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30 November 2018

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 International Organization for Migration and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

Travel of the Secretary-General

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Secretary-General would be addressing the meeting of the Group of 20 (G20) in Argentina later on Friday. He would call on all the leaders present to ensure that all their citizens could enjoy the benefits of technological and scientific advances, global trade and economic integration.

The Secretary-General would later travel to Katowice, Poland, to attend the twenty-fourth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, to be held from 3 to 14 December.

Meeting on the Western Sahara

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that a meeting on the Western Sahara would be held in Geneva on 5 and 6 December 2018. Organized in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolution 2440 (2018), it would be the first such meeting in six years and the first step in the renewed negotiations process aimed at reaching a just, lasting and mutually acceptable solution that would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The delegations had been invited by Mr. Horst Köhler, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, who would issue a press communiqué at the end of the meeting.

Migrants from the Caravans Receive IOM Support to Return to their Countries

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), made the following statement:

“Since 4 November 2018, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) has facilitated the voluntary and safe return of hundreds of Central Americans who were part of the caravans of migrants traveling US-bound through Mexican territory.

As of Wednesday (28/11), 453 migrants (84% men) who were part of the caravans requested and obtained IOM support to return to their countries of origin or residence: Honduras (57%), El Salvador (38%) and Guatemala (5%). Twenty-five unaccompanied migrant children returned by plane.

Information and registration booths have been opened in Tecún Umán (Guatemala), Tapachula, Mexico City, and Tijuana (México). Over 300 Central American migrants have expressed their interest in returning from Tijuana, and IOM is coordinating safe and dignified means of transport for them. Migrants wishing to return are counselled and screened by IOM to evaluate their options prior to making the decision to return.

As part of this programme, funded by the US State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), IOM also coordinates with the governments of all involved countries for the regular and safe return of the migrants.

During their return trip, the migrants receive food and psychosocial support in border crossings and, when arriving at receptions centres in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the migrants receive hygiene kits and, in many cases, transportation money to get home.

Migrants who arrive at reception centres in the countries of the northern triangle are also referred to government institutions that can address vulnerabilities related to health, protection against intra-family violence, and access to employment exchanges.”

Mr. Millman noted that, since 1979, IOM had assisted over 1.5 million migrants to return to their countries of origin or residence through its assisted voluntary return programmes and that Greece alone had supported 44,000 migrants since 2010, figures that placed some perspective on the numbers currently being assisted in Central America.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr. Millman added that unverified reports indicated that around 3,800 migrants had arrived in Tijuana, but that, other than the 25 minors mentioned, those who had so far been assisted to return had been located elsewhere. It seemed that, when starting their journey, many of the migrants had not been aware of the length of the journey or the likely wait at the Mexico-United States border; an IOM survey of a small caravan of migrants leaving El Salvador had found that only 12 per cent had been aware of or intended to apply for the asylum process. Quoting an IOM protection officer, Mr. Millman said that many of the migrants “said it was almost an impulse; they didn't stop to think about the risks and the exhausting days of walking. They just joined a group of friends or neighbours and joined the caravan." One of the migrants who had requested IOM support to return had said: "My destination was the US. I was looking for a job. Working is what I've done since I was eleven. But seeing things as they are, I changed my mind. I think it’s best for me to return to El Salvador.”

Mr. Millman added that it was expected that more migrants would express an interest in returning home in coming days and weeks. However, it was recognised that there were many serious problems in their home countries, and all prospective returnees, particularly vulnerable individuals such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender young people, would be given counselling, including on applying for asylum, before they decided what they wished to do. The United States Department of State Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration had provided USD 1.2 million for the programme and was aware of the rules adhered to by IOM, whereby any migrant who decided to return home would be given help to do so and would not incur any record with the authorities of any of the States concerned.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at COP24

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), made the following statement:

“The primary role of UNCTAD is to work with governments to help them boost their economy and their development.

There is no economic activity and no development prospects with 2 hours of electricity per day – that is a fact. No entrepreneur, no multinational, no hospital, no start-up can properly function with 2 hours of electricity.

With the Memorandum of Understanding to be signed on Monday at COP24 with the Solar Impulse Foundation, we will bring people together so the needs we identify with our experts and our government meetings meet the solutions proposed by innovators.”

Ms. Huissoud said that UNCTAD would be collaborating with the Solar Impulse Foundation, using the expertise of its World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, in identifying 1,000 projects that would help further development, particularly in the area of energy. It would then disseminate the results to the Governments of Member States. UNCTAD would help and guide primarily least developed countries with their energy policies and plans so that access to energy would serve productive capacities directly, contributing to wealth creation and income redistribution and improving the lives of the populations.

The UNCTAD delegation to COP24 would be led by the Deputy Secretary-General, Isabelle Durant, and would address several of the issues to be discussed, including the problems of small island developing States. UNCTAD had already worked on projects in the Caribbean Region involving port infrastructure and coastal transport in the context of rising ocean levels.

A further meeting, in which UNCTAD was partnering with other international organizations, would consider the role of fiscal policy, financial markets and trade in implementing the Paris Agreement. UNCTAD would also participate in a meeting on sustainable maritime transport and its role in sustainable development.

In answer to a question from a journalist, Ms. Huissoud said that, despite the findings of the recent World Meteorological Organization report that the goals of COP21 on reducing the increase in global average temperatures compared to pre-industrial levels were not being met, scientific experts were still optimistic that the worst outcome could be avoided if action was taken quickly enough. It was hoped that COP24 would help to achieve that.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that, at the press conference the previous day, the Secretary-General had recognized that the international community was not doing enough to follow the Paris Agreement. He had said that, at COP24, he would call on world leaders to do more to avoid imminent disaster; commitment was also needed from all economic actors, ranging from governments to civil society, businesses, municipalities and regions. He had acknowledged the positive movement under way in some countries, but would urge all Governments to adopt and implement the Paris Agreement work programme.


World Health Organization announcements

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the nineteenth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the international spread of polio had been convened by the WHO Director-General on 27 November 2018. Meeting at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, the Committee had evaluated the latest polio epidemiology to determine whether the disease continued to constitute a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). It had also reviewed its recommendations to accelerate eradication progress.

The Committee’s advice would be made public on the WHO website and via a virtual press conference, to take place at 3.15 p.m. on Friday 30 November. Speakers would outline the challenges of getting to zero polio and why eradication continued to be an urgent global public health priority. An audio file of the press conference would be distributed to journalists shortly after the conference ends and a transcript would follow. The speakers would be Professor Helen Rees, Chair of the IHR Emergency Committee, and Mr. Michel Zaffran, Director of the WHO Polio Eradication programme.

Tarik Jašareviæ also said that the WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety 2018 would be launched at a press conference on Thursday 6 December at 3 p.m. in Press Room I. The speakers would be Dr. Etienne Krug, WHO Director of the Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, and Dr. Nhan Tran, Coordinator for Unintentional Injury Prevention.

Mr. Jašareviæ further recalled that the thirtieth anniversary of World AIDS Day would be marked on 1 December 2018. World AIDS Day had been created to raise awareness about HIV and the resulting AIDS epidemics. Since the beginning of the epidemic, more than 70 million people had acquired the infection, and about 35 million people had died. Today, around 37 million people worldwide were living with HIV, of whom 22 million were on treatment. When World AIDS Day had first been established in 1988, the world had looked very different to how it was today. Now, there was easily accessible testing, treatment, a range of prevention options, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and services that could reach vulnerable communities.

Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announcement

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Mark Lowcock, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, would hold a press conference on Tuesday 4 December at 9 a.m. prior to the launch of the two flagship reports on the Global Humanitarian Overview 2019, which would describe all the humanitarian response plans for the coming year, and World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2018, which would explain trends and expectations for the years to come. The launch would take place in the Council Chamber from 10 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and would be attended by Mr. Lowcock and Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Ato Kassa, Commissioner of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission of Ethiopia, the Secretary-General of CARE International and a director of the International Displacement Monitoring Centre. The report would be sent to journalists by midnight on Monday 3 December, under embargo until 9 a.m. the following day.

World Intellectual Property Organization announcement

Edward Harris, for the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), said that the 2018 World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report would be launched at a press conference on Monday 3 December at 11 a.m. in Press Room I. The speakers would be WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and Chief Economist Carsten Fink. The global benchmark report would give in-depth comprehensive information on 2017 global data related to patterns in intellectual property, showing what was happening inside countries in terms of trademarks, industrial designs and copyrights. The report would be complemented a few months later, in March 2019, by a report on cross-border intellectual property flows.

World Food Programme announcement

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that a press conference would be held on Tuesday, 4 December at 1 p.m. in Press Room III to give an update on food security and WFP operations in Yemen just before the peace talks to take place in Sweden. The speakers would include David Beasley, the Executive Director of WFP.

In answer to a question from a journalist, Mr. Verhoosel said that it was not yet known when the analysed figures on the famine situation would be available. Journalists would be informed as soon as possible.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, responding to a question from a journalist, said that there had as yet been no official confirmation of the dates of the proposed talks on Yemen to be held in Sweden. The Secretary-General had said on Wednesday 28 November that there was a chance that it would be possible to start effective negotiations in Sweden in early December. He had stressed that, "If we are able to stop the Yemeni war, we will be stopping the most tragic humanitarian disaster we are facing in today's world."

Other announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was that morning concluding its review of the report of Iraq, begun the previous afternoon. During its ninety-seventh session, the Committee would review the reports of Qatar, Honduras, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Albania and Norway.

Mr. LeBlanc said that the next public meeting of the Committee against Torture, on Thursday, 6 December, would be devoted to the follow-up of articles 19 and 22 of the Convention (follow-up of concluding observations and of views adopted on individual complaints).

He added that 3 December was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In his message, the Secretary-General had said that more than 1 billion persons in the world lived with some form of disability, and many of them suffered isolation and discrimination. On the Day, the United Nations would be launching a first-ever flagship report on disability and development, United Nations Flagship Report on Disability and Development 2018 – Realizing the SDGs by, for and with persons with disabilities, which would highlight that people with disabilities are at a disadvantage regarding most Sustainable Development Goals, but that a growing number of good practices could create a more inclusive society in which they can live independently.


Monday 3 December at 11:00 a.m., Press Room 1


Launch of WIPO’s 2018 World Intellectual Property Indicators (WIPI) report


• Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General

• Carsten Fink, Chief Economist, WIPOWednesday, 5 December 2018, at 10:00 a.m.,


Tuesday, 4 December at 9.00 a.m., Room III


Launch of “Global Humanitarian Overview 2019” and “World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2018” flagship reports


• Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator


Tuesday, 4 December at 1:00 p.m., Room III

World Food Programme

Subject: Update on food security and WFP operations in YEMEN (a few days prior to the peace talk)


• David BEASLEY, Executive Director WFP

• Herve VERHOOSEL, Senior Spokesperson WFP


Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at 10:00 a.m., Room III


The 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights


· Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights


Wednesday, 5 December 2018, at 12:00 p.m., Press Room 1 (under embargo)


Launch of the ILO report “Global estimates on international migrant workers”


· Manuela Tomei, Department Director, WORKQUALITY


Wednesday, 5 December at 2:15 p.m., Press Room 1

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Expert briefing: The global compact on refugees

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has proposed a new global compact on refugees which aims to strengthen the global response to new and existing refugee situations. The full UN General Assembly is expected to consider and validate the refugee compact on the morning of 17 December in New York.


· Mr Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR


Thursday, 6 December at 3:00 p.m., Press Room 1
Launch of the WHO Global status report on road safety 2018, which will detail the progress and challenges in making roads safer to protect health and save lives.

· Dr. Etienne Krug, Director, Department for Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, WHO

· Dr. Nhan Tran, Coordinator, Unintentional Injury Prevention, WHO

The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog301118