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Libyan rivals conclude talks on key security and military issues

Police and military officers from the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the rival Libyan National Army (LNA) met in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada for talks facilitated by the mission. 

Libya fell into chaos following the 2011 overthrow of former leader, the late Muammar Gaddafi, leading to two rival administrations, with the GNA in the capital, Tripoli, while the LNA controls large areas of the east. 

A spirit of mutual trust 

The discussions in Egypt, which ended on Tuesday, were marked by “a spirit of responsibility, transparency and mutual trust”, UNSMIL said in a statement issued that day. 

“They addressed a number of pressing security and military issues, including confidence-building measures; security arrangements in an area to be defined at a later stage within the framework of the 5+5 Joint Military Committee (JMC) talks; in addition to tasks and responsibilities of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG).” 

The 5+5 JMC talks began earlier this year in Geneva, bringing together five senior officers from each side. 

The talks in Hurghada ended with a series of recommendations which will be presented to its members. 

Moving forward 

The parties urged the 5+5 JMC to swiftly resume face-to-face meetings starting next week, while all people detained on account of their identity or origin should be released “without pre-conditions or restrictions”. Additionally, a prisoner exchange should occur before the end of October. 

They also called for ending hate speech campaigns, replacing hatred “with a discourse of tolerance and reconciliation”, as well as rejection of violence and terrorism. 

Other recommendations included expediting the re-opening of air traffic and land transportation across Libya to ensure freedom of movement of all citizens. 

Participants also called for the 5+5 JMC to prioritize the PFG issue, and to take measures to ensure the regular production and export of oil and gas. 

Gratitude and hope 

“UNSMIL expresses its sincere gratitude to the Government of Egypt for its efforts in facilitating this important round of Libyan talks”, the statement continued. 

“The Mission equally appreciates the efforts of both delegations and welcomes the outcomes reached during the discussion. UNSMIL hopes that this positive development will contribute to paving the way towards a final and lasting ceasefire agreement.”

LIVE: UN chief, Prince Charles, rally ‘coalition of the willing’ to end biodiversity destruction


‘Rescue the planet’s fragile tapestry of life’

Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (file), by ECA

Volkan Bozkir, the President of the General Assembly and the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, have just spoken, giving their recaps of the Summit and delivered a rousing call to action.

Ms. Mohammed reminded delegates that, in a global consultation organized for the UN´s 75th Anniversary, involving more than one million people, climate change and the destruction of the natural environment were raised as the most overwhelming concerns. 

Today’s discussions, she said, have highlighted actions and commitments being made around the world, to “bend the curve of biodiversity loss” and move towards a nature-positive world. However, she warned, to “rescue the planet’s fragile tapestry of life”, we need vastly more ambition and action

High ambitions have been set, she continued, and now they need to be taken forward at an international level and delivered on the ground, to ensure that people benefit from the sustainable use of biodiversity.

“The bottom line”, she said, “is that investing in nature is investing in a sustainable future”, and there is an opportunity to look forward to a post-COVID-19 world that is people-centred and planet-sensitive. 

Laying the foundation for Kunming

For Mr. Bozkir, the initiatives and commitments announced at the event had laid the foundations for the biodiversity COP15, due to take place in Kunming, China, next year.

The event, he said, had reminded him that humankind is capable of incredible feats of science and engineering, of deep compassion and consideration, and given him hope.

The necessary transformation, however, will require efforts to mobilize public and private financing to support nature-based solutions and disaster risk reduction, and political will and leadership, to create pro-nature laws and regulations.

Nevertheless, said the General Assembly President, it was encouraging to see that multilateralism continues to deliver the needs of the people served by the UN, and called on delegates to ensure that their efforts will be remembered 75 years from now.

And, as the Summit ends with a musical performance from Indian composer Ricky Kej, we’ll say goodbye from UN News, and thanks for following us!


UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, addresses the UN Summit on Biodiversity.

We’ve seen two Leaders’ Dialogues, one on addressing biodiversity loss, and the second on how to harness innovation, and financing for biodiversity, take place this afternoon. 

The dialogues involved plenty of heavy-weight speakers, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pakistan’s President Imran Khan, and the heads of several UN agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), and World Bank.

You can watch the speeches again on UN WebTV. 



Youth climate leaders have presented a Manifesto and Open Letter during the Nature for Life Hub side-event at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The initiative outlines 12 priorities of young people to be addressed to achieve the 2050 vision of “living in harmony with nature.” 

The young people, who come from different social backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and geographies, requested world leaders to declare a “planetary emergency,” in relation to the worsening climate and biodiversity crises.

They ask for heads of state to develop strategies for effective conservation and restoration, adopt binding environmental targets, create transformative education in schools, uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples, protect environmental defenders, ensure intergenerational equity and to be accountable.

Find out more here.



The Summit has moved on to the plenary, featuring many Heads of State. You can follow the speeches on UN Web TV.  

We’ll be back later to bring you the concluding remarks from the President of the General Assembly, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.

Until then, Here’s the perspective of Mohammed Alkhalid, from Saudi Arabia, a UNEP Young Champion of the Earth:

“Young people are the protectors and custodians of planet Earth.

The sustainability of the planet is our responsibility and that’s why I took part in the Young Champions of the Earth to work with experts, exchange ideas, gain experience, and engage with decision-makers to set up laws and incentives to plant trees, and to make Saudi Arabia greener.”

Read more about Mohammed Alkhalid here.



Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, took part in today’s event, and announced, via a pre-recorded video, that he is working with a “coalition of the willing” to put nature, people and planet at the heart of the economy.

The Prince called for a new “Marshall Plan” for a “blue-green recovery’ rooted in a new circular economy, that has nature at its centre, and went on to list some ways to bring this about. These include implementing carbon pricing; accelerating carbon capture technology, including nature-based solutions; and ending “perverse” subsidies for fossil fuels.

“We know what we need to do, but we have to take bold steps now”, he concluded. “So let’s get on with it!”



Fernanda Samuel from Angola is another UN Environment Programme Young Champion of the Earth.

Speaking to UN News she said: “You cannot talk about fighting poverty and economic growth without a serious commitment to protect natural resources, flora and fauna, soil, rivers and oceans.”

Read more about Fernanda Samuel here.



Time now below, to hear the views of a young environmentalist from Kenya…

Richard Kakunga Wambua, Director and CEO of the Kenya-based MeForest Initiative. , by Kalua Arts

Richard Wambua was chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as a Young Champion of the Earth one of 35 people from around the world identified by UNEP as providing “an impressive array of scalable, innovative and potentially impactful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges”.

[you can read more about Richard here]

“Biodiversity loss is greatly threatening the tourism industry in Kenya which has also been hard hit by COVID-19, as fewer tourists are coming because there is less to see.  Thousands of jobs are being affected.

Additionally, due to deforestation and higher than usual temperature levels on the Indian Ocean, there has been increased rainfall and flooding. Kenyans living around Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria have witnessed a rapid rise in water levels. The two lakes used to be 20 kilometres apart but are now a few kilometres from each other. 

When the two mix, they will contaminate each other since one is highly saline while the other is a fresh water lake, resulting in the death of biodiversity and a decrease in the food supply.

Developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, which aggravates the effects of population growth, poverty and rapid urbanization, resulting in habitat fragmentation and the loss of biodiversity. 

Thus, it is highly imperative that young people take charge, are on the forefront and exert the right amount of pressure which includes having a seat at the table. We can contribute towards the implementation of environmentally-conscious policies, hence further protecting our countries and our planet.

Take Africa for instance; 75 per cent of its population are youthful and highly reliant on biodiversity for food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme climatic events. Inculcating a mindset change that favors biodiversity protection would be a sure way to ensure forests don’t become deserts, reefs don’t become rocks.

The more young people are aware and involved, the better the planet’s biodiversity will be!”

The Secretary-General has clearly pointed out that, “Investing in nature would protect biodiversity & improve climate action, human health & food security”. What such investments would also lead to, is jobs, for many youth and citizens from developing countries.



The Summit has now moved on to the “Fireside Chat” segment, featuring Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Inger Andersen, the head of the UN environment agency, UNEP, Elizabeth Mrema, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) chief, and Ana Maria Hernandéz Salgar, who runs the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

On Monday, Ms. Andersen and Ms. Mrema were interviewed by our very own Paulina Greer, as part of the SDG Media Zone UNGA High-Level Week series, where they gave more detail about the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.

Here’s how it went:



‘Nature is fighting back’, UN economic chief

Munir Akram, the head of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed the Secretary-General, echoing many of the topics covered by Mr. Guterres and Mr. Bozkir.

Biodiversity, said Mr. Akram, allowed mankind to build great civilizations, providing nutrition, food, clean air and water, natural medicines and raw materials, and to survive, grow and prosper.Hwever, demand for energy and raw materials has grown with the population, harming the environment, hewarned: “nature is fighting back”, and the impacts of biodiversity loss will be as devastating as climate change: masks could be a permanent aspect our existence.

Political will is critical to achieve change, he concluded. It can be mobilized through events such as the Summit, which is of “existential importance”.

Mr. Akram added that it is time to discard economic models that are driving States to fight nature and each other, and transition to a new economic and social paradigm which values the preservation of nature, and enshrines sustainability as an integral part of development.


Delegates then watched pre-recorded speeches by the President of Egypt, Mohammed El-Sisi, and Xi Jinping of China. They were invited to speak because Egypt was the host of the 2018 COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and China is scheduled to host the next one in 2021.



‘Humanity is waging war on nature’, says Guterres

The UN chief, António Guterres, has just wrapped up his comments to the Summit, in which he accused humanity of “waging war on nature”.

Deforestation, climate change and the conversion of wilderness for human food production are, said the UN chief, destroying Earth’s web of life: “we are part of that fragile web — and we need it to be healthy so we and future generations may thrive.”

One of the aims of this Summit is to secure increased ambition for biodiversity: the Secretary-General noted that, despite repeated commitments, efforts have not been sufficient to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for this year. 

By living in harmony with nature, he continued, the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, for the benefit of people and the planet. 

Mr. Guterres raised the encouraging prospects of nature-based solutions: forests, oceans and intact ecosystems are effective carbon sinks, for example, and healthy wetlands mitigate flooding.

Count natural resources as wealth

Economic systems, he continued, must account for and invest in nature which, currently, does not figure in countries’ calculations of wealth. The current system, he said, is weighted towards destruction, not preservation, but investing in nature would protect biodiversity and improve climate action, human health, and food security. 

Protecting biodiversity and the environment can be a business opportunity: the Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that services from ecosystems make up between 50 and 90 per cent of the livelihoods of poor rural and forest-dwelling households, and poor communities can benefit from sustainable farming, eco-tourism and subsistence fishing.

The Secretary-General welcomed the commitments made in the Leader’s Pledge for Nature and coalitions such as the Campaign for Nature launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 which, he said, send a strong signal to raise political ambition in the run-up to COP15 of the Convention of Biological Diversity. 
“Where effort has been made”, he declared “the benefits to our economies, human and planetary health are irrefutable.”



‘Our existence on this planet, depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world’ 

The UN Summit on Biodiversity began a few minutes ago, and was opened by the President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, who began by outlining the high stakes involved in the issue of biodiversity, stating that “our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us”.

Despite the importance of biodiversity, we are not doing a great job at protecting it: 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year, and one million species are at risk of extinction. We also risk, he said, jeopardizing food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events. 

Health and biodiversity

At a time when our collective health is top of mind, Mr. Bozkir noted the link between healthcare and biodiversity: four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health, and 70 per cent of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.

Poor stewardship of the environment is putting our health at risk, as the majority of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, originated from animal populations, a threat that scientists have been warning about for decades.

The GA President re-emphasized calls for a “green recovery’ that addresses these concerns, and leads to a more sustainable, resilient world which, he said, would help unlock an estimated $10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030, and encourage a greener economy.

Wrapping up his opening remarks, Mr. Bozkir argued that biodiversity should be protected from a moral, economic and existential standpoint, an act that is “an investment in the health of our planet, is an investment in our future; one that we leave for future generations.”



Here are two more preview videos released on Twitter, ahead of the Summit. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have both focused on the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which has so far been endorsed by 72 countries.

The Pledge commits countries to ensuring that they are working in harmony with nature, and putting biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the heart of their COVID-19 recovery strategies.




It’s simple: when we help nature, we help ourselves. That’s the message from the UN’s environment agency, UNEP, in a video produced ahead of the Summit.

The video, like the Summit itself, calls attention for the need to work towards a “new normal”, where all people can live in harmony with nature.



Good morning from UN News in New York! Today we’re continuing our live UNGA (that’s United Nations General Assembly) coverage, by following the UN Summit on Biodiversity. The Summit begins at 10:00 New York time, and promises to be very eventful. It will begin with statements from top UN officials, António Guterres, the Secretary-General; Munir Akram, the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and Volkan Bozkir, the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly.

Look out for statements from two Heads of State: Mohammed El-Sisi of Egypt, and Xi Jinping of China: Egypt hosted the last COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2018, and China was due to host this year’s COP, which has now been postponed until 2021.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who is billed as an “eminent speaker”, in recognition of the many pronouncements he has made on the environment over the years, will also deliver a message during the opening section of the Summit.

Many more Heads of State, UN officials and representatives of NGOs are due to speak throughout the event, which is due to end at six PM, New York time. We’ll do our best to share the highlights with you.

Alternatively you can watch the whole thing, thanks to our colleagues at UN Web TV, who have it covered.

Listen to older people’s ‘suggestions and ideas’ for more inclusive societies, urges UN chief

“Older people must be a priority in our efforts to overcome COVID 19”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for the 30th anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons, celebrated annually on 1 October.

He shone a light on the need to examine how the pandemic might change how we address age and ageing in our societies, stressing that more opportunities and increased access to health, pensions and social protection for older persons were “crucial”.

In releasing his policy guidance on making the lives of older persons better, back in May, the top UN official pointed out the overall coronavirus fatality rate is higher for them. Because of this greater impact, he maintained that policy interventions must be targeted towards raising more awareness of their special needs. 

Caring for others

This year’s observance falls as the world is also marking the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, which Mr. Guterres pointed out, “highlights the vital role of health and social workers, such as nurses and midwives”, responding to the pandemic.  

Against the backdrop that women constitute the majority of these professionals – many of whom are older persons – he upheld that “the people who devote their lives to our care, and to the care of older persons, mothers and children…deserve far greater support”.

Elderly potential 

He said it was important to make concerted efforts across the designated Decade of Healthy Ageing 2020 2030, to improve the lives of older persons, their families and communities. 

“The potential of older persons is a powerful basis for sustainable development”, he flagged.  “More than ever, we must listen to their voices, suggestions and ideas to build more inclusive and age friendly societies”.

‘Invisible’ people

Meanwhile, Claudia Mahler, the UN independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons, flagged that the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified existing violations of elderly rights.

“Existing inequalities that older persons face in terms of access to health, employment and livelihood are exacerbated”, she said, and yet, “they are chronically invisible”.

Ms. Mahler said that information about older persons is “at best fragmented, at worst, non-existent” in most countries, which is why it’s imperative to shed light on structural and systematic ways in which they are being left behind. 

“Data is a prerequisite for informed and successful public policy making” to close  existing gaps, highlight older persons’ contributions to society, illustrate their diversity and change perceptions of later life – “especially for it to be more than an inevitable stage of deficit and decline”, she said.

Prioritize older people

The independent UN expert also called for older persons to be prioritized throughout the recovery phase of COVID-19 and beyond. 

“It is essential to ensure the income security of older persons, in particular older women”, she said, highlighting that “universal old age pensions and adequate entitlement levels” are necessary for “inclusive long-term recovery”.

Moreover, socioeconomic relief measures and safety nets must be adopted immediately. 

In the absence of a dedicated internationally-agreed legal framework, Ms. Mahler spelled out: “We must ensure that responses to this crisis specifically identify and prioritize older persons…during the pandemic response and recovery phases”.

© UNRWA/Khalil Adwan
An UNRWA staff member provides medication to an elderly Palestine man in the Gaza strip.

Thailand: More than 100 companies pledge to strengthen women’s economic empowerment

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), established by UN Women and the UN Global Compact, offer guidance to businesses, regardless of their size or sector.  

According to UN Women, Thailand has done “comparatively well” in terms of women occupying senior business roles. Across the country, 24 percent of chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors are women, compared to an Asia-Pacific average of 13 per cent. Globally that figure stands at about 20 per cent. 

While the Asia-Pacific region has made impressive progress in reducing extreme poverty, with women helping to power growth, fully closing the gender equality gap could take another 100 years.  

The ‘new normal’ shines a light on our common humanity, shared vulnerabilities, and it is only through a collective, collaborative recovery that a more gender equal society can be fully achieved – Mohammad Naciri, UN Women

Against this backdrop, UN Women’s WeEmpowerAsia initiative, aims to mobilize the private sector towards gender equality and increase women’s full and equal economic participation through implementing the WEPs. Its focus countries include China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam. 

‘Bold, decisive action for equality’ 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the region’s economies can create an opportunity for full recovery by building on the trend towards full equality, said Mohammad Naciri, Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific at UN Women. 

Speaking at a physically-distanced signing ceremony in the Thai capital, Bangkok, Mr. Naciri called for “nothing less than bold, decisive actions to secure a generation of equality in business as well as women’s full and equal participation across all sectors.” 

“The ‘new normal’ shines a light on our common humanity, shared vulnerabilities, and it is only through a collective, collaborative recovery that a more gender equal society can be fully achieved”, he added. 

Globally, some 3,600 companies have committed to the WEPs, and prior to the ceremony on Wednesday, only 11 Thai companies had signed on, according to the UN gender equality agency. 

Guiding principles 

Established in 2010, the WEPs are based on international labour and human rights standards, grounded in the recognition that businesses have a stake in, and a responsibility for, gender equality and women’s empowerment. 

Its seven principles include: establishing high-level corporate leadership for gender equality; treating all women and men fairly at work, without discrimination; ensuring health, well-being and safety of all workers; promoting education, training and professional development for women; implementing enterprise development, supply chain and marketing practices that empower women; promoting equality through community initiatives and advocacy; and measuring and reporting on progress towards gender equality.

Guterres urges more countries to step up and fund global COVID-19 vaccine effort

The Access to COVID-19 Tools – the ACT-Accelerator – along with its COVAX Facility, is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. 

Launched at the end of April 2020, the ACT-Accelerator has secured $3 billion, critical for its start up, but it needs a further $35 billion – including an “immediate infusion” of $15 billion – Secretary-General António Guterres said at a high-level event to mobilize support for the initiative. 

“These resources are crucial now to avoid losing the window of opportunity for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, to boost research, and to help countries prepare to optimize the new vaccines when they arrive.”  

Any delay would further widen already vast inequalities, he warned. 

‘By helping others, countries help themselves’ 

Mr. Guterres outlined clearly that to reach that amount, donors’ paying in through official development assistance budgets, will not be sufficient. 

It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programmes. By helping others, they will help themselves – Secretary-General Guterres

“We need to think bigger. It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programmes. By helping others, they will help themselves”, he said. 

The coronavirus pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month and has destroyed around 500 million jobs so far. 

The Secretary-General called on developed countries – which have devoted many trillions of dollars to respond to the socio-economic impacts of the crisis in their own countries – to “invest a small fraction of that, to stop the spread of the disease everywhere.” 

“I call on all countries and partners to significantly step up in the next three months to provide much needed new and additional resources and to mobilize all partners and to put everyone behind a global response to deliver. Solidarity is self-interest,” he stressed. 

“Grasping that 21st-century truth is essential to end this crisis and emerge safer, smarter and stronger together,” he said, wrapping up his remarks. 

‘A test of solidarity’ 

Amid the devastation of COVID-19, science is offering solutions, in the form of new tests, therapeutics and – hopefully – vaccines, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), speaking alongside the Secretary-General. 

Science and solutions are, however, ineffective without solidarity, he added. 

The head of WHO explained that the ACT-Accelerator has already delivered “impressive results” in the form of making available 120 million new rapid tests for low- and middle-income countries and securing courses of dexamethasone. 

The financing gap for ACT-Accelerator stands at $35 billion … roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks – WHO DG Tedros 

The COVAX facility, on its part, is supporting the development of vaccines, he continued, underlining that “now is the time to realize the full power of ACT-Accelerator.”  

With the $35 billion financing gap – roughly equivalent to what the world spends on cigarettes every two weeks – the WHO Director-General said that fully funded, the initiative will help control the pandemic, restore confidence and stimulate the growth of the recovery. 

“Frankly, this is not a financial challenge, it is a test of solidarity. This is a moment to say no to nationalism, and yes to our shared humanity,” he declared, adding “ultimately ACT is not delivering merely vaccines, diagnostics or therapeutics, it is delivering something far more important – hope.”  

Eliminate COVID-19 everywhere 

Philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, also addressing the summit, said that a vaccine against COVID-19 will help save millions of lives as well as support the development of a plan to eliminate the disease globally.  

To achieve global elimination, he outlined three necessities: capacity to produce billions of vaccines, funding to pay for them, and systems to deliver them everywhere. 

“A vaccine can make COVID-19 a preventable disease, and no one should die from a preventable disease simply because the country they live in can’t afford the vaccine,” he added, urging action to ensure low- and lower-middle income countries can also access sufficient doses to protect their populations.    

“The only way to eliminate the threat of this disease somewhere, is to eliminate it everywhere,” said Mr. Gates.  

UN Web TV | Broadcast of the high-level event

New agreement with pharma 

Mr. Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, earlier on Wednesday, had signed a new agreement with 16 pharmaceutical companies. 

“In this agreement the companies commit to, among other things, scaling up manufacturing at an unprecedented speed, and making sure that approved vaccines reach broad destruction as early as possible”, he said. 

The next necessity to eliminate COVID-19, is the funding to pay for those vaccines.  

Mr. Gates said that the pharmaceutical industry has committed to make the products as affordable as possible, through donations, tiered pricing and foregoing profits, and underlined the need for public funding, to procure vaccines for all. 

“This is where the ACT-Accelerator comes in,” said Mr. Gates, applauding the United Kingdom for donating enough money to purchase hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines for poor countries. “I want to encourage other countries to do the same”, he said. 

“Finally even when we have the manufacturing capacity and the funding lined up, we will need to strengthen health systems to achieve the broad coverage to deliver the vaccine, and monitor for outbreaks”, he said, adding that lessons learnt from polio eradication efforts can be used for that purpose. 

With the right diagnostics, health workers can also sound the alarm if a future disease jumps from animal to humans, said Mr. Gates, adding: “In other words, we can also be building the systems that will help reduce the damage of the next pandemic.”

Moria fires aftermath: More than 1,000 asylum seekers relocated from Greece this year

The group included families with children with special health needs, and more than 50 unaccompanied children, most of whom had been transferred to the Greek mainland after multiple fires destroyed the Moria reception and identification center, located on the island of Lesvos, three weeks ago. 

“We feel grateful for the people that helped us in Greece and we’ll never forget them. We don’t speak German, but we’ll try hard to learn the language. My brothers live in Germany and I’m excited that I’ll see them again after such a long time”, said Lina Hussein from Syria, who travelled with her husband and two sons. 

Sharing the responsibility 

The Hussein family flew to Germany on the 16th flight organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in cooperation with the Greek government through the Special Secretary for the Protection of Unaccompanied Children, and in close collaboration with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). 

Since the Moria fires, the UN agencies have worked together with the European Commission – the executive branch of the European Union (EU) – and the Greek authorities, to move 724 unaccompanied children from the islands to the mainland in anticipation of their relocation to other European states.  

 They said the relocation initiative, which started last April, has proven to be a workable act of responsibility sharing.  

“This milestone is a remarkable testament that cooperation among partners can change the lives of children and other vulnerable people for the better”, said Ola Henrikson, IOM Regional Director.  

“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, relocation flights are happening almost every week. We hope this momentum is sustained and expanded, with more European States participating soon.” 

Help during hardship 

The UN partners were also encouraged that other EU Member States have welcomed additional asylum seekers and recognized refugees from Greece at a time of heightened hardship. 

A total of 1,066 asylum seekers have been relocated from Greece to Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal, so far this year. 

“Following many calls for enhanced responsibility-sharing in Europe and the particular need to relocate unaccompanied children and other vulnerable people from Greece, we are very pleased to see this taking concrete shape and gradually expanding”, said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR Director for Europe.  

“We are grateful to the countries concerned and hope that more countries follow this positive example and demonstrate their solidarity with Greece.” 

The right to be safe 

Currently, there are nearly 4,400 unaccompanied and separated children in Greece in urgent need of lasting solutions, such as expedited registration, family reunion and relocation.   

Over 1,000 are exposed to severe risks, including exploitation and violence, and precarious conditions in urban centres, the UN agencies warned. 

 “The relocations of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable children continue to be an important part of protecting the rights of refugee and migrant children”, said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe.   

“These children, many of whom have fled abject poverty and conflict, have the right to be safe and develop to their full potential.”

UN Middle East envoy urges sides to engage ‘before it is too late’

“We are again at a pivotal moment in the search for peace as convergence of destabilizing factors threatens to pull Israelis and Palestinians further towards a one-State reality of perpetual occupation and conflict,” he warned, speaking by videoconference from Jerusalem. 

“I reiterate the Secretary-General’s call to the members of the Middle East Quartet, key Arab partners, and to the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, to urgently re-engage and strengthen efforts to advance the goal of a negotiated two-State solution before it is too late.” 

Recent welcoming developments 

Mr. Mladenov, officially the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, was presenting the latest UN report on the region, covering the period from 5 June through 20 September. 

Prior to this, he highlighted recent welcome developments on the political front, such as Israel’s agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, which led to the suspension of plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. 

The envoy was also encouraged by efforts to strengthen Palestinian unity.  He noted that meetings between the two biggest Palestinian factions Fatah, which controls the West Bank, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, ended with a call for long-awaited elections. 

“Elections and legitimate democratic institutions are critical to uniting Gaza and the West Bank under a single national authority, and vital to upholding the prospect of a negotiated two-State solution”, he told ambassadors. 

Pandemic eroding peace prospects 

However, Mr. Mladenov stressed that “developments during the reporting period cannot be divorced from the broader context”, listing actions by both sides which included Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory, as well as illegal settlement activity and demolitions, and rocket fire and militant activity by the Palestinians. 

These factors, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, collectively erode the prospects for a viable two-State solution, he stated. 

Mr. Mladenov reported that the resurgence of COVID-19 is having “a devastating effect” on the ground, describing the situation as an urgent health crisis.  The UN and partners will continue to support response, including by addressing critical gaps in medical supplies and equipment.  

“It is important to focus particularly on Gaza, given the unique situation and extreme vulnerability of the population”, he advised. “Any increased responsibility taken on by the UN should be limited, timebound and not replace the responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority or the Government of Israel.”  

Although there was limited settlement advancement during the reporting period, Mr. Mladenov expressed concern over construction plans in “sensitive” areas of the occupied West Bank.   

He also called for Israel to cease demolition and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures, while both sides were urged to work to address the “severe economic and health crisis” facing the Palestinian people. 

“Daily violence continues to fuel mistrust and drives further from a peaceful resolution of the conflict”, Mr. Mladenov continued.  He urged Israel to hold perpetrators behind settler-related attacks accountable, and for Palestinian militants in Gaza to stop launching indiscriminate rockets and incendiary devices into Israel. 

Personal commitment 

Acknowledging this current “pivotal moment”, Mr. Mladenov underlined his support for efforts towards peace. 

“I remain committed to supporting both sides to resolve the conflict and end the occupation in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements in pursuit of achieving the vision of two States – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian State – within secure and recognized borders, based on the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States”, he said

Protect the world from sliding into global recession, urges UN chief

Speaking at a high-level event on financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond, António Guterres said that while countries reacted swiftly to the global crisis, mobilizing a fiscal response of more than $11.5 trillion globally, only a fraction was accounted for by developing and emerging economies. 

Economies “which have the greatest need, least resources and weakest capacities for addressing the crisis,” he highlighted. 

The UN chief welcomed the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which has created fiscal space in the world’s poorest countries, but added that the response did not address the magnitude of the crisis 

“Unless we take action now, we face a global recession that could wipe out decades of development and put the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development completely out of reach,” he cautioned. 

Unless we take action now, we face a global recession that could wipe out decades of development and put the 2030 Agenda completely out of reach –  UN Secretary-General

Convened by the UN Secretary-General, together with the Prime Ministers of Canada and Jamaica the high-level meeting provided a platform for world leaders to reflect on the work over the last five months, following the meeting on financing for development, in May 2020. 

Work since May 

Since the May meeting, discussions continued between finance ministers, UN and other international organizations and world’s top economists, resulting in key policy options, focusing on common principles, including the need to take into account national circumstances and vulnerabilities; ensuring digital tools are deployed to bridge divides; and recognize the importance of promoting women’s leadership, contributions and equal participation. 

► Click here and here for the policy options

“The policy options before us today address the current emergency, recovery from the crisis, and the route to a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive future,” said the Secretary-General. 

He focused on three core areas: mobilizing resources for diagnostics, treatments and vaccines – the most effective way of ending the pandemic; relieving debt distress on countries; and meeting existing commitments under the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. 

“We urgently need solutions for every region that will enable investments in response and recovery, and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” he said. 

A generational opportunity 

Wrapping up his remarks, the Secretary-General urged everyone to seize on the “generational opportunity” to shape our future for the better and reiterated the need to integrating the principles of sustainable development, and social and economic inclusion into financial decision-making.  

“The COVID-19 pandemic has already brought new ideas to the forefront and shown that ambitious action and transformative change are possible,” he said. 

“It is forcing us to answer difficult questions, confront uncomfortable facts; and to change course.” 

Co-conveners call for unity 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica, the two co-conveners of the Tuesday’s high-level meeting also underlined the need for the international cooperation. 

“We have come together, the largest gathering of world leaders in the context of COVID-19, to inspire a global response to the pandemic and maintain momentum towards the 2030 Agenda,” said Prime Minister Trudeau, urging leaders to reaffirm their common understanding of a more sustainable and inclusive recovery and re-establish momentum toward achieving the SDGs. 

In addition, Prime Minister Holness urged global cooperation in rebuilding efforts that help the world rebound stronger from the far-reaching impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic. “We are at a critical point where now, more than ever, global cooperation and collaboration are essential to recovery. Our approach must therefore be purposeful and strategic.” 

Flooding leaves South Sudan facing threat of ‘catastrophic’ hunger levels 

Some 700,000 people are in crisis after flood waters swept across the country, submerging villages, land and livestock, according to a World Food Programme (WFP) alert. 

“There is a very significant flood, which is covering vast areas of the country”, said Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Country Director in South Sudan. “More than 36 counties of the country are under water, submerging entire villages, homes, farmsteads, killing livestock and putting an end to livelihoods.” 

Across Jonglei and Unity State, homes and clinics have been submerged, communities have been stranded and animals “lie dead in the fields”, WFP said in a statement. Schools that were due to open next week “are filled with the homeless”.  

Worst flooding in 60 years 

The WFP official described the flooding as likely the worst in 60 years and explained that this year’s rains had begun before last year’s flood waters had receded fully.

Some 5.5 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance, according to WFP, representing half the total population. 

The 2019 flooding was already “unprecedented” and had led to the expansion of wetlands, the Sobat and Nile basins, Mr. Hollingworth said, adding that this year’s crisis is likely to be even more severe, as the peak of the flood season still lies ahead. 

WFP is particularly concerned that crops have been lost in worst affected Jonglei state, where 85,000 people have been displaced by rising waters and some 230,000 people have experienced flooding more than once. 

Crops submerged 

“We’ve seen, as I mentioned, harvests being decimated in Jonglei state…and 45 per cent of all the land that was planted with cereals and sorghum – the mainstay of the diet – have been lost this year. That comes in addition to what we saw very similar last year,” Mr. Hollingworth said. 

He added: “This flooding crisis is coming on top of a very grim hunger situation in Jonglei, where already this year 1.4 million people were suffering from acute and severe hunger, in addition to over 300,000 children under five who are acutely malnourished.” 

The development adds to the challenges facing South Sudan’s people, where years of civil war, inter-communal conflict, political infighting and corruption have rendered the country vulnerable to natural disaster. 

Fighting obstacles 

Conflict was “very significant” ahead of this year’s rains in Jonglei, Unity and Lake State, along with the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, the WFP official explained. 

This added to the current crisis by preventing humanitarians from delivering food stocks to areas while they were still accessible. 

To help “half a million people more than we would usually”, WFP has appealed for $58 million to support assistance for the coming six months. This will help to fund assistance by air and boat to areas that are “completely cut off”, Mr. Hollingworth explained, including communities whose crops have been destroyed by the flooding. 

He warned that it was crucially important to provide support to host communities that had to cope with people displaced by flooding or violence to prevent further tensions and flare-ups, as the country continues to make gradual progress on implementing the 2018 peace agreement. 

“As cattle move into areas where they weren’t previously put to pasture, as people are displaced into areas where there are not necessarily sufficient resources to look after them as well as the resident community; all of those can breed future problems,” Mr. Hollingworth said. 

In the longer-term, it was also important to be able to encourage people to return home and to their livelihoods, he insisted. 

“We’ve been seeing natural disasters, we’ve been seeing conflicts displacing people, that is the situation we’re in right now. We have yet to get data back to confirm how bad it will be, but I think we all need to prepare ourselves that we must do everything in our power to avoid famine and to avoid the levels of hunger – the catastrophic hunger – that we’ve seen sadly in the past in this country.” 

Redouble efforts against ‘global scourge’ of gender-based violence, intensified by pandemic: Guterres 

“Millions of women are living in fear, with long-term consequences for families and communities, and for all our efforts for peace and security, human rights and sustainable development”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message to a virtual high-level GBV event in the context of COVID-19. 

Against the backdrop of his global call for a ceasefire and an end to all violence – from war zones to people’s homes – he acknowledged that some 146 Member States had increased resources and acted to protect women and girls but flagged that those measures were not enough. 

“We urgently need new thinking and momentum on this critical issue”, Mr. Guterres upheld, underscoring the need to increase accountability, question attitudes that enable violence and provide resources for front-line women’s civil society organizations. 

On the horizon 

In the coming months, the UN chief said that he would launch a new push for progress, including by building the Spotlight Initiative and European Union (EU) partnership, to help end all forms of violence against women and girls. 

“Together, let us redouble our efforts to end gender-based violence during COVID-19 and beyond”, he advocated. 

Putting words into action 

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka maintained that everyone has a role to play in ending GBV in the context of COVID19. 

“The pandemic has forced us to think differently and rebuild better, and that is what we need to spell out in much more detail…in the context of violence against women”, she stressed. 

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka noted that the Generation Equality Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence – the first ever multi-participant, inter-generational platform to create political consensus and drive long-term change – brings together a range of interested parties, from UN agencies to Member States and the private sector.  

“In 28 countries, for instance, we worked with Governments to integrate gender-based violence measures into their COVID-19 responses and fiscal stimulus packages”, she elaborated, adding, “we supported 44 countries to continue legal and policy reforms on violence against women and harmful practices”. 

Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka also highlighted that their offices around the world have partnered with tech giants such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook, to address GBV. 

Turning to the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, she announced it has rapidly been supporting its network of 144 civil society organizations – 59 per cent of which are women’s organizations – across 69 countries. 

“They are made up of women from all walks of life, who are female phenomena”, she elaborated. 

While acknowledging “many significant actions”, she said, she also noted “just as many challenges”, which is why the UN Women chief maintained that everyone needs “to contribute, to collaborate and to expand our work”.  

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 “UN Women is here to work together through the long haul”, she assured. 

Stop reversal of progress 

In their joint statement, leaders of the Action Coalition called upon all actors to immediately respond with targeted and effective actions to multiple forms of gender-based violence, saying they will “work to stop any reversal of the hard-won progress on advancing gender equality…due to the COVID-19 pandemic”. 

Meanwhile Zahra Al Hilaly of the Youth Affairs Council, and a member of UN Women’s Beijing+25 Youth Task Force, underscored that women and girls “must challenge the power structure”, saying, “we live within a world that has never within history, truly benefited young women and girls”. 

Nor resting on laurels 

Diene Keita, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said that “data and evidence form the backbone of global and national response to COVID-19 in general and gender-based violence in particular”. 

“We need to act as one, together in a coherent and evidence driven manner”, she asserted. 

Baroness Liz Sugg, Minister for Foreign and Development Affairs and Special Envoy for Girls’ Education of the United Kingdom emphasized that “violence is preventable”. 

“We all need to collectively challenge ourselves to do more. This needs to stop. Now”, she spelled out. 

Agência Brasil/Elza Fiuza
The COVID-19 pandemic has created even more obstacles on the path to gender equality and exacerbated pre-existing inequalities, according to UN Women.

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