REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
14 December 2012
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 Conference on Trade and Development, the Economic Commission for Europe, the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Health Organization.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, was in Japan to represent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, which would be concluding on 17 December.
On Monday, 17 December at 1 p.m. in Press Room 1, the United States Mission would be giving a briefing by Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins, U.S. Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs, following the High Level Meeting on “Global Health Security Collaboration between the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction and International Organizations”.
Also on Monday at 2 p.m. in Press Room 1, the World Health Organization was giving a briefing on the launch of the World Malaria Report 2012. The report looked at changing patterns in the global fight against malaria, and the impact of an apparent plateauing of international financing. This year, it also included a review of progress towards the 2015 target of reducing the global malaria burden by 75 per cent.
The week-long 2012 Meeting of States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) was ending today. It was the first of four annual Meetings of States parties in the 2012-2015 intersessional programme leading up to the Eighth BWC Review Conference in 2016. A round-up would be issued at the end of the meeting.
There would be briefings next week, on 18 and 21 December, but then there would be a short break, and the first briefing in 2013 would be on Friday, 4 January.
Ms. Momal-Vanian added that as mentioned at the last briefing, the Information Service would have someone on duty all the time during the holidays. She said she would collect all the numbers of Spokespersons of the United Nations bodies and agencies during the holidays and send them to journalists.
ACANU reminded everyone that their Christmas party would be held tonight at 7 p.m. and hoped to see everyone there.
UNCTAD/2012 Handbook of Statistics
Catherine Sibut-Pinot of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said UNCTAD’s last report for the year was its 2012 Handbook of Statistics. The Handbook included statistics until the end of 2011. More updated statistics could be found online at unctadstat.unctad.org.
Henri Laurencin, Head of the UNCTAD Development Statistics and Information Branch, said the Handbook basically covered statistics related to world trade and development. UNCTAD and WTO were working together to harmonize all statistics on world trade. It covered international trade flows, investment, commodity prices, maritime transport and other economic and social data for most countries as well as data for the analysis and evaluation of world trade, investment, international financial flows and development.
Economic Commissioner for Europe/Environmental Performance Review on Tajikistan
Jean Rodriguez of the Economic Commission for Europe said that copies of the report on the Second Environmental Performance Review of Tajikistan as well as the highlights showed that access to clean water, improved sanitation and waste management were the main problems. Tajikistan had abundant water resources. However, due to institutional weaknesses as well as inadequate funding and outdated infrastructure in the water sector, there were multiple challenges in the use and protection of water resources. Copies of the report and the highlights were available at the back of the room.
World Meteorological Organization
Claire Nullis of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the agency had just released its latest ozone bulletin which said that this year’s Antarctic ozone hole had closed, it reached zero on 10 November. This year’s ozone hole area was unusually small. The bulletin was quite long and technical but they were preparing an information note to make it more understandable and it would be issued shortly.
Ms. Nullis said WMO’s Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre, which was in Nadi, Fiji, was issuing warnings about severe tropical cyclone Evan. Everyone had heard about Bopha and the trouble that it had caused. Evan was a new cyclone which had caused devastation in Samoa a few days ago and was now heading to Fiji, gaining in intensity.
UNHCR/NAURU Processing Centre/Rohingya Boat People
Adrian Edwards of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said they had released this morning in Canberra a report from a monitoring mission to the Nauru regional asylum processing centre in the South Pacific. Nauru was the site of an offshore processing centre to which Australia sent asylum-seekers. Although the UNHCR mission noted that efforts were under way to improve the facilities, current arrangements there did not meet international protection standards. Accommodation conditions were harsh, a fully functioning legal framework was absent, and there was inadequate capacity to assess refugee claims. During the three day mission, UNHCR found a lack of clarity as to the legal and operational roles and responsibilities of the two States parties involved in the transfer arrangements.
Considerable and important work remained to be done to establish a functional system for refugee status determination.
Mr. Edwards also noted that High Commissioner António Guterres was travelling to Beirut this afternoon to join Kristalina Georgieva, European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, for a two-day mission to Lebanon and Jordan. There were more details in the briefing notes.
In response to a question about Singapore pushing off Rohingya boat people, Mr. Edwards said the latest information that he had on the situation was that the boat’s captain was trying to negotiate a solution to this, perhaps with Malaysia, but he did not have more details.
Marixie Mercado of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in the Philippines, UNICEF, Save the Children and Plan International were highlighting two silent looming threats for children in the wake of Typhoon Bopha, and these were trafficking and malnutrition. Mindanao was a known source of trafficking, even in normal circumstances. These days, UNICEF’s assessment teams in Mindanao were seeing profound signs of distress and confusion among children, many who had lost loved ones, members of their families, their homes and schools. They were under severe distress and very much more vulnerable. The three agencies were urging awareness in terms of prevention. They were also stressing the importance of setting up child friendly places in all of these communities. The agencies were also looking at the risk of children becoming severely and acutely malnourished, just because the areas that were most affected already had had higher rates of malnutrition, compared to the rest of the country. There was also little capacity in these districts to deal with severe and acute malnutrition which required specialized care. UNICEF and the agencies were promoting the importance of mothers to breast feed, were working to make sure that they were monitoring children’s malnutrition, and were bringing in supplies as quickly as possible.
Chris Lom of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM had had a presence in Mindanao for a long time. IOM was already on the ground, distributing in particular emergency shelter and tracking displacement. Yesterday, they received their first major donation from Canada, 700,000 Canadian dollars, which was very welcome. IOM had appealed for $ 6.6 million and this was a very good start. Last week, IOM distributed plastic sheets to about 30,000 people, but there were probably around half a million people who may need some sort of emergency shelter at this point.
Concerning the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ms. Mercado said that the country released last week the results of a new survey on the nutritional status of children and women. The survey was conducted with support from UNICEF, WFP and WHO. The report was on the UNICEF Eastern Asia website and she would send journalists the link. The survey found that there had been a slight improvement in both chronic and acute malnutrition in the country since 2009.
International Migrants Day
Ms. Momal-Vanian said International Migrants Day was commemorated on 18 December and available at the back of the room was the Secretary-General’s message on the day, in which he noted that every moment around the world, people left their countries in search of a safer or better life, and that globally more than 214 million people were on the move. The Secretary-General reminded that migration was a global issue and that next year the United Nations General Assembly would hold its second high-level dialogue on international migration and development, which would give Member States and their partners a chance to discuss practical measures to facilitate labour mobility, foster sustainable development and protect the rights of migrants, especially women and girls.
Mr. Lom said IOM’s statement for International Migrants Day was available at the back of the room. Their focus this year was on migrants hit by crises. The fact was that when a crisis hit a country, forcing a mass evacuation of migrant workers, these persons needed rather more than just evacuation. This was something that the international community learned after Libya when roughly 200,000 workers, a lot of them from South Asia, found themselves in an impossible situation, without money or documents. They had to be evacuated, but they also needed a lot of help once they actually got back to their countries, because not only did they not have any money or any prospect of getting new jobs abroad, but their families back home had been dependent on their remittances, often for years. IOM’s focus was on helping these returning people integrate in addition to evacuating them. The Migration Crisis Operational Framework on this subject was adopted last month.
Mr. Lom said 270 Filipino migrant workers had returned home from Syria with IOM’s help. Also the resettlement of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal had now passed 750,000, more than half the 120,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origin who had been living in eastern Nepal for the last 20 years. IOM believed another 30,000 of them would want to be resettled. The vast majority who were seeking to be resettled had gone to the United States.
WIPO/Forty-Second Extraordinary General Assembly
Samar Shamoon of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) said that on 17 and 18 December, the WIPO General Assembly would be meeting in extraordinary session to evaluate a text that Member States had come up with on limitations and exceptions for the visually impaired persons and those with print disabilities. They needed to take a decision on whether or not the time was right to go to a diplomatic conference in 2013. WIPO held a background briefing last week on the issues. She said the General Assembly would be webcast. They would try to organize a briefing once a decision was taken. It was not clear when that would happen.