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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

19 December 2017

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives for the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization and the International Telecommunication Union.

Central African Republic

Christine Muhigana, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Representative in the Central African Republic, speaking by phone from Bangui, said that 2017 had seen a dramatic increase in violence in the Central African Republic. The previously unstable regions, such as the centre and the north-west, had remained very tense. In addition, the entire south-west, which had previously been spared by the crisis, was now the worst hit region.

Humanitarian access was constantly hampered by criminal and armed groups activities. In 2017 alone, 14 aid workers had lost their lives in the Central African Republic, and aid organizations had had to temporarily suspend their activities in several locations.

Children and women were the first victims: half the country’s population – 2.5 million people, including 1.3 million children – were in need of humanitarian support. Furthermore, more than 1 in 5 Central Africans had been forced from their homes.

Despite the difficult circumstances, UNICEF had set up temporary learning spaces for over 50,000 children in 2017 and was hoping to provide for 85,000 in 2018. It was also working with the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of education. Some 1,900 children had been released from armed groups in 2017 alone, but more resources were needed to provide those children with reintegration support. Thanks to the Rapid Response Mechanism, through which partners responded when there was a humanitarian shock in remote areas, UNICEF had been able to provide non-food items to nearly 25,000 households and emergency water and sanitation interventions to almost 72,000 people in remote areas.

Reports of children’s rights violations were on the rise - in 2017, there had been 50 per cent more documented incidents than the previous year and twice the number of children recruited into armed groups. Moreover, those verified numbers were only the tip of the iceberg because of restrictions on humanitarian access.

Immunization campaigns had been disrupted in several regions owing to persistent insecurity, especially in regions where the NGOs were no longer able to operate.

Responding to questions from journalists, Ms. Muhigana said that a number of aid organizations that partnered with UNICEF, such as Médecins sans Frontières, had had to temporarily suspend their activities in several locations because of attacks, including on compounds and carjacking. Children’s rights violations referred to the fact that children were unable to go to school (20 per cent of schools were closed because of insecurity); to physically violent acts committed against them; to recruitment into armed groups; and to attacks on and occupation of health centres which made health services unavailable. With regard to immunization campaigns, a few national immunization days had been organized in November and December along the country’s borders with Chad and Cameroon, in an effort to maintain polio-free status. Unfortunately, it had not been possible to carry out such immunizations in certain north-western areas of the country; it was hoped that such immunizations would become possible in 2018, if and when the security situation improved. She would send statistics on child soldiers to interested members of the press.

Asked more specifically about the security situation, Ms. Muhigana said that regrettably no positive change had been observed or could be expected in the short-term. The Central African Republic was redeploying administration authorities and security forces but it was a slow process. The priority remained on securing the capital, Bangui.

Responding to a question about malnutrition, Ms. Muhigana said that malnutrition rates continued to be alarming, especially in remote areas where it was not possible to reach children with ready-to-use therapeutic food. Some regions in the centre of the country were said to not have received food for the past couple of weeks because of insecurity. Although there was no direct proof, it was expected that children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in such places were dying.

Yemen

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR was deeply concerned at the recent surge in civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of intensified airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, following the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a on 4 December.

The OHCHR Office in Yemen had verified that 136 civilians and non-combatants had been killed and some 87 injured as a result of airstrikes in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al Hudaydah and Taizz governorates in the period from 6 to 16 December. Among the incidents verified, four civilians had been killed and four injured on 9 December when coalition airstrikes had hit the official Yemen TV Channel, Qanat Al Yemen, which had been under the Houthis control since September 2014. At least seven civilians had been killed when airstrikes had struck a hospital in Al Hudaydah on 10 December. Some Houthi military vehicles had reportedly been located next to the hospital compound at the time of the airstrikes.

The coalition had carried out seven airstrikes on 13 December that had struck a military police compound in the Shaub district of Sana’a. Based on information gathered by the OHCHR Office in Yemen, the airstrikes had first hit the compound’s prison building, and then the prison yard, killing at least 45 people and injuring 53. All the victims had reportedly been detainees who belonged to the Resistance Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

On 16 December, one woman and nine children who were returning home from a wedding party had been killed as a result of coalition airstrikes in Harib Al Qaramish district of Marib Governorate. In addition, UNICEF had verified reports that 20 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed and a further 4 children injured on 15 December when Coalition airstrikes hit a farmhouse in Al Khawkhah district of Al Hudaydah Governorate. There had reportedly been armed clashes between the Houthis and the Popular Resistance Committees, backed by coalition forces, at the time of airstrikes and the al-Houthi forces had reportedly been stationed near the farmhouse targeted by the airstrikes.

OHCHR urged all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. They should take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimize, the impact of violence on civilians.

OHCHR was also greatly concerned about reported recent violations by Houthis against members of Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress, including attacks and arbitrary detentions. On 3 December, Houthi-affiliated forces detonated bombs around the house of a member of the General People’s Congress in Hajjah governorate, killing four people and injuring another four. On 5 December, another house said to belong to a GPC member had been bombed by Houthis, also in Hajjah. There had also been unconfirmed reports of summary killings and detention of people affiliated to the General People’s Congress, although verification of those reports by OHCHR had been difficult as witnesses feared possible repercussion from the Houthis.

Since March 2015 and as of 14 December, OHCHR had documented 5,558 civilians killed and 9,065 injured. Those figures were individually verified cases only and did not include any fighters.

Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that fuel shortages in Yemen were causing a deepening water and health crisis. Recent restrictions on imports of fuel to Yemen had sparked critical shortages and higher prices across the country, severely impacting access to safe water and other vital services for children, including health care and sanitation. The cost of diesel fuel had doubled in just over one month, jeopardizing the provision of water, particularly for the poorest families. Water pumping stations serving over 3 million people, half of them children, via public networks in 14 cities were quickly running out of fuel. UNICEF was providing nearly 450,000 litres of fuel monthly to continue running water pumping stations in cities including Sana’a, Hodeida and Hajjah. Prices of commercially trucked water had skyrocketed: on average, they had doubled, while in some locations they had increased six-fold. For over two thirds of Yemenis living in extreme poverty, safe water was now completely unaffordable.

Some 385,000 children suffered from severe acute malnutrition and were fighting for their lives. Poor access to safe drinking water was one of the leading causes of malnutrition. In addition, vaccine stores in 22 governorates were at significant risk of being shut down and vaccines for thousands of vaccines potentially damaged. Another impact of fuel shortages and the resulting steeply rising costs of fuel was the increase in costs for transporting UNICEF supplies and increasingly difficult access by families to health and nutrition services. Restrictions on humanitarian assistance and imports of lifesaving supplies must urgently be lifted.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr. Colville, for OHCHR, said the airstrikes carried out on 13 December against a military police compound in the Shaub district of Sana’a, in which the victims were detainees belonging to the Resistance Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, indeed appeared to have been a mistake; the coalition forces could not have intended to kill prisoners on their side. Such incidents demonstrated the lack of precaution taken in airstrikes.

Asked for an update on the fact-finding team recently appointed by the High Commissioner, Mr. Colville said it was hoped that the team would be deployed in early 2018.

Responding to questions about the applicability of international humanitarian law in the situation affecting Yemen, Mr. Colville said that such law was indeed applicable, given the situation of conflict in Yemen. If precautions were not taken or civilians were deliberately targeted, war crimes could be involved. A court would, of course, have to make such a ruling. As for the blockade possibly constituting a war crime, the situation was extremely complex and in part depended on to what extent the blockade could be said to be targeting civilians. He referred the members of the press to the paper issued by the Syrian Commission of Inquiry, as some of the same laws might be applicable to the situation in Yemen, even though the circumstances were admittedly different. In any case, if clear breaches of international humanitarian and international human rights law were found, even before the fact-finding commission was expected to finish its work in March 2018, OHCHR would state so clearly. Impeding access to humanitarian organizations could be considered a war crime, but the situation must be examined in its entirety.

Asked to comment about the seeming discrepancy between the numbers of people killed in Yemen according to OHCHR and according to the other sources in the media, Mr. Colville said the figures published by OHCHR accounted only for individually verified incidents, in which names of victims had been checked; they also focused on civilian casualties, and therefore did not include any fighters.

Responding to questions involving the blockade, Bettina Luescher, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that two ships transporting food for 1.8 million people for 2 months had been able to dock in Yemen since the easing of the blockade in November. However, the situation was growing worse, with people in Yemen desperate for outside help. Yemen had always relied on outside assistance, importing up to 90 per cent of its food. Commercial imports were also crucial and more ships must be allowed in, and at a faster pace. Above all, an end to the fighting was imperative.

Gaza

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that a wheelchair-bound amputee had been killed by Israeli Security Forces close to the fence between Gaza and Israel on Friday, 15 December. Ibrahim Nayef Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh, a 29-year-old man from Gaza, who reportedly had had both legs amputated after an Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008, had been among hundreds of Palestinians marching across farmland towards the fence following Friday prayers to protest against the United States decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. He appeared to have been killed by a bullet to the head when he had been approximately 20 meters from the fence.

The facts gathered so far by OHCHR staff in Gaza strongly suggested that the force used against Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh had been excessive. International human rights law strictly regulated the use of force during protests and demonstrations. The lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort, when strictly unavoidable, in order to protect life. However, there seemed to be nothing to suggest that Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh had posed an imminent threat of death or serious injury when he had been killed. Given his severe disability, which must have been clearly visible to those who had shot him, his killing was incomprehensible – a truly shocking and wanton act, as described by the High Commissioner himself.

Since United States President Trump's 6 December statement concerning Jerusalem, protests had been held throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in occupied Gaza, as had been widely predicted. The response by the Israeli Security Forces had resulted in five people being killed and hundreds injured and large-scale arrests of Palestinians. The biggest flashpoint had been in Gaza, where three people had been killed as protesters burned tires, threw stones, sang songs and waved flags along the fence. Israeli security forces had responded with firearms, including live ammunition, to disperse the protesters. The use of live ammunition had resulted in over 220 people being injured in Gaza, including 95 on Friday alone, in addition to dozens of others who sustained injuries from tear gas or rubber bullets.

The level of casualties raised serious concerns as to whether the force used by Israeli forces had been properly calibrated to the threat. The events, including the loss of five irreplaceable human lives, could sadly be traced directly back to the unilateral U.S. announcement on the status of Jerusalem, which broke international consensus and was dangerously provocative. At the same time, the High Commissioner unequivocally condemned all attacks against civilians, including the indiscriminate shelling of Israeli civilian areas by armed Palestinian groups operating out of Gaza.

The High Commissioner had on a number of occasions in recent years found it necessary to call on Israel to respect international law standards on the use of force, and in particular of live ammunition. Reports suggested a preliminary internal Israeli army investigation had taken place. Nevertheless, the High Commissioner called on Israel to immediately open an independent and impartial investigation into the incident, and into all others that had resulted in injury or death, with a view to holding the perpetrators accountable for any crimes committed.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr. Colville said that although it was hard to imagine that such an act could be justified, the circumstances of the shooting of Ibrahim Nayef Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh must be the subject of an independent, impartial investigation before it could be qualified as a crime. The internal Israeli army investigation, the results of which seemed to indicate that the act had not been deliberate, did not appear sufficient. An independent, impartial investigation should normally be carried out first by the national judicial authorities.

Bangladesh

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that as the refugee emergency in Bangladesh entered its fourth month, people were continuing to arrive from Myanmar; however, the pace of the influx had slowed. The UN Refugee Agency estimated that average arrival rates had dropped from 745 per day in November to 100 per day so far in December. Two thirds of the new arrivals over the past week had said they had come from Buthidaung, in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. A quick refugee assessment by UNHCR and 13 international and local partners in Bangladesh had found that the refugees had developed strong support networks.

Refugee women, men, boys, girls, elderly and persons with disabilities in Kutupalong, Nayapara and Kerontoli/Chakmarkul refugee sites had been interviewed to identify the priority concerns and needs, and to find out about coping mechanisms and consider possible solutions. The findings of the assessment would guide 2018 interventions and help improve conditions. Refugees surveyed had expressed a number of worries, including feeling unsafe at night given poor shelters and lack of lighting, and concerns about general safety. Access to sanitation was still insufficient, leading sometimes to long queues for latrines. Women and girls were anxious about the shortage of private bathing spaces, which meant that some were forced to wash outside their shelters in the early morning hours.

The survey had also found that some children had to walk longer distances to fetch water and bring firewood. Parents and children wanted access to education and more safe places for children to play.

Health services were a widespread concern. Increased mental health support for those who had witnessed killings or suffered torture or rape remained crucially needed. Refugees cited continued feelings of depression and rejection, especially among the elderly and disabled. Many young people were worried about their uncertain future.

Some refugees said that irregular food distributions and long queues had meant going hungry for days. Despite all the concerns and hardships, the assessment found strong solidarity and mutual support among refugees. Drawing upon the findings of its latest assessment, UNHCR would further refine and reinforce its protection and assistance. The main priorities would include establishing more information points, orientation to existing services and strengthening an outreach programme.

UNHCR was improving its distribution systems and use of direct assistance to those unable to move. OHCHR was also providing alternatives to firewood to address child labour and environmental concerns. Efforts were also underway to provide better hygiene and more sanitary material to women and girls, improve access to latrines, upgrade shelter kits, install more communal lights, offer training and establish more child-friendly spaces.

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the latest figures indicated that 647,549 Rohingya refugees had crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar. Slightly over 1,400 had arrived during the period from 5 to 18 December. As winter took hold in Cox’s Bazaar, Rohingya refugees and IOM staff on the ground were gearing up for colder night weather conditions and seasonal illnesses. Under IOM shelter projects, over 88,000 blankets had been distributed to families in the camp. As the number of diphtheria cases in the camps continued to grow, construction was under way to create 120 additional in-patient beds at three IOM health facilities, which were set to start receiving patients shortly. IOM continued to support vaccination programmes and the vital process of tracing those in the camps who might have come into contact with infected individuals. In addition to the efforts to tackling diphtheria, IOM doctors were also dealing with increased cases of seasonal illnesses, such as colds and flu. In the past week, more than 2,000 daily consultations had been carried out across IOM health facilities, bringing the total number of consultations since the crisis had started on 25 August to around 125,000. Simple or potentially life-saving activities, such as providing 73,000 bars of soap to families across the camps, were helping to prevent the spread of potentially deadly diseases.

Responding to questions from journalists, Ms. Fadela Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that as of 17 December, 21 deaths and 1,571 probable diphtheria cases had been reported in the Rohingya population in Cox’s Bazaar. The first case had been reported on 10 November. Approximately 20 per cent of individuals suspected of diphtheria were between 2 and 5 years old. WHO was working with the Bangladeshi Government, including the Ministry of Health, to prevent the spread of the disease through effective treatment and prevention-related activities. In addition, on 12 December, WHO had started a campaign to vaccinate more than 250,000 children, aged 6 weeks to 6 years old, against diphtheria and a number of other childhood diseases. Children had also been vaccinated against pneumonia and polio. A total of 70 WHO teams in Cox’s Bazaar had two or three people deployed as part of the vaccination campaign.

Responding to further questions, Mr. Mahecic, for UNHCR, said that the Bangladeshi forces were usually responsible for security in the camps, which were civilian by definition. In that connection, the security screenings conducted by the authorities were important for ensuring the protection of refugees. Although he was not aware of any reports that jihadist groups might be forming in Bangladesh with plans to return to Myanmar and attack Buddhist groups there, the potential for persons who endured long-term discrimination and violence to become radicalized could not be denied.

Asked about the potential repatriation of Rohingya, Mr. Mahecic said there had been no change in terms of access to Myanmar. He was not aware of any pressure on Rohingya refugees to return to Myanmar.

Cameroon

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that UNHCR was stepping up its presence in south-eastern Nigeria to provide life-saving support to thousands of people fleeing unrest in English-speaking areas of Cameroon.

Since tensions between security forces and pro-independence demonstrators in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone region had intensified in October, joint UNHCR and Government teams had registered some 7,204 arrivals in remote areas of Cross River State, Nigeria. Thousands more were reportedly awaiting registration.

Some 70 per cent of the registered asylum seekers came from the area of Akwaya in south-west Cameroon. The majority of them women and children, they were hosted by local communities near the border. However, as the unrest in Cameroon continued and more asylum seekers arrived, UNHCR was concerned that the local population’s capacity would soon be stretched to its limits.

Heavy wet season rains had worsened the state of the road network in the remote region, hampering efforts to deliver aid. UNHCR and partners distributed food, basic relief items and medical aid. UNHCR was also deploying more staff in the region and coordinated with partners, national and local authorities to ensure the needs of all affected people were met.

Responding to questions from journalists, Mr. Mahecic said the number of arrivals quoted referred only to persons registered so far. Several more thousand were expected to arrive and to be registered in the coming days. Given the remoteness of the area, it was difficult to provide a more specific estimate. UNHCR was, in any case, beefing up its presence in the area and continuing the registration process together with the Government. Basic relief items and health-care services had also been provided.

Ukraine

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that as temperatures plummeted across Ukraine, UNHCR was stepping up distributions of aid, including clothing, fuel and cash to the most vulnerable people affected by the conflict in the eastern part of the country. Most people had been displaced from their homes in eastern Ukraine by the conflict in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which was now well into its fourth year. Near the line of contact between the Government and the non-government controlled areas, houses were frequently damaged by shelling. Degrading infrastructure and decreased access to transport had made it harder for the people to collect benefits, food and medicine. UNHCR called all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and critical infrastructure, in full and immediate compliance with international law.

Winter brought additional hardship to the population, as temperatures could plummet to -10°C in December and -20°C in January. Most lived in poorly insulated homes and a smaller number in collective centres and were unable to cover the rising utility costs. In some villages, infrastructure such as gas pipes had been damaged by shelling and, as a result, coal and firewood were the sole means of heating homes. UNHCR staff reported that people were often forced to make a choice between buying food and medicines and buying fuel to heat their dwellings.

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that temperatures in the non-government-controlled areas of the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, were expected to drop as low as -20°C in winter. Security challenges in the region and the harsh socioeconomic situation close to the contact line and in remote impoverished districts of the non-government-controlled areas meant many vulnerable families could maintain a safe temperature in the residences. IOM had started distributing coal to people in need in the region that week. IOM would deliver coal to 3,800 vulnerable low-income families in Donetsk, including the elderly, persons with disabilities and chronic diseases, single-headed households and families with three or more children. Each beneficiary household would receive three tons of high-quality anthracite coal, which should be sufficient to cover their heating needs for the entire winter. IOM efforts to help crisis-affected families prepare for and survive through the winter were being supported by the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The assistance to be provided in the non-government-controlled areas also included the rehabilitation of the heating systems in up to 20 social and medical institutions, as well as the distribution of 200 cast-iron stoves to families located in the least accessible parts of Donetsk, where it was the only available heating fuel. In parallel, within a few weeks, IOM would transfer the first round of multipurpose cash to 4,000 vulnerable individuals in the government-controlled area who were living close to the contact line in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. According to data collected during previous distributions, preparing for winter was the second main cash assistance expenditure. Families had told IOM that they used 31 per cent of the funds they received to cover the medical expenses and spent 23 per cent of the funds on fuel, winter clothing and heating.

Iraq

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that, with regard to the winterization programme in place for displaced persons in Iraq, the Government of Germany had recently contributed an additional EUR 7 million, bringing its total contribution since 2015 to EUR 18 million.

International Migrants Day

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that on International Migrants Day, observed on 18 December, IOM had launched a smartphone application for migrants, called “MigApp”. On the same day, the Global Migration Film Festival in Geneva had awarded first prize to The Journey, directed by filmmaker Matthew Cassel, and which explored through a six-part documentary the dangerous paths Syrian asylum seekers took to reach Europe.

Migration and the Mediterranean

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said there had been 17,744 voluntary humanitarian returns from Libya in 2017. Following the conclusion of the agreement at the European Union-African Union Summit held in November in Abidjan, IOM had been able to evacuate 4,258 individuals being held in detention centres – over one fourth of the target for the entire year.

Also noteworthy was that December was proving to be the most lethal year for total arrivals at sea in Spain, with over 222 individuals having died along that route, 12 of them just since 15 December.

Climate update

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said 2017 remained on track to be one of the three warmest years on record. According to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the first 11 months had been the third warmest on record, behind 2016 and 2015. NASA and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts had stated that the past meteorological year was the second warmest on record. By mid-January 2018, WMO would combine datasets for a consolidated temperature ranking for 2017; it was expected, in any case, that 2017 would be the hottest year (without El Niño, which had a warming influence) on record.

More important than the ranking of an individual year was the overall, long-term trend of warming since the late 1970s, and especially in the current century. The Arctic, where temperatures continued to increase at double the rate of the global temperature increase, was a region of particular concern. For example, during November, parts of northern Canada and north-western Alaska had had temperature departures from average that were +2.0°C or greater. Elsewhere in the Arctic, temperatures in November had been more than 6°C above average. While 2017 had seen fewer records shattered than 2016, the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it had been decades ago.

Asked to comment on the statement by the Trump Administration that climate change was not a matter of national security, Ms. Nullis said that it was up to national Governments to define national security; WMO was not in a position to comment on such statements.

New satellite tracking of in-flight aircraft to improve safety

Jennifer Ferguson Mitchell, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that, at any given time, there were approximately 59,000 aircraft in flight worldwide. Tracking those planes was difficult for authorities, especially in remote geographical areas, as had been the case with the disappearance of flight MH370 in 2014. Since then, ITU and its 193 member States and nearly 800 private-sector members had endeavoured to develop protocols for an enhanced system that would enable the tracking of in-flight aircraft in large and remote areas. ITU members had endorsed the technical principles of enhanced automatic dependent surveillance via satellite, which would enable the integration of both ground and satellite communication systems to work together to cover larger and more remote areas and to relay the information to the relevant airline operators and air traffic control centres, which could then track the aircraft and initiate emergency procedures where necessary.

2017 EQUALS in Tech Awards

Jennifer Ferguson Mitchell, for the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), said that access to digital information and communication technologies was a fundamental human need in an increasingly digital world, yet only 52 per cent of the population was unconnected; moreover, women were being actively held back from access to digital technology and employment in the tech sector, often for cultural reasons or gender stereotypes. At 5 p.m. at the Palais des Nations, on Tuesday, 19 December, as part of the Internet Governance Forum, outstanding initiatives from around the world working to bridge digital gender divide would be honoured at EQUALS in Tech Awards.

Geneva Events and Announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy for Syria, would be briefing the Security Council in New York at 10 a.m. (NY time); he would be joined by Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. The beginning of the briefing would be open and accessible by webcast; closed consultations would follow.

Press conferences

World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)
The International Year on Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017 and the way forward in reinforcing the contribution of Tourism to the SDGs and working towards the UN 2030 agenda
Tuesday, 19 December at 12:00 p.m. in Room III
http://bit.ly/2AZZUzH

Internet Governance Forum (IGF)
Briefing on The Future of Internet Decision-Making
Tuesday, 19 December at 1:30 p.m. in Press Room 1
http://bit.ly/2kjFSKn

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, announced that at 12.15 p.m. on Thursday, 21 December, a press stakeout would be held after the meeting of the Humanitarian Access Task Force.


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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog191217