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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

3 May 2016

Michele Zaccheo, Chief, Radio and Television Section, United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing attended by spokespersons of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the International Organization for Migration.

Geneva activities

Committees
The Committee against Torture  would begin in the morning of 3 May the review of the report of Israel.  It would hear on 4 May in the afternoon the answers from the Israeli delegation to the questions raised on 3 May by Committee experts.  This would be the last report to be reviewed for the current session.  This 57th session, taking place at the first floor of Palais Wilson, would close on 13 May.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Palais Wilson, Ground floor) would end in the morning of 3 May the review of the report of Georgia (begun on 2 May in the afternoon).  Other reports to be reviewed during the current session (ending on 13 May) would be from Azerbaijan and Namibia.

Press conferences and other announcements
Mr. Zaccheo underscored the fact that 3 May was World Press Freedom Day.  He said that the Secretary-General’s message for World Press Freedom Day was available, and announced a special event taking place in Room III at 11:45 a.m., with a discussion on “Cartooning Against Intolerance”, moderated by Darius Rochebin and featuring press cartoonists Plantu, Patrick Chappatte and Liza Donnelly.  The panellists would speak about the challenges they faced daily in their work, and about the winners of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace International Prize.

Mr. Zaccheo also announced a press conference at 2 p.m. on 3 May on the opening of the World Summit on the Information Society Forum.

Syria

Mr. Zaccheo said that the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, was in Moscow today for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the ongoing efforts to reaffirm and re-implement the cessation of hostilities throughout Syria.

Mr. Zaccheo also introduced Josephine Guerrero, temporarily replacing Jessy Chahine as the spokesperson for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria until early June.

Offshore financial hubs

Matthew Brown, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that at UNCTAD the matter of illicit financial flows had been a topic of great concern for a long time.  Today, UNCTAD was publishing updated data on offshore financial centers and special purpose entities, also known as shell companies.  Mr. Brown said that UNCTAD was concerned that this activity had an effect on development.  Monitoring it was part of UNCTAD’s investment research.  The current report was the latest edition of UNCTAD’s global investment trends monitor, and it revealed great volatility in the flows in and out of offshore centers in 2015.  The report would be online at 11a.m on 3 May, and UNCTAD would be sending a media alert.

In response to questions, Mr. Brown said that investment flows to offshore financial centers had retreated from their recent high of USD 132 billion, but were remaining in line with the flows of previous years.  The volatility was rising, and while the absolute volumes were remaining the same, looking at the quarterly figures, the funds were being moved around more rapidly.  He said that he would help to organize a briefing for the press with the experts in charge of the report.

South Sudan

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), announced a new report on the unprecedented humanitarian emergency in South Sudan, and the IOM’s as well as other humanitarian aid agencies’ response.  As many as 200,000 internally displaced persons had sought shelter from a vicious civil war since December 2013. 

IOM had also released on 2 May, with the Economist Intelligence Unit, a report on the migration governance index, available online.

Mediterranean update

Mr. Millman said that despite the recent shipwrecks off Libya, deaths in the Mediterranean in the first four months of 2016 were 27 per cent down from this time in 2015.  Fatalities at a per capita rate were also occurring much less than at the same time in 2015, when one in every 28 attempted arrivals resulting in a fatality, compared to one in every 136 in 2016.  While traffic remained the same in numbers, it was much less deadly in 2016, even though the first four months of the year had already seen more than 1,300 deaths.

In response to a question, Mr. Millman said that a possible reason for the decrease in fatalities was that the deadly Libya to Italy route was not the preferred route in 2016, and the volume of crossings from Turkey to Greece, which was a shorter route, was extremely high, about 1,500 per day until end of March – early April.  However, the central Mediterranean route was now becoming the preferred route and IOM was mindful of what could happen in the coming months.

In response to another question, Mr. Millman clarified that very few Syrians and Iraqis, and nearly no Afghans, were seen on that route.  As it had been the case in 2015, West African and Sub-Saharan African nationalities, especially Nigerians, were dominant on the central Mediterranean route, often fleeing Boko Haram violence in the case of Nigerians.  In the case of countries such as Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo, it seemed to be a case of middle-class exodus, with people monetizing their small businesses and other assets to get on the migrant trail.  The countries in question were deeply troubled about this trend affecting the entrepreneurial, middle classes. 

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog030516