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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

19 June 2018

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, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the International Organization for Migration, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Labour Organization and the World Meteorological Organization.

Human Rights Council

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, said that the thirty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council had opened on Monday, 18 June 2018. The Council was currently engaged in an extensive general debate on the address delivered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. In the afternoon of 19 June, the Council would resume the discussion begun on 18 June with the Independent Expert on international solidarity and the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, to be followed by a discussion on the clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on summary executions and on freedom of expression, respectively. On 20 June, the Council would hear additional reports from special rapporteurs and then move on to an interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, whose most recent report would be made available online on the same day.

Responding to a question from the press, Mr. Gomez said that the High Commissioner did not have a right of reply with regard to statements made by Council members during the general debate.

Situation of migrant children and families

Christophe Boulierac, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), read out the following statement issued on 19 June 2018 by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore:

“Stories of children, some of them just babies, being separated from their parents as they seek safety in the US are heartbreaking. Children – no matter where they come from or what their migration status – are children first and foremost. Those who were left with no option but to flee their homes have the right to be protected, access essential services, and be with their families – just like all children. It is the realization of these rights that gives every child the best chance at a healthy, happy and productive future.

Detention and family separation are traumatic experiences that can leave children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and can create toxic stress which, as multiple studies have shown, can impact children's long term development. Such practices are in no one's best interests, least of all the children who most suffer their effects. The welfare of children is the most important consideration.

For decades, the U.S. Government and its people have supported our efforts to help child refugees, asylum seekers and migrants affected by crises across the globe. Whether it be war in Syria or South Sudan, famine in Somalia, or an earthquake in Haiti, the U.S. has been there to help, and take in, uprooted children. I hope that the best interests of refugee and migrant children will be paramount in the application of U.S. asylum procedures and laws."

Responding to questions from members of the press, Mr. Boulierac said that UNICEF did not have staff on the United States-Mexico border. Its role was to make clear that the current situation was not in the best interest of the child and that immigration enforcement and protecting children’s rights was not a zero-sum game: there existed good practices for enforcing immigration law that also protected children by accounting for their specific vulnerabilities. UNICEF stood ready to provide information on and assistance with such practices. He had no further information regarding access to facilities where children were being held. He was, moreover, not aware of any requests from the Executive Director to the Department of Homeland Security to visit the centres where migrant children were being held in the United States. The United States was the sole country that had not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which in its article 9 (1) set out that “States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine”. UNICEF-USA had issued several strong statements regarding the situation since January 2017, in which it called to end the separation of children from their parents as a deterrent tactic. No child should ever be detained based on their migratory status, nor should they be separated from their parents. When placed in detention or separated from their parents, children suffered immediate and long-term physical and psychological trauma. All children required love, affection and protection; such types of comfort should be permitted in all settings, including in detention centres. While respecting States’ legitimate immigration and security concerns, UNICEF insisted on the observance of the best interests of the child.

Responding to a request for further information about UNICEF-USA, Mr. Boulierac said that the internal structure of UNICEF included 34 national committees in high income countries, which conducted fundraising and advocated for children’s rights and protection to their respective governments.

In response to questions about the role of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the situation in the United States, Joel Millman, for IOM, said that IOM was not providing assistance at the border; it never participated in deportation, even if in some countries it conducted follow-up with people who had been deported. The position of IOM was consistent with that of UNICEF: no child should be detained for being a migrant and there was no appropriate reason to jail or detain children. IOM did border management, at the behest of member States, usually in a refugee resettlement situation. He was not aware that IOM had ever partnered with Homeland Security or that it had ever been summoned to do so, although that did not mean that IOM would not necessarily consider such an opportunity should it arise in the future. With regard to oversight of the United States Government’s actions, some domestic NGOs, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, was actively controlling the measures taken by the Administration. However, IOM did not have a mandate to directly oversee or sanction actions taken by the United States Government. It monitored situations and criticized poor conditions if and when it observed them. The upcoming election for a new director-general of IOM should not be seen as cause for concern in the situation in the United States.

Yemen

Responding to questions about the situation in Yemen, particularly in Hudaydah, Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), made the following statement:

“Intensification of fighting in Hudaydah obviously puts at risk the residents directly affected, and 70 per cent of the population who depend on the vital supplies, including for health care, that flow through the port. WHO stands with United Nations partners to call on all parties to the conflict to ensure that the Hudaydah port remains open and functional. The port is a lifeline for the whole country.

In addition, the port of Hudaydah is also the single most important point of entry for supplies needed to stop a devastating outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea, and provide other kinds of life-saving assistance. 70% of essential supplies, including medical supplies, enter Yemen via the port of Hudaydah. With some 8.4 million people in Yemen facing pre-famine conditions and relying on humanitarian assistance to survive, the importance of keeping such ports functional for both humanitarian and commercial cargo cannot be overemphasized. We call on all parties to protect health workers, health facilities and civilian infrastructure such as water plants.

WHO has deployed 15 emergency health-care professionals for trauma care and on-going health needs
Very few essential staff remain in Hudaydah. We applaud their hard work and dedication to protecting the health of the people of Hudaydah.

WHO has positioned trauma supplies; essential supplies for 200 000 medical consultations; cholera treatments and supplies for children suffering from severe medical complications. Surrounding governorates have been placed on high alert and equipped with supplies and medicines for the treatment of cholera, specifically for internally displaced persons coming out of Hudaydah.”

Bettina Luescher, for the World Food Programme (WFP), added that three WFP ships were currently being unloaded in Hudaydah: they contained food for six million people for one month. WFP had also been distributing ready-to-eat food packages to 600 families in the city of Hudaydah and was prepositioning supplies for one million people who could be trapped or fleeing violence. Staff was working tirelessly to ensure that the operation could continue. It was crucial that the port of Hudaydah remain open.

Adrian Edwards, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), added that UNHCR was planning distribution of aid on 20 June 2018, but was bracing, as was everyone, for potential disruption to aid in Hudaydah. The situation as of 18 June in the city of Hudaydah had been calm, with people and cars in the streets; however, there were also squads of fighters across the city and the airport had reportedly been broken into from the south.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, recalled that, on 18 June 2018, Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, and Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, had briefed the Security Council, in closed consultations, on the situation in Yemen. The Special Envoy remained in contact with all the parties to start talks and to find a solution to the situation on the ground. He would discuss the situation with the Saudi-led coalition in the coming days after discussing it in Sana’a. She added that both the Special Envoy and the Secretary-General had consistently stated that the terrible man-made conflict in Yemen must end.

Launch of ILO report on the care economy

Hans von Rohland, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that, on 28 June 2018, ILO would publish a new report on the care economy, which provided an estimate of the investment needed to avert a global care crisis as well as of the number of persons requiring care, including children and older persons. The report highlighted the number of jobs that could be involved, especially if unpaid care work were replaced with paid care work. The report also contained a number of policy recommendations and national, regional and international statistics on unpaid care work and on the gender inequalities in care work. A press briefing would be held on Thursday, 28 June 2018, at 10 a.m., in press room 1.

Update on WMO Executive Council meeting

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that on 20 June 2018, the Executive Council of the World Meteorological Organization would open its seventieth annual session. High on the agenda would be the need to reform the Organization’s structures in order to be more effective and efficient vis-à-vis high-impact weather, climate change and environmental degradation.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, May 2018 had been the 401st consecutive month with an average global temperature above the 20th century average, and the forty-second consecutive month of May with an average global temperature above the 20th century average. In addition, there had been a number of destructive weather events. Long-term indicators of climate change continued unabated. The average monthly concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii –the benchmark – for the first time in recorded history was above 410 parts per million in April. Arctic sea ice cover is yet again well below the long-term average. The rate of sea level rise resulting from the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet has tripled over the past five years, according to new research. A meeting of polar experts was currently taking place in Davos.

Syria

Asked for an update on the activities of the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that delegations from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Russia and the Turkey had arrived at the Palais des Nations and were currently meeting among themselves. Their meeting with the Special Envoy would take place subsequently.

Other Geneva events and announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, announced that 19 June was the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict and that 20 June was World Refugee Day, the messages of the UN Secretary-General were available. Adrian Edwards, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), added that UNHCR had just released its yearly Global Trends report, which found that 68.5 people had been forcibly displaced worldwide; most of them were in the global South and two thirds of them were from just five countries.

Press conferences

Wednesday, 20 June at 10:00 a.m. in Press Room 1
UNICEF
New data on situation of children and women in DPR Korea released
Data offering a snapshot into the lives of children and women in DPR Korea is being released by the Government of DPR Korea. The data comes from a Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) – a household survey of 8,500 homes conducted with UNICEF support - focusing on issues that directly affect the lives of children and women.
Please note that the new data will also be launched in Pyongyang at 10 a.m. local time on 20 June with limited press invited.
Press conference by Karin Hulshof, Regional Director, East Asia and the Pacific
https://bit.ly/2w6XKQI

Thursday, 21 June at 10:00 a.m. in Press Room 1
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)
Update on deterioration of humanitarian situation in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, following onset of Monsoon Season.
Press conference by Steve McAndrew, Head of Emergency Operations, Cox’s Bazar (outgoing), IFRC
https://bit.ly/2MCMVuf

Thursday, 21 June at 4:00 p.m. in Press Room 1
OHCHR
Poverty and inequality in the USA and Ghana; The role of the International Monetary Fund in social protection – Reports of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights to the 38th session of the Human Rights Council.
Press conference by Professor Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
https://bit.ly/2JWaQmk

Friday, 22 June at 12:00 p.m. in Room III
Permanent Mission of Qatar
A year of the blockade on Qatar : Continuation of Human Rights Violations
Press conference by Dr. Ali bin Smaikh Al-Marri (The Chairman of the Qatari National Human Rights Committee).
https://bit.ly/2t6Qsst

Friday, 22 June at 2:30 p.m. in Press Room 1
OHCHR
Sharing of the main findings of the UN Working Group report taking stock of retrogressions and backlashes against women’s rights while reasserting gender equality
Press conference by Ivana Radacic, Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women in law and in practice
https://bit.ly/2MzifK8

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog190618