REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
15 November 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by the Spokespersons for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, United Nations Refugee Agency, United Nations Children’s Fund, International Organization for Migration, World Food Programme, World Trade Organization, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, World Health Organization and the Economic Commission for Europe.
Jens Laerke, for the Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that the number of people affected by typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines stood at 11.8 million, out of whom there were some 921,200 displaced people, while the number of houses destroyed was 243,600. Those official figures were reported by the Department of Social Welfare and Development of the Government of the Philippines.
Most airports had now reopened, and the Tacloban airfield was operating, but traffic congestion was an issue. In addition, fuels and trucks were urgently needed. Three logistical hubs had opened. Electricity and power were to be fully restored.
The response from the international community had been very generous, with many countries having come forward. As of 14 November, OCHA had recorded USD 161 in cash and in-kind contributions. The USD 301 million appeal, which had been launched on 12 November, had been thus far funded with some USD 50 million, half of that money coming from the Central Emergency Fund, while the US has put in some USD 16 million, and Denmark more than USD 4 million. Private individuals and companies had also come forward.
The priority was to focus on those who were alive and in desperate need of help. There were many people still missing, whose families were becoming increasingly concerned. It was hoped a system could be set up as a matter of urgency to register missing people and match them with families who required information.
Answering a question on how many areas had been identified that could not be reached, and how many people were out of reach, Mr. Laerke said there were different definitions of access. Sending humanitarian workers to certain areas counted as access, but aerial overview would also provide some information. Opening airports and transporting help from the airports to the hubs was important, but the roads were not clear and many trucks did not have fuel. OCHA would have more numbers once it has reached the people and provided them with aid. Ms. Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), replied that WFP had telecom equipment on a standby ready to be sent once areas such as the Roxas city became accessible, but there was no specific data on the number of people who had not been reached. Mr. Gregory Hartl, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there were probably some 20 small islands which had not been looked at yet. Mr. Adrian Edwards, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), added that parts of the country, such as central Philippines, were a difficult area to reach in the best of times, and there was a pressing need to get aid to people in such areas.
On whether there had been any coordination efforts with the US and Japan, which had sent war ships to the area, Mr. Laerke said that OCHA had an extensive experience in cooperation with militaries, and a number of experts were deployed in sub-offices.
Asked for clarifications on numbers of dead, Mr. Laerke stressed that the United Nations had reported a figure on the death toll as received from the Regional Task Force Operations Centre in Tacloban. The UN was working with authorities to confirm the latest numbers. Mr. Laerke explained that in the first weeks after a disaster, particularly of this scale, there was always some variance on the number of deaths. Assessments were still ongoing and the numbers were likely to continue to change. The focus was on those who were alive and in desperate need of help.
Asked for the clarification on the number of persons displaced, Mr. Laerke said that the Government figures now stood at 921,000. The number had gone up over the previous few days after the authorities had reached more areas, so the total figures were being refined.
Gregory Hartl, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there were two health cluster hubs operational at the moment, in Cebu and in Tacloban. Over twenty health teams were in various stages of being deployed to a number of locations. Some areas were easier to reach than others.
A health assessment conducted in Tacloban on 11 November had showed severe damages to health facilities, and needs assessments were underway in Cebu, Northern Iloilo and surrounding areas. There was limited access to the affected areas due to impassable roads, shortage of food, water and fuel and security concerns. Four emergency kits with medicines and supplies to cover basic health needs of 120,000 persons during one month had been shipped. Supplies to perform 400 surgical interventions had been deployed to Tacloban, and four diarrheal disease kits with medicine and supplies to treat 3,000 cases of acute diarrhea were also being sent.
Of major concern and an immediate life-saving health need was injury management. There might be a considerable number of people who may have been injured and not yet treated. If their injuries were not treated, there would be high chances of their succumbing to their injuries.
Mr. Hartl said that the ongoing lack of access to safe water, overcrowding and displacement continued to pose significant problems and would pose serious risk of outbreaks of communicable diseases. Measles vaccination campaign was on the way. Maternal health was an important health priority, with 12,000 births in affected areas expected every month. Mental health problems were obviously huge because of the displacement, loss of loved ones, and shock, and that would probably be the longest lasting issue.
Regarding communicable disease outbreaks, Mr. Hartl said that due to the fact that there was very little electricity and telecommunication outside of major cities, only very sporadic information was currently available. In the wake of such disasters, water-borne diseases were or large concern. Diseases such as measles, polio and tetanus had also been recognized as potential threats, which was why WHO was planning to restart vaccination campaigns as soon as possible. In some areas, engue, leptospirosis and chickungunya were known to have existed in the past, and new cases could now be seen. On the other hand, the Region VIII area was malaria-free.
Marixie Mercado, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that she had just spoken to UNICEF’s water expert in Tacloban. Fuel to keep water systems running was UNICEF’s topmost priority. There was an acute shortage, and the water utility in Tacloban had two days left of fuel. Right now, the water flow stood at 20 per cent of what it normally was. Therefore, the priority was to increase and sustain that flow.
Ms. Mercado informed that UNICEF had secured fuel for about three to four days, and had released USD 5 million of emergency funding. Aid was coming in, but that was still not enough. UNICEF was very worried about millions of children, especially children in areas not reached yet. Survival was a priority, but so was protection, because risks against children became aggravated in emergencies.
Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), stated that the WFP had increased the rhythm of its logistical operation between the previous night and today. However, there had been many logistic deficits, especially the problem of fuel and of trucks. WFP had deployed four trucks from their own warehouse at Cotabato on the island of Mindanao, which were to carry 160 tons of rice from Cotabato. They had been on the way to Tacloban by boat and by ferry.
Ms. Byrs specified that WFP would need USD 101 million, out of which 88.2 million for food, and 12.8 million for logistics and telecommunication to support 2.5 million people during six months.
The latest information the WFP had was that on the previous day, energy biscuits had been distributed to 5,000 people at Tacloban airport. Deliveries of biscuits to the affected communities in Guiuan, Easter Samar and Tacloban were due to start on 15 November.
As of 14 November, over 34,000 family food packs had been distributed in the Leyte province. They contained WFP rice rations of 3kg and had reached an estimated 170,000 beneficiaries. Those emergency rations were very light and easy to pack, distribute and use. Ms. Byrs stressed that such rations were full of vitamins and nutrients and needed no cooking. The WFP also had rice which was stocked at the Tacloban warehouse, and cooked by teams working for the WFP. The rice was then put into the Government family pack rations together with canned food and tins of tuna or corned beef. From the Tacloban warehouse, trucks were coming to pick up family rations and send them to other islands. Different means of transportation were being used to bring them into the villages such as cars and motorbikes.
The WFP reported that the Tacloban port had become operational and the main road had been cleared. The WFP had chartered three helicopters based in Cebu, the main airport for the moment, and first shipments had arrived in a commercial container vessel. It contained mobile storage units and life support kits for staff, who also needed resources such as IT equipment, offices, accommodation. The WFP had secured a 2,000 metric tons barge in Cebu due to leave on the night of 15 November with WFP cargo. The WFP had been boosting storage capacity in Cebu and Tacloban, as more agencies started forwarding cargo. IT communication and electric equipment were meant to arrive in Cebu from Dubai today, to be distributed to operational sites across the affected area.
Answering a question on the fuel situation, Ms. Byrs said that fuel would become a burning issue because in Tacloban it would run out in several days, but the exact date had not been known yet. WFP had contracted a fleet of trucks and had been looking into options to secure fuel. WFP would need fuel storage and fuel bladders, on which it was working together with the Philippine authorities.
Ms. Byrs specified that no WFP equipment had been damaged or gone missing due to reported looting and robberies.
Adrian Edwards, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that UNHCR aid efforts for people affected by typhoon Haiyan had geared up further over the previous couple of days with the arrival of two airlifts into Cebu. Distribution of aid in Tacloban City had been under way since mid-week, and a further aid flight from Dubai would be on its way shortly.
UNHCR’s first aid had come from UNCHR’s national stockpiles and reached Tacloban City on 13 November, as part of the coordinated UN response. UNHCR staff had been working with the authorities to help some 7,000 people so far. The aid had been contained in two 40-foot container trucks, carrying 2,000 jerry cans, 1,400 hygiene kits 600 mosquito nets, 1,176 kitchen items, 1,400 plastic sheets, 1,400 blankets and 1,900 sleeping mats. Targeted areas included a very badly-damaged municipality called Tanauan, 45 minutes outside Tacloban.
Mr. Edwards emphasized that conditions in the Tacloban area remained very difficult. Severe fuel shortages meant that trucks could not deliver to communities far from the city. Right now there was still an urgent need for tents and solar lamps.
UNHCR staff had been working with the Philippine Government to conduct quick assessments in the east and west of the city in order to identify specific needs, such as those faced by women, children, the elderly and the disabled. Those individuals were being prioritized for aid distribution.
The first Boeing 747 aircraft carrying UNHCR aid had landed at 6.30 p.m. local time the previous day at Mactan International Airport in Cebu carrying hundreds of family-sized tens. That had been followed by the arrival of a second airlift in the morning of 15 November, local time. In all, UNHCR was planning to fly in emergency supplies for some 16,000 families.
Mr. Edwards said that hundreds of thousands of people had lost their homes. They needed tents urgently especially as rains had continued in some areas. UNCHR was working to rush supplies to the neediest people but that was hampered by limited means to reach those areas. Aid agencies on the ground in Cebu and typhoon struck areas were still struggling to meet the huge aid needs. In addition, some truck drivers were reportedly afraid to deliver aid as they feared being ambushed or robbed en route.
UNHCR’s emergency response was part of the wider United Nations relief effort in the Philippines. Mr. Edwards reiterated that UNCHR was co-leading the Protection Cluster along with the national Department of Social Welfare and Development of the Government of the Philippines.
Asked to elaborate on the protection mandate of UNHCR in the context of reported lootings and robberies, Mr. Edwards said that it was part of the lawlessness which frequently followed large-scale natural disasters. Regarding protection, it was still in early stages; UNHCR protection staff were still arriving to the areas to improve protection environment. Rapid assessments were underway, while a lot of work still remained to be done.
Christiane Berthiaume, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), stated that IOM was assisting the local authorities in identifying a mass shelter site for up to 5,000 people in the city of Tacloban. Five IOM camp managers, veterans of previous typhoon responses, were working across the city to reach the 29 evacuation centres where at least 56,000 people were living in insanitary conditions.
The Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) had been activated, and IOM’s camp managers had appointed temporary camp committees who would ensure that vital aid reached the most vulnerable. The DTM involved constantly updated lists of displaced persons, together with establishing structures in the camps and centres.
IOM was co-leading the Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster with the government and was a key partner of the shelter cluster. International IOM experts had been flown in from Manila, Bangkok and Geneva to assist local staff, who had been at ground zero since 10 November, establishing IOM’s presence and setting up a structure to deliver aid.
Ms. Berthiaume specified that, seven days after typhoon Haiyan had hit six locations in the central Philippines, the most significant needs were for the provision of shelter, food, water, medicine and non-food items, such as clothes, bedding and tools to fix shelters. Sanitation was also a concern as open defecation was widespread, with the attendant fears of water-borne diseases.
IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing would arrive in the Philippines on 17 November and would visit several sites in the affected area. IOM was appealing for USD 21.5 million to maintain its focus on emergency shelter operations as well as the Camp Coordination and Camp Management cluster which IOM was co-leading in the Philippines, in close partnership with the Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR was greatly concerned over reports of some EU countries placing barriers to entry or forcibly returning asylum-seekers including people who had fled the conflict in Syria. UNHCR was calling, globally as well as in the European Union, for a shift away from border protection to protection of people. If practices to prevent asylum-seekers from accessing territory and procedures were indeed taking place, UNHCR was calling on states to cease them immediately. Push-backs and prevention of entry could put asylum-seekers at further risk and expose them to additional trauma.
In Bulgaria, UNHCR was seeking more information from the authorities on their reported activities at the border to stem the flow of refugees into the country. Media reports said that Bulgaria had turned back 100 migrants at the border over the weekend and deployed some 1,200 police officers to the border region. Introducing barriers, like fences or other deterrents, might lead people to undertake more dangerous crossings and further place refugees at the mercy of smugglers.
Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR was also concerned over similar reports of asylum seekers being pushed back from Greece to Turkey. UNHCR had asked the Greek authorities to investigate the fate of 150 Syrian refugees, including many families with children, who had been reported to have been denied entry in Evros on 12 November. UNHCR had received information from villagers of the group being detained and transported in police vehicles to an unknown location, although they had not been transferred to a reception center. Their current whereabouts was unknown to UNHCR.
In Cyprus, UNHCR had received reports of Syrians arriving irregularly by boat in the northern part of the country and being returned to Turkey following a brief detention. In the southern part of Cyprus, Syrians were increasingly facing difficulties with reception and assistance, and UNHCR was in discussion with the authorities over this issue. As of the end of September, there had been fewer than 400 asylum applications in the Republic of Cyprus in 2013.
UNHCR was calling for a global moratorium on any return of Syrians to neighbouring countries. That would represent a concrete gesture of solidarity with those countries which were currently hosting over 2.2 million Syrian refugees. Turkey was currently hosting the largest number of Syrians in Europe, with over 500,000 registered refugees. Returning Syrian refugees to Turkey or other neighbouring countries would only add to the challenges faced by those Governments and local communities to support and provide assistance to refugees.
Persons who were found to be in need of international protection should have access to lasting solutions. This could include mechanisms for an equitable distribution of those recognized as refugees or beneficiaries of subsidiary protection within the EU. It could also be evacuation to a designated Evacuation Transit Centre based on existing models from where resettlement efforts could be undertaken both to European countries and non-European countries. In addition, UNHCR welcomed the discretion exercised by some EU countries not to return all those requesting international protection to their first point of entry in the EU, and was appealing to others to follow suit, in an effort to demonstrate a measure of solidarity with these EU border countries. UNHCR also called for the application of all the “Dublin Criteria”, including those designed to unite families.
Asked to explain what the so-called “Dublin Criteria” stood for, Mr. Edwards said that the Chapter III of the Dublin Convention contained a set of criteria designating which EU Member States were responsible for looking into asylum applications, with the view of avoiding multiple asylum applications in different parts of the EU. There was a number of articles emphasizing family unity and other criteria, which OHCHR would like to see upheld.
Ms. Mercado said that one of the largest deliveries of humanitarian aid had reached parts of the Homs Governorate on 8 November. Some 33 trucks and trailers in the joint UN-Syrian Arab Red Crescent convoy had accessed the area which had been off limits since May 2013, reaching more than 42,000 people. Among the essential supplies, UNICEF had provided baby and family hygiene kits, children’s clothes, blankets, water purification tablets, soap, and washing powder. People had been reported to have come out to the streets to celebrate the arrival of aid.
Asked if the UN was planning another convoy towards Homs, Ms. Mercado responded that the UN was constantly trying to reach all the areas all the time. Nonetheless, there were an estimated 2.5 million people in Syria not yet reached with assistance. The biggest needs reported were for food, medicine and winter materials.
Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that OHCHR was condemning the racist attacks that had been taking place against French Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira over the previous few weeks, including the front cover of a weekly paper published on 13 November, which had carried her picture with the caption “Cunning as a monkey, Taubira gets the banana back.”
The underlying racist intent of that play on words could not have been more clear, despite the magazine’s protestations that they were just using two common French expressions, the second of which was used colloquially to describe someone who was very happy.
Mr. Colville said that that was the latest in a series of similar episodes targeting Ms. Taubira. The previous month, a local National Front candidate had compared the Minister to a monkey in a TV documentary broadcast on 17 October. A week later, in the town of Angers, several demonstrators, including children, who had been protesting against gay marriage, had waved banana peels at Ms Taubira and shouted "Monkey, eat your banana!"
Such an utterly unacceptable abuse of a prominent politician, on the basis of her colour, was a stark manifestation of the rising racism, xenophobia and intolerance aimed at members of ethnic and religious minorities, as well as migrants, in many European countries.
OHCHR welcomed the prompt and unequivocal condemnation of the racist attack on Ms. Taubira by the Government and many other politicians and commentators in France. Political leaders had a particular responsibility to lead the way in fighting racism, xenophobia and gender discrimination. OHCHR reiterated the recommendations by UN human rights mechanisms, including by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination for France to step up its efforts and to use all possible means to counter the tide of racism and xenophobia.
In July 2013, OHCHR had expressed its concerns about very similar racist attacks against Italian Minister of Integration, Cécile Kyenge, including remarks by Deputy Senate Speaker Roberto Calderoli comparing her to an orang-utan.
Mr. Colville stressed that OHCHR strongly condemned such blatantly racist comments and acts, which were utterly unacceptable whether aimed at politicians, footballers or, less visibly on a daily basis, at ordinary citizens.
Mr. Colville said that OHCHR was seriously concerned about violent clashes which had taken place in Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey district on 12 November.
The clashes had started after striking garment workers had been prevented from walking to the Prime Minister's residence where they had been planning to stage a demonstration. One bystander had been shot dead and many others seriously injured during the clashes which had ensured.
The police had been seen beating individuals with truncheons, and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets from close range.
Most of the 38 people arrested during the clashes had now been released. However, two minors (aged 14 and 17) reportedly remained in custody.
Mr. Colville stated that that latest incident was of particular concern following previous clashes which took place in September near Phnom Penh’s Monivong Bridge, where police and gendarmerie forces had fired into a crowd at a roadblock, resulting in one death and several injuries. OHCHR was following up with the concerned authorities and urging them to launch a prompt and thorough investigation into those clashes and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force. OHCHR was also urging them to ensure that the minors who had been arrested were treated in a manner appropriate to their age and in accordance with international human rights standards.
While OHCHR was urging protestors to ensure that the demonstrations remained peaceful, it was also calling on the authorities to ensure that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly was fully respected. Those were all rights enshrined in the international human rights treaties Cambodia had ratified, which it had a legal obligation to respect.
PERSONS WITH ALBINISM
Mr. Colville informed that OHCHR welcomed the adoption on 5 November of the first resolution on people with albinism by the main regional human rights body in Africa. In the text, the African Commission on Human and Peoples´ Rights called on States to take all necessary measures to ensure the effective protection of individuals with albinism, to eliminate all forms of discrimination and to increase education and public awareness.
The resolution, which noted with concern reports of systematic attacks against people with albinism, also called on States to ensure accountability through impartial, speedy and effective investigations, prosecution of perpetrators and access to appropriate remedies for victims.
The African Commission´s decision, which came shortly after the adoption of a second resolution on people with albinism by the Human Rights Council on 24 September 2013, was a very positive and much-needed step forward.
Mr. Colville said that OHCHR remained deeply concerned about the overall situation of people with albinism. OHCHR was continuing to receive alarming reports about attacks and discrimination against them in several African countries. OHCHR was urging all African States to implement the resolution effectively, and to take specific measures to protect and preserve the rights to life and security of people with albinism.
Asked about Sri Lanka, Mr. Colville said that it was good to see that human rights was a very prominent issue. Many of those issues had been raised by the High Commissioner, and mentioned in her statement, at the end of her visit to the country, on 31 August. Issues raised included enforced disappearance and what was happening to journalists and media. BBC had done a very powerful documentary on rape and torture and people in detention. OHCHR was very glad to see such a focus on multiple human rights issues.
Asked about the review of Israel at the Human Rights Council, Mr. Colville said that OHCHR was very pleased to see that the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was proceeding rather well and the second cycle had not been interrupted. Regarding regional groups, Mr. Colville explained that there was a clear divide between New York and Geneva, as in New York, Israel was part of the Western group, but not so in Geneva. It was an issue for States to decide and sort out.
SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE OF MOTOR VEHICLES
Jean Rodriguez, for the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), informed that the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29) had adopted in the previous two days three new Regulations to improve the safety and environmental performance of motor vehicles.
A new global technical regulation (UN GTR – 1998 Agreement) had been adopted on 13 November and would significantly improve the safety of motor vehicles’ occupants in the event of an impact against pole size objects (i.e. telegraph poles, signposts and trees, cf. image).
The UN GTR introduced requirements on lateral crash tests simulating this type of accident before vehicles were put on the market. It was expected that manufacturers would react by, amongst others, installing wider side airbags in order to increase passenger safety.
This new UN GTR, the first harmonized, international vehicle safety legislation addressing that issue, introduced improvements in the protection of drivers’ and passengers’ heads. It would complement UN Regulation No. 95 dealing with car to car lateral collision, by addressing brain and spinal cord injuries more directly.
Mr. Rodriguez explained that it had the potential to prevent a high number of fatalities and serious injuries occurring in pole side impacts worldwide. In the nine countries for which data was available (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea and the United States), more than 10,000 people had died in pole or other side impacts in 2009. In the same year, around the same number of people had been severely injured in pole side impacts and more than 218,000 in other side impacts. Additionally, brain injuries, often severe, were the prevailing consequence of side impacts.
The second adopted regulation (1958 Agreement) dealt with the recyclability of motor vehicles, and would significantly limit the waste production from end-of-life vehicles (ELV).
The Regulation required that 85 per cent of the total mass of end-of-life vehicles be reusable (i.e. that components of end-of life vehicles were used for the same purpose for which they were conceived) and/or recyclable (i.e. reprocessed in a production process of waste materials for the original purpose or for other purposes but excluding energy recovery); and, at the same time, 95 per cent of the total mass should be reusable and/or recoverable (i.e. reprocessed in a production process of the waste materials for the original purpose or for other purposes, together with processing as a means of generating energy).
The Regulation stipulated that manufacturers should demonstrate that their vehicles met these requirements, based on the calculation method prescribed in ISO standard 22628:2002, before they could be put on the market.
In Europe, the adoption of national legislation in several countries in the 1990s and the European Directive adopted in 2000 had led to significant improvements in the treatment of end-of-life vehicles in an environmentally-friendly manner. Japan also introduced similar legislation in 2002.
Mr. Rodriguez said that, whereas some aspects of ELV-recycling – for example the minimum requirements for dismantling companies – depended on the regional or even local situation, the new Regulation provided a globally harmonized framework for all the elements which dealt with the design of the vehicles. The Regulation could provide the basis for the introduction of such measures for ELV in a number of countries, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Mexico and Russia.
The third new UN regulation (1958 Agreement) was on Retrofit Emission Control (REC) devices, and should enable the retrofit of heavy duty vehicles and non-road mobile machinery in order to reduce the emissions of local air pollutants.
In practice, that would allow to equip existing buses (and other vehicles covered by this new Regulation) with a new tailpipe so that they emitted less PM and NOx, aligning their emissions of those two pollutants to a lower target level (for instance: retrofitting from norm Euro I to Euro II, Euro II to Euro III, etc.), according to the specifications of relevant UN Regulations on the emission of air pollutants of heavy duty vehicles and non-road mobile machinery: UN Regulations No. 49 and 96. For other air pollutants, the Regulation stipulated that retrofitting should not result in increased emissions.
The adoption of the new regulation would open a new policy option for local governments to obtain significant reductions in the emissions of PM and NOx from buses operating in city centres, for a fraction of the cost of the investment in new buses
The global target audience for the UN Regulation and its wide applicability had the potential, when combined with specific retrofit requirements in national and local legislation, to enable the achievement of a quicker containment of the emissions of air pollutants, speeding up the results delivered by the progressive replacement of vehicles and engines that are scrapped from the vehicle stock.
Ms. Momal-Vanian announced that the Committee on Enforced Disappearances was completing its work today, when a final communique would also be published. The Committee against Torture had finished its session on 13 November, while the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would examine the reports of Gabon Austria and Norway the following week.
Ms. Momal-Vanian announced that the presentation of the Least Developed Countries Report 2013 - Growth with Employment for Inclusive and Sustainable Development by UNCTAD would take place on 15 November at 12 noon in Press Room I. The report would be under embargo until 5 p.m. on 20 November. Speakers would include Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary General, and Taffere Tesfachew, Director - UNCTAD Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes.
On 15 November, at 1:15 p.m, in Press Room I, OHCHR /Committee on Enforced Disappearances would present concluding observations on Spain and Argentina.
On 19 November at 6 p.m, in the Kofi Annan Conference Room on the ground floor of the UNAIDS/WHO Building, there would be a screening of the movie Mary and Martha, hosted by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM). Written by acclaimed British screenwriter and producer Richard Curtis (also known for his films including Love Actually, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Notting Hill and recently released About Time), the film starred Hillary Swank and Brenda Blethyn and chronicled the epic journey of two mothers tragically affected by malaria, and whose lives were united and intertwined by their resolve to combat this killer disease at home and abroad. Mr. Curtis would be present at the screening and would participate in a small discussion on malaria afterwards.
Remarks would also be given by Dr. Mark Dybul, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; Ambassador Karen Pierce, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the UN in Geneva; Ambassador Jean-Marie Ehouzou, Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations in Geneva; and Dr. Hiroki Nakatani, WHO Assistant-Director-General for HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases.
Mr. Curtis would join for the press briefing on 19 November, to discuss the current malaria situation and the importance of engaging the creative arts to raise the profile of critical development issues and advance progress against UN priorities.
Ms. Momal-Vanian informed that also on 19 November, World Toilet Day would be marked for the first time. The Secretary-General’s message was available. It was all part of a large drive for sanitation. An estimated 2.5 billion people today lacked the benefits of adequate sanitation, which bore serious consequences. The Executive Director of the World Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, a global multi-stakeholder partnership, would brief the media on the report “We can’t wait” which would be launched on 19 November. The report was available, under embargo until 19 November in soft copy and could be sent out on request. A press release under embargo was also distributed.
On the question of the date of the Geneva II Conference on Syria, Ms. Momal-Vanian said that questions to Joint Envoy Brahimi could be passed to his spokesperson. Mr. Brahimi and his team were in Geneva at the moment. UN Secretary-General would make an announcement on the date of the Geneva II conference when conditions were met.
Ms. Momal-Vanian reminded that the launch of the ILO study: "Bangladesh: Seeking better employment conditions for better socioeconomic outcomes " would take place on 18 November at 2 p.m. in Press Room I. Speakers would include Gilbert Houngbo, ILO Deputy Director-General, and Sameer Khatiwada, Senior ILO Economist.
Ankai Xu, for the World Trade Organization (WTO), informed of the schedule of WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo in the following week. On 18 November, he would meet in Geneva with the Minister of Economy of Kyrgyzstan, Temir Sariev; Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Iceland, Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson; Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Carlo Calenda; Permanent Observer of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Slimane Chikh; and Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the United Nations Office at Geneva, Mohamed Khamlichi. On 21 November, Mr. Azevêdo would attend the General Council.
Regarding the meeting schedule for the following week, Ms. Xu informed that the Trade Policy Review Body on Kyrgyzstan would meet on 19 and 21 November; the Committee on Government Procurement on 20 November; and the General Council on 21 November, for which briefing time and place would be announced subsequently.
A journalist asked if a summary of main developments could be circulated, because due the heavy schedule the following week it would be hard for the media to properly cover the upcoming WTO events.
Sophie Barton-Knott, for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), stated that, ahead of World AIDS Day, UNAIDS was releasing new report on how to reach people most in need with essential HIV services. The report “Going Local -connecting people faster to HIV services” would be released on 20 November at 12 noon in Press Room I, by the Executive Director of UNAIDS Michel Sidibé and Peter Ghys, Director AI, Strategic Information and Evaluation Department, UNAIDS. A light lunch would also be offered.
With regard to the activities of UNECE Executive Secretary, Mr. Rodriguez informed that on 21 November at 10 a.m. in Room XII, Mr. Alkalaj would deliver an opening statement at the Committee on Sustainable Energy. He would bilaterally meet Kandeh Yumkella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Chief Executive for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SE4All), and Urban Rusnak, Secretary General of the Energy Charter.
Between 19 and 22 November, SPECA Economic Forum and Governing Council would take place in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Mr. Colville informed about the activities planned for the Human Rights Day, which OHCHR would be marking with two events – one in Geneva on 5 December, and another in New York on 10 December.
At the Palais des Nations in Geneva on 5 December, OHCHR would host discussions on a range of pressing human rights issues with leaders in various fields. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web and founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, would join High Commissioner Navi Pillay in a discussion over access to the Web and the balance between security and privacy online. The discussion would be moderated by prominent TV presenter Tim Sebastian, former host of the BBC’s Hardtalk programme.
Laura Boldrini, the President of Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, would engage with OHCHR on the importance of ensuring the participation and inclusion of all individuals, regardless of their background or status, in the economic and political life of a State. A former journalist and UN official, Ms. Boldrini had championed a wide range of human rights issues, including the rights of minorities, migrants and refugees, as well as campaigning against violence against women, gender stereotyping and racism. Hina Jilani, former Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and Christof Heyns, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, would weigh in with panel discussions on protecting the space for human rights defenders and building a vision for an effective human rights system through 2033 and beyond. The panels would also include civil society representatives from Zimbabwe, Colombia and Tunisia, as well as Ms. Safak Pavey, the first woman with a disability to be elected to the Turkish Parliament.
Musician Salif Keita, hailing from Mali and born with albinism, would also perform on the day. In 2005, he had founded the Salif Keita Global Foundation to raise awareness about albinism.
The High Commissioner would also give a press conference on 5 December, in Press Room III. Details would be sent out subsequently.
The Spokesperson of the International Labour Organization was also present, but did not brief.
The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/17XgmAO