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Weekly News Update April 26-30, 2021

ICRC briefing to UN Security Council Open Debate on the Protection of Objects Indispensable to the survival of the civilian population

As prepared for delivery by Mr Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross

Chair, Excellencies,

Today the International Committee of the Red Cross brings a warning to the Council: without urgent action to protect essential services in conflict zones, we face a humanitarian disaster on a vast scale. I commend the Council under the leadership of Vietnam to bring forward this debate and to work towards the first-ever resolution to bring political attention to this critical operational concern.

Through our work in Aden, Aleppo, Benghazi, Gaza, Homs, Mosul and beyond, the ICRC has become all too familiar with the severe and cumulative impacts on populations when essential services including electricity, health, education, water and sanitation are damaged in conflict.

The humanitarian consequences are grim: from health crises, displacement, to environmental degradation.

There is often no safe water to drink, no electricity to power homes, nor health services to treat the wounded and sick.

It is those who already face barriers and disadvantage that are the most affected, including women and children, older people and persons with disabilities. In protracted conflicts children under five years old are 20 times more likely to die from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from violence.

ICRC works in the midst of this suffering. We are present during the long years of war when political solutions are absent because allowing critical infrastructure to fail is simply not an option… Substituting local authorities for decades with water trucking or providing medical equipment to clinics in remote basements is not an option.

ICRC is therefore working to prevent critical infrastructure that is too big to fail from collapsing and forcing millions into crisis. This requires repair and rehabilitation of infrastructure, providing parts, as well as training and capacity building of local service providers. In doing so, we seek to mitigate humanitarian consequences, strengthen the resilience of essential services, and stem the reversal of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Preventing the damage in the first place, however, is paramount.

International Humanitarian Law provides crucial safeguards aimed at ensuring essential services can continue during armed conflict. Given the enormous suffering of civilians, serious questions are raised as to how parties to conflict are interpreting and concretely applying these obligations, particularly in urban settings. These rules include:

- the obligation to refrain from attacking, destroying, removing or otherwise rendering useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population; and

- more generally, the requirement to take constant care to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects from harm in the conduct of military operations and to respect the basic principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.

- the prohibition against indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks;

- the requirement to take all feasible precautions in attack and against the effects of attacks to protect civilians and civilian objects; and

- the rules that provide protection to the natural environment and that seek to limit the damage caused to it.

Today I make five calls to the Council:

One: That all parties to armed conflict, and those who support them, work for better respect of international humanitarian law.

This includes those rules on the conduct of hostilities that protect civilians and civilian objects, including critical infrastructure that enables the delivery of essential services, that protect civilian personnel who operate, maintain and repair that infrastructure.

Two: The ICRC continues to call for the adoption of an "avoidance policy" regarding the use of heavy explosive weapons in populated areas. These weapons should not be used against targets in populated areas unless sufficient mitigation measures are taken to reduce the risks to civilians, including measures to limit their wide area effects.

Military manuals, strategies and ground rules need to be adapted to the new realities of urban warfare and in view of an interpretation of the or IHL rules that does justice not only to military necessity but also the principle of humanity.

Three: We call on States to ensure sanctions regimes and counter-terrorism measures comply with IHL, notably the rules governing humanitarian activities.

Effective mitigating measures, in particular lasting and well-framed humanitarian exemptions must be put in place to enable impartial humanitarian organizations to ensure the continuity in the delivery of essential services.

Four: We urge the adoption of measures so that healthcare and interconnected services such as water, sanitation, electricity, are protected to safeguard against public health risks.

Frequently we see infectious diseases, such as cholera epidemics, rip through communities where water and sanitation infrastructure have been destroyed during fighting. Preventable diseases are costing too many lives, including as epidemics spread beyond the borders of war zones.

Five: We call on States to adopt measures to increase their understanding of the effects of conflict on the natural environment and minimize the impact of military operations on the environment and dependent civilians.

Parts of the natural environment are indispensable for the survival of the civilian population. Damage to critical infrastructure poses a wide range of threats to the environment, which in turn can have devastating environmental health impacts. Climate risks now magnify this harm for dependent communities.


We welcome further discussions with States on all of these calls: ICRC has developed a body of practice-based knowledge to support our expertise in the law.

As a humanitarian organization we have been confronted with the limits of the collective humanitarian response in the face of the extensive damage and destruction to critical infrastructure, as well as its misuse by parties to conflict.

While humanitarian organizations are adept at directing assistance towards the most vulnerable, the risk that an entire population could be in need if an essential service system fails is alarming. When systems fail, the scale of the consequences far exceed what can be addressed by humanitarian action alone.

Recognizing the need to respond at scale has led us to forge new relationships, including with development actors. Together with the World Bank and UNICEF we have developed a series of joint recommendations for systemic change in a new report on water and sanitation recently released. Notably this does not replace the need for belligerents to prevent the damage, destruction and misuse of critical infrastructure in the first place.

Excellencies, in the face of this urgent situation, my call is for us to work together, and critically for the Council to show leadership, so that the suffering of the women, men and children who have already lived through the horrors of wars is not compounded.

Thank you.

Public Relations Unit | International Committee of the Red Cross | 19, avenue de la Paix | 1202 Geneva | Switzerland Tel. : +41 22 730 3443 | Fax : +41 22 734 8280 | E-mail :


Mother Earth Day 2021 - António Guterres (UN Secretary-General)


International Jazz Day 2021 - António Guterres (UN Secretary-General)


World Press Freedom Day 2021 - António Guterres (UN Secretary-General)


Press Briefing by Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy on 29 April


High-Level Interactive Dialogue on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Thursday, 29 April 2021, 10.00 EDT Countries embark to accelerate actions for tackling antimicrobial resistance – an urgent global health and development threat What: The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Volkan Bozkır, will bring together government representatives; leaders from pharmaceutical and agricultural companies; representatives from United Nations institutions, international organizations and civil society groups as well as members of the general public to discuss and recommit to actions to address Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. AMR poses threats to human wellbeing, animal health and welfare, food safety and security and is a major obstacle for countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Why: Despite increased efforts at global, regional, and country level, AMR continues to pose severe threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health, undermining livelihoods, food safety and global food security and could put millions of people back into poverty. Expected Outcome: The meeting will focus on strengthening political commitment to tackling AMR, taking stock of progress, recommitting to actions and ensuring that addressing AMR is a key factor in plans to build back better from COVID-19 and in preparing for future pandemics. UN Member States will present an ambitious, action-oriented Call to Action, containing voluntary commitments that countries can take to begin tackling the growing threat of AMR. Speakers will include:

  • H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the UN General Assembly

  • H.E. Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General, UN

  • Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh and Mia Mottley of Barbados, Co-Chairs of the One Health Global Leaders Group on AMR

  • Dr. QU Dongyu, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and Dr. Monique Eloit, Directors-General of the Tripartite (Food and Agriculture Organization, World Health Organization and World Organisation for Animal Health)

  • Ms. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF

  • Ms. Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director, UNEP

  • Ministers of Health from the United Kingdom, Ghana, Sweden, Fiji, Russian Federation, Germany, and others

  • Members of the One Health Global Leaders Group on AMR, industry leaders and AMR experts

When: Thursday, 29 April 2021, 10:00 EDT Where: The virtual event will be hosted at UN Headquarters in New York and will be accessible on UN WebTV. Related links: Event schedule: Event Concept Note: WHO AMR website: FAO AMR website: OIE AMR website: One Health Global Leaders Group on AMR website: Media Contacts: Office of the President of the UN General Aassembly – Amy Quantrill ( WHO – Angelica Spraggins ( FAO - FAO Newsroom ( OIE – OIE Media ( UN – Sharon Birch-Jeffrey (


CALL TO ACTION & UPDATE ON USIBC'S COORDINATION EFFORTS In this critical time of coordination of urgent efforts and resources, the U.S.-India Business Council is working hard to create unprecedented momentum in the strong alliance between industry and government to tackle the growing second wave of COVID-19 spread across India. Our members, across sectors, have been tirelessly consolidating resources and transporting essential supplies to India on an urgent basis. Looking for resources to help? Visit the U.S.Chamber Foundation website: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has created strong pathways to support our companies and our colleagues in India – first and foremost by leading the charge on urging the U.S. Administration to take bold action by calling for a release of the AstraZeneca vaccine supply to India among other international partners in need. We are pleased at the decision that White House will be releasing its vaccine supply, around 60 million that will be shared with other countries as the supply becomes available. (See: Background Press Call by Senior Administration officials on COVID-19 in India) The U.S.-India Business Council also engaged members of Congress to get the U.S. Government to provide aid and assistance to India. With discussions and calls over the past weekend and week, we are pleased to see critical announcements made that showcase the integral support the United States Government is comprehensively leveraging to help India in its time of need and business to facilitate support for India. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is working with many reputed business associations and hundreds of American business to work together to strengthen coordination between U.S. and India and help India tackle its fight against this devastating wave of COVID-19 across the country. We recognize the importance of working with our partners because no one is safe from the pandemic till we are all protected and safe from it. (See: U.S. Chamber Launch of Public-Private Partnership to provide India with Critical Supplies) In addition to our engagements with both Indian and U.S. government, we have several opportunities for the private sector to engage: Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Call | April 27 Today, April 27, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosted a call for humanitarian assistance coordination to identify ways that government and industry can support India's response to the dire situation tied to spikes in recent cases. U.S. and Indian government officials are preparing for a long-term and dynamic response, while industry is showing interest in collaboration among different groups and donors. This coordination call featured Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, State Department's Coordinator of the U.S. Global COVID Response and Health Security Gayle Smith, and USAID Senior Advisor for COVID Efforts Jeremy Konyndyk. WATCH NOW: US Chamber Task Force on Pandemic Response: Mobilizing for India | April 26 To catalyze the coordination effort, the U.S. Chamber and USIBC hosted Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, State Department’s Coordinator of the U.S. Global COVID Response and Health Security Gayle Smith, and Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Coordinator for Indo-Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, Business Roundtable and with C-Suite Leaders from across the U.S. business community, which was joined led U.S. Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark, Executive Vice President and Head of International Affairs Myron Brilliant and USIBC President Nisha Biswal. The Chamber has continued to advocate to the White House to distribute its stock of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine to international partners who are in dire need of its supply. In the last few days this campaign has picked up tremendous vigor with the U.S. government mobilizing the necessary arrangements to deliver on key supplies that will be critical to the recovery of India and other international partners. USCC Resource Page for Business Community Support In another step, the he U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and U.S.-India Business Council have launched a resources webpage to bring to all members information on 1) Immediate Health Needs from India (updated regularly), 2) Collecting Expressions of In-Kind Company Donations, and 3) Resources for direct cash donations. We encourage our partners far and wide to leverage this webpage to share resources and intent for joint programs that can help facilitate a speedy response to India’s current COVID crisis. Working Together Toward a Common Goal We are working closely with both Indian and U.S. governments to facilitate new programs, commitments of resources and supplies and funding that can have the potential to change the tide of the current situation and provide some needed relief to Indians across the country. In this effort, we are working together as part of the U.S.-India Friendship Alliance, and other active and dynamic business associations with efforts to bring oxygen concentrators to India for urgent supply. It is important that we enhance coordination with the private sector, bring together our collective resources and expertise to deliver solutions, and leverage our partnerships in the drive to support India.

UNITED STATES COORDINATION EFFORTS TO SUPPORT INDIA’S FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19 Yesterday, President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a conversation today to discuss evolving COVID-19 situation in both countries. President Biden committed to support India’s efforts to fight the pandemic by providing resources like “therapeutics, ventilators and identifying sources of raw materials to be made available for the manufacture of Covishield vaccines.” Other messages of support and coordination from the United States government have come from senior leaders like Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in the past few days. Additional takeaways include:

  • Rapid diagnostic kits and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from US will be made available to India

  • U.S. is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies

  • U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is providing funding to expand manufacturing capacity for India’s vaccine manufacturer Bio E to increase production of COVID-19 vaccines to 1 billion doses by end of 2022

  • U.S. is putting together an expert team of public health advisors from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and USAID to work with India’s health ministries and Epidemic Intelligence Service staff, at the same as USAID is working with CDC to fast-track emergency resource through the Global Fund.

  • Department of Defense will provide transportation and logistics assistance to deliver needed supplies to India, including oxygen-related equipment.

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hosts Sec. Blinken with BRT, CEOs for Meeting on India, Launches Public-Private Partnership to Provide India with Critical Supplies (U.S. Chamber) April 26 | Prime Minister's Telephone Conversation with President Biden of the United States of America (Prime Minister’s Office) April 26 | Readout of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (White House) April 25 | Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on Supporting our India Partners (U.S. Department of Defense) April 25 | Statement by NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s Call with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval of India (White House)

GILEAD TO DONATE 450,000 REMDESIVIR VIALS TO INDIA Gilead Sciences has announced it will donate 450,000 vials of Veklury (remdesivir) to address the urgent needs of Indian patients. Remdesivir is currently approve for emergency use towards treating suspected or laboratory confirmed COVID-19 in adults/children with sever disease.Press Release:

SET UP OF NEW MEDICAL OXYGEN GENERATION PLANTS The Prime Minister CARES Fund has provided in-principle approval for funding the set up of 551 Pressure Swing Adsorpotion ((PSA) Medical Oxygen Generation Plants within public health facilities like government hospitals in various states, with procurement done through Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Press Release from Prime Minister’s Office:

MORE DETAILS ON INDIA’S PHASE 3 OF COVID-19 VACCINATION STRATEGY Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan addressed clarifications on India’s ‘Liberalized and Accelerated Phase 3 Strategy of COVID-19 Vaccination.’ It is noted in his article that the Government of India’s pricing will remain in place and continue for the category for free distribution as well. The Center will also continue to provide vaccine doses from its 50% quota to States and Union Territories for free. This quota is meant to provide flexibility to states allowing them to determine priority groups that need vaccinations. This balance 50% quota is “open for corporate and private sector to pool in their resources.” Press Release from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:

INTENSE ACTION AND LOCAL CONTAINMENT MEASURES AT DISTRICT-LEVEL The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have directed states to prepare intense actions and local containment measures in districts that meet either of two criteria – 1) If test positivity of 10% or more in the last 1 week, 2) If bed occupancy of more than 60% on either oxygen supported or ICU beds. The Center has suggested that States appoint senior officials as Nodal Officers to be statements in these districts for a period of 14 days to monitor and implement actions. The Nodal Officer with the District Collector and Municipal Commissioners should identify clusters of reported cases that need local containment. Details on Containment, Testing and Surveillance, Clinical Management, Vaccination, Community Engagement are outlined in the press release. Press Release from Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:

PORTS WAIVE ALL CHARGES FOR SHIPS CARRYING OXYGEN/RELATED EQUIPMENT The Indian government has directed all Major Ports to waive all charges (including vessel related charges, storage charges, etc.) for vessels carrying: medical grade oxygen, oxygen tanks, oxygen bottles, portable oxygen generators, oxygen concentrators, steel pipes for manufacturing for oxygen cylinder manufacturing. This will be active for the next three months. Press Release from Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways:

COVID-19 HELPDESKS FOR TRADE RELATED ISSUES Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) Helpdesk Service The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has operationalized a COVID-19 Helpdesk to monitor status of exports/imports and challenges faced by stakeholders involved in trade due to increase in COVID-19 cases. METHOD A:



  • Or Call Toll Free: 1800-111-550

Press Release from Ministry of Commerce and Industry: Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has set up a focused helpdesk to handle COVID-19 related imports and customs clearance as shared in the previous COVID-19 Alert as well.



UN launches the first artificial intelligence tool for rapid natural capital accounting

New tool will make it easier for countries to measure ecosystems

New York, 29 April – An innovative artificial intelligence (AI) tool that will make it easier for countries to measure the contributions of nature to their economic prosperity and well‑being was launched today by the United Nations and the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3).

Developed by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and BC3, the new tool can vastly accelerate implementation of the new ground-breaking standard for valuing the contributions of nature that was adopted by the UN Statistical Commission last month.

The tool makes use of AI technology using the Artificial Intelligence for Environment and Sustainability (ARIES) platform to support countries as they apply the new international standard for natural capital accounting, the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Ecosystem Accounting.

The new open-source and user-friendly digital tool, called the ARIES for SEEA Explorer, enables, for the first time, rapid and standardized yet customizable ecosystem accounting anywhere on Earth.

“The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is a game changer for governments that want to implement the recently adopted SEEA Ecosystem Accounting standard,” stressed Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the Statistics Division. “This application allows countries to jump-start accounts compilation from global data sources, which they can refine with national data or model parameters.”

The ecosystem accounts produced by countries will track the extent, condition and services provided by nature’s ecosystems – such as forests and wetlands – in the form of physical and monetary accounts and indicators. The adoption of the SEEA Ecosystem Accounting has been heralded as a historic step forward for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to move beyond GDP in tracking global progress.

Bert Kroese, Deputy Director for Statistics Netherlands and Chair of the UN Committee of Environmental-Economic Accounting said, “The ARIES for SEEA Explorer will give countries a much-needed tool to make progress with the SDGs and the monitoring framework of the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Its low barrier to entry will ensure that no country is left behind when it comes to ecosystem accounting.”

Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General of Statistics South Africa and Chair of the UN Committee of Experts on Big Data and Data Science for Official Statistics said, “The launch of the ARIES for SEEA Explorer on the UN Global Platform is an important step to mainstream the measurement of ecosystems and their contribution to the economy and wellbeing into global, regional and domestic statistics that will feed into policy and decision making. Better measures of nature will contribute to better policies to save our planet.”

Building economic systems that value nature as a central source of human wellbeing, environmental health and economic prosperity in the post-COVID-19 world is essential, according to Susan Gardner, Director of UNEP’s Ecosystems Division. “Having technology that incorporates and integrates the latest data, models and understanding of nature’s contributions through natural capital accounting will facilitate well-informed nature positive decision-making from businesses and governments – driving tangible action on biodiversity loss and climate change and a sustainable future for all,” she said.

The new platform could lead to greater collaboration. Ferdinando Villa, Ikerbasque Professor and Lead Investigator of ARIES at BC3, added, “There is a growing global demand for sustainable management of our natural resources, and to achieve this, scientists and decision-makers need to collaborate more and more. AI-based tools like the ARIES for SEEA Explorer hold the key to a future where open integration and reuse of knowledge, by both, is possible.”

The ARIES for SEEA Explorer is available on the UN Global Platform: a cloud-service environment supporting international collaboration among all countries in the world by sharing scientific knowledge, data, methods and technology.

A number of countries have already started using the ARIES for SEEA Explorer. The Explorer will continue to be expanded in the near future, by adding the functionality to derive indicators that allow to assess progress towards SDGs and the emerging post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

For more information:

ARIES for SEEA video:

Image stockshots on ARIES for SEEA:

Please contact Helen Rosengren, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs,, +1 2129639492


TuckeredoutPodcast and CNN: India COVID-19 Crisis



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