REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
26 February 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing that was also attended by Spokespersons for the Human Rights Council, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Organization for Migration.
Human Rights Council
Rolando Gomez for the Human Rights Council (HRC) said 34 speakers had taken part in yesterday’s high-level session of the Council and another 29 were due to speak today. The afternoon segment was to begin at 3 p.m. and he reminded correspondents that the session was to run until Thursday. As part of Thursday’s agenda the High Commissioner was to present her annual report which highlighted the activities of her office over the last year, as well as shedding light on human rights situations in various countries.
He also mentioned a side event today entitled “the Power of Empowered Women", hosted by the Group of Women Ambassadors to the United Nations
in Geneva between 12.30 p.m. and 3.15 p.m. in the Assembly Hall. Ms. Momal-Vanian added that this was to be opened by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Marixie Mercado for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said UNICEF was issuing an urgent $45 million appeal to meet the immediate needs of children and women affected by the Malian crisis over the next three months. The appeal covered emergency programmes inside Mali as well as humanitarian assistance for 170,000 Malian refugees in Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso. So far, UNICEF had received less than a million dollars for 2013.
Without additional funding soon, UNICEF was to become unable to continue lifesaving interventions for internally displaced persons and host communities, or for refugees in the neighbouring countries. Over 420,000 had fled their homes since last year, including around 250,000 displaced people inside the country. Mauritania had over 69,000 registered refugees, of which over 17,000 were newly arrived; Burkina Faso had registered over 47,000 (47,205), of which 5,000 were newly arrived, and Niger had almost 54,000 (53,841) registered refugees.
Those remaining in the north of Mali have had severely restricted access to markets, services and humanitarian assistance. The region as a whole was still in the grips of a nutrition crisis and in Mali, UNICEF estimated that 660,000 children were to suffer from acute malnutrition, including 210,000 who were to require lifesaving treatment.
The funding requested was to cover an integrated response to the nutrition crisis. This was to include nutrition-specific interventions, safe water for displaced people and for refugees, plus prevention against diseases such as malaria, cholera, and other waterborne diseases. Support to education and protection services were also part of the planned response. The appeal also included $2.75 million to manage security risks –including security equipment, personnel and training for safety of UNICEF staff, buildings and movements.
Answering questions she said it was estimated that 660,000 children would suffer from malnutrition this year, a figure that had stabilised but not decreased since last year. She also explained that cholera was a risk and UNICEF had been providing aquatabs for people to treat their water where water systems were not operating as they should. Malaria was also a concern.
On the issue of security she said there were needs to protect children where schools had been closed, increasing the chance of recruitment to armed groups as well as for equipment, training and logistical security of staff. There were no current figures on the number of children recruited to participate in conflict, she said, though it was thought the numbers were significant.
Answering a question, Cécile Pouilly for the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said they were watching the delicate situation in Mali very closely. Three additional staff members had been sent to reinforce the country office in Mali (UNOM) and a team of four people had been sent to Bamako for a two-week investigation of human rights abuses on the ground. She also repeated the call made in January for the end to all human rights violations in the country.
Visit of the Secretary-General
Ms. Momal-Vanian reminded correspondents that the United Nations Secretary-General would be visiting on Friday (1 March) and there was a press conference planned for 4:15 p.m. in the Council Chamber (the home of the Conference on Disarmament.) Prior to this he was to address the panel on human rights mainstreaming in the Human Rights Council. He would also give the annual Sérgio Vieira de Mello lecture at the CICG from 5 p.m.
Glenn Thomas for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that on Thursday (28 February) at 10:30 a.m. in Room XXV the WHO was to hold a press conference on the launch of the report, ‘Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami based on preliminary dose estimation.’
This was a comprehensive estimate of the health risks from radiation exposure for people living in Fukushima Prefecture, in other regions of Japan, and in the rest of the world, as well as the risks for workers and emergency workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Speakers were Dr Maria Neira, Director, Department of Public Health and Environment, WHO, Dr Angelika Tritscher, Acting-Director, Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, WHO and Dr Roy Shore, Report co-author, Vice-Chair of the US-Japan Radiation Effects Research Foundation, Hiroshima, Japan (via audio link).
Answering questions he said hard copies of the report could be made available at 9 a.m. for journalists attending the press conference.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said the World Food Programme (WFP) had started to provide emergency food assistance to 7,800 displaced persons in Toliara, following tropical cyclone Haruna in this city.
She explained that the country was regularly hit by extreme weather incidents and said WFP was currently facing a lack of funding for its regular programmes. For the next six months, WFP needed an additional $15 million and without this, the Programme’s ability to provide things such as school meals and food assistance for the ill would fall to nothing. Altogether around 900,000 people received some sort of help from WFP in Madagascar, she said.
Jean Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said
IOM Director General William Lacy Swing would take part in the 5th Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations (AoC) in Vienna tomorrow (27 February).
Director General Swing would attend the Wednesday plenary session and take part in a panel which was to discuss the need to promote better understanding of the economic, social and cultural impact of migration to address widespread public concerns about immigration.
He also mentioned that IOM was organizing a six-day training course on Gender, Migration and HIV from 25 February to 2 March, in the Mozambican capital, Maputo, for key health partners working along Mozambique’s southern transport corridors. These established routes for migrants, which link Maputo with South Africa and Swaziland, go through a region with extremely high HIV prevalence, he explained.
He also said that the latest IOM Migration Profile for Argentina, published today, confirmed that migration to the South American country was on the rise, including the return of some of its nationals from abroad. The profile reported that there were an estimated 1.8 million migrants living in Argentina. The majority of these came from neighbouring countries, mainly Paraguay, Bolivia, Chile and Peru and were mostly employed in service and agricultural sectors.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) spoke of an event involving seven female Nepalese climbers who had received school meals from the WFP since they were very young and who were to leave tomorrow to climb Kilimanjaro. The mission was supported by the WFP who had also invited three African women to join them. They were to reach the summit on 5 March.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Conference on Disarmament, had opened a session during which should involve senior officials of Iraq, Slovakia, Mongolia, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Japan, Vietnam and Estonia. Ministers of Ireland and Jordan planned to speak to the conference tomorrow (27 February) at noon.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination met privately for the rest of the week until Friday for their closed sessions.
On Thursday (28 February) at noon in Press Room 1 the International Development Law Organization held a press conference on women’s access to justice. This was to include attacks on women’s rights, the barriers that women face across the “justice chain” and that need to be tackled to protect women's human rights.
Speakers were Irene Khan, Director-General, International Development Law Organization, Miriam Estrada, former Ecuadorian Minister of Social Affairs and Hina Jilani, former UN Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, Advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide would hold a press conference in Geneva on Thursday (28 February), at 2:30 p.m. in Press Room 1.
Glenn Thomas for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that on Wednesday (27 February) at 11:30 a.m. in Press Room 1 the WHO was releasing new global estimates on the number of people living with hearing loss on International Ear and Hearing Day, 3 March. Speakers were Dr Shelly Chadha, Department of Prevention of Blindness and Deafness, WHO and Dr. Gretchen Stevens, Department of Mortality and Burden of Disease, WHO.
He also mentioned a Dual Use Research of Concern meeting on Thursday at CICG. The meeting was about how research was advancing in ways that could be used for either beneficial or benevolent purposes and interviews with the Chair were possible on request.
Catherine Sibut for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that later today (26 February) at 3 p.m. in Press Room I there was a press conference on the launch of a new UNCTAD publication, “Global Value Chains and Development: Investment and Value Added Trade in the Global Economy.” The report was under embargo until 27 February at 6 p.m. Geneva time. The speakers were Supachai Panitchpakdi, UNCTAD Secretary-General and James Zhan, Director, Division on Investment and Enterprise, UNCTAD.
The spokespersons for the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) also attended the briefing but did not speak.
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Webcasts of the regular press briefings will not be available for the next few weeks due to renovation work in the Palais des Nations.