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
11 April 2014

Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the Spokespersons for United Nations Refugee Agency, International Organization for Migration, World Food Programme, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, International Telecommunications Union, International Committee of the Red Cross, World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization.

South Sudan

Jean Yves Clemenzo, for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), stated that the situation in the country remained alarming. ICRC had noticed the increasing humanitarian needs in South Soudan and was very concerned about the situation because the rainy season was coming, while there were still hundreds of thousands of people displaced in the country, and thousands were in need of medical care. ICRC had distributed food to more than 160,000 people, but more needed to be done. ICRC had increased logistic capacities by using a new plane, trying to providing food, but it was still insufficient and further resources were needed. South Soudan was a huge country with almost no paved roads, and the upcoming rainy season would make the current situation more difficult to deal with.

Mr. Clemenzo also informed that the head of the ICRC delegation would hold a press conference in Juba today on the occasion of ending his two-year mission. Interview requests were possible.

Melissa Fleming, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), shared the concern by the ICRC on the ongoing violence and the absence of functioning ceasefire in South Sudan. She particularly stressed the UNHCR concern about the safety of refugees from Sudan and aid workers in Yida, after unidentified aircraft had circled over the settlement several times on 9 April. That sighting had raised fears that the refugee settlement might soon come under direct or indirect military attack.

The incident had come only two days after the aerial bombardment of Neem, a community 26 km north of Yida and close to the disputed border area of Jau. Local authorities reported that on 7 April a suspected military aircraft had dropped more than five bombs over Neem, which was on the road used by refugees when coming from the war-torn Nuba Mountains in Sudan. According to UNHCR information, refugees had not been directly affected in this week’s attack.

Ms. Fleming explained that Yida, which was a spontaneous settlement sheltering 70,000 Sudanese refugees, had come under aerial attack before. In November 2011, two bombs had fallen within the camp, including one close to a school for refugee children. Yida was located in the north of Unity State, close to the highly militarized Jau corridor.

With the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, Pariang County, in which Yida was located, had seen increased militarization by regular and irregular armed groups. Shifting conflict lines left refugees exposed to serious protection risks, including gender-based violence.

For more than two years, UNHCR and the South Sudan Commission for Refugee Affairs had been advocating for the relocation of refugees to safer areas inside South Sudan. National authorities were aware of the protection concerns, and agreed with UNHCR and NGOs that the civilian character of the camp could not be maintained in Yida. Nonetheless, refugee leaders had been reluctant to move, citing proximity to their homeland as well as similarity in soil composition, vegetation and other topographical features.

Ms. Fleming reminded that, in March 2013, a model refugee settlement had been established in Aujong Thok, further from the disputed border zone, and the Government of South Sudan had decreed that no new arrivals should be registered in Yida. Donor support had enabled the construction of primary and secondary schools as an incentive for refugees to relocate voluntarily. Refugees in Yida, however, had been slow to accept that offer.

Ms. Fleming informed that South Sudan was now hosting more than 540,000 refugees, mostly in Unity and Upper Nile states. Those areas, together with Jonglei state, were the ones worst affected by violence and forced displacement in the war in South Sudan were also hosting some 500,000 internally displaced persons.

Asked to identify the aircraft and whether the attack came from the Sudanese or the South Sudanese, Ms. Fleming responded that she could not speculate on the issue. On whether there were any people injured in the attack, Ms. Fleming said that there was no bombing this time and hence no injuries. The previous overflights had led to attacks, which was why the people were terrified this time. Nonetheless, they still had a certain feeling of security living in the border areas and were reluctant to move from there. Ms. Fleming explained that UNHCR was trying to show the refugees that conditions in another camp were better, but the agency could only transfer refugees on a voluntary basis.

On whether people were still fleeing across the border from Soudan to South Sudan on a daily basis, Ms. Fleming confirmed that was still the case, but the number had dropped considerably since the beginning of the conflict in South Sudan.

Ms. Fleming said that she had just returned from a visit to South Sudan and Ethiopia, where she had witnessed a very grave situation, with more than one million people uprooted over several months. What was very frightening was a large food crisis, because people had not been able to plant their crops, and were fleeing to the areas where there was absolutely nothing. UNHCR and WFP had problems transporting aid to remote areas via road because the ceasefire was not being respected. WFP had to resort to very costly airdrops. The very dramatic situation was also witnessed in Ethiopia, where the conditions of the people arriving there were terrible. Some of the people had been walking, mostly barefoot, for more than 25 days; 37 per cent of them were malnourished. It was a very desperate situation for people on the run, and hunger was a huge concern.

Chris Lom, for the International Organization on Migration (IOM), said that the onset of the wet season was going to affect as many as 800,000 displaced people, many of whom were short of everything, including shelter. In that context, the IOM had received 4,000 plastic sheet tarpaulins from the USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). The tarpaulins would help some of the estimated 62,800 civilians, including many foreign nationals, who were sheltering in eight overcrowded UN bases in Central Equatoria, Jonglei, Lakes, Unity and Upper Nile states.

Asked to comment on the criticism by Médecins Sans Frontières on the conditions in these bases, Ms. Momal-Vanian said there was certainly a concern for conditions in the camps, which were not an ideal solution. People who feared their lives sheltered in the bases and efforts were being made to move some of those people to better locations when possible.

Central African Republic (CAR)

Ms. Momal-Vanian reminded that the Security Council had authorized a peacekeeping mission in the country, but which would not be deployed before mid-September.

Ms. Fleming said that UNHCR was extremely concerned about reports of anti-Balaka militiamen preventing civilians from leaving the Central African Republic and attacking them along the way. Over the previous two weeks, UNHCR staff in Cameroon had been seeing refugees arrive with wounds from machetes or gunshots. They were also witnessing an increase in the number of people crossing into Cameroon via remote border entry points.

New arrivals had told UNHCR staff that anti-Balaka militias had blocked main roads to Cameroon, forcing them to wade through the bush for two to three months before reaching the border. The refugees had also said that the anti-Balaka had attacked them during their flight.

In recent days, UNHCR had registered three people – a woman, a boy and a man – with serious machete wounds. Another man had a gunshot in the chest. All of the wounded had received medical care.

The majority of the new arrivals were women, children and elderly people, and all were Muslims. They had told UNHCR staff that the men stayed in CAR to create self-defence groups to protect their community and their cattle.

Ms. Fleming stressed that UNHCR was calling on the anti-Balaka to stop preventing civilians from fleeing to neighbouring countries for safety. UNHCR was also calling on all sides to the conflict to renounce violence.

Despite the obstacles to their movement, an average of 10,000 people were now crossing weekly from CAR into eastern Cameroon. With the main entry points at Garoua Boulai and Kenzou no longer accessible due to anti-Balaka activities, people were using alternative routes. This had caused the number of entry points into Cameroon to grow from 12 to 27 over the previous three weeks, making it more challenging for UNHCR staff to monitor the border.

Ms. Fleming informed that most new arrivals were coming from the areas of Boda and Bozoum, near the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad, respectively. Because of the long detour, all of the refugees were arriving in a terrible state, some with swollen feet or legs and others suffering from malnutrition. With its partners, UNHCR had increased the number of mobile clinics at entry points to provide emergency care as refugees arrived. UNHCR was also supporting public health centers overwhelmed both by the number of refugees and their condition. Meanwhile, UNHCR had relocated some 20,000 refugees who had been living out in the open in the Garoua Bouai and Kenzou border areas. They were now settled in the sites set up at Lolo, Mborguene, Gado and Borgop – all located in the East and Adamwa regions.

Since the beginning of the year, Cameroon had received 69,389 refugees from Central African Republic, which was on top of the 92,000 Central African refugees who had fled in various waves since 2004 to escape rebel groups and bandits in the north of their country.

Liz Ahua, Refugee Co-coordinator for the UNHCR, shared her personal experience from the field in Cameroon, where she had visited a number of points where refugees were arriving. She said that she and her colleagues had been horrified and shocked by the conditions some of the people they were receiving. The overall message was that of people who were traumatized, and deeply wounded, with broken lives, both physically as well as mentally, psychologically. They needed all kinds of help: psychological and psychiatric to be able to start looking into the future because they were very traumatized. The issue of social cohesion had to be urgently addressed. Population had to be helped as the situation was dramatic.

In terms of operational work, Ms. Ahua said that the UNHCR was transparently working with the entire UN system. Ms. Ahua said that she was impressed with the work the MSF was doing as they were working side by side in Gbiti, to save lives. UNHCR and NGOs had huge needs for funding; UNHCR would be launching an inter-agency appeal to receive funds, and make a call for additional partners, particularly in Cameroon.

Answering a question on whether a genocide was occurring in the CAR, Ms. Ahua stated that the situation was horrifying. Without speculating, she associated the situation with fear that had been expressed that what was happening in CAR was of huge dimensions, which could indeed culminate in a genocide.

Paul Spiegel, medical doctor and senior manager at UNHCR, showed a short video about his recent trip to Inbiti, which was north of Kensu in Cameroon. At the border area there were refugees crossing the river, with over 1,000 having come across in a single day. It appeared that their knees were swollen, while, in fact, there was severe malnutrition in both children and adults. There was so much loss in body mass their legs appeared swollen. There had been many wounded migrants, some with machete wounds. Many children had conjunctivitis, which demonstrated the very poor sanitary conditions. Those people had been walking for up to three months, many from Bangui. They have been eating mostly leaves and drinking water of very poor quality. The transit size had increased from 11,000 to 14,000 people.

Mr. Spiegel said that UNHCR was making sites and encouraging integration of the refugees in the surroundings communities of which Cameroon had been welcoming for many years. The amount of people coming in a very bad condition made the situation extremely difficult.

The acute malnutrition rate was between 20 and 25 per cent, with approximately 5 and 7 per cent severe malnutrition. The severe component was due to the fact that people had been walking or hiding for so long without sufficient food or water.

Elisabeth Byrs, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the country needed an extensive humanitarian operation over the following 18 months to provide relief assistance and support the rebuilding of livelihoods.

About 1.6 million people directly affected by the crisis were in need of urgent food, more than double the level estimated just over a year earlier. As of late March, some 625,000 individuals were displaced due to conflict.

Ms. Byrs stated that the rainy season had started, and most feared that roads would soon be impassable while thousands of people needing assistance would be out of reach.

She stressed that USD 47 million was urgently needed to continue operations to the end of August 2014.

The security situation remained volatile in much of the country, and it was good news that the day before the UN Security Council had voted to send a 12,000-strong force to the CAR. The UN resolution had also authorised some 2,000 French troops to work alongside the UN peacekeepers.

The situation remained tense, which was discouraging many people from returning home.

Ms. Byrs provided some numbers regarding WFP activities in the Central African Republic. The number of people whom the WFP had reached with food assistance in March was 171,721; the number of people the WFP had reached in April, up to 8 April 8, stood at 38,649. There were 21 locations where the WFP was able to reach people in March.

WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) had started joint distribution of seeds, tools and food to help people to survive the lean season and to be able to grow their food. FAO was planning to distribute about 1,800 metric tons of seeds to farming families in mid-April to nearly 76,000 households in the hard-hit areas of Bossangoa, Bangui, Bambari and Bouar. WFP was planning to distribute food rations to the same beneficiaries so that they did not eat the seeds. Distribution had to be accelerated.

Mr. Lom announced that the IOM’s focus was on the Chad – Central African Republic border and the Cameroon – CAR border. IOM had tracked some 95,000 people returning to Chad who were either Chadean people, CAR nationals or third country nationals who had been arriving since mid-December. At the time there were about 10,000 displaced people at the border between CAR and Cameroon. On 30 March and 2 April, the IOM had organized road convoys to move some of those people. Around 1,200 people had moved from border areas to Mundo in Chad. IOM had helped roughly 4,900 stranded migrants to leave Cameroon by road and air over the previous few weeks. IOM continued to monitor developments on both borders.

In the IOM press release there was an account of one of the refugees who had left with one of the road convoys. His story had started with forced migration from his home in Bungui to shelter in a local Mosque. He had then managed to get to the border and was stranded there for over a month with no shelter and very little food and water. Eventually he had managed to join the road convoy to Chad and met family members. En route he had become separated from his wife and children, whom he believed were still at the border.

Mr. Lom emphasized that there was a desperate resource situation in Chad as people continued to flee CAR. The upcoming appeal, which IOM was joining with UNHCR, was absolutely critical if the violence continued in the CAR and if people continued to leave. As the Chadian military were withdrawing from the CAR, further outflow could be triggered. Currently, the IOM was planning to appeal for USD 28 million for Chad, USD 30 million for the CAR and USD 7 million for Cameroon.

Syria

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), referred to the statement made by Under-Secretary General, Valerie Amos, that had come out the previous night in Geneva. The statement was on the situation in Syria in reaction to a car bomb in Homs, a couple of days earlier, which had killed 20 people and wounded several hundred. Ms. Amos said that that "brutal violence and indiscriminate attacks on ordinary people have been taken placed for more than three years in Syria and no longer have the power to shock. There are attacks on civilians, war crimes and also crimes against humanity. The use of car bombs, barrel bombers, aerial bombardment and mortaring residential areas with no distinction between military targets and civilians are violations of international humanitarian law. The use of such weapons of war, the recruitment of children for combat and the subjection of women and girls to sexual and gender based violence are apparent and must end immediately. This is war, but even wars have rules. All parties to the conflict need to commit now to applying international humanitarian law.”

Mediterranean crossing

Ms. Fleming said that UNHCR estimated some 6,000 people had been rescued by the Italian Navy from over forty overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean off the shores of Sicily and Calabria in the previous four days. They had disembarked in the ports of Augusta, Catania, Porto Empedocle, Messina and Pozzallo in Sicily and Roccella Jonica in Calabria.

Large numbers of women and children, including newborns and unaccompanied children, were amongst those rescued. They had set off from Zwara in Libya, and many were fleeing violence, conflict and persecution. Main countries of origin included Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Nigeria, Gambia, Mali and Senegal.

Ms. Fleming stated that the Mediterranean was one of the busiest seaways in the world, as well as a dangerous sea frontier for many asylum-seekers trying to find safety in Europe.

The challenges of protecting refugees travelling irregularly by sea in search of safety, often together with people moving for other reasons, were complex. UNHCR continued to urge states to work together to rescue people at sea at the same time as looking for alternative legal channels to prevent people from having to make such dangerous journeys in the first place.

Ms. Fleming said that there also needed to be sufficient capacity and adequate reception conditions to receive rescued asylum-seekers and migrants. Additional reception facilities and assistance in processing arrivals, as well as identifying durable solutions for them, could be established with support from the European Union. UNHCR was ready to work with governments and other partners to identify longer-term solutions in response to the current situation.

Since the Italian government had set up the rescue operation Mare Nostrum in October 2013, following the tragic shipwrecks where over 600 people had died, over 20,000 persons had been rescued at sea.

The total number of people arriving by sea in Italy in 2014 stood at around 18,000, while almost 43,000 people had arrived by sea in 2013. Syrians were the largest group with over 11,300 arrivals.

Answering a question on additional reception facilities, Ms. Fleming said those were in Italy, which urgently needed support from the European Union in increasing its reception capacities. Thanks to the latest operation by the Italian Navy, there had been no casualties, but the financial cost for the Italian Navy was very high.

Asked what the explanation was for the continuous increase, Ms. Fleming said that there was no one definitive reason for the increase. The Syrian situation was obviously a factor, in addition to its neighbouring countries being overwhelmed with refugees. One of the routes used by many Eritreans had been closed, which had forced some of them to take alternative routes. The ongoing and new conflicts in the world were also at the root of the increase.

On the report by the Médecins Sans Frontières on the treatment of migrants in Greece, Ms. Fleming said that was the matter of concern for the UNHCR. Greece was becoming a more important arrival destination. The conditions for reception were way below the necessary standards. Ms. Fleming explained that, under Dublin II regulations, those people whose first port of entry had been Greece but had since moved to elsewhere in Europe, should not be sent back to Greece because the asylum conditions were not up to the standard. A Somali refugee arriving to Greece would have much lower chances of international protection in Greece than, for example, in Sweden.

Solomon Islands

Mr. Laerke stated that 52,000 people remained affected in the worst-hit areas in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific after the previous week's flash floods. People were now being allowed to return to their homes. A government declaration of disaster, however, remained in place in the most severely affected areas. The police had confirmed 21 deaths with two people missing from the flooding which had been caused by the tropical cyclone Ita. Those affected and displaced needed emergency provision of drinking water, food and health care.

The worst affected area was the capital, Honiara, after the Mataniko River had burst its banks on 3 April, washing away houses and damaging schools and other infrastructure. There were still 9,000 people in 24 evacuation centres. The Government had distributed food and water and requested regional support which had begun to arrive on 7 April when the international airport had reopened. UN agencies and international NGOs were supporting the response and the evacuations but report that pre-positioned stocks were nearly exhausted and there were not enough supplies. There were concerns over signs of disease outbreaks, particularly among children, which had begun to emerge in evacuation centres. Diarrhea and respiratory infections were being reported. A response plan was being currently drafted.

Death Penalty in Brunei

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that OHCHR was deeply concerned about the revised penal code in Brunei Darussalam, due to come into force later in April, which stipulated the death penalty for numerous offences. Those include rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations for Muslims, insult or defamation of the Prophet Mohammad, insulting any verses of the Quran and Hadith, blasphemy, declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim, and for robbery and murder. Application of the death penalty for such a broad range of offences contravened international law.

The revised code, which was expected to enter into force on 22 April, also introduced stoning to death as the specific method of execution for rape, adultery, sodomy and extramarital sexual relations.

Mr. Colville emphasized that, under international law, stoning people to death constituted torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and was thus clearly prohibited. A number of UN studies had also revealed that women were more likely to be sentenced to death by stoning, due to deeply entrenched discrimination and stereotyping against them, including among law enforcement and judicial officers.

The criminalization and application of the death penalty for consensual relations between adults in private also violated a whole host of rights, including the rights to privacy, equality before the law, the right to health and freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention. The provisions of the revised penal code might encourage further violence and discrimination against women and also against people on the basis of sexual orientation.

Mr. Colville said that the revised penal code also contained provisions that violated the rights to freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and of expression. Articles 213, 214 and 215 of the revised penal code criminalized printing, disseminating, importing, broadcasting, and distributing publications “contrary to Hukum Syara”, which literally translated as “contrary to the order of Shariah” by both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

OHCHR urged the Government to delay the entry into force of the revised Penal Code and to conduct a comprehensive review ensuring its compliance with international human rights standards. Brunei had maintained an effective moratorium on use of the death penalty since 1957. OHCHR urged the Government to establish a formal moratorium on the use of the death penalty and to work towards abolishing the practice altogether.

Answering a question, Mr. Colville explained that Brunei was breaching international customary law. Even if the state party had certain reservations to international convention , that would not allow them to proceed with stonings, which were clearly against the international law. He emphasized that stoning people to death was considered torture.

Death Penalty in the United States of America

Mr. Colville said that OHCHR deeply regretted the execution of Mexican national Ramiro Hernandez Llanas in Texas on 9 April. Mr Hernandez-Llanas was the 16th person to have been executed in the US in 2014 and the sixth prisoner executed in Texas this year.

Mr. Colville stressed that the UN opposed the death penalty in all circumstances as a matter of policy and principle. In addition, the latest case once again placed the US in breach of international law, as Mr Hernandez had not been granted consular access pursuant to Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. In 2004, the International Court of Justice had issued a ruling stating that the United States had to review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death – including Mr Hernandez – as they had not received consular services. Under international law, the violation of the right to consular notification affected the due process; and the execution of a foreign national deprived of his rights to consular services constituted an arbitrary deprivation of life, in contravention of articles 6 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the US had ratified in 1992.

Mr. Colville said that it was important to recall that the execution by the State of Texas of Mr Hernandez Llanas engaged the United States' international responsibility. OHCHR was once again disappointed that neither the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles nor the Governor had taken steps open to them to prevent this breach of US obligations under international law from occurring.

Answering questions on whether there were any consequences to the United States for its breach of the international law, and if OHCHR was negotiating with state or federal authorities, Mr. Colville said that the situation was deeply regrettable. While there were no direct consequences or sanctions against for the US, such acts were certainly not helping the country’s reputation. The issue had been continuously raised, including recently by the Human Rights Committees. In its concluding observations the previous month, the Committee had once again asked for a moratorium on death penalty at the federal level. OHCHR encouraged the US federal authorities to take a firmer action. The International Court of Justice might also be engaged as the execution had been in breach of their ruling. There had been several similar cases involving Mexican nationals executed in Texas. The High Commissioner for Human Rights had written to the Governor of Texas on those cases.

On whether the US President should take a stronger position on the issue, Mr. Colville said that the entire country was breaching the convention because of what was taking place in the state of Texas.

Mr. Colville added that, on a positive note, OHCHR welcomed the accession of Gabon and El Salvador to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty. That brought the total number of State parties to the Second Optional Protocol to 80.

Ebola

Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that as of 9 April, a cumulative total of 158 clinically compatible cases, including 101 deaths had been officially reported in Guinea. Laboratory investigations continued at the Institut Pasteur (IP) Dakar laboratory in Conakry and at the European Union Mobile Laboratory (EMLab) team in Guekedou. Twenty-four of the 101 deaths had been laboratory confirmed. Six districts of Guinea had reported patients including in Conakry (20 patients, all laboratory confirmed). Medical observation was continuing for 488 contacts while 453 had been discharged from follow-up. No new contacts had been identified since 8 April.

Speaking on the situation in Liberia, Ms. Chaib said that, as of 10 April, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare of Liberia had reported a cumulative total of five laboratory confirmed cases and 20 suspected cases of Ebola virus disease. The date of onset of the most recent confirmed case was 6 April, with six patients currently hospitalised. The Lofa County accounted for 32 per cent of the clinical cases reported to date (four laboratory confirmed and six suspected cases) followed by Margibi County (27 per cent, one confirmed and five suspected cases).

High-level Meeting on Health, Transport and Environment

Ms. Momal-Vanian, speaking on the behalf of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), informed that the Fourth High-level Meeting on Transport, Health and Environment would be held in Paris on 14-16 April, under the auspices of the Transport, Health and Environment Pan-European Programme (THE PEP) run by UNECE and WHO/Europe.

The PEP was a unique policy platform which sought to encourage transport policymakers and urban planners to consider the health and environmental impacts of transport.

The meeting aimed to raise awareness about the importance of physical activity for health and well-being, and called on national governments, municipal authorities and city planners to develop safe and healthy infrastructure for active mobility, such as walking and cycling so that those non-motorized modes of transport were regarded as viable means of urban mobility.

Ms. Momal-Vanian informed that the Ministerial Segment on 15 April was expected to adopt the Paris Declaration, through which European countries were creating a new vision of green and healthy mobility and transport for sustainable livelihoods for all, linking the promotion of health and sustainability to socioeconomic justice. That was supported by new goals and tools including: a new priority to integrate transport, health and environmental objectives into urban and spatial planning policies; a pan-European master plan for cycling promotion; stronger partnerships with city networks, civil society organizations and the research community; and the mobilization of young people and youth organizations.

Girls in ICT Day

Sarah Parkes, for the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), announced the event “Girls in ICT Day” on 15 April 15. That event was organized by ITU annually to promote technology careers to young women. There would be an interesting session running all day for students and the Geneva community, including workshops for girls in coding, blogging, mobile app development, and digital music, both in the morning and the afternoon.

A panel session would take place from 12:30 to 2:30, with a very interesting line of speakers, which would focus on successful initiatives from around the world helping lead women and girls into the field of ICT. A star panelist would be a 12-year-old girl, Sylvia Todd, who had her own, very popular, Youtube channel, had met US President Obama in the White House Science Fair, addressed a TEDx conference and won a silver medal at the 2013 Robogames. The formidable young woman would be available for interviews.

Answering a question, Ms. Parkes specified that all local schools where invited, despite the fact that some of them were on Easter holidays.

Geneva activities

Ms. Momal-Vanian informed that the Committee on Migrant Workers was finishing its session today. A roundup would include key observations for the four countries examined – Uruguay, El Salvador, Mali and The Philippines.

The Committee on Persons with Disabilities was also closing its session today. The Committee had examined reports of Sweden, Azerbaijan and Costa Rica, and a roundup would be published at the end of the day.

Ms. Momal-Vanian said that UNECE would hold a press conference in Press Room III on 14 April at 2 p.m, to present the study Current status and perspectives for Liquefied Natural Gas. The study had been completed by a team of international experts working under the auspices of UNECE. It would be discussed at the meeting of the UNECE expert group on gas on 14 April. Speakers at the conference would include Scott Foster, Director, Sustainable Energy Division, UNECE; Francisco P. de la Flor Garcia, Director of Regulation, ENAGAS S.A. (Spain), and team leader of the study; and Pedro Moraleda, Principal, Energy Markets Advice (Spain).

Hans von Rohland, for the International Labour Organisation (ILO), informed that today the Special Tripartite Commission would adopt amendments related to the convention on the abandonment of people at the sea and on the civil responsibility of the amateurs in the absence of seafarers to the ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention. Mr. von Rohland provided contacts for arranging an interview with experts on the issue.

Melissa Begag, for the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that on 14 April the WTO would release the world economy figures for 2013 and prospects for 2014. On that occasion, Director-General Azevêdo, accompanied by WTO economists, would hold a press conference in Room D at 11 a.m. The press release would be under strict embargo until 12.30 p.m.

The same day, Mr. Azevêdo would meet Kunio Mikuriya, Secretary-General of the World Customs Organization. On 15 April, he would meet Rolf Heuer, Director-General of CERN, and on 16 April, the meeting would be held with François Longchamp, President of the State Council of Geneva.


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The representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund also attended the briefing, but did not brief.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: … http://bit.ly/1qFw8U0