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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

16 August 2019

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section, United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons for the United Nations Children’s Fund, International Organization for Migration, United Nations Refugee Agency, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research.

Education of Rohingya children

Simon Ingram, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), gave the following statement:

“Next week marks a bleak milestone for around half a million Rohingya refugee children living in Bangladesh. Two years after the influx that brought most of them from Myanmar, the refugees are today largely coping in the harsh conditions of the camps.
But two years on, these children want more than mere survival: more than anything, they want a proper education, a chance to learn the basic skills that can keep alive their hope for a better future - for themselves and their families.

Frustration and desperation are growing. And the hunger to learn is palpable. Visitors hear it in almost every conversation with people around the camps. And that’s why the report UNICEF is releasing today calls for redoubled efforts to provide a proper education for Rohingya children and adolescents living in limbo in Bangladesh.

Around 25,000 younger children need Learning Centres, materials and teachers. But for an estimated 123,000 twelve to eighteen year olds - the vast majority of whom are not enrolled in any form of education - the needs are broader still: an entire adolescent curriculum needs to be established, offering foundational skills in literacy and numeracy alongside more practical vocational skills that can translate into opportunities in entrepreneurship in the future.

Then there’s the issue of improving the learning content. A start has been made: beginning this year, UNICEF and its partners have begun introducing competency-based learning, marking a qualitative leap towards the sort of learning experience that children anywhere have the right to expect.

But to take this effort to scale, much more is required. Most critically, UNICEF calls for the cooperation and support of the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh, to allow the use of their national educational resources – including curriculum, assessments and training manuals – and the contribution of their trained teachers.

The report also calls on the international community to play its part, by making available the necessary financial resources.

All this is not to diminish what has been achieved, in incredibly difficult circumstances over the past two years by the various agencies under the leadership of the Government of Bangladesh.

As of today, UNICEF and its partners have provided learning to over 190,000 Rohingya children, in more than 2,100 learning centres. The contribution of our many partners, especially national NGOs, has been immense.

But despite all this work, adolescents - in particular - find themselves at growing risk. When you meet teenagers in the camps they speak readily of the dangers they face, especially at night, when drug dealers operate and gang fights are reported to be a regular occurrence. Cases of trafficking are also being reported, although they are hard to quantify.

The camps can be especially hazardous for girls and women: cases of harassment and violence are so widespread that some male relatives feel obliged to accompany their female family members to the toilet at night to ensure they come to no harm.

Efforts to improve the situation for adolescents are underway. UNICEF is helping develop youth centres and adolescent clubs in which life skills, basic literacy and numeracy and vocational skills are provided. Nearly 70 such facilities are operational but far more are needed.

Ultimately, the solution to the crisis is to allow the Rohingya refugees to voluntarily return to their former communities in Myanmar, safely and in dignity, to live as full members of society in peace and harmony with their neighbours. UNICEF calls again on the Government of Myanmar to establish conditions that would allow such a return as soon as possible.

The report concludes by noting UNICEF’s financial needs for 2019: a funding gap of sixty-seven million US dollars, about one third of which is required for education.
These resources are needed to ensure that the basic day-to-day needs of the Rohingya continue to be met. But they are also vital to help address the longer-term needs of younger Rohingya, who are desperate to learn, and fear that the time to do so is fast running out.”

Asked about the call upon Bangladesh and Myanmar authorities to provide education to the Rohingya children and the barriers to their education, Mr. Ingram stressed the importance of ensuring that the learning and education curriculum was in Burmese, which was why the contribution and engagement of the Government of Myanmar was needed. Such training was provided by volunteers until now; however, volunteers could not replace trained teachers. Myanmar was called upon to provide school materials, teachers, as well as training for teachers. Discussions with the Government of Myanmar were ongoing on this issue.

Two years ago, at the beginning of the crisis, the priority was to provide the basics, such as shelter, food and health care. Education had been recognized as a priority, but the provision was informal, ad hoc and with a heavy emphasis on play, to facilitate the children’s recovery from trauma. Now, it was important to focus on fulfilling the need for formal education that would prepare the children for the future and would avoid a whole generation of children growing up uneducated.

America’s migratory routes

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration, read out the following statement:

“In total, at least 514 people have lost their lives in the Americas in 2019, compared with 384 recorded through this point in 2018 – an increase of just over one-third.

This is the earliest point in any of the past six years that IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has reached a threshold of 500 or more deaths in the Americas. In prior years, the 500-death mark was reached in either September (2016), October (2017, 2018) or December (2015), or, in the case of 2014, not at all, as only 495 deaths were recorded of migrants in transit in the Americas that year.

Women (67 deaths) and children (40) made up just over one-fifth of all deaths recorded in the Americas in 2019, although remains also were recovered from 137 sites where the age and gender of the deceased has yet to be determined.

Nearly half of all deaths – 247 through 15 August – have been recorded on the US-Mexico border. The rest were reported either further south, in Central America (which for the MMP project includes much of Mexico and the isthmus lying between Panamá and Guatemala), or near Caribbean Sea islands or South America. Deaths counted in those three regions were, respectively, 80, 151 and 30.

The turmoil in Venezuela – where over four million migrants have left the country since 2015 – may account for much of 2019’s fatalities surge in recorded fatalities. This year IOM has reported 89 confirmed fatalities of Venezuelan nationals, whose deaths were recorded across South and Central America as well as in the Caribbean Sea.

Venezuelans are second only to “Unknown” as the most counted nationality, which has 178 victims –many of which were found this year as remains in the desert long after their deaths or lost at sea, meaning that their identities and nationalities may never be confirmed.

Those nationalities that have been confirmed include Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, India, Mexico, Nicaragua and Ukraine.

The Missing Migrants Project (MMP) counted deaths so far in 2019 in the following states: Bahamas (31), Dominican Republic (17), Turks and Caicos (19), Trinidad and Tobago (52) and Curacao (32) in the Caribbean. In Mexico (76), Guatemala (2) and Panamá (2) in Central America; in Colombia (27), Brazil (2) and Perú (1) in South America.

MMP also chronicled a wide range of causes of death of these many migrant men, women and children. Drowning – with 259 victims – was the leader, accounting for just over half of all deceased. More victims appear to have drowned at sea than along any of the treacherous river crossings many migrants risk, not only along the US-Mexico border, but also along borders in Central and South America.

Highway accidents (65) also has been a very common cause of death this year, while and mishaps along railway routes (21) are blamed for almost as many deaths as dehydration or exposure (22). Crimes of violence – including homicide – are linked to 19 deaths, with about the same number of fatalities in 2019 attributed to sickness or lack of medical attention. Over 100 cases note a cause of death as “unknown”, also linked to the fact that many migrants’ bodies are not found for weeks or months after their death.

This total does not include at least 11 deaths in custody in the Americas - either in US detention centres or in Mexico. Because some of these victims were long-term residents of these centres, these cases are counted separately from the Missing Migrants totals. MMP is also aware of at least 50 cases in Mexico and in Panamá’s Darién jungle where credible reports of deaths have yet to be corroborated. Some of these cases involve eyewitnesses who report they have seen bodies that have yet to be recovered. In other cases, bodies have been found, but it is not yet known whether these victims are properly categorized as migrants in transit, or migrants settled in the area, or nationals of the country who were not migrants at all.”

The build-up of the statistics has been “relentless” this year, noted Mr. Millman, adding that in the last ten days, since the last update, 15 people had been recovered inland in Texas and three after they had drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande river. Eighteen people had died in only ten days in just that tiny stretch of the border, and only six of the victims had been identified. Five deaths had been recorded in California.

Asked whether it was accurate to say that the Trump administration’s border policies have created a more lethal environment for migrants at the borders, Mr. Millman said the International Organization for Migration did not comment on the migratory policies of its Member States. However, over the years, it had commented on how the measures by governments to secure the borders all over the world pushed migrants into the realm of criminal organizations that tried to get them over the border. This had certainly been the case on the Mexican border for the past 20 years, where the criminalization of border trafficking had become a norm since the Bush years. The harder it was to cross the more likely migrants were to end up with bad actors who did not care about their security, Mr. Millman said.

Another phenomenon, which was also true globally, was the kidnapping of migrants from low-income countries who were bound for high-income countries where they had a family. They were very attractive kidnapping targets, and not only in Mexico. These elements were making for a much more dangerous environment.

According to his organization’s data, Mr. Millman said in response to another question that 60 per cent of Venezuelan deaths had occurred this year and all of them outside of their own country. A total of 107 deaths of children and women had been recorded, although remains had been recovered from 137 sites where age and gender were still to be determined. Of the 11 deaths in custody, eight had occurred in the United States detention centres and three in Mexico; in most cases, deaths were due to medical reasons. A ten-year-old girl had died after falling out from a bunk bed in a detention centre in Mexico City.

Concerning the Trump administration’s position on refugees and migrants on benefits, Mr. Millman noted that most refugees were entitled to social assistance and many took it. This was not an issue that the IOM was examining at the moment, he added.

Displacements in Ituri in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), read out the following statement:

“Two months on since violence forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern province of Ituri, severe underfunding and growing insecurity mean rising numbers are in need of humanitarian assistance and are unable to return home.

In the last three weeks of June alone, more than 145,000 newly displaced people sought safety and assistance in displacement sites across Ituri, while 215,000 more are estimated to have fled to neighbouring areas. Difficulties with access in some places, and the large area from which people have fled, means the real figure is difficult to verify. Thousands have continued to flee since, although at lower rates.

Ongoing violence between militia groups means many fear to return home. During a recent trip to the town of Djugu to provide assistance, staff of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, found empty village after empty village and countless torched and abandoned houses.

People have been forced to find shelter wherever they can. Some have been taken in by other families. Many are forced to sleep in the open. Drodro, a relatively small town, has seen its population triple in just a few weeks, as local schools and churches have transformed into large, squalid dormitories.

Our staff have heard numerous testimonies from people who had lost family members. Some who had tried to return home to collect food and possessions were killed by armed groups as a warning to others not to return. There is prevailing fear for what the future holds.

The most urgent needs are for shelter, water, sanitation, healthcare and food. Overcrowded conditions are putting women and girls at high risk of sexual and gender-based violence. Poor hygiene conditions caused by the lack of clean water and latrines is increasing the risk of diseases spreading.

UNHCR is providing assistance at the displacement sites, where we are building collective emergency hangars for those sleeping in the open, and individual shelters for the most vulnerable families. However, new shelters are urgently needed to allow people to vacate schools before the new school term begins in early September. Basic household items are being provided but needs are far outweighing UNHCR’s current stocks.

Funding for this humanitarian crisis remains critically low. UNHCR is appealing to the international community to come forward with further funding and allow humanitarian organizations to provide basic, life-saving assistance. So far this year, UNHCR has received just 32% of the US$150 million needed for our operations.”

Responding to a question concerning the exposure of the displaced persons to Ebola, Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the Ebola response plan included a scenario of a large number of people on the move – this was also one of the elements which made putting an end to the epidemic difficult. Ebola treatment centres were operational in Bunia and Komanda in Ituri province, while community mobilization teams were raising awareness about the disease among the displaced and host populations.

Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said the main reason the people were fleeing was insecurity and the attacks by armed groups, which were often described as “unidentified armed groups”. In June, many people had fled their homes in Ituri due to inter-ethnic clashes and had not been able to return. Access was an issue too; on those occasions when the United Nations Refugee Agency was able to visit the villages, they saw them abandoned, with many houses burned down.

Protests, socio-economic crisis in Zimbabwe

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Environment had formalized a new partnership on the protection of the human rights to a healthy environment.

Mr. Colville then read out the following statement:

“We understand that today’s planned protests in Harare have just been called off by the organisers, following a High Court decision to uphold a Government ban. The crowds that had already gathered were dispersed by police, with reports emerging of the use of force against protestors.

With opposition demonstrations still likely to take place in Zimbabwe in the near future, we urge the Government to find ways to continuously engage with the population about their legitimate grievances on the economic situation, and to stop cracking down on peaceful protestors. If demonstrations go ahead, we urge the security forces and protesters to ensure they proceed calmly and without any violence.

We are deeply concerned by the socio-economic crisis that continues to unfold in Zimbabwe. While acknowledging efforts made by the Government, the international community and the UN in Zimbabwe to mitigate the effects of the crisis and reform process, the dire economic situation is now impacting negatively on the realization of the economic and social rights of millions of Zimbabweans.

Long-term neglect and structural deficiencies have contributed to hyperinflation, resulting in soaring prices for fuel, food, transport and health services, which is having a dramatic impact on the population, and particularly on marginalized working-class people. The fact that key commodities and services have become less affordable for poor families, means there is an increasing need for strong social protection measures.

The economic crisis is converging with the impact of cyclone Idai that hit Zimbabwe last March, as well as the El Niño-induced drought, to create a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, with the result that around five million Zimbabweans, or one third of the total population of 16 million people, are now estimated to be in need of humanitarian aid.

Ahead of today’s planned protest, which was called off at the last minute, there were worrying reports of threats against citizens who wish to exercise their right to express their opinions of the economic situation via peaceful protests, with allegations of increased surveillance of, and threats against, civil society organizations by State agents.

More disturbing still, there have been reports of actual physical attacks on, and arrests and detention of, civil society leaders and activists over the past few months, with one human rights defender and one political activist reportedly temporarily abducted and severely beaten by unidentified armed men a few days ago, apparently because of their role in helping to organize the protests today. In the last few hours, we have heard reports of more such cases and are looking into them. Senior officials have also reportedly issued threats against organisers of demonstrations or against people who take part in them.

State authorities have a duty to ensure people’s rights to freedom of expression, and to facilitate and protect the right to peaceful assembly. In addition, we urge the Senate when reviewing the Maintenance of Peace and Order Bill to protect the essential democratic freedoms of peaceful assembly and demonstration by ensuring the Bill’s compliance with the Constitution, decisions of the Constitutional Court, and international human rights standards.

In January, we expressed concerns about reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by Zimbabwean security forces during protests following the announcement of an increase in petrol prices. We are not aware of the indictment or prosecution of a single alleged perpetrator of human rights violations committed during or after of those protests. The Government does not appear to have carried out the requisite investigations into the violence, including the alleged excessive use of force by security forces, in a prompt, thorough and transparent manner, with a view to accountability, and we urge it to do so without further delay.

We also urge the Government to redouble its efforts to address the current challenges through a national dialogue, with the support of the international community, and to ensure that civil society organizations, human rights defenders, and activists can carry out their activities in a safe and secure environment without fearing intimidation or reprisals for their work.”

In response to journalists’ questions, Mr. Colville stressed that the humanitarian situation in the country was a result of socio-economic factors exacerbated by the cyclone Idai. The convergence of those very serious elements was putting huge pressure on the population. While poorer and marginalized segments of the population were most affected, all the population in Zimbabwe – except the wealthy elite – was being impacted: there were power cuts for much of the day, shortage of water, health services were suffering, hyperinflation – all those affected the population as a whole so this should not be reduced to a black-white issue. A very cordial relationship existed between the black and white civil society organizations in Zimbabwe.

As far as the clamp down on the opposition was concerned, Mr. Colville said the Office was aware of some specific cases, including the arrest several months ago of seven civil society organizations activists for subverting the constitution. They had been arrested upon their return from the Maldives, where they had attended a training session. The Office had received reports a few days ago of very recent abductions and beatings of activists and human rights defenders, which it had not yet verified. It was a very tense situation and the inflation was the first it had witnessed in the last ten years.

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that Zimbabwe was suffering the worst ever hunger emergency following the drought and the economic situation. The WFP supported 700,000 people in August and hoped to scale it up to two million people during the January to April 2020 period, should the funding be made available. Ten days ago, the United Nations system had issued an appeal for $331 million to fund the humanitarian response in Zimbabwe.

Military build-up on the China-Hong Kong border

In response to a question, Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said the Office did not have information about a military presence along the China–Hong Kong border, and stressed that this tense and volatile situation could only be resolved through dialogue. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights continued to engage with the Chinese authorities during the week, while the Hong Kong police had acknowledged the condemnation by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of all violence and recognized the principles that must guide the police’s use of force. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights stands ready to advise the Chinese and the Hong Kong authorities on human rights issues, norms, and principles.

Racism

Responding to a question raised on racism, Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), acknowledged that racism and discrimination remained major concerns and said that the whole philosophy on non-discrimination was at the heart of human rights. Racism and discrimination, from the perspective of international human rights law, were completely unacceptable.

Unprecedented humanitarian emergency in Burkina Faso

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP) gave the following statement:

“Burkina Faso - a West African nation with a population of over 19 million - is facing a humanitarian emergency due to a rise in insecurity in several parts of the Sahel. This is a real concern for food security especially during the lean season between June and September - when food is most scarce before the next harvest. Almost 688,000 people were estimated to be food insecure in Burkina Faso during the June to September lean season.

Displacement in Burkina Faso has increased five-fold from December 2018 to now – with nearly 240,000 people who have fled their homes, according official statistics. The insecurity has also led to the closure of health centers and of schools, which has affected nearly 330,000 children.

WFP is stepping up food assistance for people affected by the growing emergency as well as communities struggling to feed themselves in the lean season. WFP has supported more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from January to July 2019.

In total WFP plans to provide emergency assistance to nearly 700,000 people in Burkina Faso, out of which 220,000 will be internally displaced persons, 220,000 people in the host communities, and 257,000 people affected by food insecurity during the current lean season.

WFP continues to provide nutritional support for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition among IDPs and people affected by the lean season. WFP provided nutritional support over 71,000 children aged 6 to 59 months and 28,500 undernourished pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers between January and May 2019 in the East, North, Centre North and Sahel regions of the country.

75% of WFP’s in-kind commodities are procured locally, thus reducing lead-time for procurement of stocks and providing an impact on local economy. WFP has been procuring commodities locally since 2013. Focusing exclusively on 2018 and 2019, WFP has contributed to local economy USD 30.1 million.

If the security situation does not allow IDPs to return home, WFP recovery and livelihood activities - focused on the creation, protection and restoration of productive assets in targeted communities- will allow IDPs to be more self-reliant and not completely dependent on WFP assistance over the long term. For instance, last year, 1,424 hectares of degraded land was rehabilitated. In addition, ten artificial water ponds with a capacity of 3,000 m3 each were built to support communities.

All necessary action must be taken to address this situation and ensure that no one is left behind, but more importantly to tackle the root causes of the crisis in the Sahel including poverty, climate change and social exclusion.

The international community must support WFP in responding to the growing humanitarian needs in the country and in the rest of the Sahel. WFP requires US$ 35.3 million to cover urgent needs until the end of the year in Burkina Faso.

This week (12-14 August), the Executive Director of WFP, David Beasley, visited Burkina Faso. He met with authorities including President Roch Marc Kabore; the Prime Minister; and several ministers. Beasley pledged WFP support to people affected by the challenges - especially in the north of the country. He discussed the need to work for enhanced access to reach the most vulnerable and assist those who are displaced.

David Beasley travelled to Kaya in the Centre-North region of Burkina Faso where WFP has been working with communities as part of a programme to scale-up resilience across the Sahel region. He met women and men who have been working with WFP to restore degraded land which enables them to improve cereals and beans production. One of such communities provided several hectares of land to internally displaced people to participate and grow food.

He called for further investment by the international community in Burkina Faso and the Sahel, to shore up livelihoods; restore ecosystems; create jobs; build social cohesion; and support governments to achieve sustainable development to tackle some of the root causes to the problems in the region.”

Answering questions about people’s condition in Burkina Faso, Mr. Verhoosel said the country was experiencing the double problem of insecurity and the most difficult period between the two harvests. Because of security issues, people could not always access markets or go to the fields. People were undernourished and urgent food assistance was needed. The World Food Programme was working on finding innovative ways to deal with food emergencies caused by climate change.

Innovative insurance cover to help drought-hit communities in Africa

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP), gave the following statement:

“The World Food Programme and other humanitarian agencies have purchased an innovative climate risk insurance policy to protect up to 1.3 million people in West Africa from catastrophic drought. The countries benefitting include Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Gambia.

Typically, aid agencies are reliant on funding that gets provided by donors after a crisis has already taken place. By the time a crisis has been determined and humanitarian appeals have been formulated, many lives and livelihoods can be lost.

These policies will unleash funds to assist vulnerable communities threatened by drought before it reaches catastrophic levels. Pay-outs are made as early as two weeks after a failed harvest – months earlier than traditional humanitarian resources are made available. The efficiencies gained from responding before a disaster is declared – as initial research shows – can reduce humanitarian needs by up to 4.4 times.

The insurance uses pre-agreed triggers such as rainfall satellite data which allow for rapid response involving pre-agreed activities such as cash transfers and the distribution of food and nutrition supplements. The aim is to avoid situations where families take children out of school, migrate or sell livestock and seeds before the next agricultural season.

For 2019, the WFP purchased US$ 4.4 million in premiums covering four countries whose climate risk insurance the WFP is leading- Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, and the Gambia. These WFP held policies can enable up to US$ 32.5 million in coverage to protect over 1M vulnerable people across the four countries.

Collectively between the WFP, the Start Network and other humanitarian agencies, the purchased policies could release a total of US$ 49.5 million across five countries- Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Gambia.

This initiative, which is known under the name ‘African Risk Capacity (ARC) Replica’ allows governments and humanitarian agencies to quickly access and channel financing to vulnerable people in the event of extreme drought.

The African Risk Capacity (ARC) was born out of the WFP and has relied on the WFP administrative support since its inception. ARC provides a much-needed mechanism to African Union Member States to better manage climate risks by transferring risks that are too high cost for a government to bear on their own.

The financing also helps to protect livestock and other assets, and to supplement feeding programs for undernourished children. To ensure assistance reaches people in need quickly, Start Network and the WFP have worked with each insured country to identify how resources and assistance can most efficiently be delivered.

The WFP is seen by governments as an important partner for ARC as well as for general climate risk financing in ARC Replica countries. The WFP can support countries to strengthen their ARC policy while supporting them to consider a more holistic risk management strategy.

Further resources are needed past 2019 to ensure sustainability of the programme and in order to not lose investments already made in current ARC Replica countries.”

UNIDIR Innovations Dialogue

Giacomo Persi Paoli, for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, said that on Monday, 19 August, the first edition of the Innovation Dialogue would take place. It would be an opportunity to explore the potentially radical and novel applications of science and technology development for international security and disarmament. There was wide-spread consensus that technologies were evolving at a pace that made it difficult for national and global policy and decision-makers to keep up with what was happening and what it meant.

This flagship event would be held on an annual basis, with the 2019 Innovations Dialogue focusing on the theme of Digital Technologies and International Security. Four main technology areas – those that were in the daily headlines but which had not been formally addressed in the multilateral disarmament agenda – would be covered, namely artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, quantum computing, and the Internet of Things.

Over 150 participants had registered so far, including from civil society organizations and the media. The event would be streamed live on UN Web TV and its agenda, including the full list of speakers, was available on www.unidir.org

Announcements and press conferences

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that Monday 19 August was World Humanitarian Day. A commemoration in Geneva would take place at 3 p.m. in Room XX, with the participation of Tatiana Valovaya, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. A panel discussion on women humanitarians would be held, with Melissa Fleming, Head of Communications and Chief Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and newly appointed United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications; Adiba Qasim, young leader at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and student at the University of Geneva, Yazidi survivor and refugee; and His Excellency Lansana Alison Gberie, Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations in Geneva. This would be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony and the holding of a minute of silence.

On Thursday, 22 August 2019 at 10:00 a.m. in Press room 1, the Permanent Mission of Latvia will hold a press briefing in advance of the Fifth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty, with a focus on gender and gender-based violence. Speakers will be Ambassador Janis Karklins, President of the 5th Arms Trade Treaty Conference of States Parties and Anna Macdonald, the Advisor on the Arms Trade Treaty.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that on Wednesday, 21 August, World Health Organization will hold a press briefing on recent studies on microplastic.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said the next public plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament will be held at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 20 August. This would be the first plenary under the presidency of Ambassador Taonga Mushayavanhu of Zimbabwe.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination this morning will conclude its review of the report of Mongolia and this afternoon it will begin the consideration of the report of the Czech Republic, which will be the last report scheduled for the current, ninety-ninth session.

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog160819