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Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 21 March 2022 - Climate, Ukraine, Yemen, Central African Republic

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As you may have seen this morning, the Secretary-General delivered, via video message, the keynote speech at the Economist’s Sustainability Summit. His addressed focused on “Keeping 1.5 Alive”. The Secretary-General warned that, while some progress was made at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, the main emissions gap problem was not properly addressed. “We are sleepwalking to climate catastrophe,” the Secretary-General said, quoting the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which says that half of humanity is already living in the danger zone.

The Secretary-General also said the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine risks upending global food and energy markets, with major implications for the global climate agenda. He warned that countries could become so consumed by the immediate fossil fuel supply gap that they neglect or knee-cap policies to cut fossil fuel use. This is madness, he said, adding that [addiction] to fossil fuels is mutually assured destruction. The Secretary-General urged countries to put the pedal to the metal towards a renewable energy future. His full remarks and video were all shared with you earlier.


A quite lengthy humanitarian update for you on Ukraine: we, along with our partners, remain deeply concerned over the impact of reported fighting on civilians trapped in cities in eastern, north-eastern and southern Ukraine, including in Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Izyum, Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Mariupol. Since 24 February, more than 10 million people have now been forced from their homes in search of safety and security — nearly a quarter of the population of Ukraine. This includes an estimated 6.5 million men, women and children who are internally displaced, and that’s according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and nearly 3.5 million people who have crossed international borders out of Ukraine as refugees, and that’s according to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Humanitarian organizations are concerned about the risk of trafficking and sexual exploitation and IOM has scaled up its trafficking prevention measures, providing verified and safe information to refugees and third-country nationals on the move. IOM has also reinforced its regional hotlines to help people with important safety and resource information. The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has verified six additional reports of attacks on health care in Ukraine yesterday. As of 20 March, WHO has verified 52 attacks on health care in 25 days. WHO notes that this is more than two attacks per day, stressing that this, of course, is unacceptable and that health care must always be protected. For their part, the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) and UNHCR, in partnership with local governments and civil society organizations, are setting up what they call “Blue Dots” centres. Those are one-stop safe spaces for children and women. “Blue Dots” centres help to identify unaccompanied and separated children and ensure their protection, as well as provide a hub for essential services and information for travelling families.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said that it has reached more than 330,000 crisis-affected people inside Ukraine with food assistance, and that’s since the beginning of the conflict. Food delivery to cooperating partners is also being scaled up, reaching more than 900 metric tons over the last days. In Kharkiv, WFP doubled its bread distribution through partners, reaching nearly 78 metric tons for about 260,000 people. In Kyiv — following the delivery of 26 metric tons of high-energy biscuits — WFP’s partners have delivered about 325 metric tons of vegetable oil and 478 metric tons of wheat flour to nearly 70,000 vulnerable people. In Dnipro, some 2.2 metric tons of mixed canned food was also distributed to the most vulnerable. As you will have seen last Friday, our Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, Amin Awad, said that the first UN-organized convoy reached Sumy with emergency supplies for 35,000 people and equipment to repair water systems to help another 50,000 people. This was organized through good cooperation with the Governments of Ukraine and the Russian Federation. We hope that this is the first of many convoys that will make to deliveries to people trapped by the fighting.


A quick note on Yemen: I can tell you we strongly condemn the recent attacks on several energy and other civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia, which reportedly caused material damage and have been claimed by the Houthis. Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law. These actions damage prospects for peace and regional stability and are detrimental to the ongoing mediation efforts of our Special Envoy Hans Grundberg. We call upon all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid any further escalation. We strongly urge the parties to engage constructively and without preconditions with Mr. Grundberg and his mediation efforts with the aim of advancing the political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Yemen. Just to give you a quick update on what Mr. Grundberg has been doing: on Saturday he was in Muscat, where he met with Ansar Allah’s chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam, and Omani officials. They discussed ongoing UN consultations and efforts to address the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen, including a possible truce during the holy month of Ramadan, which, as you know, is coming up. Mr. Grundberg is continuing the discussions with the parties to the conflict.

Central African Republic

Turning to the Central African Republic, our colleagues at the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) are telling us that, over the weekend, key opposition parties have withdrawn from the Republican dialogue, which began earlier today. In communiqués issued over the weekend, they deplored the lack of inclusivity as a reason for withdrawing from the dialogue process. In a tweet, Mankeur Ndiaye, the Head of the Mission, said the dialogue is a very important opportunity for the Central African Republic. He called on all those involved to work towards a historic compromise to allow the dialogue to bring about a consensus to help move the country forward. The Republican dialogue is expected to conclude on 27 March and will address issues such as peace and security, governance, the rule of law and the strengthening of institutions.