yesterday.
And in Vienna, more than 97 per cent of staff at the Vienna International Centre are now working remotely.
Meanwhile, in Addis Ababa, the UN staff are telecommuting, with about 99% of staff working from home. These are staff working at the UN Economic Commission for Africa and the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in Chile, has also put measures into place.
In terms of numbers, as of today, 86 UN staff members around the world have reported cases of COVID-19. Most of these staff members are in Europe, but there are also staff members in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and here in the United States.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today expressed concern over the mounting casualties suffered by civilians and growing displacement due to stepped up clashes in the country’s west area.
At least 21 civilians have reportedly died when a series of clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Arakan Army hit villages on the border between Rakhine and Chin states earlier this month.
Human rights colleagues also have updates today on the situation in Hungary, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.
More information on their website.
And we want to thank our friends in Nassau, in the Bahamas, who despite this ongoing crisis have paid their regular budget dues in full, which bring us to 75 member states who have done so.
Lets go to the questions.