REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
17 April 2012
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the International Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families opened its session yesterday and would this morning conclude its consideration of the report of Paraguay. It would consider the report of Tajikistan this afternoon and tomorrow morning. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations on the two reports would be released towards the end of its session on Friday, 27 April.
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities also opened its session yesterday. It was reviewing today the report of Peru, which was the only country report which it would consider during the session. The Committee would issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report towards the end of its session on Friday, 20 April.
There would be a press conference on Thursday, 19 April at 12:30 p.m. by UNHCR on the launch of the 2011 Global Overview of Internal Displacement report. The speakers would be António Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Elisabeth Rasmusson, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council; and Kate Halff, Head of the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. UNHCR had already sent the embargoed report to journalists.
A journalist said he had read a statement by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Syria last week on the holding of a Syria Humanitarian Forum in Geneva and asked for more information. In response, Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Syria Humanitarian Forum would be held on Friday, 20 April in Geneva. The previous one was held on 8 March. This was an operational meeting for the directors of Member States’ humanitarian aid departments. Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, was not planning to attend as of now. The Syria Humanitarian Forum would be co-chaired by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ Operational Director John Ging, with the Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Director-General of the European Commission’s humanitarian arm. The Forum was intended as a platform for all engaged in humanitarian response to share information and mobilize funding and support for effective and timely delivery of humanitarian aid. As with the last time, the event was not open to the media and no public statements or other documents were expected to be released from the meeting.
In response to requests for either a stakeout or a press conference with Mr. Ging, Ms. Momal-Vanian said she would pass on the request for one, but stressed that the plan at this time was for no public statement to be issued.
Asked about the present humanitarian situation on the ground, Ms. Momal-Vanian said that Ms. Amos and the Secretary-General had cited the number of 1 million people needing humanitarian assistance at this stage in Syria.
Sudan and South Sudan
Ms. Momal-Vanian said a statement by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was released last night in which the Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern over continued hostilities between Sudan and South Sudan, including its impact on innocent civilians. He called on both parties to end the fighting immediately and to respect international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians. Mr. Ban called on the Government of Sudan to cease immediately all aerial bombardment of South Sudan territory. He also called on the Government of South Sudan to withdraw immediately from Higlig and to use legal and diplomatic instruments to address its arguments on the status of Higlig. The complete version of the statement in English and in French was available.
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had also issued a statement yesterday in which it expressed its concern about the continued aerial bombing in areas populated by civilians in Unity and Warrap States. UNMISS noted that Security Council resolution 1996 (2011) called on UNMISS to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence. Over the weekend, UNMISS confirmed several bombings, including five bombs that dropped in Mayom town yesterday evening, where a United Nations Mission’s Country Support Base was hit. As a result of these bombings, 8 civilians were killed and 22 were injured. The complete version of the statement was available.
Claire Nullis of the World Meteorological Organization said WMO’s Regional Association for the Americas Hurricane Committee had wrapped up its annual meeting on Sunday. On its agenda, it had reviewed the last hurricane season. One of its decisions was to retire the name Irene from the official list of Atlantic basin tropical storm names. It took this decision because of the death and damage caused by Irene last August, which resulted in 49 deaths. Damage in the United States was estimated at $15.8 billion. The names of the hurricanes rotated on a six year basis. The name Irene would be replaced by Irma. An information note had been sent to journalists.
Angelina Jolie / UNHCR
Adrian Edwards of the United Nations Refugee Agency said UNHCR was pleased to announce today that Angelina Jolie would take on a new and expanded role for UNHCR as Special Envoy of High Commissioner Antonio Guterres. During a decade of service as UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador, Ms. Jolie had conducted more than 40 field visits around the world, becoming an expert on the phenomenon of forced displacement and a tireless advocate on their behalf. In her new role, Ms. Jolie was expected to focus on large-scale crises resulting in the mass displacement of people, and to undertake advocacy and represent UNHCR and Mr. Guterres at the diplomatic level, engaging with relevant interlocutors on global displacement issues. Ms. Jolie would focus on complex emergencies and would work to facilitate lasting solutions for people displaced by conflict. High Commissioner Guterres was grateful to Ms. Jolie for accepting this role at a critical time in global displacement. Her new status as Special Enjoy was effective immediately.
Asked what her first assignment would be, and if it might by Syria, Mr. Edwards said Ms. Jolie did have an upcoming field visit, which journalists would hear about later this week. However, the visit would not be to that part of the world.
Responding to another question, Mr. Edwards said the role of the Goodwill Ambassador normally was to bring public attention to issues which would otherwise not receive sufficient attention. In her new role, Ms. Jolie would focus on large scale crises and would undertake a more advanced level of advocacy, particularly in areas related to the human rights area of UNHCR’s work, and would represent UNHCR and Mr. Guterres at the diplomatic level. Ms. Jolie’s work with UNHCR over the past decade went significantly beyond the normal role of a Goodwill Ambassador and this new status was intended to both recognize this and to facilitate this additional work. Her specific focus would be for advocacy support for displaced populations. She would advocate with key stakeholders on strategic issues, with a particular emphasis on adherence to human rights law, the preservation of humanitarian space and what they called protection sensitive solutions for refugees and displaced people.
Answering further questions, Mr. Edwards said Ms. Jolie was not paid for her work with UNHCR. She had donated substantially to refugees and her work with UNHCR had helped enormously to shed light on many difficult and protracted issues that UNHCR dealt with. On 4 October 2011 at the meeting of the Executive Committee of UNHCR, Mr. Guterres had spoken about the exceptional nature of the work of Ms. Jolie for UNHCR. Since she started her work with UNHCR in August 2001, she had conducted more than 40 field visits, had written books on these issues; some of her professional work was related to these issues, and her work went substantially more than what they would consider the normal role of a Goodwill Ambassador. Her missions had brought public attention to issues that were difficult to get recognized. UNHCR dealt with both immediate crises and emergency situations where there tended to be media attention, but it was far far more difficult to get attention to some of the world’s more protracted situations of mass displacement. It was vitally important for UNHCR to get attention to these protracted situations as UNHCR existed through voluntary funds and they needed public government and other support to deal with situations and Ms. Jolie had helped them with this. Protracted situations meant situations where large numbers of people had been displaced for five years or more, Afghanistan and Somalia for example.
This was the first time for UNHCR that a Goodwill Ambassador had been promoted to a Special Enjoy, an exceptional position reflecting the exceptional role that Ms. Jolie had performed for UNHCR.
International Organization for Migration
Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization for Migration said IOM, the Royal Thai Police and the Canadian Embassy in Bangkok would this week launch a project designed to increase Thailand’s capacity to tackle smuggling to, from and through the country. There were more details in the briefing notes.
Mr. Chauzy said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and IOM would later today sign an agreement pledging a closer cooperation to tackle human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and to improve border management, bearing in mind the cross-cutting theme of corruption.