HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STEPHANE DUJARRIC​,
​​SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
THURSDAY, 17 JUNE 2021

SECRETARY-GENERAL’S PRESS ENCOUNTER
As a reminder, there is an election taking place in the General Assembly tomorrow. The Secretary-General will deliver remarks, should everything go according to plan. He will then speak to you in person at the stakeout outside of the General Assembly.

RUSSIA-UNITED STATES SUMMIT
In a statement on the summit meeting that wrapped up in Geneva yesterday and on the Joint Statement on Strategic Stability which was issued afterwards:
The Secretary-General welcomes the Joint Statement on Strategic Stability issued by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States following yesterday’s summit, especially the reaffirmation of their adherence to the principle that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.
Furthermore, the Secretary-General welcomes the intention of the Russian Federation and the United States to engage in an integrated bilateral Strategic Stability Dialogue and he expresses his hope that this would lead to concrete arms control measures, including further reductions in the size of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals.

MIDDLE-INCOME COUNTRIES
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the High-Level meeting on Middle-Income Countries. The event took place in the General Assembly Hall.
He said that middle-income countries are a key presence at the United Nations, accounting for 70 per cent of the global population. He noted that they are being squeezed from two sides: First, their rising labour costs make them unable to compete with lower-cost countries; second, they are unable to compete in skill-intensive and higher value-added exports. Avoiding this trap, he said, requires redesigning development strategies and gradually shifting to higher-value-added sectors, with a focus on innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth.
He added that these countries also face varying levels of access to financial markets, and diverse social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities, but that these are often overlooked as a result of a false perception that income is the only measure of development. Mr. Guterres underscored that these vulnerabilities only worsened with the pandemic and called for increased financing and a new debt mechanism which could provide more options for these countries.

VENEZUELAN REFUGEES AND MIGRANTS
The Secretary-General also spoke, in a pre-recorded video message, to the International Donors’ Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants, which is being hosted by Canada in collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration.
The Secretary-General said that after six consecutive years of economic contraction, the situation in Venezuela continues to impose great hardship on the living conditions and well-being of its people, forcing many to leave. He added that Venezuelan refugees and migrants are facing increasing discrimination and xenophobia and are finding it difficult to access institutional protection.
The Secretary-General stressed the need for inclusive policies that promote the socioeconomic integration of migrants and refugees and reiterated the UN’s continued support to governments, civil society and host communities to respond to the pressing needs in the region.
He also underscored that Venezuelan refugees and migrants must be included in all vaccination efforts if we are to effectively mitigate the impact of the pandemic.                                                

MYANMAR
On reports of the Myanmar Government forces burning down villages in Kin Ma in Magway Region on 15 June, the Secretary-General is deeply concerned and disturbed by these reports which remind us of the systematic burning of villages in North Rakhine state which we saw in the past and which led to the dramatic exodus of the Rohingya people.
The Secretary-General continues to strongly condemn the continued repression by the security forces against civilians across the country, which again is having major regional ramifications and requires a unified international response.
Our colleagues in the country team in Myanmar say that the recent violence, including the burning of villages, illustrates the sharp deterioration of the human rights environment in Myanmar.
In addition to the burned villages, our colleagues pointed to the discovery of two mass graves in Myawaddy Township in Kayin State which contained the remains of 25 people who were reportedly detained on 31 May by the Karen National Defense Organization.
We once again call on all involved in the current crisis to ensure that international human rights norms and standards are respected.
This includes minimizing harm to civilians and to civilian infrastructure, as well as prohibiting collective punishment against communities, families or individuals. We also call for those responsible for human rights violations to be held accountable.
Tomorrow, the Security Council will hold a private meeting on Myanmar tomorrow. The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, speak to reporters afterwards.

LEBANON
The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka, today called on countries taking part in a French-hosted virtual conference in support of the Lebanese Armed Forces to do everything in their power to meet the immediate emergency needs of Lebanon’s military institution, which has been deeply affected by the economic crisis the country faces. 
She noted the pivotal role played by the Lebanese army in safeguarding Lebanon’s security and stability and in the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701. She said that meeting the army’s immediate material and human needs was necessary to keep it functioning and added the UN will support the Armed Forces in instituting follow-up arrangements for today’s conference.

ETHIOPIA
An update on the situation in Ethiopia: Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the security and access situation in Tigray remains complex and extremely fluid, with active hostilities impeding people’s access to aid and the movement of aid workers.
In May, last month, more than 500 cases of gender-based violence, including rape, were reported. This includes about 70 reported cases against girls under 18.
Our humanitarian colleagues expect the actual number of cases to be significantly higher, given the underreporting due to fear of stigmatization, retaliation, limited access to trusted service providers, and widespread impunity for perpetrators.
Despite challenges, humanitarian partners are scaling up the response as quickly as possible. Under the latest response plan for Northern Ethiopia, since 1 May, more than 2.3 million people out of the targeted 5.2 million have been reached with food aid.  This includes 654,000 people who were reached last week alone.
The response is however still not keeping pace with the mounting needs. We continue to call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access. More funding is also urgently needed.

COVID-19/BRAZIL
In Brazil, our UN team there, led by the Resident Coordinator, Silvia Rucks, continues supporting national and local authorities to address the multiple impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF set up water distribution areas in four sheltering facilities that host Venezuelan refugees and migrants in the Amazon region.
For its part, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), along with authorities, have opened a space for refugees and migrants that will provide documentation, legal advice and psychosocial assistance. UNHCR, UN Women, and the UN Global Compact and have also launched an initiative to boost livelihoods and empower refugee women, with a four-week training course on sales and customer services for Venezuelan women.
As part of the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour and the World Day Against Child Labour, the International Labour Organization, as well the Brazilian Federal Labour Prosecutor’s Office and itspartners launched a national campaign in Brazil to raise awareness and combat child labour, a risk that has intensified globally with school closures due to the pandemic.

DESERTIFICATION
Today is the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. In his message, the Secretary-General said that land can be our greatest ally, but that right now it is suffering.
He said that land degradation from climate change and the expansion of agriculture, cities and infrastructure is undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people, harming biodiversity and enabling the emergence of infectious diseases, such as COVID-19.
He added that restoring degraded land is simple and inexpensive. It could generate an extra $1.4 trillion dollars in agricultural production each year.  He called on countries to make healthy land central to all their planning.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION/SUICIDE
The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. According to its latest estimates published today, every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer – or war and homicide.
WHO’s data shows that in 2019, more than 700,000 people died by suicide. This represents one in every 100 deaths.
To help countries improve suicide prevention and care, WHO also released comprehensive guidance with four main strategies. Among them are limiting access to the means of suicide, educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide, and supporting adolescents.

FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION
Today, we have a Member State that paid its dues in full, becoming the 109th to do so, and the main port of that Member State lies on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Demerara River. Anybody know what country that is? It is Guyana, and we thank our friends in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, for paying its budget dues in full!