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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

19 July 2019

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section, United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was attended by spokespersons for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Organization of Migration (IOM), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

UNAIDS

Sophie Barton-Knott, for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that UNAIDS’ Global Update showed mixed progress toward the 2020 target. The 2019 United Nations Economic and Social Council resolution on UNAIDS was coming up next week. The 44th meeting of UNAIDS’ programme coordinating board had taken place at the end of June.

Gunilla Carlsson, Acting Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), read out the following statement:

We are at a precarious point in the response to HIV. Some countries are making impressive gains while others are experiencing rises in new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths. Annual gains are getting smaller and the pace of progress is slowing down. The report shows that key global AIDS targets for 2020 are unlikely to be met, even though some countries and regions have made good progress. Globally, there are now over 23 million people on treatment—surviving, thriving and living healthy lives.

However,
· 15 million are still waiting for treatment,
· new HIV infections are not declining fast enough,
· key populations, which now make up 54% of all new HIV infections, are still not being reached
· and available resources have fallen by almost US$ 1 billion.

The data in this year’s report is deeply concerning. It shows that ending AIDS will not be possible unless we:
· Invest adequately and smartly
· focus on people—not only on diseases,
· create road maps for the people and locations being left behind,
· and take a human rights-based approach to reaching people most affected by HIV.

This will require increased political leadership and a renewed global commitment to end AIDS as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ECOSOC

This brings me on to the upcoming ECOSOC resolution on UNAIDS. The Draft Resolution, which Member States will debate and adopt on 24 July in New York, is clear on the strong Member State support to the continued leadership role in the response of UNAIDS. It reaffirms UNAIDS’ pivotal role in galvanizing and supporting the AIDS response as part of the SDGs and stresses the need for UNAIDS to continue providing this critical support. It recognizes the need for a sustainable, fit for purpose and up-to-date UNAIDS which is exactly what we are working to deliver. The Resolution also recognizes that AIDS is not over and stresses the need to invigorate the AIDS response to increase momentum towards meeting the 2020 targets in countries where results are lacking, and I think that UNAIDS latest report shows clearly the work that UNAIDS is doing to sound the alarm and garner the global support which is so urgently needed.

UNAIDS’ Programme Coordinating Board

In June, the UNAIDS board met with several important items on the agenda. I briefed the board on the importance of partnerships and of galvanizing political leadership to reach the 2020 Fast-Track targets. I also talked about UNAIDS Management Action Plan which we have established to ensure that the UNAIDS Secretariat is a healthy, equitable and enabling workplace for all staff. The board welcomed the actions taken to date by the UNAIDS Secretariat — and the many still planned — to eliminate all forms of harassment from our workplace and to develop a fully enabling workplace environment. The board was also presented with a short list of candidates for the position of Executive Director of UNAIDS and heard from the chair of the Search Committee who introduced the Committee’s report. The Chair of the board has now sent the report to the Committee of Cosponsoring Organizations, which will make its recommendation to the United Nations Secretary-General. The UN Secretary-General will make the final decision about the appointment of the next Executive Director of UNAIDS. We look forward to welcoming the new Executive Director of UNAIDS and we will make sure that one of their first engagements will be to come and introduce themselves to you all here at the Palais.

Responding to journalists’ questions, Ms. Carlsson said the figures that had been presented at the beginning of the week were from 2018. The global figures stood at 79-78-86, where UNAIDS had promised to reach 90-90-90 by the end of 2020; there was still a big gap. It was therefore a very mixed picture, and that was why UNAIDS felt it had to ring the alarm bell. Among political leaders, there seemed to be a sense that as treatment existed, things were going well on the AIDS front. And yet, AIDS-related death still stood at 70,000. “We are failing the kids,” Ms. Carlsson said, pointing out that there were 100,000 AIDS-related deaths among children every year even though it was a known and preventable disease. Not enough was being done; complacency was an issue. This was also tied to the funding gap. Political leaders were turning away from this issue before it was dealt with. Global solidarity and support were still needed even if countries were now able to do more than before. The AIDS-free generation was achievable and the 90-90-90 targets could be met —although perhaps not by 2020.

On the Executive Director nomination process, Ms. Carlsson said it was managed by the co-sponsoring organizations, under the leadership of United Nations Population Fund. It was not a process in which the UNAIDS Secretariat was involved. This very robust process would bear fruit soon. The final decision would be made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and he would also make the announcement. The work that had been done in the past 10 years had achieved good progress in the AIDS response: UNAIDS had acted bravely on advocacy, making sure that the human rights aspect was prominent.

Ms. Carlsson said she was not a candidate to be the new Executive Director.

Stigma and discrimination were still prominent. It was important to understand that this was due to the way in which the virus was spread. Knowledge regarding sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents had remained flat for ten years. A better community-led response was needed. Further, men in particular were not being tested in time, and some of them were not staying on treatment. For the first time, the so-called key populations represented the majority of people with the virus. The risk that these people would be left behind, without proper access to rights, treatment and care had to be addressed. It was particularly notable that, in some regions such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there had been a high rise in new infections — a 29 per cent increase since 2010. In the Middle East and Africa, infections had gone up by 10 per cent since 2010.

The majority of people living with HIV and new infections were still in Eastern and Southern Africa. In South Africa, the number of new infections had declined by 40 per cent, but unfortunately it had not declined fast enough. While some progress was being made in Western Europe and North America, there were still staggering figures in those regions. That was why she had talked about a mixed picture earlier.

Replying to allegations of misconduct by WHO officials, Ms. Carlsson said there was no doubt that there had been quite a lot of media coverage and lots of concerns internally about the investigations, which were taking time. She said she could not comment on ongoing investigations, as she had to uphold the integrity of the process and confidentiality to ensure justice was brought about. The independent expert panel had been working independently from the UNAIDS Secretariat, and she could not, therefore, comment on questions relating to timelines that had been established or not.

A journalist asked if UNAIDS had made a mistake by giving the impression that AIDS had been beaten. Ms. Carlsson said it could be easy for countries that were “almost there” to think that they were “done”. Yet, it was possible to fall back again quite rapidly. It was important for UNAIDS to continue working with Member States and use the civil society as their ears, eyes and heart to ensure no one was left behind. Perhaps, the response had been too medical, and that was why, now, efforts were made to have a more people-centred and human rights-based approach. It was for history to tell what went wrong in the past. “If we relax and think figures are going in the right direction, it is most likely too early to draw any conclusions,” she stated. UNAIDS had an important role to play in that regard, but so did Member States. In the Global Updates, efforts had been made to remain as close as possible to reality.

Humanitarian situation in Syria

Jenifer Fenton, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), said that during the International Syria Support Group’s (ISSG) Humanitarian Task Force meeting Thursday, Senior Humanitarian Adviser Najat Rochdi had renewed her call to Member States to support the UN’s immediate humanitarian priorities.

Ms. Fenton read out the following statement, which is attributable to Ms. Rochdi:

An alarming intensification of daily violence continues in northwestern Syria. At least 350 civilians are reported to have been killed in recent hostilities in the Idlib de-escalation area. Some 3 million civilians lack protection and face a deteriorating humanitarian situation. More than 330,000 people have been displaced. Some 30,000 people have moved toward government-controlled areas.

Attacks on civilian infrastructure, including health facilities, continue, with reports of 45 incidents impacting 35 health facilities already confirmed this year.

I echo the Secretary-General in his condemnation of such attacks, which recently included one of the largest hospitals in Maarat al Numan, whose coordinates had been shared with parties to the conflict through the UN de-confliction mechanism.

Strikes against civilians and civilian infrastructure — including de-conflicted health facilities and humanitarian workers — are absolutely unacceptable and may amount to war crimes.

Civilian fatalities and casualties from airstrikes have also been recently reported in the village of Takihi in eastern Deir ez-Zor district.

Even the fight against terrorism must be in full compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law, and perpetrators of serious violations of international law must be brought to justice.

The situation in Al Hol camp in northeastern Syria is unsustainable for the approximately 70,000 people inside the camp, the vast majority of whom are Syrian and Iraqi women and children. The rights and best interests of children must be at the forefront of decision-making. I reiterate UNICEF’s recent call for improved humanitarian access and protection of children including re-integration into local communities and safe return to home countries in compliance with international humanitarian law and international norms.

Conditions are also dire in the Rukban settlement. Some 16,600 people have left Rukban, leaving about 25,000 people in the settlement who need humanitarian and protection assistance. The UN continues to be ready to support a principled approach toward durable solutions, including support on transfer and the delivery of needs-based critical humanitarian assistance, including food.

In the south, humanitarian partners have expressed concern over a growing number of security incidents in Daraa and al-Sweida. I call on all relevant parties to stabilise the situation in those areas.

As Senior Humanitarian Adviser to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, I will continue to work with my UN colleagues to exert all efforts to ensure that Syrians receive protection and humanitarian assistance, and that the UN and its partners have safe, regular and sustained humanitarian access to all those in need. I will continue to work with the members of the Humanitarian Task Force, parties to the conflict and key stakeholders in support of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Venezuela Protection Survey

Elizabeth Throssell, for the United Nations’ Refugee Agency (UNHCR), read out the following statement:

A survey of Venezuelans who have fled their country has found that half (50.2 per cent) of the families interviewed faced or continue to face specific risks during their journey because of their age, gender, health or other needs, or because they had to make drastic choices to cope, including begging, sending their children to work or even resorting to survival sex.

These are among the survey’s findings published today by UNHCR. The results are based on 7,846 interviews conducted in several Latin American and Caribbean countries from January to June 2019, in which people were asked about their and their families’ experiences.

Although governments in the region have issued various temporary permits to Venezuelans, 34 per cent of those interviewed said they did not have any kind of documentation, either because they had entered a country irregularly or because their permits had expired. The rest had tourist or temporary visas, with just 4 per cent having permanent residency.

Fifteen per cent of those interviewed had applied for asylum, with a further 26 per cent saying they planned to do so. Of those not intending to apply, the majority were unaware of existing procedures and entitlements, with some wrongly believing that applying for asylum would prevent them from ever returning home. It is important to note here that despite the relatively low number of applications so far, asylum systems in the region are overwhelmed.

Some 66 per cent of interviewees said they were unemployed or working informally, and 43 per cent said they had face difficulties in finding accommodation, mostly due to lack of funds and documents, as well as discrimination because of their nationality.

The interviews — undertaken in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay — are part of coordinated efforts by the UN Refugee Agency, municipalities, NGO partners and Government ministries to gain a comprehensive overview of the protection risks and limited access to rights faced by Venezuelans in countries of transit or destination, as well as their needs.

Collection of detailed protection information is key to ensuring evidence-based, coherent and timely analysis and responses, and to identifying gaps in the provision of care and services.

The survey, which is conducted using a standardized protection monitoring tool, has already resulted in concrete actions, as the interviewers can refer people they identify as at risk for help and follow-up. From January to June, over 1500 people were referred for counselling or services in this way.
This protection monitoring is ongoing to build up a more detailed picture and analysis of the situation of the estimated 3.3 million Venezuelans currently in other countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Given the risks associated with a lack of papers, UNHCR welcomes the road map agreed by regional governments in Buenos Aires on 5 July to facilitate the integration of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, including by strengthening registration and documentation processes. The road map is part of the Quito Process, a government-led initiative to harmonize state policies and practices, coordinate the humanitarian response and improve access to services and rights for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.

To complement these efforts by states and to address the protection, assistance and integration needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, a Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform was established in April 2018 and a Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP) was launched last December.

Responding to journalists’ questions, Ms. Throssell said that the people facing risks due to their profile included people with specific health needs — such as chronic medical conditions, people with disabilities, young mothers, children who had been separated from their parents and older people. There had been protection incidents along the journeys, such as threats and assaults. These people were making very long and unsafe journeys. Employment was also a challenge, as people were working informally and thus facing the risk of being exploited. Their first priority was to get work, and then find shelter, somewhere to live. The report also addressed food security issues. Some people said they felt safe in their current community, but that when they ventured further out, they no longer did. This report did not aim to be a total picture of the 3.3 million Venezuelans across Latin America and the Caribbean, but rather a snapshot of the needs of the people interviewed as well as of the risks that they faced.

It was an evolving situation. Some of the people interviewed referred to discrimination based on their nationality. It was clear that in some situations there were border restrictions and more rigorous requirements for Venezuelans wishing to enter a particular country. That, as the UNHCR had frequently underscored, increased the risk of people taking irregular routes which further exposed them to dangers including the risk of trafficking. UNHCR welcomed regional governments’ commitment to provide documentation to Venezuelans. It had been an ongoing process, which needed to be put into place. This report was part of the monitoring that the UNHCR was carrying out frequently across the world, identifying the risks and needs that people were facing as they were making a journey to somewhere where they may feel safer.

Record high monthly temperature June

Clare Nullis, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), read out the following statement:

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that the Earth just had the warmest June on record, ahead of June 2016. This is in line with the other major datasets from NASA, Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service and Japan Meteorological Agency.

Both land and sea surface temperatures were the highest on record.

Nine of the 10 warmest Junes have occurred since 2010. June 1998 is the only value from the previous century among the 10 warmest Junes on record, and it is currently ranked as the eighth warmest June on record.

June 2019 also marks the 43rd consecutive June and the 414th consecutive month with temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th century average, according to NOAA.
Record warm temperatures during June 2019 were present across parts of central and eastern Europe, northern Russia, Asia, Africa, South America, the north Indian Ocean, and across parts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. No land or ocean areas had record cold June temperatures.

June saw the second-smallest Arctic sea ice extent for June in the 41-year record at 475,000 square miles (10.5%) below the 1981–2010 average and 46,300 square miles above the record low set in June 2016, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. Antarctic sea ice was the lowest on record.

The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces tied with June 2017 as the second highest for January-June in the 140-year record. Only January-June 2016 was warmer.

The impacts of these high temperatures include wildfires in the Arctic Circle.

The high temperatures continue into July.

Alert, Canada—the northernmost permanent settlement on Earth—reached 70°F (21°C) for the first time in history a few days ago.

Heatwaves

US Dangerous heat and humidity are expected in two thirds of the USA from the Plains to the East Coast until the weekend, affecting millions of people.

US National Weather Service says heat index values (factors in humidity) of 100 to 110°F (38°C to 43°C) will be common in cities including Dallas, Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C., NYC and Boston. 20 to 30 record highs are possible, but there won't be much relief at night for many. RECORD warm low temperatures are expected too, with 123 records currently forecast to be tied or broken.

Europe

Parts of Europe are also expecting another heatwave next week. MeteoFrance is forecasting temperatures of 35 to 40°C for a large part of the country. This combines with drought. Paris — like some other parts of France, has seen no significant rain since the summer solstice.

Such heatwaves are consistent with climate scenarios which predict more frequent, drawn out and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures.

Ms. Nullis added that there had been a meeting of climate scientists in Toulouse, which was one of the cities affected by the June heatwave. They had said that a heatwave that intense was occurring at least 10 times more frequently today than a century ago.

Responding to journalists’ questions, Ms. Nullis said, while it was summer, it was not normal to see temperatures as high as 45°C, as had been the case in France. The assessment that the earth had experienced the highest June on record was based on global figures, which included the Southern hemisphere. South America also saw its warmest June on record, even though it was winter there at the moment. Australia also saw one its warmest Junes on record.

Ms. Nullis added that high temperatures put huge stress on coral reefs. For more information on the temperature rise’s impact on the ecosystem and species extinction, she referred journalists to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on global warming of 1.5°C. In different parts of the world and the ocean, there would be different impacts. There was no magic bullet for this issue.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, added that, yesterday, the guest at the United Nations Headquarters’ Noon Briefing had been the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, Inger Andersen. She briefed reporters on “Biodiversity and Nature-based Solutions for Climate Action.” The briefing could be watched online.

Ms. Nullis said that the highest temperature on record was in Death Valley, California in 1913. The temperature had reached 56.7°C then. It would probably be a matter of time before this record would be beaten.

Situation in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Bangladesh

Hervé Verhoosel, for the World Food Programme (WFP), read out the following statement:

Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, or ZimVAC, recently concluded its Rural Livelihood Assessment, which found that in Zimbabwe — a country of nearly 14.5 million — about 38 per cent of rural households, more than 3.5 million people, are currently food insecure from the post-harvest period in July until September 2019. The assessment estimated that food insecurity will deteriorate further and affect 50 percent of rural households — over 4.7 million people — by December 2019, and projects that 59 percent of rural households — over 5.5 million people — will be food insecure during the peak hunger period at the height of the lean season, January through March 2020. ZimVAC is a consortium of government, UN agencies, NGOs and other international organizations, and the Rural Livelihood Assessment informs government and its development partners on rural livelihood programming in Zimbabwe. WFP plays a key role in contributing financially and technically to the assessment.

This projected rise in food insecurity — to over 5.5 million people in rural households — corresponds to a 138 percent increase in food insecurity when compared to the same period last year, and a 73.9 percent rise from the five year average, according to another recently released report which complemented the ZimVAC findings — the 2019 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa. The report, compiled by the Southern African Development Community with technical support from WFP, highlights that the volatile macroeconomic situation, the effects of Cyclone Idai, pests, poverty, chronic structural issues and persistent drought have led to one of the highest rates of food insecurity recorded in the past decade, even higher than the El Niño-induced drought of 2016/2017.

During the peak of this year’s 2018/2019 lean Season, which ran from January to April 2019, WFP provided Lean Season Assistance to more than 878,000 people. The Lean Season Assistance also serves as a platform to deliver complimentary activities, including by partners—in April WFP teams also provided support to victims of Cyclone Idai, ongoing support to refugees, health and nutrition activities, stunting prevention, and support to maternity waiting homes, which altogether totalled nearly 950,000 people assisted that month.

Typically WFPs Lean Season Assistance programme ends in April. However it is extending this year’s assistance up to July 2019 for some wards, and is starting its 2019/2020 Lean Season Assistance programme two months earlier, in August instead of October, to address urgent needs, prevent stunting and reduce negative coping strategies.

Given the scale and scope of the prevailing food insecurity in Zimbabwe, WFP is planning to scale up to assist over 2 million people by the peak of the 2019/2020 lean season of January through April 2020. Until then, teams will continue working to provide immediate food assistance to the most vulnerable populations, while also working with communities to build resilience to the impacts of climate change and future shocks.

The total funding that WFP urgently requires to meet these needs as we move into the 9-month implementation period is US$173 million.

Over the last decade, Zimbabwe has experienced a number of unprecedented economic and environmental shocks and stresses, contributing to a 2015 Global Hunger Index classified as ‘serious.’ 62.6 percent of Zimbabweans live below the poverty line. Following a poor 2014-15 harvest season, severe drought in 2015 - 16 has further undermined the agricultural sector, with dire consequences for a population in which 80 percent of people derive a significant proportion of their livelihoods from rain-fed agriculture and livestock production.

Mozambique

The recently issued Integrated Phase Classification, also known as the IPC report, for Mozambique — which outlines the food security situation in the country of over 29 million — indicates that over 1.6 million people are in acute food insecurity, IPC phase 3 or above, in the 63 districts which were analyzed using both primary and secondary data. 188,669 people were found to be in IPC Phase 4.

The IPC report is widely accepted by the international community and provides a framework for classification of the severity of food emergencies, using common standards and language, on a five-phase scale: phase 1 classifying minimal stress on food security, and phase 5 classifying catastrophe.

It is expected that the upcoming lean season — from October of this year until the next harvest season in March 2020 — will be harsh, with over 1.9 million people projected to be in IPC Phase 3 — crisis, and above if there are no humanitarian intervention. The Humanitarian Response Plan is currently being revised to including this upcoming increase in needs.

Already, WFPs plan is to assist over 560,000 per month in July through October of this year with recovery-oriented assistance to both cyclone and drought affected areas. As needs increase, WFP hopes to scale this up to 1.25 million people per month during the lean season from October 2019 until March 2020—if sufficient resources are mobilized in a timely manner. Of this planned assistance for 1.2 million, 900,000 will be in cyclone Idai affected areas, 100,000 in Cyclone Kenneth affected areas, and 250,000 people in areas affected by the drought.

Mozambique was affected by several consecutive natural shocks in the first months of 2019 that impacted the food and nutrition security of population. In January, Tropical Storm Desmond caused excessive rains and floods in Sofala, Tete and Zambézia; in March, Cyclone Idai affected the centre of the country and destroyed many crops which were about to be harvested, as well as farm infrastructure; in April Cyclone Kenneth affected Cabo Delgado; and since April, irregular rainfall patterns and pest attack have affected cereal crops.

In order for WFP to provide timely and adequate assistance in Mozambique to the increase in need, resources would have to mobilized now. WFP needs USD 102 million over the next 6 months for its needs-based recovery plan, which includes drought response, cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth recovery.

Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, a country with over 161 million people, heavy monsoon rain and water from upstream sources have triggered river levels to rise and cause flooding in low lying northern areas—a situation which is continuing to deteriorate in Kurigram, Gaibandha, and Jamalpur districts.

WFP is closely monitoring the situation and maintaining close liaison with the standby partners in case of major impacts. We are also maintaining close coordination with relevant government departments as well as local authorities.

As per latest government report (Ministry of Disaster Mitigation and Response), a total of 2.35 million people are affected up till now in 115 sub districts of 20 districts.

Every monsoon this riverine country with more than 700 rivers is extremely prone to flooding. The glaciers in the Himalayas are melting as a result of climate change. Rivers from the Himalayas flows in to Bangladesh, and therefore rising temperatures results in flooding across Nepal, India and Bangladesh each year.

People in Kurigram are extremely vulnerable to climatic shocks as they live on sand banks. When there is flooding, they loose their home as well as their agricultural land and livelihoods.

Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate-related shocks and stresses, with a significant negative impact on the food security and nutrition of the most vulnerable segments of the population. Enhancing resilience for vulnerable communities has been a core foundation of WFP’s work in Bangladesh for decades.

WFP, for the first time activated the Forecast-based financing during this year’s monsoon.

With the activation of the Forecast-based Finance, around 4,500 flood affected households have already received USD 53 through e-cash transfer in Kurigram district This cash, which arrived before the flood occurred, will help people pay for urgently needed food and services to help mitigate the impacts of the flood on their lives, livelihoods and assets, and providing a more timely, effective and comprehensive approach to disaster risk management

It is estimated that around 5,500 families, which means 25,000 people will receive assistance from this programme.

Forecast-based Financing enables anticipatory actions for disaster mitigation at the community and government level using credible seasonal and weather forecasts. These forecasts are linked to predetermined contingency plans, actors and funding instruments which are used to reduce the humanitarian caseload in the critical window between a forecast and an extreme weather event.

This mechanism is changing the way the humanitarian system responds to climate-related disasters: it complements the existing readiness of humanitarian actors to respond to humanitarian needs with an anticipatory system to reduce the scale of these needs before they materialize.

Acting early allows governments, communities and households to take actions days, weeks and sometimes even months before a climate shock occurs, and helps affected populations to avoid negative coping strategies. At the same time, humanitarian and government institutions who work on disaster risk °C management can reduce the scale of humanitarian needs and achieve significant efficiency gains
.
WFP believes that Forecast-based Financing is more effective when implemented as part of a comprehensive and well-integrated risk management strategy that combines different disaster risk financing tools to anticipate, absorb and prepare for the impacts of climate-related disasters.

Thus through Forecast-Based Financing, WFP seeks to complement rather than replace other disaster risk reduction, seasonal preparedness and resilience-building activities. This type of financing in Bangladesh is possible thanks to the support of South Korea and Germany.

Responding to questions on Zimbabwe, Mr. Verhoosel said that the situation was due to a mix of climate-related issues, such as the recent cyclone and current drought, and microeconomic factors. The price of food might rise. The reintroduction of the Zimbabwe dollar may impact goods prices.

On Bangladesh, Mr. Verhoosel said the monsoon had had an impact on people in Cox’s Bazar. WFP and other agencies had worked to prepare the camp for this impact: some people had been displaced, others had received additional food support.

Figures on Worldwide Assisted Voluntary Returns

Joel Millman, for the International Organization of Migration (IOM), said that the International Organization for Migration was releasing the 2018 Return and Reintegration Key Highlights, which provides trends and figures — as well as key initiatives — on the number of migrants assisted to return, voluntarily, to their countries of origin, as well as efforts IOM had made to assist and reintegrate these returnees into their communities during the past year. In 2018, IOM had assisted a total of 63,316 migrants in returning home through its Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programmes, representing a 12 per cent decrease as compared to 2017. As in the previous year, this trend continued to indicate a return to a normal situation after an exceptionally high number of beneficiaries had been assisted from the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland in 2016. As more and more people had achieved asylum, found a way to stay or decided not to stay, the IOM numbers had varied.

The 63,316 figure was higher than the number of migrants that had come by sea to any of the Meditarrean countries the situation of which was often discussed. It was more than had arrived in Spain and about twice the amount that had arrived in Greece last year. While 63,000 was a global figure, it closely mirrored the number of people arriving in Europe through the Meditarrean.

It was important to note that these numbers were separate from the Voluntary Humanitarian Returns Programme. The number of migrants who participated in this programme — and therefore were not included in the 63,316 figure — was astonishing. For example, last year under the Voluntary Humanitarian Returns Programme, 16,457 migrants left Libya and 131,590 Ethiopians had been assisted to go back to their countries from Saudi Arabia. In short, the 63,316 figure, as extraordinary as it was, was dwarfed by the returns that the IOM did separately from only three countries, namely Saudia Arabia, Libya and Yemen.

Mr. Millman added that the numbers arriving in Greece were starting to pick up much more than earlier this week. On 13 July, 349 migrants arrived on one single day on the Greek Islands. On 27 March 2018, 368 had landed there. It was interesting to note that on 20 October 2015 12,558 migrants had come to Greece in one day. In other words, the biggest day this year — 349 migrants who arrived on 13 July 2019—represented about one per cent of the biggest number ever recorded.

World Health Organization

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that there was an international AIDS conference starting in Mexico City Sunday and that WHO was fully involved. Information on that matter would be provided to journalists upon request. Furthermore, on Monday, 22 July at 11:00 a.m. in Press Room 1, there would be a press conference on the World Health Organization Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic 2019.

A journalist asked about the note by outgoing Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Michael Møller, which had been leaked to a media outlet and in which he suggested that the United Nations reconsider its relationship with the tobacco industry.
Ms. Harris said that WHO’s position on this issue was unwavering and irrefutable. The tobacco epidemic was one of the biggest health threats that the world had ever faced and was still facing — it was killing more than 8 million people a year. The tobacco industry, as the primary driving agent of the tobacco epidemic, operated with the express intention of subverting the role of governments and WHO in implementing public health policies to combat the tobacco epidemic.

As recognized by the United Nations General Assembly and WHO Member States, there was a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interests and public health policy interests. Therefore, as the only specialized United Nations agency for health, WHO did not engage with the tobacco industry or non-State actors that worked to further its interests.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, added that Mr. Møller had simply proposed a think piece to nurture the reflection on how the financing of the Sustainable Development Goals could be accomplished in the context of leaving noone behind. Mr. Møller was known for thinking outside the box and fostering cooperation at all levels, in a spirit of inclusiveness. That was what the memo was aiming to achieve.

Responding to questions about the Ebola outbreak, Ms. Harris said that under the new scale-up system, tracking funding was considered a “pillar”. Funding was about much more than the public health activities; there had to be a much bigger humanitarian effort. One of the reasons communities still did not trust United Nations was its lack of response to other issues such as malaria and access to clean water. A whole section of the United Nations coordinated response was now dedicated to tracking funding.

There was a case of a 22-year-old young woman who had been infected and had gone to Uganda to sell fish. The WHO was concerned about everybody who had been in contact with her. However, conjecture had been mistakenly included in two situation reports and it was important to note that this woman had not travelled to Rwanda. People had been vaccinated on both sides of the border. For now, WHO did not know if her trip to a market in Uganda had led to more infections. It would take a few days to find out.

Ms. Harris emphasized that the woman did not spend any time in Rwanda while symptomatic, and recalled that Ebola was not transmitted until one was symptomatic. The young woman had sadly died after reaching the Ebola treatment centre.

Responding to a question about the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, Ms. Harris explained that this declaration was for the world. The Ebola outbreak had been considered by WHO a level 3 emergency from the moment it was declared as an outbreak on 1 August 2018. That was why 700 members of WHO staff had been sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and an additional 2,000 people had been hired locally. The outbreak had been declared a public health emergency of international concern under the International Health Regulation, which required all Member States to follow the recommendations laid down by the emergency committee. This committee had met four times, and had decided at its last meeting that the world needed to be put on notice. Its members had made recommendations for the affected country, the neighbouring countries and the rest of the world. For the rest of the world, the main recommendation was to support the Democratic Republic of Congo, not to panic, shut borders or implement travel restrictions. The committee had been loath to declare a public health emergency of international concern, for fear that the rest of the world would punish and isolate the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Responding to a journalist’s question, Ms. Harris said that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention staff members could not go to the conflict areas but they had been very helpful nevertheless.

World Trade Organization

Daniel Pruzin, for the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that WTO Spokesperson Keith Rockwell would brief on background on today's informal Trade Negotiations Committee/Heads of Delegation meeting, today, Friday 19 July at 5.00 p.m., in Room B at the WTO.

On Monday, Mr. Pruzin would give a briefing on the Dispute Settlement Body, on background, at 3 p.m. at the Palais des Nations. The General Council would meet on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at CR building of the WTO. Due to the long agenda, it was not possible to say when the meeting would end — it could continue into Tuesday. Keith Rockwell would brief on the record after the meeting. Due to large media interest, the briefing would take place in Room D, 3rd floor of the WTO. It was tentatively scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday but could be on Wednesday. Because it would be on the record, cameras would be permitted at the briefing. For television, the WTO would provide footage (no sound) from inside the meeting; the press would not be permitted in the meeting room while the meeting was taking place. A work room for journalists would be set up — Room B.


Geneva announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that the 67th session of the Committee Against Torture (CAT) would open next Monday, 22 July, at 10 a.m. (Palais des Nations, Room XVII).

Mr. LeBlanc further said that during this session, the Committee would examine four country reports: Poland (Tuesday, 23 July a.m., and Wednesday, 24 July p.m.); Greece (Wednesday, 24 July a.m., and Thursday, 25 July, p.m.); Togo (Friday, 26 July a.m., and Monday, 29 July, p.m.); Bangladesh* (Tuesday, 30 July a.m., and Wednesday, 31 July p.m.).

* Bangladesh: review in the absence of a report.

Mr. LeBlanc also said that the session would end on Friday, 9 August 2019.

Mr. LeBlanc added that the Human Rights Committee (CCPR) would hear the progress report of its Special Rapporteur on the follow-up to concluding observations next Monday, 22 July at 3 p.m., Palais Wilson.

Mr. LeBlanc added that an information session for UN-accredited media on the Strategic Heritage Plan would take place today from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in Room XIV.


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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog190719