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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
3 May 2013

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, International Telecommunications Union, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, International Labour Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Programme and International Organization for Migration.

World Press Freedom Day

Corinne Momal-Vanian announced that today was World Press Freedom Day. In the Secretary-General’s message for the day he regretted that over the past decade more than 600 journalists have been killed – at least 120 in the past year alone. Hundreds more have been detained. He was especially concerned that so many of the perpetrators escape any form of punishment. The full message can be read here.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said that the security situation in the “Triangle of Death”, the area between the three towns of Pweto, Mitwaba and Manono, in Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) remained volatile. WFP was concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation there, due to Mayi Mayi fighters’ consecutive attacks on the villages. As many as 200,000 people had been driven from the area to the three towns of Pweto, Mitwaba and Manono in April 2013. Currently there were 354,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in the province, according to OCHA estimates, an increase from 55,400 in January 2012. WFP had reached approximately 66,255 beneficiaries in Pweto and distributed over 1150mt. Despite insecurity and poor road conditions WFP managed to reach some 250,000 people displaced from the Triangle with one-month rations during the past 12 months, from April 2012 to April 2013.

In Maniema food insecurity was still very high, Ms. Byrs said. At least 42 per cent of households were food insecure. The main causes of food insecurity in the province were complex and related to lack of infrastructure, low agricultural productivity, and to insecurity in the neighbouring provinces of North and South Kivu which was causing massive population displacement in Punia and Pangi sub-district. In addition, the isolation of the region negatively affected food prices and household food access.

WFP was supporting more than three million beneficiaries in DRC. WFP sought a total of US$28.9 million to continue its operations in DRC to secure the food pipeline over the next six months, said Ms. Byrs.

Syria

Gaëlle Sévenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that IOM had provided repatriation assistance to 12,728 refugees since the beginning of the crisis.

Adrian Edwards for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, was travelling to Kuwait on Sunday 5 May to express his gratitude to his Highness, the Amir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah for his Government's recent generous contribution to UNHCR and other humanitarian partners to aid victims of the Syria conflict. The Government of Kuwait contributed $110 million to UNHCR as part of their $300 million pledge to the 30 January International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which it hosted. That represented the largest contribution to the UN Syria humanitarian Appeals from Gulf countries thus far, and the largest ever donation to UNHCR from the region.

In answer to a question about whether the High Commissioner planned any more visits to the region in the near coming weeks, Mr. Edwards replied that there may be a possible visit in June and he would update the press if that was happening.

Nigeria

Rupert Colville, for Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said they were very concerned about the large number of casualties, reportedly including many civilians, and massive destruction of houses and property, as well as population displacement that had taken place in over the past few weeks in north-eastern Nigeria.

According to various sources, about 200 people were killed, at least 70 others injured, and more than 2,000 houses were damaged during raids conducted by Nigerian military troops in Baga, Borno State, which began on the night of April 16 -17 and continued over the following days. The raids reportedly took place following an attack on a military patrol by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram, which killed a soldier. The attacks occurred in the Borno State, which was considered the main base of the extremist Islamic group Boko Haram, and had been experiencing increasing insurgent violence and intimidation. Boko Haram had reportedly been responsible for kidnappings, killings and drive-by motorbike assassinations of civilians and politicians, members of government institutions, security forces and foreign nationals.

The Nigerian army had been conducting special operations searching for suspects in the wake of bomb attacks, and or in retaliation for the killing of members of the security forces. However the latest clashes resulted in what had perhaps been the single deadliest intervention by the army in its fight against Boko Haram.

OHCHR welcomed President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to hold accountable all those involved in the human rights violations perpetrated during the Baga attack, and urged the Nigerian government to carry out a full and impartial investigation of the incidents. OHCHR called on the Nigerian government to make sure its efforts to achieve security were in full compliance with human rights principles. It also urged security forces and the military to respect human rights, and avoid excessive use of force when conducting operations, as those were feeding local resentment, especially when civilians were killed or had their property damaged. OHCHR also repeated calls for concerted efforts to tackle the causes of the repeated outbreaks of violence in the north east of Nigeria and to put an end the cycle of violence and deadly reprisal attacks.

While welcoming the important step the Government had made by establishing a Committee to open talks with Boko Haram and work out modalities for an amnesty and compensation for victims, OHCHR urged the Nigerian authorities to make sure that perpetrators of serious human rights violations, including by Boko Haram elements and members of the security forces, were held accountable and that amnesties were not granted to anyone responsible for very serious human rights violations.

Novel Coronavirus in Saudi Arabia

Glenn Thomas, for World Health Organization, said that the Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia had informed WHO of seven new laboratory confirmed cases of infection with the novel coronavirus (nCoV), including five deaths. Two patients were currently in a critical condition. The government was conducting ongoing investigation into this outbreak. Preliminary investigations show no indication of recent travel or animal contact of any of the confirmed cases. The confirmed cases were not from the same family. WHO had been informed of a global total of 24 laboratory confirmed cases of human infection with nCoV, including 16 deaths.

H7N9 in China

Glenn Thomas, for World Health Organization, said China notified WHO of an additional two laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus. The first patient was a 58-year-old man from Fujian province who became ill on 21 April 2013 and the second patient was a 69-year-old man from Hunan province who became ill on 23 April 2013. Additionally, two patients earlier reported had died. To date, a total of 128 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus including 26 deaths had been reported to WHO. Contacts of the confirmed cases were being closely monitored. The authorities in the affected locations continued to implement prevention and control measures. Among World Health Organization recommendations were regular hand washing while cooking and before eating, which coincided with Hand Hygiene Day which fell on Sunday 5 May.

Hand Hygiene Day

Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that for the fifth Hand Hygiene Day (5 May), WHO was encouraging patients and their family members to join health workers in their efforts to practice good hand hygiene. Every year, hundreds of millions of patients around the world were affected by health care-associated infections. Of every 100 hospitalized patients, at least 7 in developed and 10 in developing countries would acquire a health care-associated infection. Among critically ill and vulnerable patients in intensive care units, that figure rose to around 30 per cent.

Health care-associated infections usually occur when germs are transferred by health-care providers’ hands touching the patient. Those lead to significant physical and psychological suffering and sometimes death of patients, and financial losses for health systems. More than half of those infections could be prevented by caregivers properly cleaning their hands at key moments in patient care.

According to the WHO Clean Care is Safer Care Programme, when working with patients, hand hygiene should be performed at 5 key moments, preferably by using an alcohol-based rub or by handwashing with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty. The five moments for hand hygiene are: before touching a patient, before clean and aseptic procedures (e.g. inserting devices such as catheters), after contact with body fluids, after touching a patient, after touching patient surroundings. Patients and their family members can participate by: asking for information about any existing initiatives that involve patients at the health facility; asking health workers who are about to touch them to clean their hands, and thanking them when they do.

This year the campaign had reached over 15 700 health facilities with more than 9 million health workers in 168 countries, Dr. Allegranzi announced. The campaign had been running since 2009 and 12 new countries joined in the last year.

Pakistan

Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that nearly 76,000 people (12,652 families) had been displaced in the Tirah Valley (Khyber Agency) in north Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), since mid-March.

People had been displaced by an escalation of hostilities both between rival armed groups in the area and in Government security operations against those armed groups. The displaced needed food, health care and protection, initial assessments showed. Government authorities, UN agencies and humanitarian partners were already providing basic assistance, but needed US$25 million to adequately address the needs of the displaced for the remainder of the year.

The displaced have been registered by UNHCR in the areas surrounding Tirah Valley. However, only 8 per cent of the displaced were in camps (in Kurram agency and Jalozai). The rest – 92 per cent – had opted to stay out of camps when they were registered.

Government officials estimated that more people may leave the conflict-affected area in the near future, bringing the number of internally displaced to up to 120,000 people from the current 76,000. Authorities also estimate that they may remain in displacement for up to six months due to the highly insecure situation in Tirah Valley.

The Emergency Response Fund in Pakistan had allocated $1 million for the provision of non-food items, health care, food security and protection support to the internally displaced persons from the Tirah Valley. Humanitarian partners are seeking an additional $3.5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to address the basic needs of the IDPs.

World Telecommunication and Information Society Award 2013

Sanjay Acharya, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), spoke about a ceremony to be held in Geneva on 17 May to mark the forthcoming World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (also the 148th anniversary of the establishment of ITU), at which the winners of the 2013 World Telecommunication and Information Society Award would be recognized. Mr. Acharya announced the winners, who were Mr. Ueli Maurer, President of the Swiss Confederation;
Mr. Volkmar Denner, Chairman of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch GmbH; and Mr. Jean Todt, President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA). The ceremony would also feature a simulation by a Formula 1 driver, details of which would be given at next week’s briefing.

The theme for World Telecommunication and Information Society Day 2013 was “ICTs and Improving Road Safety”, in association with the United Nations “Decade of Action for Road Safety”. According to the report of the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration approximately 1.3 million people died each year in traffic-related accidents and a further 50 million people were injured, mainly in developing countries around the world. As a result governments and individuals suffered an estimated at US$518 billion in global economic loss.

This year’s laureates have been honoured for the work and dedication in promoting ICTs to improve road safety. Switzerland was among the safest countries for road users in the world and had recorded a significant decrease in road traffic mortality in the period 2001-2010. The Swiss Council for Accident Prevention had been actively involved with ITU in developing standards for Driver Assistance Systems and intelligent systems for accident prevention in road traffic. Bosch GmbH was a pioneer in the areas of vehicle safety systems, in-car information and communication systems, as well as driver-assistance and other guidance functions. Innovations at Bosch include the antilock braking system (ABS), traction control system (TCS), and electronic stability programme (ESP®), all of which intervene before a crash occurs. Bosch experts were working with ITU to develop short-range high-resolution automotive radar systems that help to prevent collisions.
The International Automobile Federation (FIA) was the governing body for world motorsports and the umbrella organization for motoring organizations around the world.
Jean Todt had made global road safety a professional and personal engagement a priority of the FIA.

ITU was leading worldwide efforts in developing state-of-the-art ICT standards for intelligent transport systems (ITS) and driver safety that utilized a combination of computers, communications, navigation and automation technologies, including in-car radars for collision avoidance. ITU had also been developing standards for safe user interfaces and communication systems in vehicles as well as optimizing driving performance by eliminating unsafe technology-related distractions while driving. ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun I. Touré said: “Don’t be distracted by technology when driving, whether calling from your mobile phone, or setting the navigation system. Sending a text message or tweeting while driving is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all cost.” In a message United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon commended the work of the ITU and said: “Let us make the best of technology to dramatically reduce traffic fatalities. This can save millions of lives.”


Djibouti

Gaëlle Sévenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that IOM’s Migrant Response Centre (MRC) at Obock in Djibouti was struggling to cope with increased numbers of stranded migrants from Ethiopia asking for transport assistance to return home. Some 7,137 migrants had been registered by the MRC at Obock in the first quarter of 2013; a 79 per cent rise compared to the same period in 2012.

Most Ethiopian migrants planned to travel from Djibouti to Yemen and then cross into Saudi Arabia. But changes in Saudi labour laws restricting the employment of foreign workers, as well as the fencing off of the 1,800 km Saudi-Yemeni border by the Saudi authorities, had made their plans nearly impossible. Growing numbers of people were now unable to find affordable accommodation in the city. Many had spent their limited resources and had become destitute. A recent IOM Djibouti assessment also indicated an increase in forced migration and in violent treatments of migrants by smugglers and human traffickers; women being particularly at risk.

Djibouti was the main transit country for irregular migrants crossing the Gulf of Aden en route to the Gulf States and beyond. Last year, some 108,000 migrants arrived in Yemen from the Horn of Africa, of whom some 84,000 transited through Djibouti. From Obock, they sailed across the Gulf of Aden in old, often unseaworthy boats. Hundreds had lost their lives trying to reach Yemen. IOM was appealing for USD$6 million from donors to continue to provide assistance to vulnerable migrants in Djibouti.

Ghana

Gaëlle Sévenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced that IOM Ghana had launched a new information toolkit called “Free to Be Me” which was designed to build local capacity in Ghana’s Volta region to prevent child trafficking and address protection concerns. The campaign promoted a community-driven approach to address on-going child protection concerns in the region. In each community, members started by signing a commitment to community self-empowerment. The commitment was symbolized through the creation of a ‘Community Tree of Life’, which was painted in a prominent location in town, as a daily reminder to community members to protect children from abuse and forced labour. Parents painted the roots of the tree, Chiefs and elders the trunk, teachers the branches, and everyone including children used handprints to depict leaves and fruits, which would be borne from the work of the community.

IOM developed the “Free to Be Me” campaign concept over the past 11 years of working with children, parents, local leaders and fishermen. With support from UNICEF and in cooperation with national, regional and local authorities, IOM was developing and testing the new toolkit in six communities in the region’s Ketu South, North and South Tongu districts. It hoped to reach all six participating communities by the end of July. Since 2002, IOM and its partners had rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated some 731 trafficked children from the Lake Volta fishing industry.

Migration Data Collection in Latin American

Gaelle Sevenier for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that a new IOM report presented this week in Brussels assessed how migration data was collected in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), sub-regions and countries. Titled ‘Rapid Assessment of Data Collection Structures in the Field of Migration in Latin America and the Caribbean’, the report provided a descriptive analysis of current data collection in the region and specific analyses for each of its four sub-regions and countries. It was available in English in the press section of IOM’s website.

Geneva activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian said the the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which started its three-week session on Monday (29 April) would today consider the report of Azerbaijan, and next week review the reports of Togo, Rwanda and Denmark. The Committee reviewed the reports of Japan, Iran and Jamaica earlier in the session. The background press release was available here.

The Committee Against Torture starts its fiftieth session on Monday, 6 May, at the Palais Wilson. During its four-week session it will consider the reports of the United Kingdom, Bolivia, Estonia, Guatemala, Japan, Kenya, Mauritania & the Netherlands. A background press release is available here.

Ms. Momal-Vanian said that The International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) will hold its monthly press briefing on Monday, 6 May, at 2 p.m. in Press Room 1 at the Palais des Nations. The tentative agenda will include the Bangladesh building collapse; an emergency appeal regarding the Kenya floods; and population movement from Sudan into Chad as well as the allocation from IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). If any other stories develop in the meantime they will also be covered in the briefing. Specific questions or requests for information on those, or any other subjects may be submitted in advance.

Catherine Sibut-Pinote for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) announced that a press conference will be held on Wednesday 8 May 2013 at 3 p.m. in Press Room 1 at the Palais des Nations to launch a new publication titled The Palestinian Economy in East Jerusalem: Enduring Annexation, Isolation and Disintegration. Mahmoud Elkhafif. Coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian people, UNCTAD, would speak at the event.

Hans von Rohland for the International Labour Organization announced that the ILO would launch its "Global Employment Trends for Youth" next Wednesday, 8 May, at 10 a.m. in Room III of the Palais des Nations. José-Manuel Salazar- Xirinachs, Assistant Director-General and Ekkehard Ernst, Senior ILO Economist would be speaking.

Hans von Rohland for the International Labour Organization also gave an update on the high-level mission to Bangladesh being taken this week by Gilbert Houngbo, Deputy Director-General for Field Operations. Mr. Houngbo was in Bangladesh from 1 to 4 May 2013, following an intense programme, and was meeting with the Prime Minister, Minister for Labour, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and representatives of the diplomatic community and the United Nations, employers and workers. Tomorrow, Saturday 4 May at 3 p.m. he would hold a press briefing at 3 p.m. at the ILO office in Dhaka and a statement would be issued, possibly jointly with the Government and social partners.

Melissa Begag for the World Trade Organization announced that on 8 May 2013 the Chairman of the General Council would announce the identity of the candidate most likely to bring consensus among the WTO membership to become the next Director-General. She also outlined the schedule of World Trade Organization Director-General Pascal Lamy for next week. On Monday 6 May he would speak at the Meeting of the Joint Advisory Group on the International Trade Centre in Geneva, and on Wednesday 8 May the Director-General would address delegates at the International Environment House II on Green Economy and Trade: Trends, Challenges and Opportunities. Ms. Begag also announced two meetings to take place at 10 a.m. on Tuesday 7 May; the Committee on Market Access and the Working Group on Trade, Debt and Finance.

Answering a question about the details of the process and timings of announcements, Ms. Begag confirmed that the Secretariat would, as in the previous rounds of selection of the next Director-General, not announce the result until 8 May, following the announcement by the Chairman of the General Council of their decision. The WTO spokesperson Mr Keith Rockwell would hold a press conference: time and venue were yet to be determined. Only the delegations of the two candidates would be informed of the outcome of the selection on 7 May.

Petter Utting, Deputy Director of United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), announced a public conference on the Potential and Limits of Social and Solidarity Economy to take place from 6 to 8 May at the International Labour Organization, which was a co-host.

Social and Solidarity Economy was any activity involving small farmers, workers, women, community residents and others who cooperated and associated to produce what were often essential goods and services. Not only cooperatives and the traditional forms of mutual associations but also fair trade networks, community associations, women’s self help groups and social enterprises etc. The field had expanding and diversifying greatly in recent years, not least in the context of the global financial and food crises, and it was important because in the context of those crises and the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals agenda, integrated models that specifically addressed economic, social and environmental dimensions as well as aspects to do with human rights and empowerment, had to be considered. UNRISD was concerned that the subject wasn’t receiving enough debate in international circuits, and so wished to launch a global debate on the subject.

Over 300 participants from all continents were expected to attend, representing universities, government missions, non-governmental organizations and senior representatives of international organizations were expected to attend. The conference would be opened by Sarah Cook, the Director of UNRISD, Paul Singer, the National Secretary of Solidarity Economy, Brazil and Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the ILO. The event would also feature side events, a poster session for PHD and Doctoral participants, and a session exclusively on finance and complementary currencies. There would also be an event on trade unions and cooperatives.



The representative of the United Nations Children’s Programme also attended the briefing but did not speak.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: webtv.un.org/media.