6 September 2019
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons for the Human Rights Council and the World Health Organization.
Human Rights Council
Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, said that the forty-second regular session of the Human Rights Council would begin on Monday 9 September. The session would be opened at 9 a.m. by the Council President, Mr. Coly Seck. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Michelle Bachelet, would then provide an oral update on the activities of her Office and on global developments in human rights. She would be followed by the Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, Mr. Nicholas Koumjian, who would give the first presentation of the work of the Mechanism.
The High Commissioner would then provide oral updates on the follow-up to the recommendations of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and on the human rights situation in Venezuela. The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery would then present a report on how expected changes in the areas of work, demographics, migration and the environment might shape slavery in the years to come, as well as on her mission to Italy. There would then be a report by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries addressing the relationship between private military and security companies and the extractive industry from a human rights perspective, as well as reports on the Group’s missions to Austria and Chad.
The next clustered interactive discussion would include a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation focusing on access to water and sanitation in spheres of life beyond the household, such as schools and hospitals, as well as reports on the Special Rapporteur’s missions to Malaysia and Lesotho and follow-up on previous missions to Botswana, El Salvador, Portugal and Tajikistan. The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes would then report on efforts to protect workers from toxic occupational exposures.
During the morning of Tuesday 10 September, the High Commissioner would present reports on Yemen and Nicaragua. The Foreign Minister of Pakistan would address the Council at around 12 p.m. The afternoon would be dedicated to reactions to the reports and updates presented on Monday morning.
In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Gomez said that the initial report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar was mainly procedural. The Mechanism had been given its mandate by the Council and would report to it periodically on the overall situation in Myanmar, not just in the Rakhine State. The Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar would effectively close its mandate and hand over to the Mechanism during the session. The fact-finding mission had recently published two reports, one on economic interests and one on sexual violence, and would shortly release a report providing an overview of the human rights situation in Myanmar. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar would continue her work.
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Information Service did not have the resources to provide its usual meetings coverage for the forty-second session of the Human Rights Council but was going to do its best to cover the adoption of resolutions at the end of the session.
Answering questions from journalists, Ms. Vellucci said that in recent years, the Information Service had faced difficulties in recruiting external support owing to the combined impact of the increase in the number of meetings of the Human Rights Council and the reduction in the budget of the Service. The situation had worsened in 2019 as a result of the cash flow problems affecting the United Nations as a whole. The Secretary-General had been engaging extensively with the General Assembly on that issue. Webcasts and UNTV coverage of the Council would not be affected.
Health needs in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian
Dr. Ian Norton, for the Emergency Medical Teams Initiative, World Health Organization (WHO), said that the response to Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas currently remained in the life-saving and rescue phase.
The hospital in Freeport, Grand Bahama, had been affected by severe flooding and water contaminated by sewage. A large NGO based in the United States of America had provided a temporary field hospital which had already arrived in Nassau and would soon be moved to Grand Bahama. A number of clinics had been destroyed or damaged and the Ministry of Health had accepted to use two outpatient clinics. Some NGO teams had already arrived in Nassau and Abaco and a dozen more were on standby. The response was a good example of the work of WHO to support countries to manage their own response to health emergencies. An official from the country’s Ministry of Health who had attended a training course on emergency medical team coordination at the regional WHO office had sent national teams from Nassau out to the islands and then decided which offers of assistance to accept among those made through the Virtual On-Site Operations Coordination Centre.
It was unlikely that there would be large numbers of injuries as a result of the devastating storm surge in the Bahamas. In later phases of the response, persons with diabetes and those requiring kidney dialysis would likely face significant issues. Preparations were under way to deal with water and sanitation issues and possible diarrhoeal diseases; at a later stage, efforts would be stepped up to combat vector-borne diseases as mosquitoes began to repopulate standing water.
In response to questions from journalists, Dr. Norton said that the National Emergency Operations Centre was using a combined inter-agency approach, supported by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Needs were being assessed in the areas of shelter, food and health. Eight patients had been evacuated to Nassau from the dialysis clinic in Freeport. The overall death toll from the hurricane was likely to rise, although it was not possible to say by how much. WHO and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) had worked with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to issue guidance on respectful and culturally appropriate management of dead bodies, which were not a source of disease.
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Conference on Disarmament had held its last public plenary meeting of the year on 3 September and had adopted its annual report to the General Assembly. The 2019 session of the Conference would officially close on 13 September.
Ms. Vellucci recalled that on 9 September, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would begin its review of the report of Kuwait.
Monday, 9 September 2019 at 12:00 p.m. in Press Room 1
World Suicide Prevention Day
For this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day, on 10 September, WHO will release its latest data on suicide around the world, broken down by age, sex, country income level, and region, as well as raising awareness of what can be done, by all of us, to help prevent suicide.
We will also be releasing a guide for pesticide registrars and regulators. Pesticide poisoning is one of the commonest methods of suicide in certain parts of the world.
• Dr. Alexandra Fleischmann, Scientist, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, WHO
Monday, 9 September 2019 at 2:30 p.m. in Press Room 1
Presentation of the 2019 Report on UNCTAD assistance to the Palestinian people
(Embargoed until 10 September at 5 p.m. GMT)
• Mahmoud Elkhafif, Coordinator of the Assistance to the Palestinian People, UNCTAD
Thursday, 12 September 2019 at 10:00 a.m. in Press Room 1
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
Expert/informational briefing on Global Refugee Forum (17-18 December 2019)
Palais correspondents interested in the first-ever Global Refugee Forum, being held at the Palais des Nations on 17 and 18 December 2019, are invited to a special informational briefing by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The Global Refugee Forum is a world meeting on refugees being hosted jointly by UNHCR and the Government of Switzerland. It follows last December’s UN General Assembly affirmation of a new Global Compact on Refugees. With more than 70 million people forcibly displaced worldwide its aim is to generate a strengthened global response to new and existing refugee situations through wide-ranging commitments and pledges.
The purpose of this briefing is to help interested media in understanding the new Global Refugee Compact and the relevance of the first Global Refugee Forum. Daniel Endres, UNHCR Director who is leading the GRF planning will be the principle speaker.
• Daniel Endres, Director of Global Refugee Forum, UNHCR
• Perveen Ali, Head, Global Refugee Forum Coordination Team, UNHCR
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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog060919