Category Archives: UN System-Wide Press Releases

Critical work of UN ‘largely uninterrupted’, despite unprecedented challenge of COVID-19

27 March 2020

Photo: United Nations/Reem Abaza. The President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, takes part in a remote briefing to UN Member States on the coronavirus crisis.

27 March 2020

In his welcoming remarks, the UN General Assembly President underscored the value of safety and solidarity in the face of a crisis that has affected practically every corner of the globe.

“Although we are not sitting together, be rest assured that we are in this together”, said Tijjani Muhammad Bande. “We must lead by example. We must stay at home, abide by social distancing recommendations, wash our hands, and look out for one another”.

Mr. Bande reported that thanks to technology, the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee was able to make important budget decisions during this time.

He said countries must not only defeat the new coronavirus: they also have to mitigate its social and economic impacts, stating that “we need to galvanise multilateral action now to protect gains made towards the eradication of poverty and zero hunger, as this crisis puts a strain on food production and supply chains, among others”.

Changes at the Security Council

The UN Security Council has had to change its working methods due to the pandemic.

Ambassador Zhang Jun of China, Council President for March, reported that despite difficulties, members have been holding meetings by video teleconference.

“We know that Member States are very much keen to know what’s happening in the Security Council. What’s true is that the new situation does create a lot of difficulties through maintaining transparency, but we are working very hard on that”, he said.

So far, the Council agenda has included “hotspot issues” such as the situations in Libya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Members have also issued statements condemning deadly attacks in Afghanistan and against peacekeepers in the Central African Republic. They are also set to act soon on several draft resolutions.

Development gains under threat

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which is at the heart of the UN’s work in advancing sustainable development, has not stopped working, President Mona Juul told countries.

However, she warned of the pandemic’s threat to development gains, particularly in the world’s most vulnerable countries, while the need for humanitarian relief is urgent.

“Beyond immediate humanitarian aid, developing countries will need support to lessen the overall socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis. In this, the UN must play a key role”, said Ms. Juul.

“We need joint UN efforts to assist developing countries in their recovery and in building more resilient health systems”.

As response will require substantial financing, she welcomed recent announcements on economic support by G-20 countries, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund.

Communications for Solidarity

The UN Secretary-General participated in the G-20 virtual summit on Thursday, where he pressed for collective action and financial support to stop the virus and minimize its impact.

António Guterres updated Member States on measures taken to protect UN staff globally as they execute the Organization’s mandates, underlining that “our critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted”.

“Our Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams are on the frontlines”, he said. As of last week, 93 per cent of teams, reported “being engaged with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans.”

The UN chief urged countries to support initiatives announced this week, such as his appeal for a global ceasefire, a humanitarian response fund for the world’s poorest countries, and a call to stand against increasing hate crimes targeting people perceived to be associated with spreading the coronavirus.

He also announced the launch of a communications strategy aimed at fighting misinformation around the pandemic.

The COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative will inform the global public and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world. [Ends]

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 18 March 2020

WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the 18 March 2020 briefing on Covid-19 and the media briefing that followed is available on Youtube:

The text of his opening remarks is reproduced below:

It’s now more than a month since the last case of Ebola in DRC. If it stays that way, the outbreak will be declared over in less than a month’s time.

We’d like to thank all our partners for their solidarity in staying the course in the service of the people of DRC – and my special appreciation to the government and people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That same spirit of solidarity must be at the centre of our efforts to defeat COVID-19.

More than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported to WHO, and more than 8000 people have lost their lives.

More than 80% of all cases are from two regions – the Western Pacific and Europe.

We know that many countries now face escalating epidemics and are feeling overwhelmed.

We hear you. We know the tremendous difficulties you face and the enormous burden you’re under. We understand the heart-wrenching choices you are having to make.

We understand that different countries and communities are in different situations, with different levels of transmission.

Every day, WHO is talking to ministers of health, heads of state, health workers, hospital managers, industry leaders, CEOs and more – to help them prepare and prioritize, according to their specific situation.

Don’t assume your community won’t be affected. Prepare as if it will be.

Don’t assume you won’t be infected. Prepare as if you will be.

But there is hope. There are many things all countries can do.

Physical distancing measures – like cancelling sporting events, concerts and other large gatherings – can help to slow transmission of the virus.

They can reduce the burden on the health system.

And they can help to make epidemics manageable, allowing targeted and focused measures.

But to suppress and control epidemics, countries must isolate, test, treat and trace.

If they don’t, transmission chains can continue at a low level, then resurge once physical distancing measures are lifted.

WHO continues to recommend that isolating, testing and treating every suspected case, and tracing every contact, must be the backbone of the response in every country. This is the best hope of preventing widespread community transmission.

Most countries with sporadic cases or clusters of cases are still in the position to do this.

Many countries are listening to our call and finding solutions to increase their ability to implement the full package of measures that have turned the tide in several countries.

But we know that some countries are experiencing intense epidemics with extensive community transmission.

We understand the effort required to suppress transmission in these situations. But it can be done.

A month ago, the Republic of Korea was faced with accelerating community transmission. But it didn’t surrender.

It educated, empowered and engaged communities;

It developed an innovative testing strategy and expanded lab capacity;

It rationed the use of masks;

It did exhaustive contact tracing and testing in selected areas;

And it isolated suspected cases in designated facilities rather than hospitals or at home.

As a result, cases have been declining for weeks. At the peak there were more than 800 cases, and today the report was only 90 cases.

WHO is working in solidarity with other countries with community transmission to apply the lessons learned in Korea and elsewhere, and adapt them to the local context.

Likewise, WHO continues to recommend that, wherever possible, confirmed mild cases should be isolated in health facilities, where trained professionals can provide good medical care, and prevent clinical progression and onward transmission.

If that’s not possible, countries can use community facilities to isolate and care for mild cases and refer them for specialized care quickly if needed.

If health facilities are at risk of being overwhelmed, people with mild disease can be cared for at home.

Although this is not the ideal situation, WHO has advice on our website for how home-care can be provided as safely as possible.

WHO continues to call on all countries to implement a comprehensive approach, with the aim of slowing down transmission and flattening the curve.

This approach is saving lives and buying time for the development of vaccines and treatments.

As you know, the first vaccine trial has begun, just 60 days after the genetic sequence of the virus was shared by China. This is an incredible achievement.

We commend the researchers around the world who have come together to systemically evaluate experimental therapeutics.

Multiple small trials with different methodologies may not give us the clear, strong evidence we need about which treatments help to save lives.

WHO and its partners are therefore organizing a study in many countries in which some of these untested treatments are compared with each other.

This large, international study is designed to generate the robust data we need, to show which treatments are the most effective.

We have called this study the SOLIDARITY trial.

The SOLIDARITY trial provides simplified procedures to enable even hospitals that have been overloaded to participate.

Many countries have already confirmed that they will join the SOLIDARITY trial – Argentina, Bahrain, Canada, France, Iran, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and Thailand – and I trust many more will join.

I continue to be inspired by the many demonstrations of solidarity from all over the world.

The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund has now raised more than US$43 million from more than 173,000 individuals and organizations, a few days since we launched it. I’d especially like to thank FIFA for its contribution of US$10 million.

These and other efforts give me hope that together, we can and will prevail.

This virus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat. But it’s also an unprecedented opportunity to come together as one against a common enemy – an enemy against humanity.

I thank you.

Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, 10 December 2019

GENEVA (9 December 2019) – This has been a year of tremendous activism – notably by young people. It is particularly fitting that this year we mark Human Rights Day during the crucial UN conference in Madrid to uphold climate justice. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those millions of children, teenagers and young adults who have been standing up and speaking out more and more loudly about the crisis facing our planet.

Rightly, these young people are pointing out that it is their future which is at stake, and the future of all those who have not yet even been born. It is they who will have to bear the full consequences of the actions, or lack of action, by the older generations who currently run governments and businesses, the decision-makers on whom the future of individual countries, regions and the planet as whole depends.

It cannot, of course, be left to young people alone to tackle the climate emergency, or indeed the many other human rights crises that are currently causing simultaneous turbulence in so many countries across the world. All of us must stand together, in solidarity, and act with principle and urgency.

We can, and must, uphold the painstakingly developed universal human rights principles that sustain peace, justice and sustainable development. A world with diminished human rights is a world that is stepping backwards into a darker past, when the powerful could prey on the powerless with little or no moral or legal restraint.

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Press Release: Stateless people in Zamboanga to get citizen benefits — UN Refugee Agency

As a young girl, Wanita Arajani lived the traditional life of her nomadic people, who roamed from the Philippines to Malaysia and Indonesia by boat, living from the sea. Few went to school, learned to read or write, or had citizenship.


“Before, having a birth certificate was not relevant or a priority,” explains Wanita, now a grandmother in her 70s, as she sits outside the wooden house on stilts, east of Zamboanga city in the Philippines where her family now lives.

That life changed abruptly in 2013 when the Zamboanga conflict erupted after armed militants attempted to assert autonomy. Ensuing clashes drove her family and thousands of others to seek shelter in government-run evacuation centres.

 

Teachers at the evacuation centres encouraged families to send their children to nearby schools. It was then that Wanita learned that her granddaughter would need a birth certificate to be able to progress through the education system.

She also discovered that documentation would be vital for family members to avoid arrest during security sweeps, and to allow the long-marginalized community access to health care and housing in the Philippines.

“It has been difficult for us to access services and we always feared discrimination.”

“It has been difficult for us to access services and we always feared discrimination, because we were Sama Bajau,” says Wanita. “But when we get a birth certificate, we will feel more respected and be able to live life with dignity. I will feel valued as a citizen.”

The Philippines is the only country in South-East Asia to have adopted a national action plan to end statelessness. It has identified the Sama Bajau as one of five population groups at risk. It is thought there are 10,000 -15,000 Sama Bajau living in Zamboanga alone, around 85 per cent of whom have no birth certificates.

  • Residents go about their lives in the Valle Vista resettlement community near Zamboanga city, Philippines. The community comprises Sama Bajau and ethnic Tausug people.
    Residents go about their lives in the Valle Vista resettlement community near Zamboanga city, Philippines. The community comprises Sama Bajau and ethnic Tausug people. © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

As part of a concerted push to resolve their situation, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has worked closely with the community, the local government authorities and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples since 2016.

A pilot project supported by UNHCR and UNICEF, which begins in October, seeks to register 1,500 people in the community. Working closely with the government authorities, including a mobile unit of the Civil Registrar’s Office, the aim is to issue families with documentation by mid-December.

“When they get their identification documents, it gives them better opportunities, particularly when it comes to getting an education and learning to read and write,” says Meriam Palma, UNHCR field associate for protection, who works on statelessness issues.

“It’s an important tool for them to be able to assert their rights as a tribe and as a people,” she adds.

Before the drive got underway, Wanita had already succeeded in obtaining a birth certificate for her 15-year-old granddaughter Pirina, which she needed to be allowed to graduate from elementary school and attend junior high.

Philippines. UNHCR helps marginalised indigenous group avoid statelessness

Pirina, 15, the granddaughter of Wanita Arajani, poses for a portrait at her family’s home near Zamboanga city, Philippines.  © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

“I’m the only one in the family to have completed my elementary schooling,” says Pirina, whose graduation photo hangs in pride of place on the wall of the family home.

She says that she loves school because she likes learning, and the teachers are kind and good to her. She is also clear about how having a birth certificate will help her in the future. “It will make it easier to have the chance to apply for jobs and find work.”

“You are our family’s hope,” interjects her grandmother. “Because I’m illiterate, we are clinging on to you to help us.”

Wanita is also excited that the rest of her family will soon benefit from the pilot project.

“The future is clearer and brighter. It’s like you are giving us a kerosene light to brighten our path.”

“I’m so happy.I will have peace of mind,” she says. “Although it’s too late for my sons and daughters, I’ll focus on trying to make sure all my grandsons and granddaughters can go to school. I feel it’s their new hope to have a better life. I’ll do my best to send them to school as long as I’m alive.”

The Sama Bajau regard the sea as their home and living far from it was not their choice. They were compelled to move under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act, which declared protected areas, including the coast where they live as no build zones. But having rights on dry land is also vital to them.

“The future is clearer and brighter. It’s like you are giving us a kerosene light to brighten our path and give us hope,” she says with a big smile.

Worldwide millions of people like Wanita are at risk of statelessness and millions more are not recognized by any country as citizens and are stateless. This can mean that basic things that most people take for granted, such as free movement, access to medical treatment, education, seeking a job or even buying a SIM card for a mobile phone, can be a daily battle. [Ends]

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IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land

Land is a Critical Resource, IPCC report says
It is under pressure from humans and climate change, but it is part of the solution

GENEVA, Aug 8 – Land is already under growing human pressure and climate change is adding to these pressures. At the same time, keeping global warming to well below 2oC can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors including land and food, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its latest report on Thursday.

The IPCC, the world body for assessing the state of scientific knowledge related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options, saw the Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) approved by the world’s governments on Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland.

It will be a key scientific input into forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14) in New Delhi, India in September and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, Chile, in December.

“Governments challenged the IPCC to take the first ever comprehensive look at the whole land- climate system. We did this through many contributions from experts and governments worldwide. This is the first time in IPCC report history that a majority of authors – 53% – are from developing countries,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

This report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2oC, if not 1.5oC.

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Press Release: Financing for Sustainable Development Report 2019

10 April 2019, Bangkok (ESCAP News) — Sixty-plus international organizations, led by the United Nations and including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank Group and World Trade Organization, jointly sounded the alarm in a new report, warning that unless national and international financial systems are revamped, the world’s governments will fail to keep their promises on such critical issues as combatting climate change and eradicating poverty by 2030.

In their 2019 Financing for Sustainable Development Report, the international organizations find some good news: investment has gained strength in some countries and interest in sustainable investing is growing, with 75 per cent of individual investors showing interest in how their investments affect the world.

And yet, greenhouse gas emissions grew 1.3 per cent in 2017; investment in many countries is falling; and 30 developing countries are now at high risk or already in debt distress. At the same time, global growth is expected to have peaked at around 3 per cent.

Changing the current trajectory in financing sustainable development is not just about raising additional investment, says the report. Achieving global goals depends on supportive financial systems, and conducive global and national policy environments.

Yet the report warns that creating favourable conditions is becoming more challenging. Rapid changes in technology, geopolitics, and climate are remaking our economies and societies, and existing national and multilateral institutions — which had helped lift billions out of poverty — are now struggling to adapt. Confidence in the multilateral system has been undermined, in part because it has failed to deliver returns equitably, with most people in the world living in countries with increasing inequality.

“Trust in the multilateral system itself is eroding, in part because we are not delivering inclusive and sustainable growth for all,” said António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his foreword to the report. “Our shared challenge is to make the international trading and financial systems fit for purpose to advance sustainable development and promote fair globalization.”

The international agencies recommend concrete steps to overhaul the global institutional architecture and make the global economy and global finance more sustainable, including:

  • supporting a shift towards long-term investment horizons with sustainability risks central to investment decisions;
  • revisiting mechanisms for sovereign debt restructuring to respond to more complex debt instruments and a more diverse creditor landscape;
  • revamping the multilateral trading system;
  • addressing challenges to tax systems that inhibit countries from mobilizing adequate resources in an increasingly digitalized world economy; and
  • addressing growing market concentration that extends across borders, with impacts on inequality.

At the national level, the report puts forward a roadmap for countries to revamp their public and private financial systems to mobilize resources for sustainable investment. It introduces tools for countries to align financing policies with national sustainable development strategies and priorities.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) has produced a complementary report on “Financing for Development in Asia and the Pacific: Highlights in the Context of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, 2019 Edition”. Among other findings, the ESCAP report emphasizes the importance of raising public resources to finance urban infrastructure development in a context of breakneck urbanization and enhancing capacity-building efforts in the area of infrastructure financing and public-private partnerships.

The ESCAP report also underlines the need to scale up investments and international development cooperation to facilitate the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region. “In a region as diverse as ours,” pointed out Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, “investment needs vary considerably. Least developed countries need to invest the most at 16 per cent of GDP while South and South-West Asia has an investment need of 10 per cent of GDP to reach the goals by 2030.”

Finally, the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific in partnership with the Asian Development Bank has prepared another complementary report entitled “Integrated Financial Solutions: How Countries are Innovating to Finance the Sustainable Development Goals”. Based on more than 40 case studies from around the world, the report documents integration efforts across public and private financing of the SDGs, with a focus on the connection between planning processes, budgeting and policies to engage the private sector.

The Task Force report is available at http://developmentfinance.un.org/fsdr2019.

The ESCAP report is available at https://www.unescap.org/resources/financing-development-asia-and-pacific-highlights-context-addis-ababa-action-agenda-2019

The UNDP report is available at http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/library/sustainable-development/integrated-financing-solutions.html

Application open for Reham Al-Farra Journalism Fellowship

Manila, 21 March 2019 — The Department of Global Communications (DGC) is accepting applications for the 2019 Reham Al-Farra (RAF) Memorial Journalism Fellowship, which will be held at UN Headquarters in New York from 15 September to 5 October 2019.

The Fellowship will bring a select group of young journalists from around the world to United Nations Headquarters to cover the General Assembly, interview senior officials, and attend special briefings and workshops.

The Fellowship is open to full-time journalists between the ages of 22 and 35 from countries with developing and transitioning economies. A full list of eligible countries is available at https://outreach.un.org/raf/eligibility.

The Fellowship covers the cost of roundtrip air travel to New York and provides a daily subsistence allowance.

Applications must be submitted online at https://outreach.un.org/raf/applyThe application deadline is 15 April 2019.

This Fellowship commemorates the memory of Reham Al-Farra (photo above), a Jordanian diplomat and journalist who was murdered in the Canal Hotel bombing in 2003. Only 29 years old when killed, she served as a Minister of Public Information and for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Victims focus of UN strategy to stop sexual abuse by UN personnel

On Monday, 18 March, the Secretary-General’s report on “Special Measures for the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse:  Implementing a Zero-Tolerance Policy” was issued in New York.

The report contains information on and a series of charts that outline the nature of allegations reported for UN peace operations, for UN entities other than peace operations, implementing partners, and for non-UN forces operating under a Security Council mandate.

In his report, the Secretary-General updates the General Assembly on the efforts that the UN system has undertaken in 2018 to address this scourge, including highlighting the victim-centered approach.

Please find below the Report highlights.

Highlights of the Report:

Overview of 2018 Data on Allegations

In 2018, there were 148 allegations system-wide and 111 for non-UN related entities. The total in 2017 and 2016, respectively was 138 and 165 allegations.

Peacekeeping and Special Political Missions

The number of cases of sexual exploitation and abuse reported for peacekeeping has decreased, with 54 allegations reported in 2018, compared with 62 and 104 reported in 2017 and 2016, respectively. The majority (74 per cent) of the allegations received in 2018 are from the peacekeeping missions in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), with the remaining 26 per cent associated with the operations in Mali (MINUSMA), Haiti (MINUSTAH), Liberia (UNMIL), and South Sudan (UNMISS).

The allegations reported for peacekeeping missions were associated with 94 victims, of whom 83% cent were adults and 17% were children. Alleged perpetrators included 64 military, 14 police and 14 civilian personnel. Of the allegations reported in 2018, 20 (37% involved sexual abuse and 34 (63%) sexual exploitation of an adult

There were no allegations reported for special political missions in 2018.

Other United Nations system entities and their implementing partners

In 2018, 94 allegations against UN personnel in entities other than peacekeeping were reported.

Reports of allegations related to personnel of implementing partners has increased to 109 in 2018, from 25 in 2017, suggesting that awareness-raising and outreach efforts are having an impact and that there is increased trust among victims and witnesses and increased understanding of the need to report.

Non-United Nations forces authorized by a Security Council mandate

2 allegations were reported for such forces in 2018.  There was 1 allegation in 2017 and 20 in 2016.

You may download the Report at the link below:

2019 — SG Report on SEA — Key Messages and Highlights

Annexes are available at the link below:

https://www.un.org/preventing-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse/sites/www.un.org.preventing-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse/files/data_annexes_to_the_sgs_special_measures_report_20190318.pdf

 

Last interview with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

The four-year mandate of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, ends on 31 August 2018.

His last major interview with UN News went live today, 15 August (New York time).

The script of the interview is herein attached: 10 Aug 18 Zeid SCRIPT_FINAL

Below are the links to the UN News story, video (English) and podcast (English, 15 min.)
News link:
https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/08/1017052

Video link:

https://youtu.be/0-btEj2J2bM

Podcast link:
https://news.un.org/en/audio/2018/08/1017022