Tag Archives: UN Member States

UN Secretary-General’s briefing to Member States on the Organization’s Response to COVID-19

New York, 27 March 2020

[as delivered]

I want to start by thanking the Presidents of the General Assembly, Security Council and the ECOSOC for their solidarity and for their determination and patience with which they have been

UNSG Antonio Guterres

facing the enormous practical and technical difficulties in the work of the bodies they preside.

I think what just happened demonstrates how these difficulties can occur and so my gratitude and my appreciation.

And I would like to express to all the distinguished delegates and colleagues and especially to the Permanent Representatives that, like me, are away from their countries – to express my solid solidarity as, like me, you are concerned about your families and friends in your home countries, and about the effect this crisis is having on your communities and nations.

As it was said, I am here together with five members of the Executive Committee. We are working sometimes very far away from each other, but I can tell you we have never worked so closely together in solidarity and coordination. I wanted them to participate in this session exactly to demonstrate that we are all as a team at the disposal of Member States. And so, all of them will be able to answer your questions, probably much better than myself.

And I want to add a note of heartfelt thanks to the courageous and hard-working staff of the United Nations, working in some of the most difficult and dangerous locations.

Excellencies,

We are taking all measures possible to keep staff safe.

I can report that our critical work is continuing largely uninterrupted.

Our business continuity plans are working.

We are able to procure goods and services, pay salaries and vendors, operate our data centres and protect our premises and staff.

Staff are motivated and committed to fulfilling their functions – here in New York and across the globe.

In New York, we have taken significant steps since mid-March to reduce the footprint in the building.

As you know, and always trying to be ahead of the curve in relation to the progression of the pandemic in the city, most of our staff have been working remotely, non-essential travel has been discouraged, guided tours have been suspended and non-mandated meetings and events cancelled.

Following the Executive Order by the Governor of New York last week, we have moved to full telecommuting.

Only those staff whose physical presence is absolutely necessary are coming to the building.

A dedicated website has been developed to keep the public, delegates and UN personnel up to date on the crisis and to provide resources to maintain wellness, including mental health, during this highly challenging time.

We have established a 24-hour hotline for information. and we are monitoring the well-being of directly impacted UN staff in New York and around the world.

The Permanent Missions of Member states are also encouraged to share information with the UN Medical Services.

To support staff, we paid this month’s salaries almost a week earlier than usual, taking into account that many had to make very dramatic adjustments in the way they live.

Answers to frequently asked questions on a host of issues — including telecommuting, cancellation of travel, rest and recuperation, and medical insurance — have been shared with all staff through webinars, video messages, letters and guidance notes and are available on the COVID-19 website.

All conference and related services have now switched into telecommuting mode with the difficulties and glitches that you have obviously have already witnessed, but with the determination to move ahead.

Documentation and publications continue to be processed. They are being distributed electronically and provided on-line for meeting participants. I have been doing everything possible, together with my colleagues, for all the reports that are due to the different bodies to be delivered and to be delivered on time.

Unfortunately, interpretation services are currently not available remotely but we are exploring options to provide this function.

Let me now turn to our work outside New York and in the field.

Over the course of last week, I had video conferences with all duty stations, Regional Economic Commissions, Resident Coordinators and Special Representatives in peacekeeping and and Special Envoys in political missions.

My message was three-fold: take all precautions to protect staff; adapt to ensure that critical functions continue; and work with host governments to support their efforts.

In early February, we activated a UN Crisis Management Team under the leadership of WHO, and the whole UN system is mobilized to work on critical issues.

Our Resident Coordinators and UN country teams are on the frontlines.

As of last week, 93 per cent of UN Country Teams reported being engaged with national authorities in preparing preparedness and response plans.

The Development Coordination Office is obtaining key data and collaborating with partners to deliver time-sensitive information and communications guidance.

We are holding weekly virtual meetings with the 129 Resident Coordinators to provide policy and operational support.

Many of our economists in Resident Coordinator’s Offices are collaborating with regional economic commissions and United Nations Country Teams to analyze the socio-economic impact of COVID-19.

These analyses will be important in deciding how best the UN can support countries in defining priorities and programming responses, particularly in ensuring that recovery from the pandemic supports and lifts the poorest and the most vulnerable.

We will also be issuing next week a report that will reinforce my calls for shared responsibility and global solidarity with a concrete road map for the UN response, and which will serve equally to empower governments and partners to act urgently. This report will be an absolutely instrument for all our Resident Coordinators and country teams to serve better the governments of the countries we work with.

To assist our peacekeeping operations and special political missions, a Field Support Group is developing solutions to enable missions to address the health crisis while delivering on their critical mandates.

Our medical staff have been assessing the capacities of our host countries and field entities, including the availability of laboratory testing and Personal Protective Equipment.

For countries with limited or no intensive care capacity, WHO has instituted the same MEDEVAC mechanism as for Ebola. We are working together with several Member States trying to create an operational MEDEVAC system that can grant assistance to our colleagues worldwide.

Standard Operating Procedures for the management of suspect cases in the workplace in a non-clinical setting have been disseminated to Resident Coordinators and Heads of Entities, and guidance on how duty stations can manage their first case has been sent out.

The United Nations has a well-established mechanism to coordinate supply chain support to countries, and 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.

We are also working with Troop Contributing Countries to manage rotations.

Moving troops in and out of countries during a global health pandemic is extremely challenging and we have postponed rotations.

Criteria are being developed to determine when rotations can take place in the current circumstances, and we are in close dialogue with host countries and troop contributing countries and police contributing countries in order to overcome the difficulties that exist today.

Let me now turn to broader UN-wide efforts to address the crisis and its aftermath.

On Monday, I called on warring parties to silence the guns and instead to help create corridors for life-saving aid and open precious windows for diplomacy. All my Special Envoys and Special Representatives are working hard to ensure that this appeal is positively responded and that the positive responses are followed by necessary measures in the form of coordination to allow the ceasefires to be effective.

On Wednesday, we launched a US$2 billion dollar global humanitarian response plan to fund the fight against COVID-19 in the world’s poorest countries.

We must come to the aid of the ultra-vulnerable – millions upon millions of people who are least able to protect themselves.

And yesterday, the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations and the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide called for people to stand up against the increase in hate crimes targeting individuals and groups perceived to be associated with the coronavirus.

I ask you all to support these appeals in whatever way you can.

I have also been advocating for action in three critical areas, including by addressing yesterday’s G20 summit:

First, to suppress the transmission of COVID-19 in a coordinated way as quickly as possible.

That must be our common strategy.

And that implies we need massive support to increase the response capacity of developing countries and those in the most fragile contexts.

Second, we must work together to minimize the social and economic impact.

While the liquidity of the financial systems must be assured, our overarching emphasis must be on the human dimension. This is a human crisis, not a financial one.

We need to concentrate on people, keeping households afloat and businesses solvent, able to pay their workers.

This will require a package reaching double-digit percentages of global Gross Domestic Product, including a global stimulus package to help developing countries that requires a massive investment by the international community.

We have been in close contact with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other International Financial Institutions for that purpose.

I also appealed for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Third, and finally, we must set the stage for recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy, guided by our shared promise — the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

All our efforts need to be underpinned by a strong commitment to respect for all human rights for everyone, without stigma.

Recovery must address the inequalities, including gender inequalities, that are leaving so many more people vulnerable to social and economic shocks.

And we are not only fighting a pandemic; in the words of Dr. Tedros, we are fighting an “infodemic”. Our common enemy is a virus, but our enemy is also a growing surge of misinformation. So to overcome this virus, we need to urgently promote facts and science. We also need to promote hope and solidarity over despair and division. We are therefore launching a COVID-19 Communications for Solidarity Initiative to rapidly inform the global public and promote and inspire acts of humanity around the world.

Today’s threats – from COVID to climate change – are global and must be addressed through multilateral cooperation.

That is what the United Nations continues to offer, even, and especially, in these trying times.

Thank you.

70 years of the Genocide Convention – demonstrating our commitment to the promise of “never again”

By Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

This year we will commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention

Mr. Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

Mr. Adama Dieng, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.

and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the Genocide Convention). The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty to be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, on 9 December 1948, just three years after the birth of the United Nations. Its adoption was largely the result of the tireless efforts of one man, Raphael Lemkin who, after losing most of his family in the Holocaust, was determined to do what he could to make sure that this crime could never happen again. Some six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, one of the most devastating human tragedies of the twentieth century, as well as many others whom the Nazis considered “undesirable”. The Genocide Convention represents the United Nations commitment to the often quoted “never again”; a commitment to learn from and not repeat history.

Regrettably, this commitment has often failed to translate into action, even when it has been most needed. We saw this in 1994 in the abject failure of the international community to prevent the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, which cost the lives of almost a million people in the space of 100 days. No more than a year later, we witnessed it again as the international community, including United Nations peacekeepers, looked away during the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Important progress has been made since – and because of – these failures. In 1998, the International Criminal Court was established, a permanent court already foreseen by the Genocide Convention in 1948. In 2005, the Secretary-General established the post of Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, a position I currently hold, to ensure that there is a voice within the United Nations system that can alert the Secretary-General and, through him, the Security Council, to early warning signs of genocide and advocate for preventative action before genocide becomes a reality.

In addition, at the 2005 World Summit all United Nations Member States made a ground-breaking commitment to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity (atrocity crimes) and to take collective action when States manifestly fail to do so, in accordance with and using the tools provided by the United Nations Charter. This has become known as the principle of “the responsibility to protect”

Despite these achievements and the continued commitment to “never again”, we have not managed to eradicate genocide. International crimes, including genocide, are a terrible reality faced by populations across the globe. We know the warning signs and we know how to prevent these crimes, but we often fail to act in time, or to act at all. In the Central African Republic, Iraq, Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria and in so many other places, people are being targeted because of their identity – because of the religion they practice, the culture in which they were raised or simply because of their distinctive physical characteristics. This is unacceptable.

We also fail to invest sufficiently in prevention, to build the resilience needed to address the risk factors for genocide, or to take timely and decisive action when we see the warning signs.

Our commitment to the Genocide Convention must be reinvigorated. The fact that we have not eradicated genocide is not because the Convention is flawed, but rather because its potential has not been fully realised. And despite universal rejection of genocide, some Member States have still not taken the fundamental step of ratifying the Convention.

At the time of writing, 145 States have ratified the Genocide Convention. Surprisingly, 45 United Nations Member States have not yet done so. Of these 20 are in Africa, 18 in Asia and seven in Latin America.

Universal ratification of the Convention is fundamental to demonstrate that genocide has no place in our world. That no one should fear discrimination, persecution or violence simply because of who they are.

What message are the States who have not ratified the Convention sending, 70 years after its adoption? That genocide could never happen within their borders? Genocide can happen anywhere. History has shown us time and again that no region or country is immune. Yet many States seem reluctant to even consider this a possibility or to undertake a critical evaluation of their risks and vulnerabilities.

In December last year, I launched an appeal for universal ratification of the Genocide Convention, urging the 45 United Nations Member States that have not done so to take steps to ratify or accede to the Convention before its 70th anniversary on 9 December 2018. The aim of this appeal is to refocus our attention on the Convention, underline its continued importance as the legal standard for ensuring the punishment of this crime, as well as its often-untapped potential as a tool for prevention.

The Genocide Convention, together with its sister treaties on human rights and the Rome statute for the International Criminal Court, remains the most important legal standard we have to fulfil the commitment to “never again” that the world made 70 years ago. For our own sakes, and for the sake of future generations: #PreventGenocide.

 

To learn more about the Convention and how you can support the appeal click here

To learn more about the Special Adviser and the work of his office click here