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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

13 April 2018

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief, Press and External Relations Section, United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing, which was attended by spokespersons for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the International Organization for Migration and the World Health Organization.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that the Humanitarian Pledging Conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo would take place that day. A press stakeout would be held at 1 p.m. in the presence of representatives from the three co-hosts of the event: Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator; Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management; Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. A press release at around 5 p.m. would announce exactly what sums had been pledged and by whom.

The overall funding goal for the 2018 humanitarian response plan for the Democratic Republic of Congo was USD 1.68 billion, of which USD 209 million, or nearly 13 per cent, had already been raised. He hoped that participants in the Conference would pledge as much as possible but no one should expect the final sum to be reached today. The Conference should not be seen as either the beginning or the end of the process but as part of the efforts to raise the overall sum, which would continue throughout the rest of the year.

In 2017, the total amount received for all humanitarian operations inside the Democratic Republic of Congo had reached USD 541.5 million. That sum had gone to fund certain projects that were part of the humanitarian response plan and others that were not. Pledges at the current Conference could also be made for projects within or outside the humanitarian response plan.

Jorge Galindo, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that IOM was also participating in the Humanitarian Pledging Conference. Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM Chief of Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had made it clear that the funding levels required to address the enormous needs had not yet been met. Only 11 per cent of the IOM appeal for 2018, which amounted to USD 75 million, had been funded.

IOM continued to provide life-saving services to some 200,000 crisis-affected people in Kasai province, by providing them with access to health care, water, sanitation and hygiene, as well as by implementing preventive measures against gender-based violence.

Over the previous year, the IOM displacement tracking team had collected information on over 500,000 internally displaced persons and on over 1 million returnees in the three provinces of North Kivu, Tanganyika and Central Kasai.

In the words of the IOM Chief of Mission: “We simply cannot ignore the speed, and magnitude of the crisis in DRC. The international community needs to step up its support and strengthen its commitment to the people of DRC. Equally important is to strengthen the efforts to stabilize the country – helping the DRC Government to find a way out of the spiraling crisis”.

In response to questions from journalists, Mr. Laerke said that many States had chosen to send high-level representatives to the Conference, including Belgium, the Netherlands, the Holy See, Brazil, Botswana, Japan, South Sudan and Egypt. Although the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo had not officially declined the invitation to participate, as far as he was aware it would not be attending. He said that humanitarian response plan had been instigated in close cooperation with the Government and the appeal for funding had been launched jointly on 18 January 2018. The United Nations would continue to work closely with the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo. All pledges, both as part of UN-coordinated efforts and in other contexts, were very welcome as there was a desperate need to raise funds to meet the humanitarian needs of 13 million people in the country.

Responding to further queries Mr. Laerke explained that, of the USD 541.5 million donated in 2017, USD 460.9 million, or more than 85 per cent, had been channelled through the humanitarian response plan. Under that plan, United Nations agencies and NGOs each implemented their own programmes independently, under the overall coordination of the United Nations. The United Nations had been running such plans in the Democratic Republic of Congo for many years and had never had any sense that the Government was dissatisfied with the arrangement. The remaining USD 80.6 million had been donated outside the context of the humanitarian response plan. The pledges being sought for 2018 were significantly higher than in 2017, due in part to a serious deterioration in the humanitarian situation in certain areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He would provide information in writing giving a sector-by-sector breakdown of the increased requirements of the humanitarian response plan.

Continuing his answers to journalists’ questions, Mr. Laerke said that he had received no official confirmation from the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo to substantiate media reports to the effect that NGOs that accepted money raised at the Conference would not be allowed to operate in the country. NGOs were a vital part of the strategy and purpose of the humanitarian response plan; the United Nations had taken note of the reports and would seek clarification from the Government.

E-commerce week

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that E-Commerce Week would be held at the Palais des Nations from 16-20 April 2018. More than 1,000 persons had registered to take part and more than sixty events were scheduled. They included a meeting to assess the e-trade readiness of the Least Developed Countries, due to be held on Monday 16 April in the presence of, among others, the Liberian Minister of Trade and the Myanmar Deputy-Minister of Trade.

Other meetings that week would focus on subjects such as the European strategy for developing the digital economy, and the Chinese experience in the development dimensions of a sharing economy.

The event would also involve two ministerial roundtables, one on advancing women’s digital opportunities and the other on digital impacts on sustainable development, both due to be held on Tuesday 17 April. The high-level dialogue would take place on the afternoon of the same day and would focus on development dimensions of digital platforms.

Migration statistics for the Mediterranean

Jorge Galindo, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that, as of 11 April, 16,847 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea in 2018. The vast majority had arrived in Italy and the rest in Spain, Greece, and Cyprus. That compared with 33,602 arrivals across the region through the same period in 2017. Migrant deaths worldwide for 2018 were approaching 1,000. The IOM Missing Migrants Project (MMP) had recorded 933 deaths and disappearances worldwide during migration in 2018. In the Mediterranean alone, 557 migrants were estimated to have died in 2018. Most recently, 36 migrants had died in the Western Mediterranean.
Geneva events and announcements

Tarik Jašareviæ, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization would be meeting on 17 and 18 April 2018. The Group, which came together twice a year, would be focusing its deliberations on the progress of the measles and rubella elimination agenda, the malaria vaccine implementation programme, an updated policy recommendation on dengue vaccine and the post-polio eradication certification strategy. It would also discuss the efforts being made by WHO to guide the development of new vaccines. The meeting of the Group would be followed by a virtual press conference, which was scheduled to take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday 19 April.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which was holding its twenty-eighth session from 9 to 20 April 2018, would hold a public meeting with States in Room XII of Palais des Nations at 3 p.m. on Monday 16 April.

The second meeting on Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which had been planned for the morning of 13 April, had been cancelled as the Committee had completed its review of that State party on the afternoon of 12 April in the absence both of a report and of a delegation.

The election of the new Bureau of the Committee, which had been postponed on 9 April because many members had been unable to be present due to a strike by Air France, had resulted in Mr. Ahmadou Tall from Senegal being elected as Chair. Jasminka Dzumhur, María Landázuri de Mora and Can Ünver had been elected as Vice-Chairs, and Khedidja Ladjel as Rapporteur.

The Committee would close its session on Friday 20 April by issuing concluding observations on Algeria, Guyana and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the three countries reviewed during the course of the session.

In response to a question, Rheal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that Mr. Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Syria, had travelled to Riyadh where he was attending the ministerial meetings of the twenty-ninth Arab League Summit. He would also be holding meetings with ministers on the margins of that event. Mr. de Mistura continued to engage with relevant parties and was, of course, determined to pursue the political peace process in Geneva with a view to the full implementation of Security Council resolution 2254. To that end, he was continuing his consultations with key international partners while his team continued its efforts to build a constitutional committee.

Press Conferences

OCHA
Stakeout - Humanitarian Conference on the Democratic Republic of Congo
Friday, 13 April at 1:00 p.m. in stakeout area across from Room XX
https://goo.gl/RBUFMg



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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog130418