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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
18 September 2012

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Meteorological Organization.

Human Rights Council

Rolando Gomez for the Human Rights Council (HRC) said general debate on Item Four which began yesterday (17 September) was about to finish and had heard from 30 NGOs. Today (18 September) was devoted to the rights of indigenous peoples and included a report from the Special Rapporteur on the topic, and an update on his visit to the United States and Argentina. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was also to present a report on the role of languages and culture and the right of indigenous people to participate in decision-making.

This was followed at 12:00 by a panel discussion on the practices and challenges in addressing issues associated with indigenous peoples’ access to justice, which was mandated by the Council at its last session. Following this was an interactive discussion, then a report by the Advisory Council on their latest session and some of the studies they had recently produced.

Tomorrow’s agenda saw the beginning of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process with the consideration of the reports adopted by the working group, covering 14 states in total. These included Bahrain, Ecuador, and Tunisia in the morning, and in the afternoon Morocco, Indonesia and Finland.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Melissa Fleming for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said her agency was today launching a supplementary appeal for just under $40 million. This was to help almost half a million forcibly displaced Congolese civilians in the east of their country, and in neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda where large numbers had recently fled, she explained.

Since fighting erupted in North Kivu province between government forces and the M23 rebel movement in April, an estimated 390,000 people have been internally displaced in eastern DR Congo and more than 60,000 Congolese have fled across borders.

As a result of this the situation remained volatile and the agency expected further displacement this year and so the appeal, accordingly, covered the needs of 400,000 internally displaced people (IDP) and 75,000 refugees. If the violence and abuse of civilians continued to rise in the eastern provinces, the number of new IDPs was expected to be even higher, and may reach as many as 760,000 in the coming months, she said.

Meanwhile the needs and challenges were enormous and the insecurity and the remoteness of IDP sites were major constraints to aid delivery and protection monitoring. There were 31 camps under UNHCR management and in Rwanda, scarcity of land was the main challenge while in Uganda the extremely remote location of the camp was an issue.

UNHCR was particularly alarmed about the large' number of human rights violations in North and South Kivu, she continued, where more than 15,000 protection incidents, including, murder, rape and forced recruitment have been reported since April though the real number was probably much higher.

Answering questions she said that persons admitted to refugee camps with that status were safe, but the IDP situation was much more difficult, particularly when people had to leave to collect fuel and water. The extra money requested would be used for shelter and relief items, she said, as well as a programme aimed at prevention and protection against sexual violence.

2012 Nansen Refugee Award

Melissa Fleming for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said she was pleased to announce that Hawa Aden Mohamed, the founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) in Somalia, was the winner of the 2012 Nansen Refugee Award.

Hawa Aden Mohamed was a former refugee who chose to return to Somalia in 1995. There, she launched an ambitious education programme to assist people uprooted by Somalia's persistent conflict and recurring droughts. Her visionary work had transformed the lives of thousands of displaced women and girls, who were among the most vulnerable members of Somali society and in many cases were grappling with the trauma of marginalization, abuse and sexual violence, including rape.

Hawa Aden Mohamed was being given this award in recognition of her exceptional, tireless and inspiring humanitarian work for Somalia's refugee and displaced girls and women, work performed under incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances.

The Nansen Refugee Award was now to be presented to the winner at the Batiment des Forces Matrices in Geneva on October 1 and the ceremony included performances from Annie Lennox Barbara Hendricks and Swiss star Bastian Baker. The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Madam Leymah Gbowee was also confirmed to attend.

Answering questions she said that the winner received $100,000 given by the Swiss and Norwegian Government and the money must go to a project that the award committee agrees to. She also gave details of the training offered by Hawa Aden Mohamed, saying it covered English language classes, sewing and other vocational skills that gave dignity to rape victims which society had marginalized. Footage and images of her were to be available later today, and interview requests during her time in Geneva were welcomed.

Ecuador

Jean-Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the IOM Migration Profile for Ecuador, published today in Quito, highlighted four fundamental characteristics that have marked migration to and from the country in the last ten years.

These were a deceleration of the outflow of Ecuadorians, a moderate increase in immigration, a significant rise in forced migration, and an increasing tendency for return migration.

The profile explains that the decrease in the number of Ecuadorians leaving the country was primarily concentrated in the flows to Europe, and can be attributed to the need for a Schengen visa for Ecuadorian citizens, and the financial crisis that began in 2008 which resulted in massive unemployment in Spain, the main destination country for Ecuadorians migrants, he said.

The profile also pointed out that for every four migrants who left the country from 2001-2010, one had returned home. And it was expected that the number of returnees will continue to climb as a result of the economic crisis in the main countries of destination.

The profile also underscored a continued lack of long-term public policies, as well as procedures for mainstreaming the rights, needs and demands of migrants-in the country.

Human trafficking

Jean-Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said to mark the International Day Against Human Trafficking on 23rd September, IOM Costa Rica had today released a study titled, “Trafficking of Women: One More Manifestation of Violence Against Women,” as well as the new web page Women in Migration Flows. Both initiatives focused on IOM's plan of action for the region, considered a major migration corridor in the world.

Of the estimated 214 million international migrants in the world today, 49 per cent were women he said, and migrant women in this region in particular were subject to violations of their rights and sexual and workplace exploitation. These women did not often seek help from the authorities as they were commonly in an irregular situation and did not have the correct papers, he explained, though the IOM worked to offer them assistance.

Migration and the environment

Jean-Philippe Chauzy for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had launched APMEN, an internet-based resource on interaction between the environment and migration in the Asian and Pacific region. The site gave an insight into the day-to-day impact of climate change on degrading environments and migration flows and was designed as a single spot where those interested in the topic could gather information.

Weather records

Clare Nullis for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which was one of WMO’s members, had announced that August global temperatures were the fourth highest on record. More significantly, August sea ice was inferior to the all-time lowest extent on record.

August 2012's Arctic sea ice extent averaged 1.82 million square miles (4.7 million square km2), she said, which was 38.5 percent below the 1979 to 2000 average. During the month, the Arctic lost an average of 35,400 square miles (91,700 km2) of ice per day, the fastest rate ever observed for the month of August. The Polar sea ice melt season normally lasts till mid-September and the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center was to issue final figures for the season in the coming days. It was already clear, however, that all of the six lowest sea ice extents have occurred in the past six years.

Geneva activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee on the Rights of the Child today looked at the report of Liberia, tomorrow, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Thursday, Namibia and on Friday, Andorra. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined China’s report this afternoon, tomorrow afternoon, Argentina and on Thursday, the report of Hungary.

Ms. Momal-Vanian also announced that on the occasion of the International Day of Peace on 21 September the United Nations Office at Geneva, Interpeace and the Geneva Peacebuilding Platform were organizing a seminar on, “Placing inclusiveness at the heart of peacebuilding? Limiting and opportunities,” which would be held from 16:00 to 18:00 in Room VIII this Friday (21 September). Journalists were cordially invited to attend. In addition there was an event organized by the Mission of Costa Rica.

She also announced a press conference today (18 September) by the World Food Programme (WFP) at 12:30 in Press Room 1 on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar. The WFP Country Director for Myanmar was to attend. Tomorrow (19 September) at 11:00 the United Nations Economic Commission on Europe (UNECE) held a press conference in Press Room 1 on the launch of the UNECE/FAO "Forest Products Annual Market Review 2011-2012," and on Thursday the World Health Organization planned a press conference, also in Press Room 1, to give an update on the cholera epidemic in Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries in West Africa.

Answering questions she said she was very satisfied with the outcome of the recent Open Day of the Palais des Nations, which had seen around 9,000 visitors. People were very interested to learn about the work of the United Nations, she said, and there were 22 stands from different parts of the UN family and lots of activities in the Ariana Park. It was planned to repeat the activity, but not next year.

Catherine Sibut for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) gave a reminder of a press conference this afternoon at 14:30 in Press Room 1 on how commodity prices were clearly being driven by speculation. The Director of the Division on Globalization and Development Strategies at UNCTAD was to attend. She also gave an update on the UNCTAD Trade and Development Board which started its two week annual session yesterday, and was to be addressed today by the Ambassador of Estonia.

Akiko Perona for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) said the institute was co-organizing a briefing and dialogue with Nonviolent Peaceforce and the Manchester University Humanitarian & Conflict Response Institute on, “Unarmed civilian peacekeeping: had its time come?” This was to be held on Salle XVI at 13:00 on Friday (21 September). This briefing and dialogue followed on from consultations and a similar High-Level Briefing held in New York earlier this year. The key speaker for the Geneva event was the Executive Director of the Kofi Annan Foundation.

New York Activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian drew attention to a number of report launches and meetings during the first days of the 67th session of the General Assembly, which started today (the general debate would be held from 25 September to 1 October).

She said that a press release in English and French, (embargoed until 20 September, 11:30 New York time), on the 2012 MPG Task Force report which was to be launched in New York that day was available at the back of the room. The report was to look at progress towards MPG targets and trends in aid. Factsheets were also available and copies of the report could be requested.

Another press release was also made available at the back of the room on a Treaty Event which would be held in NY from 24 to 26 September, she said. Every year since 2000, Member States have been invited to participate in the Treaty Event by signing, ratifying or acceding to multilateral treaties deposited with the UN Secretary-General.

This year's Treaty Event (24-26 September and 1- 2 October) coincided with the High-level Meeting on the Rule of Law (24 September) and was devoted to "Strengthening the Rule of Law." Copies in English and French of the background note on the High-Level plenary Meeting on the Rule of Law were also available. Since 2000, the Treaty Event had been held annually, usually coinciding with the General Debate in September, and had resulted in 1,679 treaty-related actions, including signatures, ratifications and accessions.


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