ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
28 June 2013

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Refugee Agency, World Food Programme, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, World Trade Organization, Inter-Parliamentary Union and the World Intellectual Property Organization.

ECOSOC

United Nations Secretary-General

Ms. Momal-Vanian announced that the United Nations Secretary-General would arrive in Geneva on Monday 1 July, when he would attend the opening of the high-level segment of the annual meeting of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) at 9.15 a.m. in Room XX of the Palais des Nations.

In particular, the Secretary-General will launch the 2013 report on the Millennium Development Goals in 2013, which was distributed under embargo on Wednesday.

During his visit to Geneva the Secretary-General would also attend the launch of the Global Innovation Index 2013 by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), at 11 a.m. on Monday 1 (also in Room XX), which ranks the world's economies based on their innovation capabilities and results. He would also inaugurate the Innovation Fair.

Ms. Momal Vanian said that the Secretary-General would give a press stakeout at 12:45, at Door 40 of the Palais des Nations, and asked journalists to arrive a few minutes early. She confirmed that the Secretary-General would leave Geneva later that day to travel to Iceland.

ECOSOC-related Press Conferences

Ed Harris, for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) reminded press that the launch of the Global Innovation Index 2013 would take place on Monday 1 July first with a press conference at 10 a.m. in Room III with WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, Soumitra Doutta, Dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson of the Graduate School of Management in New York and Bruno Lanvin, Executive Director of the INSEAD European Competitiveness Initiative (IECI). Immediately afterwards the official launch would take place at the high-level segment in Room XX at 11 a.m. with addresses by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General and others. Mr. Harris described the Global Innovation Index as an innovation-based ranking of 142 countries produced by Cornell University, INSEAD and four knowledge partners. It was the sixth edition of the report which has evolved into a valuable benchmarking tool to encourage public-private dialogue to encourage policy holders, business leaders and other stakeholders.

Ms. Momal-Vanian said that on the same day Dr Hamadoun Touré, ITU Secretary-General would give a press conference at 2.30 p.m. in Press Room 1 to launch a new joint report by the UN Broadband Commission for Digital Development and Cisco Systems showing the economic impact of National Broadband Plans. Mr Robert Pepper, Senior Vice-President of the Global Technology Policy at Cisco Systems would also be speaking.

On Tuesday 2 July the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), would hold a press conference at 9.15 a.m. to launch the 2013 World Economic and Social Survey (WESS) report. Shamshad Akhtar, Deputy Secretary General for Economic Development and Willem Van Der Geest, Chief, Development Strategy and Policy Analysis Unit (DPAD/DESA) would speak at the event, which would take place at 9.15 a.m. in Press Room III. Journalists were reminded that the 2013 World Economic and Social Survey Report (WESS) was under embargo until 10 a.m. on Tuesday 2 July.

A press conference would take place at 3 p.m. on Tuesday 2 July in Press Room III with the Vice-President of ECOSOC and of the Katerva organization to award the Grand Prize and Peoples’ Choice Award, which helps promote science and technology, the theme for the UN Economic and Social Councils Annual Ministerial Review. Speakers at the event would be the Vice President of ECOSOC: Ambassador Martin Sajdik, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in New York; Katerva’s Grand Prize Award Winner: Bioneedle, Gijsbert van de Wijdeven, DVM, MSc., Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer; Katerva’s Peoples’ Choice Award Winner: Safe World for Women, Chris Crowstaff, Trustee and Founder and the discussion would be moderated by Felix Dodds, author, futurist and activist.

ECOSOC Session and High-Level Segment

Navid Hanif, Director of the Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said the Annual Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which would run from 1 to 25 July, was taking place against the backdrop of a number of on-going challenges and new developments. First, the continuing global jobs crisis and social disruptions in societies. Second was the approaching deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Thirdly, efforts to define the post-2015 development agenda, which was centred around sustainable development and universal applicability. The 2013 ECOSOC session was meant to provide a platform for action and deliberations to address those issues.

Outlining some key issues that the Council would address, Mr. Hanif said the opening high level segment was focused on science, technology, innovation and the potential of culture for achieving MDGs and sustainable development. Innovation was seen as the key to both for transition to sustainable development and for creating jobs. More than 470 million jobs needed to be created between 2015 and 2030 just to keep up with the world’s working age population. That required young people to create jobs by innovations, because labour markets were changing dramatically and the same employment opportunities available now may not be there in 15 years.

To that end, countries would have to create an eco-system of innovation. That meant a seamless transition from the education system to the jobs market. ECOSOC was advocating that governments, industry and other actors support the culture of innovation so that young entrepreneurs could realize their potential.

The second key message was how to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The messages were threefold: some of the MDGs had already been met. A few targets, such as the hunger target, were within reach and could be achieved by 2015. Others required more persistent action and were still out of reach even beyond the deadline – considered advocacy campaigns were needed. The Secretary-General would call for concerted efforts by everyone to meet the deadline. France, Nigeria, Peru and Vietnam would present their experiences regarding achievement of MDGs, including implementing the national development policies, discussing success stories and challenges, allowing ECOSOC to closely link with national level implementation.
The third area was that, for the first time, the Council would hold an Implementation Forum, which will provide a platform for governments, companies and foundations to announce concrete initiatives in the area of science, technology and innovation.

On 4 July the Council would devote a full day to discuss the post-2015 development agenda. UN system representatives, members of the High-Level Panel (HLP) of the Secretary-General and Governments had been invited to discuss how ECOSOC should help in shaping the agenda that was universal and had sustainability at its core. Those discussions would be expected to contribute towards the crystallization of ideas about the post-2015 development agenda to help on-going work in this area.

Mr. Hanif read out the five transformations proposed by the HLP: 1. Leave no one behind. 2. Put sustainable development at the core. 3. Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth. 4. Build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all. 5. Forge a new global partnership will also be under discussion.

The Council would also have a dialogue on the World Economic situation with World Trade Organization Director-General Mr. Pascal Lamy, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Director-General Mr. Supachai, International Monetary Fund leader Mr. Zhu Min and Mr. Mohieldin from the World Bank, who would consider the current global economic and financial challenges. The formal consultations would end with the adoption of the Ministerial Declaration. Mr. Hanif mentioned other prominent speakers who would be taking part in the High Level Segment in addition to the UN Secretary-General. The President of Colombia, Jose Manuel Santos Caldron, would deliver a keynote speech at 11 a.m. on 3 July, and the Presidents of ECOSOC and the UN General Assembly would also be in attendance.

In addition to the formal meetings, the Council was organizing an Innovation Fair where the private sector, UN system and government would display and share innovations that have helped or could help in realizing the MDGs and the goal of sustainable development.
There were more than 20 special events and a number of breakfast meetings that would cover a wide range of topics dealing with innovation, science, technology, culture and broad challenges of achieving sustainable development.

The high level segment would be followed by the coordination segment that was focused on employment issues, operational activities segment that provide guidance to all the funds, programmes and UN specialized agencies. From 15 to 17 July the Humanitarian Affairs Segment, called the Summit of humanitarian communities, would take place and attracts high level participation. It is focused on the future of humanitarian affairs: towards greater inclusiveness, coordination, interoperability and effectiveness. A panel discussions on Innovation in Africa. The Innovation in Africa panel would focus on the demands of young people in Africa who needed relevant skills and also intellectual property rights, especially to nurture entrepreneurship. How could Africa help itself in terms of development would be a key question. Mr. Hanif also flagged a panel discussion on Universal Health Coverage.

The Council would conclude on 26 July by looking at the activities of the whole ECOSOC system and provide guidance for the future work of its subsidiary bodies.

Syrian refugees

Jemini Pandya for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) gave updates on the outcome of the mission to Jordan for Syrian refugees composed of MPs from around the world and IPU Secretary General Anders B. Johnsson. The aim of the mission, which ends today, Friday 28 June, was to mobilize parliamentary action on the growing Syrian refugee and humanitarian crisis.

The mission met Syrian refugees and humanitarian officials at Zaatri camp. Built in a year, Zaatri camp was currently hosting 120,000 people, making it Jordan’s fifth largest city. The IPU mission also had detailed briefings with Jordanian leaders including Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour, Interior Minister Hussein Majali and the Speakers of both houses of the Jordanian parliament.

The mission was truly impressed by the efforts to mitigate the enormous human suffering evident in Jordan, but was also equally struck by the scale of Jordan’s generosity, despite the many economic challenges the country was facing and the huge strain on resources for its own people. Catering for half a million Syrian refugees was putting an enormous strain on the Jordanian people. Access to water, health, education and other services as well as infrastructure had been stretched beyond the limit. In northern Jordan, new health clinics, hospitals and schools were urgently needed.

In its initial findings, the IPU mission underscored the urgent need to inject the necessary means to alleviate the human suffering and to find innovative financial and human resourcing to tackle the crisis in the mid to long-term. That included the use of non-Jordanian doctors to treat refugees and so lessen the strain on Jordan’s health system, as currently only Jordanian doctors were allowed to treat refugees, with a few exceptions.

The mission was also very concerned about refugee children not attending school, in some cases for two years. The mission stressed the importance of child refugees receiving an all-round education, meaning that learning about the rights and duties of citizenship and the equal treatment of men and women would be critical to the future of a peaceful and democratic society in Syria.

The mission would now report full findings to all parliaments in the coming days and weeks and urge them to take action to ensure concrete support was provided from countries around the globe. Some of the MPs on the mission had declared their intention to mobilize funding or political action in their own parliaments, whether financial or political support. Time was of the essence to finding a solution as the current situation was unsustainable.

Gaëlle Sévenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said they had started deliveries of aid to some 26,000 Syrian refugees, host communities and Lebanese returnee families in South Lebanon in an operation funded by the government of Japan.

On Friday 21 June the IOM distributed non-food relief (NFI) kits containing hygiene and other essential household items to 1,596 beneficiaries living in three collective shelters in the Sarafand area. IOM had now provided over 100,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon with non-food relief items since the beginning of the Syrian Crisis.

IOM operations were temporarily suspended over the weekend due to fighting on Sunday between the Lebanese army and militia loyal to a local Salafi cleric, Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir, in the port city of Sidon. As a result of the fighting, access to the southern city of Tyre was cut off. The road has now reopened and IOM operations in the area resumed on Wednesday.

However, with the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon now passing the 520,000 mark, and in the absence of formal refugee camps, living conditions for refugees, Lebanese returnees and host communities alike were deteriorating. Rents were spiralling and access to adequate health care services, water and sanitation was becoming increasingly problematic. IOM was working with local municipalities to identify unused public buildings that it could renovate in South of Lebanon to accommodate families currently living in camps or unable to pay the high rents.

IOM planned to launch a mobile team to provide psychosocial support services for displaced Syrian families affected by the on-going conflict, and facilitate mental health referrals as needed. The psychosocial team would organize recreational and community based psychosocial activities while ensuring referral of individuals in need of specialized interventions. Additionally, IOM was currently working to improve access to health care for refugees, returnees and host communities through supporting the National Tuberculosis Programme under the Ministry of Public Health.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that a cholera epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Katanga province had so far killed 257 people out of more than 11,100 reported cases since the beginning of the year. A high concentration of cases and fatalities – approximately half – had been recorded by health authorities in the main city of Lubumbashi.

Cholera was a water-borne disease and the direct cause of the epidemic was that people did not have access to safe drinking water, as well as poor sanitation and inadequate hygiene at household level. Humanitarian partners were therefore focusing on water treatment and hygiene information campaigns to stem the spread of the disease.

Organisations on the ground estimated that they would need an additional US$1.9 million to urgently implement water, sanitation and hygiene projects in local communities between now and the end of the year.

Many of the worst hit areas were also highly insecure with limited access because of clashes between the Government Congolese army and the Mai-Mai group "Bakata Katanga", and also between the Mai-Mai and various self-defence groups. Katanga had in recent years been a relatively stable province in the otherwise unstable Democratic Republic of the Congo, but due to the proliferation of armed groups there were now some 350,000 internally displaced people of whom over 43,000 had been displaced in the first quarter of this year alone.

In addition to cholera and growing insecurity, food security was also a major problem in Katanga. A recent analysis - the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification - concludes that 10 per cent of the population, 1.2 million people, were in a state of food security crisis and needed both food aid and urgent agricultural assistance to save their production. The territory of Manono in the east of the province was classified as phase 4, which meant that the food security situation today was life-threatening.

Mr. Laerke said that according to OCHA colleagues on the ground, the combined effect of insecurity, disease, hunger and on-going violence had led to a climate of fear, anxiety and despair across the province.

Rwanda

Adrian Edwards for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in October 2009, UNHCR announced a strategy for bringing to proper closure the situation of Rwandan refugees who fled their country before 31 December 1998. The strategy contained four components: voluntary repatriation, local integration, retention of refugee status for people still in need of international protection, and finally the invocation of the so-called cessation clause.

Cessation clauses were built into the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Refugee Convention. They provided for refugee status to end once fundamental and durable changes have taken place in the country of origin and the circumstances that led to flight no longer existed. In the case of Rwanda, UNHCR had recommended that cessation come into effect from 30 June 2013.

All the major asylum countries hosting the Rwandan refugees, as well as Rwanda itself, had been implementing the strategy. Following a Ministerial meeting on 18 April 2013 in Pretoria, they had agreed to apply cessation at different rates.

That meant that some states were moving ahead with giving effect to cessation of refugee status while other governments, in view of domestic legal and practical constraints, preferred to push forward the other components of the strategy first. All were indeed pursuing the respective components of that strategy, including local integration – namely the grant to the Rwandan refugees who would qualify alternative legal status, including the prospect of naturalization.

UNHCR was working very closely with all the Governments and other stakeholders concerned, including the refugees themselves, on the implementation of the different aspects of the strategy beyond 30 June 2013.

More than 3.5 million Rwandans became refugees in the wake of the 1994 genocide and armed clashes in north-western Rwanda in 1997 and 1998 – the last time the country experienced generalized violence. All but an estimated 100,000 had since returned home, owing to lasting peace and stability in their country.

The remaining 100,000 Rwandan refugees were hosted mainly by Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of the Congo, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

In line with its mandate, UNHCR was working to solve protracted refugee situations in Africa. Cessation of refugee status for Sierra Leonean refugees took place in 2008 and for Angolan and Liberian refugees on 30 June last year.

Myanmar

Adrian Edwards for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said the UN refugee agency was concerned at a violent incident yesterday in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state that killed two internally displaced people and wounded six others – including two minors.

The incident took place on Thursday morning in the Kyein Ni Pyin IDP camp in Pauktaw township of Rakhine state. That was a site where UNHCR had been building temporary shelters for some 4,400 Rohingya displaced by last year’s inter-communal violence.

The incident was believed to have started over a dispute between displaced people and a village leader. A reportedly poor relationship between them had been compounded by false rumours that displaced people would be isolated and prevented from returning to their places of origin. When some of the displaced gathered at a nearby military post asking that the leader be handed over, gunfire was used by the authorities to disperse the crowd and resulting in the fatalities and wounding.

UNHCR staff arrived at the scene shortly after to follow up with the victims’ families and facilitate medical attention to the injured. They were also concerned about the safety of the village leader and his family.

UNHCR was calling for an investigation into the incident. It appealed to the authorities to handle the matter in a peaceful and calm way to avoid fuelling further violence and loss of life. UNHCR was also calling for dialogue between the involved parties to resolve the grievance. Joint efforts by the government, community leaders and humanitarian actors were also needed to dispel rumours about the rights of displaced people to return to their places of origin in Kyein Ni Pyin and other villages where those sentiments had been emerging.

As the lead agency for shelter, camp coordination, camp management and protection in the humanitarian response in Rakhine state, UNHCR’s current priority was to provide temporary relief for the displaced during the rainy season. It strongly believed that the government must build confidence with the communities and promote reconciliation, so that those displaced could eventually return to their areas of origin.

Thursday’s tragic incident also indicated the urgent need to strengthen the camp coordination and camp management work which was grossly underfunded despite current needs.

A year after the first wave of inter-communal violence erupted in June 2012, there were still up to 140,000 people displaced within Rakhine state.

Election Support to Malian refugees

Adrian Edwards for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that with a month to go before the 28 July presidential elections in Mali UNHCR was strengthening its role in helping neighbouring countries deal with out-of-country voting for Malian refugees. Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania together hosted 175,000 Malian refugees from the recent conflict there. Refugees eligible to vote in exile were people already registered in the Malian Administrative Civil Status Census done in 2010.

UNHCR was supporting the participation of refugees in these elections, although its role was limited to a strictly humanitarian and non-political one. It was providing refugees with practical information on their right to participate in the elections and also providing some transportation.

In Burkina Faso, UNHCR had undertaken awareness campaigns in all refugee camps (Goudoubo, Mentao and Sag-nioniogo), as well as spontaneous refugee sites (Dibissi, Tin Hedja, Deou and Gountouré Gnégné) and in urban settings with concentration of refugees (Bobo-Dioulasso, Ouagadougo and Ouahigouya). Voting would be on a voluntary basis and refugees are being informed accordingly. UNHCR was letting people know that personal information and data held by UNHCR was not being shared with the Malian government, and advising on steps to take should people come under pressure from any person or party involved in the election.

Between last Tuesday (25 June) and today, and with UNHCR logistics, transportation, and translation support, ten Malian teams deployed by the Malian Embassy had started registering refugees for the vote. Of 49,945 refugees in camps and spontaneous sites, 18,409 were of voting age (age 18 and above). The registration process was being monitored by Burkina Faso’s national refugee commission CONAREF (Commission nationale pour les refugies). Participation of refugees in registration was low at first but had since picked up. Registration figures should be available in the next days. The names of those who registered would be transmitted to the Bamako authorities so that their electoral cards could be sent to Burkina Faso and then distributed to the refugees.

Similar arrangements were in place in Niger and Mauritania. In Niger, which was hosting some 50,000 Malian refugees, teams from the Malian Consulate had registered voters in the Mangaize and Tabareybarey camps. The exercise was continuing in the Abala camp, as well as in the Intekan and Tassalit refugee hosting areas (in the Tahoua region), with UNHCR logistics support. In Mauritania, which hosted 75,000 Malian refugees in Mbera camp, preparations for the registration of Malian voters were on-going. Consultations between the Mauritanian authorities, the Malian embassy in Nouakchott and UNHCR were continuing. UNHCR was providing logistics support.

Mr. Edwards noted that UNHCR had previously facilitated out-of-country voting by refugees in South Sudan in 2011, in Iraq in 2010 and in Afghanistan in 2004.

A journalist asked about some 60,000 Ivorian refugees who had been in Liberia for over two years. They used to live in host families but apparently the Government of Liberia was pushing them to move into camps. The journalist said that the refugees were very scared because they were regularly attacked by former rebels who had integrated into the Ivorian army. In reply, Mr. Edwards said latest figures from UNHCR were that 59,600 Ivorian refugees were still in Liberia. UNHCR had recently helped some 10,000 refugees voluntarily return. He was not aware of those particular incidents but would look into them and revert.

Central African Republic

Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) spoke about a new WFP report on food security in Central African Republic which presented the results of the first large-scale national survey since almost the beginning of the humanitarian crisis in 2012.

By way of background, Ms. Byrs said that since the first ten days of December 2012, the Central African Republic (CAR) had been the scene of unprecedented armed movements. At the end of March an armed group known as "Seleka" had taken control of the central and south-eastern regions, and capital city Bangui, and seized power. While fighting had greatly reduced and the situation was improving, the populations still lived in fear of continuing violence. Large displacement of civilian populations has made the existing humanitarian crisis in CAR even more difficult. During the clashes between the coalition and government forces in December, civilians had suffered significant collateral damage, from loss of life to loss of individual and community assets.

In summary, Ms. Byrs said, the main cause of food insecurity in CAR was the volatile security situation. There was a risk of poor harvests in several areas if emergency assistance was not delivered on time. Access to food across the country in general was greatly reduced because of the loss of food reserves, rising prices, falling incomes and lack of availability on the plains. A combination of poor food consumption and lack of access to health services created a high risk of a food crisis in the coming months.

WFP, together with members of the Food Security Cluster, recommended several emergency actions with women at the centre, in order to ensure sustainability. The recommendations included providing immediate assistance to the most vulnerable households, in the form of food and vegetable crops; providing support for agricultural production (agriculture and livestock); emergency assistance to vulnerable persons including IDPs-protection rations; strengthening the purchasing power of vulnerable populations through programs of Cash / Voucher AGR; and management of acute malnutrition, particularly in children, pregnant, and lactating women.

From June to August, as part of its Immediate Response Operation, the WFP will assist 128,000 people, mainly through targeted food distribution in targeted areas including Bangui, Bambari, Batalimo, and Kabo among others. In 2012 the WFP assisted over 334,000 people with food and nutrition aid.

Geneva activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian announced that on Tuesday 2 July the Swiss Mission would hold a press conference at 11.30 a.m. in Room III to launch the Small Arms Survey 2013: Everyday Dangers. Speaking at that event would be Ambassador Urs Schmid, Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the Conference on Disarmament; and lead researchers for the Small Arms Survey Anna Alvazzi del Frate and Glenn McDonald.

Clare Nullis for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spoke about momentum gain in a global initiative to provide climate services for society and a meeting that would be held next week, from Monday 1 to Friday 5 July of the Intergovernmental Board on Climate Services to discuss implementation, a road map and priorities of the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS). Climate services were things such as heat health warnings as seen currently in the United States heat wave and regional drought monitors. Ms. Nullis said while it sounds bureaucratic much practical progress had been seen on the ground, and WMO were trying to kick-start climate services at the national level in Africa in particular, and had together with partners launched pilot projects in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Chad and is preparing projects in many other countries.
The global push to deliver climate information and services is spearheaded by the World Meteorological Organization in partnership with many other international organizations such as United Nations agencies, the World Bank and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement.

An event of interest to the press would take place on Monday 1 July at the CICG, a dialogue on practical climate services with a keynote address from the Julius Slinger, Chief Scientist at the UK Met Office. That event would be webcast live and details would be sent out. Ms. Nullis also announced that on Wednesday 3 July a press conference with the WMO Secretary-General would take place at 1 p.m. in Press Room I of the Palais des Nations to launch a report titled Global Climate 2001 to 2010: A Decade of Extremes. The report charts extreme weather conditions experienced during an unprecedented decade. Ms. Nullis would circulate to media a press release and embargoed copies of the report, which was so far available in every UN language except Spanish and French. Details about the press conference would follow.

Jean Rodriguez, for the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) announced that today (27 June) UNECE’s World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations adopted worldwide regulation on hydrogen vehicles in the form of a United Nations Global Technical Regulation governing the safety of hydrogen and fuel cell-powered vehicles, the first international legislation in that field. David Strickland, Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States, was present in Geneva for the meeting and praised the international cooperation that led to the new legislation, which he said would permit consumers to know that “vehicles produced according to global regulations were the most advanced in terms of safety, fuel efficiency, and environmental protection.” Mr. Strickland also awarded a plaque to the UNECE WP 29 Secretariat, “In recognition of its outstanding contribution to the advancement of global technical regulations for motor vehicle safety under the 1998 Global Agreement”.

Mr. Rodriguez also announced that the join United Nations Economic Commission for Europe – United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) regional conference “Enabling Choices: Population Priorities for the 21st Century” would take place from Monday 1 to Tuesday 2 July in Room XVIII at the Palais des Nations. The conference would see over 200 high-level experts from governments, members of parliaments, researchers on population issues, civil society and youth representatives discussing strategies for action on population issues beyond 2014. Thematic sessions would take place on the following: Population Dynamics and Sustainable Development; Families, Sexual and Reproductive Health over the Life Course; Inequalities, Social Inclusion and Rights; and a panel session on Partnership and International Cooperation.

Melissa Begag for the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced a press conference by the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Committee would take place today, Friday 28 June 2013, at 2:15 p.m. in Press Room 1. Peter Ungphakorn, Senior Information Officer, World Trade Organization would be speaking about issues related to food safety and animal and plant health.

Outlining the WTO schedule for the coming week, Ms. Begag said on Sunday 30 June at 10 a.m. there would be a Public Inauguration of the New WTO Campus with WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy. The Committee on Regional Trade Agreements would meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 July, and the Working Group on Trade and Transfer of Technology would meet at 10 a.m. on Thursday 4 July. On Tuesday 2 July the Director-General would attend ECOSOC at the Palais des Nations as keynote speaker at the High-Level Policy Dialogue with the International Financial and Trade Institutions. On Sunday 7 July the Director-General would visit to Aix-en-Provence in France to speaks at the Rencontres Economiques d'Aix on "The World and the Clash of Times".

Ed Harris, for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) gave an update on successful treaty negotiation in Morocco, where an agreement would be signed today (Friday) that would ease access to books for blind people around the world. The treaty had been under discussion for nearly a decade, so it was a major breakthrough. Stevie Wonder was flying to Morocco to play a celebration concert for the negotiators tonight, and would also hold a press conference.

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The representatives of the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the International Labour Organization also attended the briefing but did not speak.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/1aTrahy