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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

26 June 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 Human Rights Council, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the International Organization for Migration and the International Labour Organization.

Human Rights Council update

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, said that the report on the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be presented to the Human Rights Council on 3 July.

On 26 June, the Council was holding an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. The Council would then hear an oral update from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which would include the findings of the Commission’s comprehensive inquiry into the recent events in Eastern Ghouta. A dialogue on the report would be held later in the day. At 1 p.m. on 26 June, Ms. Karin Kneissl, the Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs of Austria, would address the Council. At 4 p.m., a panel discussion would take place to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement; the panel would include Ms. Karin Kneissl, Mr. Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Ms. Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

On 27 June, the Human Rights Council would hear country reports, as well as oral updates from the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

The deadline for the submission of resolutions was 28 June.

Syria

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), read the following statement:

“We are deeply alarmed by reports in recent days of escalating hostilities in Dar’a governorate in south-western Syria which are endangering an estimated 750,000 people. There are reports of deaths and injuries, including among children, due to fighting on the ground and bombardments from the air.

At least 45,000 people have reportedly been displaced mostly from eastern Dar’a governorate to areas near the border with Jordan. These displaced people are in urgent need of shelter and humanitarian aid.

Civilian infrastructure has also reportedly been attacked and damaged, including an airstrike on Sunday 24 June that took a field hospital in Al-Hrak out of function.

Prices are also rising in Dar’a, including on fuel, as commercial movements are disrupted by the fighting, adding to people’s vulnerability.

Despite the increasing hostilities, the United Nations and our partners continue to provide food, health, nutrition, education and other core relief items to hundreds of thousands of people in need in southern Syria from across the border in Jordan.

Humanitarian partners who are part of the cross-border operation into southern Syria have also previously pre-positioned aid in Dar’a and Quneitra governorates.

The United Nations calls on all parties to the conflict to protect civilian lives and civilian infrastructure and allow freedom of movement as required by international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

Asked whether the people being displaced were returnees who had already fled the area once at the beginning of the conflict, Mr. Laerke said that while that did not appear to be the case, the south-western tip of Syria had until recently been a de-escalation zone.

Bettina Luescher, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP was extremely concerned by the situation in Dar’a governorate and expected the number of displaced persons to more than double as the violence escalated.

WFP had been the first UN agency to respond to the emergency, launching an immediate rapid needs assessment and distributing food rations to more than 30,000 people who had been forced to flee from their homes, with plans to assist more families in the coming days. Each ration was sufficient for a family of five for five days and contained ready-to-eat foods that did not require cooking, such as canned tuna and chicken, canned chick peas and fava beans. Families with cooking facilities received rations designed to last one month. WFP was also providing specialized nutritional products for children under the age of two to help prevent malnutrition.

Since major supply routes inside Syria had been cut off due to the fighting, WFP was transporting food across the Ar-Ramtha border crossing between Jordan and Syria. It had pre-positioned enough ready-to-eat rations to feed nearly 100,000 people and monthly food rations for half a million people. The cross-border operations were being carried out under a 2014 Security Council resolution allowing the delivery of cross-border humanitarian assistance to areas not accessible from inside Syria.

WFP continued to appeal to all parties involved in the conflict to allow immediate, safe and secure access to all areas of Syria, particularly those that remained besieged by warring parties.

In response to questions from journalists about Eastern Ghouta, Ms. Luescher read the following statement:

“During a UN mission headed by WFP to Saqba and Kafr Batna in Eastern Ghouta in May, WFP found dire living conditions due to destroyed infrastructure and families’ limited purchasing power. People in both Saqba and Kafr Batna live in empty, half-damaged houses with little or no electricity. Medicine and doctors are in short supply and 7 percent of children in Saqba are reported to be moderately malnourished.

Civilians evacuated from Eastern Ghouta in March have moved to eight shelters where WFP and partners are providing life-saving food assistance. WFP has assisted nearly all people in the shelters which initially housed 100,000 people with ready to eat rations and date bars. We continue to assist the remaining nearly 30,000 people there.

Only three inter-agency convoys have entered Eastern Ghouta this year, including one to Nashabiyeh in mid-February and two to Douma in March, when WFP and partners delivered wheat flour for families and nutritional products for children. There were no inter-agency convoys to the area since then.”


Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that WHO and health sector partners had activated the emergency response plan for south-west Syria to respond to the escalating violence and the population’s health needs.

WHO had prepared a 27.5-ton shipment of medical supplies sufficient to provide more than 135,000 treatments, including 2,100 trauma treatments, which would be sent to Dar’a governorate once the Syrian authorities gave the green light. In addition, five mobile medical teams operated by NGOs and supported by WHO would be deployed to Dar’a governorate in coming days.

With regard to cross-border activities, WHO had procured emergency medical supplies, including surgical supply kits, inter-agency health kits, and trauma kits. A total of 51 tons of supplies would cross the border into Syria in the coming days and would be pre-positioned in warehouses throughout southern Syria to facilitate the emergency response.

WHO’s response in Dar’a was focused on increasing health service coverage through the provision of outreach services by WHO and partner NGOs, improving the quality of primary health-care services and treatment for non-communicable diseases, expanding immunization coverage through fixed and outreach teams, increasing access to mental health and psychosocial support services and establishing clear referral systems for trauma and secondary care.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, recalled that on 25 June, following his meeting with senior representatives of France, Germany, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States, the Special Envoy for Syria had issued a statement on the way ahead on a Syrian-led and Syrian-owned UN-facilitated Geneva political process in accordance with Security Council resolution 2254 (2015).

The Special Envoy had highlighted the substantive exchanges that had taken place on the prospects for progress on the constitutional track, and on continuing diplomatic efforts to promote common ground among international players in support of a political settlement in Syria. He had also welcomed the reaffirmation by the six countries in attendance at the meeting of their support of the United Nations’ role in facilitating the political process and hoped they would return to Geneva as efforts to facilitate the establishment of a constitutional committee and address the wider dimensions of the political process continued. The Special Envoy would brief the Security Council at 4 p.m. CET on 27 June.

On 25 June, the Secretary-General had briefed the Security Council; he had continued to call on the parties to the conflict to engage meaningfully with the Special Envoy in the UN-facilitated political process in Geneva and urged progress in the establishment of the constitutional committee. The Secretary-General had also said that Security Council resolution 2254 remained the only internationally agreed avenue for a credible and sustainable end to the conflict.

Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the further spread of Ebola virus disease had largely been contained. WHO was cautiously confident regarding the situation, and knew that a continued aggressive response was required. Experience had shown that it only took one case to set off a fast-moving outbreak. The number of confirmed cases stood at 38, with 14 probable cases and 3 suspected cases, giving a total of 55 cases. There had been 28 deaths.

There had been no new confirmed cases since 6 June. A total of 3,280 people had so far been vaccinated by WHO and Médecins sans frontières. The follow-up period for the last 161 contacts was due to end on 27 June. When they had first been identified as contacts, they had been given the option of being vaccinated, and the vast majority of them had accepted that offer.

The current numbers marked an important step towards reaching the end of the outbreak, but it was not yet over. WHO was still in active response mode, with teams following up on as many as 20 alerts per day. Ongoing efforts were required in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to ensure that all suspected cases were identified.

Situation of migrants on the border between Algeria and the Niger

Leonard Doyle, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that IOM was growing increasingly concerned at reports of migrants stranded in the desert between Algeria and the Niger. Migrants, including many pregnant women and minors, should not be left without food or water or expected to walk for miles in blistering 30-degree temperatures to seek safety in the desert. The Director-General of IOM, William Lacy Swing, had said that managed migration was the only answer; all migrants should be treated with dignity and given the opportunity to migrate in a safe and orderly way.

Election of new Director-General of IOM

Asked about the procedure for electing the new Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Leonard Doyle, for IOM, said that the election would take the form of a secret ballot among member States in a closed session on 29 June. A two-thirds majority was required even if there was only a single candidate in the running; if a clear winner did not emerge in the first round of voting, further rounds would be held. The current Director-General’s last day in office would be 30 September; his successor would take up the position the following day.

WHO Announcements

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that at 3 p.m. on 27 June, a virtual press conference would be held to release the results of a study on a new drug formulation to stop post-partum haemorrhaging, which caused the deaths of 70,000 women every year.

Mr. Jašareviæ also said that on 4 July, WHO would publish a survey on antimicrobial resistance detailing the measures countries had put in place to address the problem. If there was sufficient media interest, a stand-alone press conference on the survey could be arranged.

ILO Announcement

Hans von Rohland, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the embargo for the report “Care work and care jobs for the future of work” had been changed to 1 p.m. Geneva time on 28 June. A press conference to launch the report would be held at 10 a.m. on 28 June in Press Room I.

Geneva announcements and press conferences

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, recalled that 26 June was the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The same date also marked the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In a statement, the Secretary-General had said that torture remained unacceptable and unjustified at all times, including during states of emergency, political instability and war.

Mr. LeBlanc also said that on 26 June, the Conference of Disarmament was holding its first public plenary meeting under the Presidency of Tunisia. The second part of the 2018 session would end on 29 June, and the third and final part would begin on 30 July. Turkey would take over the Presidency on 20 August.

Press conferences

Tuesday, 26 June at 2:00 p.m. at stakeout position Room XX
Human Rights Council / Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
Presentation by the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Human Rights Council on the findings of their comprehensive investigation into the events in Eastern Ghouta, covering the period between 10 January and 10 June 2018, as mandated by the Council in March 2018 – HRC res. 37/1, and on the overall human rights situation in the country at present.
Press conference by Mr. Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson, Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; Ms. Karen Abuzayd, Member of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic; and Mr. Hanny Megally, Member of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic
https://bit.ly/2sJXovB

Wednesday, 27 June at 10:00 a.m. in Press Room 1
OHCHR
Sharing of the main findings of the report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea highlighting key human rights developments in Eritrea since the extension of the mandate in June 2017
Press conference by Sheila B. Keetharuth, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea
https://bit.ly/2KklcA5

Wednesday, 27 June at 11:00 a.m. at stakeout position Room XX
OHCHR/Commission of inquiry on Burundi
The Members of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi will meet with the press, at the end of the interactive dialogue on Burundi to take place on 27 June 2018, at the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council.
Press conference by Doudou Diène, President of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; Françoise Hampson, Member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; and Lucy Asuagbor, Member of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi
https://bit.ly/2MzifK8

Thursday, 28 June at 10:00 a.m. in Press Room 1
ILO/OIT UNDER EMBARGO UNTIL THURSDAY, 28 JUNE at 11:00 GMT (13:00 GENEVA TIME)
Launch of the report: “Care work and care jobs for the future of work”
Press conference by Manuela Tomei, Director of the ILO’s WORKQUALITY Department; and Shauna Olney, Chief of the ILO Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch
https://bit.ly/2tibYdK

Friday, 29 June at 3:00 p.m. in Room III
The Permanent Missions of Yemen, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates
The Efforts of the Yemeni government and the support of the coalition forces to restore the province of Hudeidah and relief its inhabitants.
Press conference by H.E. Mr. Mohammed Askar, Yemen Minister for Human Rights; H.E. Mr. Ali Majawar, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Yemen; H.E. Mr. Abdulaziz Alwasil, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia; and H.E. Mr. Obaid Al Zaabi, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of United Arab Emirates
https://bit.ly/2IrZiWw

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog260618