ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
6 December 2013

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was also attended by Spokespersons for the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Food Programme, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the International Trade Centre.

Nelson Mandela

Ms. Momal-Vanian said she had sent to journalists the statement that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had released late last night on the death of Nelson Mandela, where he said that “Nelson Mandela was a singular figure on the global stage — a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.” Acting Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Michael Møller, had just tweeted that “he and his colleagues mourned the loss of the last of the giants”.

Rupert Colville, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in the statement the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that “millions of people, including many who never met him, will feel deep personal sorrow at today’s news, since Nelson Mandela was perhaps the greatest moral leader of our time. Despite 27 years in prison, he never followed the path of vengeance. I remember well how, when he was finally released, feelings in South Africa were boiling: feelings of hatred, a thirst for revenge, a burning desire to discriminate against those who had so ruthlessly discriminated against us. I shared some of those feelings – it was hard not to, after living so many long years under apartheid. But Nelson Mandela refused to go down that path, just as earlier he had refused to make a deal to win his own freedom in return for selling out on the principles of the liberation movement. He turned it all around with words. He told us to throw our spears and guns into the sea. He told us to set aside our desire for vengeance and work for a South Africa not just free of racism, but free of all types of discrimination. He showed us that a better future depended on reconciliation, not revenge. He was a man who never compromised on his fundamental principles, while at the same time being quite prepared to compromise on key issues when it mattered most. He believed passionately in liberty and dignity, in freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. He also believed in human rights for all, and pursued that path throughout his presidency and in his retirement. He did a great deal to promote women’s rights, treating men and women equally and placing women in positions of power. He remained true all his life to the famous words he spoke in April 1964 during the Rivonia Trial, which ended in his imprisonment: “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But, if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” … Mandela was the driving force behind South Africa’s new, progressive Constitution which enshrines the principles of equality and non-discrimination for all people. And through his extraordinary personality, and his exceptional ability to speak the right words at the right moment, he was instrumental in creating the atmosphere that made such a Constitution possible. Nelson Mandela revealed how he had drawn strength from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights during his incarceration on Robben Island. In his last address to the UN General Assembly in September 1998, he noted how the Universal Declaration had validated the struggle against apartheid, but also posed the challenge that “our freedom, once achieved, should be dedicated to the implementation of the perspectives contained in the Declaration.” He himself never swerved from those perspectives. A truly remarkable man, whose example should never be forgotten.”

Hans von Rohland, International Labour Organization, said available at the back of the room was the statement issued by ILO Director-General Guy Ryder on the death of Nelson Mandela. The statement noted that “In 1990, the ILO was privileged to welcome Mr. Mandela, then Vice-President of the African National Congress, to the 77th Session of our International Labour Conference. He thanked delegates for their support in the struggle against the apartheid regime and declared: “all of us on Robben Island and other jails could hear your voices demanding our release very clearly. We drew inspiration from this. He asked that we “walk the last mile together”. We were honoured to have played a small part in his journey.” The statement would also be sent to journalists by email.

Elizabeth Byrs, World Food Programme, said WFP had issued a press release after the death of Nelson Mandela. In 2004 President Mandela delivered a message to WFP and she would cite simply the sentence that he said: “Hunger is an issue of social justice and not economics. Our economic approach to food and its distribution reflects our moral values. There are relatively poor countries where almost everyone is reasonably fed and richer ones where there is widespread malnutrition. The economic systems in these countries vary. Those who have succeeded have done so because they have made a priority to end it. Hunger is a moral issue.”


Central African Republic

Ms. Momal-Vanian said she had sent to journalists yesterday a statement by the Secretary-General on the Central African Republic following the adoption of resolution 21/27 by the Security Council that authorized an African-led and French-backed peacekeeping force to protect civilians quell the spiralling violence. The text of the resolution was available.

Jens Laerke, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that as the security situation continued to deteriorate in the Central African Republic, humanitarian organizations remained deeply concerned that the civilian population was bearing the brunt of the violence. The flare-up of fighting in the Central African Republic had reportedly killed over a hundred people and injured many more mainly in and around Bangui and Bossangoa. It was still too early to give a comprehensive assessment of the humanitarian impact of the violence, but an increase in displacement was very likely. The Humanitarian Coordinator a.i. in the Central African Republic called on all armed groups to ensure the protection of civilians from the effects of hostilities and to allow the impartial and neutral provision of humanitarian aid. The humanitarian community in the Central African Republic was ready to carry out rapid assessments to identify the needs and assist the people affected by the recent violence as soon as security conditions permitted. The Central African Republic already had 415,000 internally displaced persons and 1.3 million people were in need of emergency food assistance due to civil unrest. Half of the population, 2.3 million people, were in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. The crisis had led to more than 68,000 people fleeing to other countries in the region since December 2012. United Nations and humanitarian partners had been responding to the humanitarian needs in the Central African Republic with food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, health services and protection interventions and were in the process of scaling up the response.

Marixie Mercado, United Nations Children’s Fund, said she just spoke with a colleague in Bangui this morning, said it was still very tense there. She also had a colleague in Bossangoa, in the northwest of the country, and the word there was that the situation was very bad, the fighting was still going on and the civilian population was in urgent need of protection. They were very exposed right now. There was a press release available at the back of the room. It was one year now since the start of the conflict in the Central African Republic. All of the 2.3 million children in the country were affected by the crisis, and were increasingly becoming the victims of violence and forced recruitment amidst ongoing atrocities. There were two confirmed incidents of attacks on women and children in Mboki two weeks ago and in Bouali three days ago. As the situation in Bangui and in the rest of the country showed now, there could be no further delay in taking action to protect children in the Central African Republic. This action must be impartial and swift to stop the targeting of children, to protect schools, health facilities and transit centres, and to provide care and support to victims, with no impunity for the perpetrators of these outrages against children. There were more details in the notes.

Rupert Colville, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said they were extremely concerned at the deterioration of the security situation in the Central African Republic, especially in Bangui and Bossangoa but possibly in other parts of the country where information was not necessarily coming out. Fighting yesterday left dozens of people dead, an exact figure was not available yet but it could well be more than 100 persons, including at least seven children. Hundreds of other people were injured.
On Thursday, between 4 and 5 a.m., coordinated attacks with heavy weapons were reported to have taken place in four areas of Bangui, including Camp Kassai. These attacks were alleged to have been carried out by self-defence militias, known as anti-Balaka, with support from well-equipped but as yet unidentified elements. Several ex-Séléka officers were reported to have been killed during the attacks which lasted several hours. In retaliation, Muslim civilians were allegedly given weapons by the ex-Séléka forces and retaliatory attacks between Christians and Muslim communities were reported in numerous locations in the capital. Ex-Séléka soldiers reportedly executed 10 people in a hospital. OHCHR staff on the ground saw numerous bodies, including those of children, as well as wounded people in hospitals. OHCHR welcomed the adoption on Thursday of the Security Council resolution 2127 which authorized the deployment of an African led International Support Mission (MISCA) to the Central African Republic as well as the deployment of French forces to support MISCA. OHCHR also welcomed the fact that the resolution requested the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of human rights abuses by all parties since 1 January 2013 and to help identify perpetrators of such violations and abuses, and ensure that those responsible were held accountable. OHCHR was planning to deploy a human rights monitoring team to the Central African Republic over the weekend or early next week to reinforce the staff already there and strengthen the existing monitoring capacity of the human rights section of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA). This depended on the security situation and whether they could get staff in.

Adrian Edwards, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said UNHCR shared the sense of growing alarm about the deteriorating security conditions in the Central African Republic. His notes contained several elements which overlapped with what his colleagues had spoken of so he would try to focus on the elements that were distinct. UNHCR staff echoed the views that the situation in Bangui was very tense this morning. Gunfire continued to be heard in the 8th arrondissement preventing residents from leaving their homes. They were hearing worrying reports of sectarian and revenge attacks between neighbours throughout Bangui. A local UNHCR worker was attacked in his home last night and the assailants took away and killed his 24-year-old nephew. A growing number of people were fleeing across the Oubangui River and seeking shelter in the town of Zongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Yesterday, close to 700 people had crossed and more were arriving this morning. UNHCHR colleagues in Zongo were verifying the number of arrivals along the river. The newly arrived were staying in a school at Gbala, a village located 12 km from Zongo. The school, a former refugee transit centre built by UNHCR, had facilities for receiving refugees. Meanwhile, heavy shelling yesterday afternoon in the town of Bossangoa caused panic among the residents. Although the shelling had stopped, UNHCR staff in the town said the situation was very difficult. An unknown number of people had been displaced. There were some 40,000 forcibly displaced people in Bossangoa, mostly sheltered in the compound of the Roman Catholic Church there. They needed support, but the dangerous security conditions were hampering aid delivery. One of UNHCR convoys, carrying 60 tons of relief supplies, reached Bossangoa yesterday; they had not been able to distribute that aid yet but they hoped to distribute it soon. The aid was mainly non-food aid for some 3,000 displaced families in Bossangoa.

Elizabeth Byrs, World Food Programme, said as colleagues had said, food distributions in Bossangoa were temporarily interrupted, and the security situation was being assessed on our hourly basis. WFP’s distribution and transport activities in Bossangoa and Bangui were interrupted but would be resumed as soon as the situation allowed. According to information received this morning, three members of staff of the World Food Programme were in houses that were looted by armed men in Bangui. These three sought refuge in friends’ or relatives’ houses and the WFP reached them by telephone and messages throughout the day. There was also a curfew imposed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. which restrained the activities of the WFP. The personnel at Bangui remained at home and they remained in touch with them. There were no other problems regarding the personnel. Despite this violence and insecurity, WFP had managed to provide aid to 409,000 people so far this year and aimed to reach half a million people by the end of 2013. WFP had commenced prepositioning food to cover the needs for December and January and had been working on augmenting its warehousing capacity, as well as partner capacity, to ensure food stocks were available and close to the beneficiaries to decrease the delivery time. The WFP hoped that the situation stabilized quickly so that they were able to re-open sub-offices which closed earlier this year due to violence as well as opening up a new office in Bossangoa to respond to current needs. They were meanwhile using mobile teams. WFP had helped 110,000 internally displaced persons this year. There were more details in the notes.

In answer to a question, Ms. Momal-Vanian said the humanitarian community had highlighted that they were very worried about the instability of the current situation. They were all awaiting expectantly the stabilization of the region. The French forces and MISCA have received a mandate to protect civilians, stabilize the country, stop human rights violations and facilitate the deployment of humanitarian aid.

Ms. Byrs said WFP had prepositioned food stocks, the staff would increase, they would reopen offices, and her colleagues would continue to work despite some incidents.

Answering a question, Mr. Colville said OHCHR had three people within the integrated mission (BINUCA) in the Central African Republic and was now sending a new team of four with the possibility of three more joining them. They were looking at a much bigger long-term deployment as well. Hopefully, they would have a sufficient number of people to greatly boost the monitoring capacity beyond what they had at the moment. The security situation was really terrible so it was very difficult to operate, travel and get around the country. There were people in other places like Bossangoa and outside Bangui, but it was a major concern that there were things going on in other parts of the country and they did not know about them at this point. The more information they could get, the better. There seemed to be villages which had been completely abandoned, their inhabitants having fled, but the information was very sketchy and they hope to boost their presence.

Bulgaria

Adrian Edwards, Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, said UNHCR began this week providing emergency assistance in Bulgaria to improve living conditions and the protection situation for refugees and asylum seekers there. Bulgaria was currently hosting some 8,800 asylum seekers and refugees, around two-thirds of them Syrians. It had very poor conditions at reception facilities and these had been worsened by the onset of winter. Normally Bulgaria, the European Union’s poorest country, received only around 1,000 asylum seekers and refugees a year. At Harmanli, a former military base around 50 kilometres from the border with Turkey, UNHCR began this week distributing hot meals to the 1,400 residents. They had been without proper cooking facilities and could not leave the facility to buy food. Asylum seekers in other centres had not been receiving sufficient food. UNHCR was working with the authorities to find a solution to ensure adequate and sustainable food distribution at all centres. This week the Bulgarian authorities relocated most people who were living in summer tents to unfinished buildings, where water and sanitation systems needed to be improved urgently. A group of especially vulnerable people had been transferred to more adequate facilities. The State Agency for Refugees (SAR) would recruit additional staff and would mobilize registration teams to Harmanli. To improve cooperation and coordination, weekly meetings with all partners had been established.

UNHCR was alarmed by a recent increase in xenophobic violence such as a reported attack on three asylum seekers, including two Syrian men, in Sofia this past week. UNHCR urged the authorities to take steps to stem the rising tide of xenophobia in Bulgaria. UNHCR was concerned by reports the authorities in Bulgaria were planning to increase the use of closed facilities for asylum seekers, particularly single men, and they urged the authorities to find alternatives to detention. Seeking asylum was not a crime, and the use of detention should be a last resort. The deployment of some 1,400 police officers along the Turkish border and the construction of a 30-kilometre fence there had already reduced the numbers of people able to enter Bulgaria. There had been concerning reports of Syrians being pushed back at the border in recent weeks; this would be contrary to the principles of international law. It was important that people fleeing for their lives were allowed access to a safe haven and were able to seek international protection.

Côte d’Ivoire

Rupert Colville, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said OHCHR was later today releasing a joint report by the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), calling for investigations into serious human rights abuses committed by traditional hunters called Dozos between March 2009 and May 2013 in Côte d’Ivoire. The report documented serious human rights abuses committed by Dozos while undertaking security activities. These included violations of the right to life, including extrajudicial killings and summary executions, illegal arrest and detentions, looting and extortions. The investigations that were carried out by the Human Rights Division of UNOCI showed that at least 228 people were killed, 164 others injured by bullets, machetes and knives, and 162 arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained by Dozos between March 2009 and May 2013. In addition, 274 cases of looting, arson and extortion committed by the Dozos had been verified and confirmed, including in a number of regions. Dozos involved in human rights violations must be held accountable. The authorities had the duty to carry out serious investigations into the human rights violations committed by them in Côte d’Ivoire, bringing the perpetrators to justice, and provide appropriate readdress to the victims. The State authorities in Côte d’Ivoire had the duty to deploy appropriate security forces throughout the country to prevent the population from using Dozos on security issues. Impunity granted to Dozos in Côte d’Ivoire was unacceptable and must be stopped. There were more quotes in the press release that would come out shortly.

Questions for OHCHR

A journalist noting that the State of Texas in the United States was preparing to execute another Mexican in January, asked whether OHCHR could comment on this serious issue.

In response, Rupert Colville, said OHCHR was concerned about this case in the United States. This Mexican reportedly would be executed soon, without guarantees of due process and in apparent contravention of the 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice. OHCHR’s concern stemmed from the fact that the Mexican national, sentenced to death for a murder in Texas in 1994, was not granted consular access. As a foreign national, this was his right under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, article 36. The lack of consular assistance raised concerns as to whether the man’s right to a fair trial was fully upheld. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the United States had breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention and that it had to provide review and consideration of the case. However, this did not appear to have happened. OHCHR understood that a Texas District Court had fixed the date of execution for 22 January 2014. OHCHR also understood that the Texas authorities had the power to commute the sentence to life imprisonment or to suspend it, and OHCHR appealed to them to do so.

In answer to another question on the award of the UN Human Rights Prize to the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, Mr. Colville said the 2013 Human Rights Prize had been announced in New York. The ceremony would take place on Human Rights Day and the High Commissioner would be in New York to attend. This prize was awarded every five years. The awardees this year were Biram Dah Abeid, a campaigner against slavery from Mauritania; Hiljmnijeta Apuk, human rights activist and campaigner for rights of people with disproportional restricted growth – short stature from Kosovo; Liisa Kauppinen, President emeritus of the World Federation of the Deaf, Finland; Khadija Ryadi, former President of the Morocco Association for Human Rights, Morroco; the Supreme Court of Justice of Mexico, Mexico’s Constitutional Court; and Malala Yousafzai, the well-known student activist from Pakistan who was shot and wounded but thankfully survived. The Supreme Court of Justice from Mexico, according to the citation he had in front of him, provided legal protections for constitutional rights of Mexican citizens and residents. The national Supreme Court had accomplished very considerable progress in promoting human rights through its interpretations and enforcement of Mexico’s constitution and its obligations under international law. Additionally, the national Supreme Court had set important human rights standards for Mexico and the Latin-American region as a whole.

In response to a question on what basis the winners were chosen, Mr. Colville said that the UN Human Rights Prize was an honorary award given to individuals and organizations in recognition of outstanding achievements in human rights. The prize was established by the General Assembly in 1966 and was awarded for the first time on 10 December 1968. It was awarded every five years. Previous laureates included Nelson Mandela, Amnesty International, Jimmy Carter, Martin Luther King and Elena Roosevelt. It was an opportunity to give recognition to the achievements of the recipients themselves, and to send a message to human rights defenders all over the world that the international community was grateful and did recognize their efforts for human rights. It was not a monetary prize, rather a recognition or an honour.

On a question on freedom of religion in Angola, Mr. Colville said that they were informed last week that a press conference would be held by local authorities on the subject. However, OHCHR did not have a presence in Angola and was still struggling to get clearer information. OHCHR took the allegations very seriously. The law on registration and legalization of religious sects stated that there had to be at least 100,000 members of a particular religion or church before it could be legalized, and in the case of Muslims, there were around 90,000, so they were below the 100,000 threshold. OHCHR was concerned that the implementation of this law could have an adverse impact on the exercise of the freedom of religion for minorities and would continue to look into this.

Yemen

Jens Laerke, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said OCHA had sent out a situation report on Yemen this morning and he would send the link to journalists. According to the situation report, six out of ten people in Yemen - nearly 15 million out of a population of 25 million - would need humanitarian aid next year, according to the 2014 Humanitarian Needs Overview produced by United Nations and humanitarian partners in Yemen. The overview was the basis for the humanitarian appeal for Yemen which would be launched on 16 December in Geneva. The 15 million who would need aid next year was more than this year, when 13.1 million needed assistance. However, the larger number of people in need next year did not necessarily reflect an increase in need but rather improved assessment. Almost half of all Yemenis, more than 10 million people, were food insecure while over one million girls and boys under 5 were suffering from acute malnutrition. There were also more than 500,000 IDPs and returnees, as well as more than 243,000 refugees, mostly Somalis. The background for this crisis was endemic poverty and under-development, poor governance, and continued political instability and conflict. The collapse of basic services following the political turmoil had plunged the country into an acute humanitarian crisis. Over 54 per cent of Yemenis lived below the poverty line. There were a lot of facts and figures in the report (link).

Philippines

Ms. Momal-Vanian said it had been a month since Typhoon Haiyan had struck the Philippines and the needs were still enormous.

Elizabeth Byrs, World Food Programme, also stressed that just because the situation in the Philippines was no longer in the news did not mean that the needs in the country had diminished. Emergency food assistance remained a top priority for affected communities and distributions were increasing in the islands and other areas, but the needs were great. A second round of emergency air lifts, carrying WFP food to the island provinces of Manicani, Tubabao, Victory and Sulawani was due to take place this week. Rations for these areas would be 25kg per family (a two-week ration). WFP and partners were planning distributions of 20 metric tons of High Energy Biscuits and 75 metric tons of rice for 15,000 people to the Bantayan islands and Kinatarkan with Samaritan’s Purse. Colleagues said despite the aid, the devastation was immense and the needs of support were big. WFP had called for a total of US$103 million to cover the emergency operation of food for 2.5 million people for six months. WFP had received less than half of the US$103 million required for food and logistics. The total confirmed contributions are: $45.8 million. So far, confirmed contributions from governments, in alphabetical order, were: Australia (US$4.5 million); Canada (US$3.7 million); Denmark (US$3.2 million); EU (US$1.8 million); Germany (US$3.7 million); Japan (US$8 million); Italy (US$400,000); Iceland (US$100,000); Spain (US$200,000); United States (US$15 million); and the CERF had provided US$7 million. There were more details in the briefing notes.

Christiane Berthiaume, International Organization for Migration, said one month after, IOM's relief effort was intensifying. The numbers of people living in community centres or sharing with friends and relatives was decreasing but the needs were still immense. That was why IOM was focusing its efforts towards the people who were displaced to help them reconstruct their homes. Over a million homes were estimated to have been damaged, leaving four million people displaced. A massive logistics chain was now in place to help those people in reconstructing their homes. The first sets of corrugated iron sheeting had arrived in the city of Tacloban, together with instructions on how to build safer homes. This aid was now being loaded on trucks for delivery tomorrow to 600 particularly vulnerable families. In total, 18,000 corrugated iron sheets, accompanied by tool kits (hammers, saws, crowbars, shovels and fixing kits), would arrive in Tacloban this weekend and would be distributed to 1,700 families. Another 100,000 sheets and kits were on the way. In the coming days the Organization would send other materials. The aim of IOM was to help get people into safe, secure accommodation where they could rebuild their lives. The problem did not necessarily concern the material and the way to was sent but the funds. IOM had launched an appeal of $ 21.5 million and they have just received half of it.

Fadéla Chaib, World Health Organization, said available at the back of the room was a press release. One month after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, there remained many challenges. WHO had identified as top priorities expanding essential health services - in order to help people to have an access to the cares they need; reviving clinics and hospitals - the majority of the infrastructure was damaged; preventing disease and scaling up mental health services - in order to detect as quick as possible any disease that could emerge and put in jeopardy the life of people; as the relief effort shifted from emergency to early recovery programmes. In the Philippines on the ground, there were 181 medical teams (65 foreign and 116 local) that were delivering critical care in affected areas. The work of the local teams was vital. WHO had coordinated the distribution of more than 72 tons of medicines and supplies to support the relief effort. A mass campaign to vaccinate children under five against measles and polio was underway. WHO and partners have also worked with the government to reactivate disease monitoring and reporting.

Ms. Chaib said the risk of infectious diseases remained high, particularly in the crowded and unsanitary environment. Infectious diseases like measles, water-borne diseases such as typhoid fever and vector-borne diseases like dengue, could thrive in such conditions. However, the primary reasons people in affected areas were seeking medical care right now were acute respiratory infections, fever, diarrhoea, high blood pressure, skin diseases, new injuries from clearing debris and follow-up care for injuries and wounds sustained in the typhoon. Into the region affected by the typhoon, around 865 women give birth every day, among whom an estimated 15 per cent would experience complications, some of them life-threatening. WHO was working with the Department of Health to ensure a smooth transition because many foreign medical teams were preparing to leave within the next month or two and others would be arriving. There were more details in the press release.

OTHER

Jean Rodriguez, Economic Commissioner for Europe, said a joint session of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry(COFFI) and the FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC) would take place from 9 to 13 December 2013 in Rovaniemi, Finland. The event is called Metsä2013, inspired by the Finnish word for forest, "metsä". The second European Forest Week would take place in parallel to Metsä2013. The week would focus on the contribution of forests and forest products to a green economy and aimed to provide a communication and outreach opportunity to raise the visibility of the forest sector and the multiple services wood provides to our daily lives. The UNECE region was home to 40 per cent of the world’s forests and forests account for 36 per cent of the region’s land area. They are also one of Europe's main sources of biodiversity.
Metsä2013 included a high-level segment, which would be opened by Sven Alkalaj, UNECE Executive Secretary of UNECE and Eduardo Rojas, Assistant Director-General and Head of the Forestry Department of FAO. A video spot produced by UNECE and FAO and featuring Santa Claus, the 1st citizen of host town Rovaniemi and European Forest Week Ambassador, would be aired at the conference on 9 December. In the spot, Santa explained to children the importance of maintaining forests in good shape.

Jarle Hetland of the International Trade Centre said ITC had released the results of a survey on the fringes of the World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Bali on improvements in the business environment in small and medium sized enterprises in developing countries. The survey found that more than half said it was easier for them to export their goods. Especially encouraging was that 61 per cent of businesses with 10 or less employees said that business conditions had improved in the last 10 years. They said they continued to face several constraints in the business environment. A copy of the survey was available at the back of the room.

Christiane Berthiaume, International Organization for Migration, said IOM was appealing for $ 13.1 million to assist 120,000 returning Ethiopian migrants from Saudi Arabia. The number of returning migrants was increasing rapidly and there was an urgent need to provide round the clock assistance. As of Thursday, 5 December, more than 100,000 migrants had been received by the Government of Ethiopia. Out of these, IOM had provided direct assistance to more than 90,000 individuals. The arrivals continued at over 7,000 migrants a day. The funds would help to maintain and increase the assistance that IOM was currently providing.

Geneva Activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian said there would be a press conference by Francis Gurry, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization, on Monday, 9 December at 11 a.m. in Room III to launch WIPO’s 2013 World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report.

Fadela Chaib, World Health Organization, said WHO would launch the World Malaria Report 2013 on Monday, 9 December at 2 p.m. in Room III. The press conference was embargoed as the main launch would be on Wednesday, 11 December in Washington. Presenting the report would be Robert Newman, Director of the Global Malaria Programme, WHO; Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, Executive Director, Roll Back Malaria Partnership; and Richard Cibulskis, Lead author of the Malaria Report and Coordinator for Strategy, Economics and Elimination, Global Malaria Programme, WHO. On Monday, there would be an embargoed press release on the main points in the report as well as a fact sheet. She hoped that journalists would also have access to the embargoed report, which would be finalized in the next few hours. The embargo would be lifted on 11 December at 15:30 CET/9:30 EST.

Ms. Chaib said journalists were familiar with WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which was headquartered in Lyon, France. It would be launching its facts and figures report GLOBOCAN Global Cancer 2012. The last time the GLOBOCAN was issued was in 2008. This facts and figures report was easy to use and included data on 28 kinds of cancer in 184 countries in 2012. On Thursday, 12 December, in Room III, at 10:30 a.m., Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of the International Centre for Research on Cancer, would speak to journalists about the report. There would be a press release.

On Sunday, 8 December, which was a working day for WHO in Cairo, there would be a press release on the launch of a polio vaccination campaign for Syria and neighbouring countries. Interested journalists would be able to find the release on Sunday on http://www.emro.who.int/countries/lbn/, the site of the WHO Regional Office for the eastern Mediterranean region, Cairo.

Mr. Rodriguez said a seminar would be held on 13 December at 1 p.m. in Room V, with UNECE and the Platform for International Water Law of the University of Geneva, to analyse current trends and innovative thinking for the involvement of non-state actors in the management of freshwater resources. Participants would discuss good practices to ensure public participation in decision-making for freshwater resources management and access to justice.


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The representative of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development also attended the briefing, but did not speak.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: …http://bit.ly/1d0RENb