We issued a statement yesterday on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh in which the Secretary-General said he is extremely concerned over the fresh resumption of hostilities along the line of contact in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone. He condemned the use of force and regretted the loss of life and the toll on the civilian population.
The Secretary-General strongly called on the sides to immediately stop fighting, de-escalate tensions and return to meaningful negotiations without preconditions or delay. He reiterated his full support for the important role of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs and urged the sides to work closely with them for an urgent resumption of dialogue without preconditions.
The Secretary-General just advised me that he just spoke to the President of Azerbaijan and he will be speaking very shortly with the Prime Minister of Armenia. He delivered, in his phone conversation, the same message which he had in the statement to the President of Azerbaijan, meaning the need for an immediate stop to the fighting and resumption without precondition of meaningful negotiations without delay under the umbrella of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and also for the immediate redeployment of OSCE monitors to the region. He will say the exactly the same thing to the Prime Minister of Armenia.
Turning to Syria, the UN remains concerned about the spread of COVID-19 cases across Syria, considering the low level of testing and tracing masks the real scope of the pandemic.
To date, the Syrian Ministry of Health has confirmed 4,072 cases, including 192 deaths. In the northeast, the number of confirmed cases continues to rise, with the last report two days ago identifying 1,464 confirmed cases, including 63 deaths. Some 825 lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases have also now been reported in northwest Syria, including six deaths.
As noted by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, in his latest Security Council briefing, it would only be possible to get a clearer picture of the situation once testing was stepped up.
Infection rates among health workers are also concerning throughout the country, including in the northwest where some one-third of all confirmed cases are health workers. The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to lead efforts to support increased distribution of Personal Protective Equipment where needed and to ensure the protection of healthcare workers, as well as training on their use.
WHO is leading UN preparedness and mitigation measures across Syria, including in the northwest and in the northeast.
In a statement we issued yesterday on Yemen, the Secretary-General welcomed the agreement between the parties to the Yemen conflict to release immediately 1,081 individuals who had been detained in connection with the conflict.
Mr. Guterres urged the parties to build on this momentum and finalize arrangements for the release of all remaining detainees. He is also grateful to the International Committee of the Red Cross for its tireless efforts as co-chair of the Supervisory Committee to ensure the implementation of the prisoner release agreement brokered, as you will recall, in Sweden in 2018, as well as to the Government of Switzerland for hosting the parties over the past week.
He calls on the parties to engage with Martin Griffiths, his Special Envoy, to agree on a Joint Declaration encompassing a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian measures, and the resumption of a comprehensive and inclusive political process to end the war.
Mr. Griffiths also added that, for [his part], the prisoner release will indicate that when the parties show good faith and willingness to compromise, peaceful negotiations can succeed. He called on the parties to build on this very important achievement and to move together towards a negotiated solution bringing lasting peace to Yemen.
Meanwhile, our humanitarian colleagues report that to date 2,034 cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in Yemen, including 588 deaths. The fatality rate is alarmingly high at nearly 29 per cent – six times the global average.
While the number of cases reported continues to show a decline, indicators suggest that the virus is still spreading.
Despite severe gaps in funding, the UN and humanitarian partners are scaling up the COVID-19 response. More than 14,000 metric tonnes of medical equipment, testing kits and medicine have been transported into the country with 2,250 more in the pipeline.
In a video message today to leaders who took part in the virtual Pledge for Nature, the Secretary-General said that a planetary emergency is upon us, driven by the dual threats of the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse. The Secretary-General added that we have failed to meet any of the biodiversity targets that were set in Japan ten years ago and called on countries to raise our ambition in the vital months between this week’s Biodiversity Summit and the Biodiversity COP15 next May in Kunming, China.
The Secretary-General also commended governments for participating today on the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which calls for 30 per cent of land and marine resources to be protected by 2030.
Turning to Lebanon, following a request from the Lebanese Armed Forces, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) today deployed a detachment of multinational forces to Beirut to assist Lebanese authorities with their efforts to deal with the aftermath of the tragic 4 August explosions.
The deployment early this morning follows the authorization by the Security Council for the Mission to take “temporary and special measures” to provide support to Lebanon and its people in the aftermath of the explosions. UNIFIL peacekeepers deployed to the Lebanese capital with heavy machinery and other equipment.
The assistance, which will be executed in three phases in about three weeks, is operating at the port, as well as in the city centre, with an engineer-centered task force. The main areas of support will be clearing of debris and construction work in order to facilitate the rapid resumption of operations in the Beirut harbor.
Today in Hurghada, Egypt, military and police teams from eastern and western Libya met and began security and military talks, in the framework of the ongoing 5+5 Joint Military Commission talks, with the facilitation of the UN Support Mission in Libya.
The UN Mission expects that the outcome of these face-to-face meetings will be mainstreamed into the 5+5 Joint Military Commission.
Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, at the end of a weeklong pre-electoral mission in Côte d’Ivoire, the Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, reiterated his call to all political actors to maintain their commitment to the organization of a peaceful and inclusive election in full respect for human rights.
The objective was to renew the UN’s support for the organization of the country’s presidential election, scheduled for October 31st and to encourage all those involved to work together in favour of peace and stability.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us torrential rains have affected nearly 550,000 people in Niger. According to government data, 69 people have died as a result of the rains that began in June and more than 43,000 houses have been destroyed.
More than16,000 hectares of cropland have been swamped by floods and over 19,000 animals, such as cows, have been killed.
This is increasing the vulnerability of already fragile populations and has led to the loss of livelihoods for many.
We, along with our humanitarian partners, are supporting the government’s response with coordinated multisectoral assistance. As of 21 September, 475 shelter kits have been distributed to refugees and internally displaced persons in the capital, Niamey, as well as in the Diffa region. In Niamey, 1,200 individual tarpaulins were also distributed.
In addition to this, 72,000 people have received assistance in various forms and over 20,000 affected households have received food.
Priority needs are food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, education and protection services. Additional funding is required to continue providing timely aid to the affected population.
The UN team in Zimbabwe, led by Resident Coordinator Maria Ribeiro, is supporting the new national strategy to recover better from COVID-19 for the Sustainable Development Goals. This plan targets 5.6 million people.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are helping some 4.5 million students with remote learning and advising on how to open schools safely.
WHO and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) this month helped more than 20,000 people in communities affected by last year’s Cyclone Idai. For its part, the World Food Programme reached more than 320,000 people across 22 districts in September.
In rural communities, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting 840,000 farmers, while UNAIDS continues to provide free anti-retroviral therapy to more than 1 million people living with HIV.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has helped some 20,000 migrants return to Zimbabwe, while UNFPA helped more than 3,000 survivors of gender-based violence this month.
New data released today by UN Women and UNDP shows that most countries are not doing enough to protect women and girls from the economic and social fallout caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The agencies found that 42 countries – or one-fifth of those analyzed – have no gender-sensitive measures in response to COVID-19. Only 25 countries, or 12 per cent of the world, have introduced measures that address violence against women and girls; support for unpaid care of children and the sick; and strengthening women’s economic security.
The Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, said that it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting women hard, and Achim Steiner, the head of UNDP, said the crisis provides an opportunity for countries to transform existing economic models towards a renewed social contract that prioritizes social justice and gender equality.
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR UNIVERSAL ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Today is the first International Day for Universal Access to Information, and this year, the Day focuses on to the right to information in times of crisis.
To mark the day, this morning, UNESCO held a virtual high-level event entitled “Access to Information - Saving Lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope.” The event examined issues affecting access to information in times of crisis, as well as constitutional, statutory and policy guarantees for public access to information during and beyond COVID-19.
Today, we say thank you very much to our friends in Trinidad and Tobago for their full payment to the regular budget of 2020. So far, 122 Member States have paid in full.
PRESS BRIEFINGS TOMORROW
At 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, the Secretary-General and the Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Canada will brief the press on the High-level Meeting with Heads of State and Government they are chairing on “Financing for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in the Era of COVID-19.”
At 12:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP); Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity; and Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. They will be here to brief you on the UN Summit on Biodiversity, which begins on 30 September.