REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
22 August 2014
Alessandra Vellucci, Chief of the Press and Public Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum.
Rolando Gomez of the Human Rights Council said a press conference with the Syrian Commission of Inquiry, headed by Paolo Pinheiro, would be in Geneva on Wednesday, 27 August, to launch their latest report, which covered the period between mid-January and mid-July. The Commission would also address the latest human rights developments in Syria. This was their eighth report since they began their work. Today marked the third anniversary of the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry. The report itself would be shared with journalists under strict embargo on the morning of the press conference, which would take place at 11 a.m. on 27 August in Room III.
Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the OHCHR was releasing an updated analysis on casualties in Syria. The analysis set out the compilation of a list of 191,369 cases of individuals who had been reported killed in Syria between March 2011 and the end of April 2014. This was the third in a series of statistical analysis reports that the Office had prepared on casualties in Syria. This compilation was constantly being refined, so journalists should not try and compare this one to previous ones. Indeed, new information emerged about the past all the time, so the figures were not quite the same as previous ones, but included additional reports of killings from the earlier periods. Therefore, in addition to around 62,000 new killings in the year covered by this new analysis, the total had now more than doubled the number documented a year ago, as announced in June 2013. As the report explained, this was probably and unfortunately an underestimate of the real total number of people killed in the first three years of this murderous conflict.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement being issued today, said she deeply regretted that, given the onset of so many other armed conflicts in this period of global destabilization, the fighting in Syria and its dreadful impact on millions of civilians had dropped off the international radar.
The latest study was conducted using a combined list of 318,910 reported killings, fully identified by the first and last name of the victim, as well as the date and location of the death. Any reported killing that did not include at least these three elements was excluded from the list, which was being compiled using datasets from five different sources. Records of reported killings were compared in order to identify duplicates, which was the same system that had been used before. After the duplicates they could identify were removed, which amounted to around 127,000 from a total of 318,000, they were left with the 191,000 figure. The statisticians who produced it stressed that this should not be seen as the complete number of conflict-related killings in Syria; this total was likely to underestimate the actual number of killings. For example, 51,900 killings were not included because there was insufficient information about them, but that did not necessarily mean that they did not occur. There was also a strong likelihood that a significant number of killings may not have been reported at all by any of the five sources OHCHR was drawing on. There were more details in the press release.
The High Commissioner had said: “It is scandalous that the predicament of the injured, displaced, the detained, and the relatives of all those who have been killed or are missing is no longer attracting much attention, despite the enormity of their suffering. It is a real indictment of the age we live in that not only has this been allowed to continue so long, with no end in sight, but it is also now impacting horrendously on hundreds of thousands of other people across the border in northern Iraq, and the violence has also spilled over into Lebanon. The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis. There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity, yet the Security Council has failed to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court, where it clearly belongs. It is essential Governments take serious measures to halt the fighting and deter the crimes, and above all stop fuelling this monumental, and wholly avoidable, human catastrophe through the provision of arms and other military supplies.”
Ms. Vellucci said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had put out a statement last night on the one year anniversary of the chemical weapons attack in Damascus. He said that one year ago today, the horrific chemical weapons attack in Ghouta shocked the conscience of the world. The Secretary-General once again conveyed his deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones and called on the international community to remember those who perished in this inhuman act. Since the attack, the Syrian conflict not only continued unabated, but it had spilled over into neighbouring countries, sparking a humanitarian catastrophe and fuelling further human rights violations and crimes against humanity. The on-going conflict was also contributing to conditions conducive to the proliferation of terrorism. It remained a major threat to international peace and security. The Secretary-General stressed that the international community had a moral obligation to unite immediately and help put an end to this expanding conflict that was de-stabilizing an entire region. The United Nations, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, would continue to do their utmost in pursuit of this goal.
Asked what the High Commissioner believed was causing this international paralysis, Mr. Colville said the High Commissioner pointed first and foremost to the Security Council, and this was very much in tune of what she said yesterday directly to the Security Council about what she perceived as their failure to act to stop this crisis. She was not talking only about Syria but about several of the other major disasters that had been taking place around the world. He could not answer on her view of this, but the paralysis was also partly to do with the complexity of Syria and its geo-political situation in the Middle East, but also clearly its relationships with other States.
Asked about Ms Pillay's opposition to the giving of weapons, which she said would further fuel the war, Mr Colville said that in the view of OHCHR, there were far too many weapons in Syria already. ISIS was heavily armed, and putting more weapons into this environment simply risked making the situation even worse than it was already. The High Commissioner’s comments today reflected on what had happened already in the three years of war in Syria where weapons had been clearly going in either to groups like ISIS or to the Syrian Government. OHCHR believed that fuelling this conflict and providing weapons to governments or armed groups - if they looked back historically at Afghanistan and how Stinger missiles supplied to the mujehaddin in the 1980s were then used for other purposes – everyone should think very, very carefully before they supplied weapons, and about who they were supplying them to.
A journalist asked whether it would help to point out who were the people that supposedly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity and perhaps be more specific on the accusations, as the High Commissioner was sitting on the list with the names of people who were perhaps responsible. Mr. Colville said that the High Commissioner was not planning to release the names of those people in her last days. Indeed, the Commission of Inquiry’s list of names (which was periodically updated and given to the High Commissioner for safekeeping) and the evidence that was being gathered on an individual basis by the Commission of Inquiry or by OHCHR, was to help future court cases. If they started naming individuals, they risked prejudicing the case.
Asked by a journalist how much worse could it get, if they had nearly 200,000 deaths already, and if evidence might arrive too late in the court, Mr. Colville said it was not possible to say that the conflict was going on because the names had not been released. There were many other factors why the conflict was continuing. OHCHR’s point was that what might have a deterrent effect would be to have the case of Syria referred to the International Criminal Court where it belonged. Then the people committing these crimes would have a very visible trajectory to justice on the horizon for them, and that might make them think twice. Right now, they did not have to think twice, they could see atrocities being committed all around them by their colleagues in the armed forces, on You Tube and everywhere else, and there was absolutely no deterrent at all. He did not think the High Commissioner releasing the names and possibly jeopardizing future court cases was really going to make much of a difference to that scenario. What would make a difference would be if the Security Council, as the High Commissioner had called on it to do numerous times, refer Syria to the International Criminal Court. The Court existed for exactly this kind of scenario.
Asked about the reasons of releasing the figures now, Mr. Colville said they had been asked a lot about why they had stopped a year ago. The statisticians working on this report were dependent on information data provided by a variety of groups as well as by the Syrian Government. There had been some issues with some of those groups, because it was essential that the integrity of the information was as good as one could get it in the circumstances. But the circumstances were particularly difficult if officials were not even able to enter the country. That had been an issue since the beginning: could they be sufficiently confident that the numbers that they gave on the basis of their analysis were sound, or largely sound? Last February, OHCHR had held a workshop with the four groups providing figures (but not the Government), and experts and statisticians had been able to share advice with the groups on how to improve their methodology. On the basis of that, OHCHR did feel sufficiently confident that they could re-start issuing reports. It was incredibly important that the world had an idea on the scale of killings in Syria. The numbers should not be taken as the absolute truth, they almost certainly were not, but the numbers were indicative, based on very, very precise data on individual killings. The most important thing to remember about any number was that these are not numbers, but people. People are dying every day. The rate of killings in Syria are still extraordinarily high; over the last year, around five or six thousand people died every month, which was similar to the year before. However, the story had pretty much dropped off the radar, despite the huge numbers of killings. It was not getting attention anymore, and that was something OHCHR hoped to rectify with the report today.
A journalist said that they did not see in the report if the analysts found any information on who killed those 200,000, how many were killed by the Government and how many were killed by other armed groups. Why did the report ignore this point? Mr. Colville said this was not really the purpose of this analysis and it was not feasible to start doing that on an individual basis, because it would need repeated verification. This was quite simply to report killings and to produce a solid information basis. When the conflict was over, they needed to know who died and how many, in order to start rebuilding and helping people get through this. They knew the Government, the military, the police, the secret service, opposition groups such as ISIS, Nusra etc. were responsible. They were all in the Commission of Inquiry’s reports, and that was really where one could find more information about who was doing what and where, but to identify who did it in every individual case was simply not feasible at this point.
A journalist asked if the data given by the Government specified who among the victims were soldiers from the armed or security forces, and who were civilians. Mr. Colville said that the Government was one of the five data sources and each source did make some attempts in various ways to identify who were the victims. In the case of the Government, its figures made up a very small proportion of the total killings, i.e. 2,426; the Government gave OHCHR this number once, but since 2012 and despite requests from OHCHR to update the list, it had not responded. Those 2,426 were almost exclusively military or police. So in the case of the Government figures, it was clear who was what, but in the case of the data from the other groups, it was very hard to identify who the people killed were. They knew if the persons killed were women or children, but who were combatants and who were not, and how were combatants defined, they could not identify.
In response to another question on who was to blame for the killings, Mr. Colville said that on the basis of this data, they were really not in a position to make that kind of judgment. If they looked back at all the statements made by OHCHR on Syria in the past, clearly Government forces were responsible for many, many deaths in Syria. In the first year, it was very much responsible for the large majority of the killings, as it was mainly protests by unarmed people who had been shot, arrested and tortured. The situation had changed radically since that first year, an armed opposition became apparent; the latter started to change and split, and then started itself to commit very serious crimes, until the current situation was reached, which was almost as bad as they could possibly imagine on all fronts.
A journalist asked for more details about the 52,000 reported killings which were not taken into account in the official figures. Mr. Colville said they had chosen not to use those reports because a key element in this process had been to sort out the duplicates. If journalists looked at the drafts and the tables, they could see that there was a lot of duplication, there were some deaths reported by four or five sources, others by three or two sources, others only by one source, and that was all very carefully laid out. OHCHR's experts had a wealth of experience and had dealt with other conflicts so they knew how to deal with this kind of information. However, in the case of Syria, it was very difficult to verify and cut out duplicates, which was where they risked exaggeration. In the case of the killings mentioned above, there was not enough basic data, some of them were probably duplicated and others probably not, but in what percentage, they did not know. They had chosen not to extrapolate or estimate how many could be genuine. That was not to say there would not be any mistakes, there would be mistakes among the 191,000; there would be killings that were not due to conflict in there and indeed, OHCHR had worked hard to sort that out. Some 1,000 cases had been identified as not due to the conflict, and there were bound to be some others. But the most important thing was that the data released were as accurate as possible.
Answering another question, Mr. Colville said they now hoped to continue updating death tolls on a more regular basis, hopefully a quarterly basis. OHCHR had funding to cover this activity until the end of this year, then they would be looking for funding to continue. This was a constant process and they would be constantly monitoring and re-evaluating.
Asked about the high proportion of men among the deaths, Mr. Colville said that indeed, 85 per cent of casualties were male and 9.3 per cent female; however, it would be risky to generalize the reason for this. Clearly the lists included combatants, although they were not able to differentiate between combatants and civilians, and this would partly explain the male percentage. There could also be many other reasons. For example, when there was destruction and large scale displacement, very often men stayed behind to guard property, and that could be another reason why the majority of the deaths were male. Also, men and boys could be targeted more because they were seen as a threat. They just had to look historically at Srebrenica, and the massacre by the Taliban in Mazar al Sharif in 1998, where males were exclusively targeted. However, he pointed out that a lot of women had also been killed in Syria: it was a small percentage, but a high number of persons, nearly 18,000 women.
Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said UNHCR had launched a major aid operation earlier this week in Iraq, UNHCR’s largest in at least a decade. Updating journalists on challenges they were seeing, including on pressure on accommodation and the need for trauma counselling for many people, Mr. Edwards said the operation was now in full swing following Wednesday’s first aid flight; the second Boeing 747 delivered more tents to Erbil last night, and flights would be continuing today and tomorrow. Yesterday, they loaded another 16 containers of aid from their warehouses in Dubai onto a ship which was headed to Iran tomorrow. From there, it would be loaded onto trucks for the journey to Erbil. This was part of their operation to ship in 2,410 tons of aid by air, land and sea over about 10 days for approximately half a million people inside Iraq. In northeast Syria, where there had been populations of Yezidi refugees since early August, the airlift of supplies from Damascus to Al Qamichli was going smoothly; the fourth of six flights had arrived yesterday with more tents, mattresses, wheel chairs, household items and rechargeable fans. The aid was being used to improve conditions in the camp, and movement in and out of the camp had stabilized in recent days. There were another approximately 3,000 Yezidis staying in nearby towns and villages. Meanwhile, inside Iraq itself, shelter remained the top priority for displaced people, too many of whom were still living in woeful conditions.
The Kurdistan region of Iraq was now hosting close to 700,000 displaced Iraqis, most having arrived in early June. Accurate figures were not expected until early September when registration was completed, but UNHCR estimated that hundreds of thousands of people were still living in unfinished buildings, mosques, churches, parks and schools. Officials estimated that half the schools in the Kurdistan region were now sheltering either displaced people or the military, raising concerns about how the new school year would get underway in September. Camps were of course a last resort, but nonetheless displaced Iraqis were moving to them as quickly as tents could be pitched, very much reflecting the enormity of the crisis and the really desperate need there was for shelter. Currently there were two tented camps in Dohuk and Erbil, which were open and were housing more than 21,000 people. Twelve more camps would be opening soon, after which there would be a total camp capacity of more than 85,000 places. There were also some privately run camps. Apart from the struggle with tenting and meeting basic food, water and shelter needs, the pressing issue of the displaced people who fled their homes with next to nothing was the lack of civil documents. Such documents were critical for being registered and getting cash assistance. Most displaced people had been unable to replace key civil documents without returning to their places of origin, for example Mosul. UNHCR was providing legal assistance to people to help them replace these so that they could register for aid and move more freely. There was also urgent need to strengthen psycho-sociological services for displaced people, many of whom were deeply traumatized with what had happened over the past weeks, the death of loved ones, the separation of families, physical violence, and horrific reports on others who had been left behind and had been killed or captured. UNCHR protection teams continued to speak of women, particularly from minority groups, being abducted by armed groups in Mosul and Sinjar and held in various locations. Some had been reportedly forced to convert to Islam, others had been trafficked by armed groups inside and outside of Iraq. UNHCR appreciated the support it was getting from donors. Saudi Arabia had provided $ 88 million as part of the $ 500 million to United Nations operations overall.
A journalist said the notes talked about 700,000 displaced Iraqis in Kurdistan, while a few days before they had been talking about 600,000, were these new arrivals or had they already been there but had not yet been registered? Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR was trying to help about 500,000 people with these aid shipments that were coming in. On the numbers of displaced persons, overall they were looking at the figure of 1.2 million for the displacement throughout the country. There had been some increase in numbers. They had not finished registration for the moment and they would get a better fix on those numbers once that process was finished.
A journalist asked about possible new influxes of people: would UNHCR need more aid and was it considering that possibility? Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR’s aid was emergency aid addressing the most critical elements of the current crisis. The needs were going to continue for a long time to come. With the security situation in Iraq at the moment, the possibility of a diminishment of the crisis was not likely, so they had to work on the basis that this was a long-term crisis. This meant that they would start looking at the needs of these people over the coming winter, which was a concern as a response had to be planned. UNHCR maintained stockpiles of aid in the region. UNHCR had sent in this week what they called non-food items. However, medical help, cash assistance, trauma counselling and a whole range of other services had to follow. UNHCR and its partners were working on those. UNHCR was asking its donors for continuing help. Winterization was normally something that had already been begun at this time of the year. Winter in Kurdistan could arrive in force as early as December so clearly there was going to be a need (unless there was a radical change in the situation) for support for winter. They were working on that, but clearly they would need help.
In response to another question, Mr. Edwards said a lot of aid supplies were moving in and around Syria. UNHCR negotiated aid movements inside Syria with the various security actors on the ground. The aid supplies that were coming from the UNHCR warehouse in Damascus was going up to Al-Qamichli, and then to surrounding areas. UNHCR had worked throughout the crisis with the Syrian Red Crescent and other partners inside Syria, and they really did need the support of all actors to make sure that the aid really need get to there.
Irregular Maritime Movements in South East Asia
Mr. Adrian Edwards of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said that UNHCR had issued a new report this week on irregular maritime movements in South East Asia that estimated that 20,000 people risked their lives in sea crossings in the first half of this year. Many were Rohingya who fled Myanmar and arrived in the region suffering the effects of malnutrition and abuse during the journey. Several hundred people were also intercepted on boats heading to Australia.
The report has been produced by a newly-established Maritime Movements Monitoring Unit at UNHCR’s Regional Office in Bangkok which collated information through direct interviews, and from media reports, partners and governments. It focused on departures from the Bay of Bengal and elsewhere passing through South-East Asia, and highlighted the abuses people were facing on their journeys, and developments related to Australia’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy. It also showed that more than 7,000 asylum seekers and refugees who had travelled by sea were at present held in detention facilities in the region, including over 5,000 in Australia or its offshore processing centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Because of its clandestine nature, the full extent of people smuggling remained hard to determine. But in-depth interviews with survivors had offered insights into what goes on during the long and arduous journey from Myanmar and Bangladesh to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and beyond. These developments took place in the context of a very challenging protection environment for refugees in the region. States including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia were not signatory to the refugee convention and lacked formal legal frameworks for dealing with refugees. Without a legal status people trying to undertake these journeys were often at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation under immigration laws. It also made legal employment impossible and drove many people, including women and children, into exploitative and vulnerable situations.
Overall, the report estimated that 53,000 people departed irregularly by sea from the Bay of Bengal in the 12 months ending June 2014 – a 61 per cent increase over the previous 12 months. In the two years following the June 2012 outbreak of inter-communal violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, some 87,000 people – mostly Rohingya but also Bangladeshis among them – embarked on the dangerous journey in search of safety and stability. The main sailing season continued to be between October and the first quarter of the year when seas were calmer. Departures were mostly from Teknaf in Bangladesh and Maungdaw in Myanmar, with smaller numbers from Sittwe. Typically, passengers were ferried on small boats to larger fishing or cargo boats that could each hold up to 700 people. Most were men, but there were also rising numbers of women and children who were usually kept in separate quarters.
Most passengers UNHCR staff interviewed said they had paid between US$50 and US$300 each to board the boats and had been at sea for an average of one to two weeks. Some had waited for up to two months for their boat to take on more passengers. Many said they had felt sick along the way. There were also unconfirmed reports of deaths due to illness, heat, a lack of food and water and severe beatings when people tried to move. Some passengers reportedly jumped off boats in desperation. Others went missing when, in one example, they were forced to swim ashore after nearing the coast off Thailand.
Speaking on the situation in individual countries, Mr. Edwards said there was the difficulty and danger of the sea journey itself, and then there were the problems on arrival. People arriving in Thailand said they were packed into trucks and taken to camps in or around hills, jungles or plantations. Hundreds were confined, for up to six months, behind wooden fences with only plastic sheets to sleep on. There were then attempts to extract more money from these people, usually between $ 1,500 to $ 2,200 to be released. They were made to call relatives in Myanmar, Bangladesh or Malaysia to send money. Survivors of this ordeal told UNHCR staff about people dying in these smugglers’ camps due to illness or physical injuries. Some lost sensory abilities and mobility from beriberi due to malnutrition, specifically Vitamin B1 deficiency. Three people were effectively paralyzed and abandoned by the smugglers when their camps were raided by the Thai authorities. Those particular camps no longer existed. UNHCR was trying to support people who had spent time in these smugglers’ camps. There were reports of two Rohingya having died in hospital within a week of approaching UNHCR. In Indonesia, 60 Rohingya approached UNHCR between January and June 2014, a considerable drop compared to the same period last year. In Australia, in the first half of the year, nine boats travelling towards Australia with more than 400 people on board were intercepted by the Australian authorities under the Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders. Seven boats were returned to Indonesia. One boat with 41 passengers was returned to Sri Lanka. There was a lot more information available in the briefing notes and the report itself.
Answering a question, Mr. Edwards said they did not have reliable numbers of how many people had died during these crossings or in the camps in Asia. This report was the first attempt to show the flows throughout the region: 20,000 people in the first six months of this year, large numbers of people being held in detention and their considerable difficulties.
Answering another question, Mr Edwards said he did not have any updated information on the conditions of camps set up in Papua New Guinea for people pushed away from Australia, on which UNHCR had previously voiced concerns. They did remain a concern to UNHCR.
Fadela Chaib of the World Health Organization (WHO) said journalists knew that a high-level delegation was in Liberia, led by WHO’s Dr. Keiji Fukuda and David Nabarro. They had met several national officials and different partners working there to contain the Ebola outbreak. They had visited health centres and a hospital in Monrovia. They would hold a press conference today at 5:30 Monrovia time, to brief journalists about the conclusions of their mission (by telephone). They would be joined by the Assistant Minister of Health of Liberia. A note to correspondents had been sent to journalists yesterday.
Ms. Chaib said WHO would hold a consultation on potential Ebola therapies and vaccines in Geneva on 4 and 5 September. The consultation had been convened to gather expertise about the most promising experimental therapies and vaccines and their role in containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Some 100 experts would be present, including more than 20 experts from West Africa. The issues of safety and efficacy would be discussed, together with innovative models for expediting clinical trials. For the time being, WHO planned to hold a virtual press briefing. The date, time and list of speakers had yet to be decided but she would share them with journalists as soon as possible. She would also share any documentation that became available in relation to this issue.
In response to a question on who could be offered experimental treatment, Ms. Chaib said that there were three types of experimental treatment, relating to the blood, antiviral and vaccine. Experts had to talk about the existing experimental treatments, at which stage of experimentation they were in, and how could they be produced. After, there would be a discussion, with the countries that requested it, on what were the best treatments that WHO and its group of experts could recommend to affected countries. Then, it would be up to the affected countries to decide.
A journalist asked for a comment on the news that an American aid worker had recovered from Ebola. Ms. Chaib said that clinicians working in Liberia had also informed WHO that two doctors and one nurse in Liberia had now received the experimental Ebola therapy and two of them had shown a marked improvement. The condition of the second doctor remained serious but had improved a bit. The problem with this treatment was that it had been exhausted, there was no more treatment available from the producer in the United States. This meeting on 4 and 5 September would discuss the range of experimental treatment that existed, the level of testing and also their efficacy and if it was possible to expedite the production of the promising treatments.
Asked if the experts would actually be in Geneva or whether there would be a telephone conference, Ms. Chaib said she had received conflicting information about where it would be held so she had to check on this. A media advisory would be sent with more details, including about whether there would be a teleconference or whether the experts would be physically in Geneva.
Asked about supplies and logistics, Ms. Chaib said she had not heard about any difficulties on sending medical equipment to the affected countries. For the time being, it seemed that they had what they needed. WHO was continuously assessing their needs. It had a full team of logisticians there, in Geneva and in Brazzaville, who were following what was needed. It was very important that these countries would not have any shortage of medical equipment because people in contact with the sick or with the dead bodies had to be properly covered by the right clothing so as not to get infected.
Ms. Chaib said WHO was working on an Ebola roadmap document, an operational plan by country about how to fight Ebola. An advance copy of the document was being circulated and responses to it would then be compiled to have a final document which would be posted on the WHO website, probably next week. Each of the countries was affected by Ebola, but each had its own structures, its own strengths and weaknesses and needs. That is why the plan would be detailed by country. The document would also talk about financial needs for the six to nine upcoming months. In response to a question, Ms. Chaib said no one knew how long this outbreak of Ebola might last. An Ebola epidemic would be declared over in a country when two incubation periods – 42 days each – had passed without any new confirmed case in that country. So according to that definition, the epidemic in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia was not yet over.
Asked about reports of 70 dead in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ms. Chaib said that the WHO had asked the DRC authorities about these reports. According to the DRC website, in the Equator region, there was an epidemic of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Representatives of the Ministry of Health and other officials had been in the region to investigate these cases since 20 August.
Ms. Chaib said WHO had 147 field offices around the world, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When such alerts came up, WHO had a team on the ground and it held investigations. This disease was of concern to WHO, like other outbreaks. This epidemic started in Boend district and then spread in Equator province. It was a kind of stomach flu, characterized by irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines, causing diarrhoea and vomiting. It was caused by a virus. This contagious disease was transmitted through contaminated water or food or contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. Samples had been taken from this region for more analysis.
Ms. Vellucci said the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was this morning concluding its review of the report of Estonia, its last report for this session. The Committee would be meeting in private next week and would conclude its work on Friday, 29 August after adopting its concluding observations and recommendations on the reports (including El Salvador, United States, Peru, Cameroon, Iraq and Japan) which were considered during the session.
The Conference on Disarmament would hold its next public plenary on Tuesday, 26 August at 10 a.m. The rest of the third and last part of the 2014 session of the Conference, which would conclude on 12 September, would be devoted to preparing its annual report to the United Nations General Assembly.
World Economic Forum
Michele Mischler, Associate Director for Public Affairs and the Media of the World Economic Forum, said most journalists had probably received invitations to the World Economic Forum’s NETmundial Initiative on 28 August at 2 p.m. at the Forum’s Headquarters in Cologny. The NETmundial Initiative was a major international project led by the World Economic Forum, aimed to design and deliver a global governance architecture for the Internet. Interested journalists should register to attend as soon as possible.
The week after, on 3 September, Ms. Mischler said the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report would be coming out. It included analysis of 144 countries’ economies, covering more than 98 per cent of the world’s economic activity. The embargoed press conference would take place on 2 September at the Forum’s headquarters in Cologny. Invitations would be sent out in the near future.
A journalist said in previous years, the time of embargo given to different launches around the world for the Global Competitive Report was different from the time in Geneva. Ms. Mischler said they would do their best to make sure that this did not happen again.
Human Rights Council Organizational Meeting
Rolando Gomez of the Human Rights Council said that an organizational meeting on the upcoming session of the Council (8 to 26 September), would be held on Monday, 25 August at 3 p.m. in Room XX. The meeting was public and was an opportunity for the President to spell out the programme for the three-week session. He would also do the same with journalists in one-on-one briefings later on. The organizational meeting was also an opportunity for States to spell out some of the initiatives, projects, resolutions or side events that they proposed to hold during the session.
Press Conference on People with Albinism
Rupert Colville of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that on Monday, 25 August at 2:30 p.m. in Press Room 1, Alicia Londono, a human rights office and staff member who was most knowledgeable on this issue, would give a press conference on people with albinism. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has been trying to cast a spotlight on this issue, which has been in the shadows up until now. She would discuss the issue in general, as well as a report on her recent visit to Tanzania.
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The representatives of the International Labour Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund also attended the briefing, but did not brief.
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: …http://bit.ly/1zbDuCY