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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE

25 June 2019

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, UN-Women, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Organization for Migration, the World Food Programme and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Human Rights Council update

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, said that the Vice Governor of Xinjiang, China had given an address at the Council that morning. Owing to the very large number of States and non-governmental organizations scheduled to take the floor, the general debate on the update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would continue until 2 p.m. In the meantime, the Deputy Minister for Information and Public Diplomacy of Indonesia would be addressing the Council at 11.50 a.m. The interactive discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members would continue at 1.50 p.m. The reports of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity would be presented from 2.30 p.m. The presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression had been postponed to the following day. The discussion of the report on Jamal Khashoggi by the Special Rapporteur on summary execution would begin in early afternoon the next day.

Launch of “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World”

Christine Loew, Director of the UN-Women Liaison Office in Geneva, said that the next edition of UN-Women’s flagship report focused on families in a changing world. Families were of huge significance to societies and economies, but also for women and girls. Yet they were also
a contradictory space: they were places of cooperation but also of conflict, where women’s and girls’ rights were regularly violated. Therefore, governments had a particular responsibility to safeguard women’s and girls’ rights, not only in the public sphere but in the home as well.

The report presented a brand new global dataset, authoritatively illustrating that families were diverse. Around world, families consisting of a couple and young children accounted for approximately one third of households, those that included grandparents or other relatives made up nearly one third, women single parents represented slightly under one tenth and individuals and couples without children amounted to one quarter. In addition, the report highlighted the huge demographic changes – such as the increase in the age of marriage, the decline in birth rates and women’s growing longevity – that had been taking place across regions and were having an impact on families and on women’s lives.

Against that backdrop and in the light of the imperative to advance gender equality irrespective of one’s type of household, the report proposed a comprehensive family-friendly agenda that addressed violence prevention and response, family law reform, investment in public services and social protection. The report demonstrated that such policies were vital, effective and affordable – less than 5% of GDP for over half of the countries in the dataset. Accordingly, UN-Women called on governments, civil society and the private sector to recognize the diversity of families and to work together to implement a comprehensive family-friendly policy agenda, with women’s rights at its core, to bring equality and justice into the home.
The report remained under embargo until 5 p.m. heure de Genève today and would be available on the Organization’s website.
Replying to journalists, Ms. Loew said that the data covering 155 countries had been provided by all UN agencies that collected data. Since the point of the report had not been to evaluate policies but to assess the degree to which women’s and girls’ rights were respected within families, there was no ranking; however, regional factsheets would be drawn up.
Congolese refugee arrivals in Uganda

Andrej Mahecic, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), gave the following statement:

“Around 7,500 Congolese refugees have arrived in Uganda since the start of June, placing strain on already badly overstretched facilities.

Renewed clashes between opposing Hema and Lendu groups in north-eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have are driving people across the border into Uganda at a rate of 311 a day, more than double the rate of refugee arrivals in May (145 per day).

Recent arrivals speak of vicious and extreme brutality. Armed groups are said to be attacking villages, torching and looting houses, and killing men, women and children. Most people are fleeing to Uganda via Lake Albert from Ituri province, where displacement since early June is now estimated at 300,000.

Some refugees are arriving with significant belongings, fearing they will not be able to return home for some time. Others who have fled imminent danger have little more than the clothes on their backs. Nearly two thirds are children, below 18 years in age.

The refugees are telling us that more people are likely to arrive in Uganda soon. However, some are reportedly being prevented from leaving DRC by armed groups, while others struggle to afford the fee for the boat journey – a sum equivalent to less than $6.00.

In Uganda itself, transit and reception facilities are overstretched and overwhelmed. People newly arrived are first taken to a transit centre in Sebagoro, a small fishing village on the lakeshore, where they undergo health screening. Refugees are then transported to the Kagoma reception centre a few kilometres away. The centre is currently home to some 4,600 new arrivals, 1,600 more than its maximum intended capacity.

Several hundred refugees have been given land plots close to the Kyangwali refugee settlement. However, the pace of new arrivals means needs far outstrip what humanitarians are able to deliver.

Shelter and basic relief items are the urgent priority. In addition, buses and trucks are needed to transport refugees from border point reception centres to settlement areas. Many refugees need immediate psycho-social care and counselling for trauma.

While screening facilities are in place at the collection points, transit centres and reception centres, health facilities are basic and need upgrading. Clinics are in need of more doctors and more medicines.

Already overcrowded and understaffed schools need significant support to meet the educational needs of the new arrivals.

UNHCR is appealing to the international community to come forward with further funding. As we near the end of June, UNHCR and partners working on the refugee response in Uganda have received US$ 150 million, 17 per cent of the total US$ 927 million needed.”

In response to journalists, Mr. Mahecic said that Uganda was already hosting 1.2 million refugees and that it should be borne in mind that thousands of people crisscrossed the border every day, not only refugees. The medical facilities were screening new arrivals for Ebola, though no cases had been detected thus far, and were also treating refugees for wounds sustained before they fled. The public health effort was being led by the Government and the World Health Organization. The violence, which stemmed from a conflict over resources that had been simmering since the 1990s, was ongoing and the displacement of people in recent weeks was considered significant. He could not speculate on the refugees’ prospects of return, which required appropriate security conditions.

Close to 20,000 migrants rescued in the Sahara

Joel Millman, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the rescue on 15 June of 406 migrants stranded in the Ténéré desert in Niger was the Organization’s 189th humanitarian mission since April 2016 and brought to nearly 20,000 the number of people IOM had rescued there. The latest rescues, which included seven women and four children, were from 14 West African countries, mainly Guinea, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, and had been bound for North Africa. They had been transported to the town of Assamaka, the base of the Organization’s team, which included one focal point, four community mobilizers, two nurses and one driver. Trucks carrying migrants north frequently broke down in the desert; in other cases, they became lost or the smugglers simply abandoned people to their fates. Rescued migrants were often mentally and physically drained, injured and dehydrated. To that day, no one knew how many migrants had died attempting to cross the Sahara. The Organization’s operations were supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and the European Union, within the framework of the Migrant Resource and Response Mechanism. In 2019, IOM would be launching a missing migrants project across the region to get a better sense of how many people were dying, as a result of either accidents, dehydration or a crime, during their attempt to cross the Sahara. With regard to Mali, IOM was not currently conducting search and rescue operations there, but the Malian Red Cross was. IOM could not go to the Kidal region because it was a red zone, but access to it was necessary in order to protect and assist all stranded migrants.

In reply to a query, Mr. Millman said that IOM relied on anecdotal material gathered from migrants – and luck – in order to try to locate others who might be stranded. The huge expanse of territory was obviously a challenge; the remains of thousands of victims had likely disappeared into the sand or been eaten by scavengers. Of the people rescued, 98 per cent opted for voluntary return to their countries of origin. It was impossible to know how many went on to make another attempt to cross the desert.

Malnutrition among children in India still high

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

"Today, I would like to highlight the newly released findings of the 2019 National food and Nutrition Security Analysis report, developed in partnership between the UN World Food Programme and the Government of India's Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The report is a first-of-its-kind baseline analysis of the progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger, in India. India’s progress towards this sustainable development goal – with an overall population of 1.32 billion – will have a critical impact on the overall global success of reaching zero hunger.

The report indicates that despite positive trends and patterns in improving food security,
malnutrition rates are well below acceptable levels, with large number of people, especially women and children, suffering from micronutrient - Vitamin A, iron and iodine.

During the last decade, stunting has declined by one fifth in India with an annual decline of around one percent. This is still the slowest rate of decline amongst other emerging economies and most countries in Asia. With a current stunting rate of over 30 percent across all states in India except for Kerala - which has already reached the target - the Government of India will have to double its rate of decline to 2 percent per year to meet the national targets of 25 percent by 2022. With the current rate of reduction of 1 percent, 31.4 percent of children
will be stunted in 2022.

Among the poorest 30 percent of the population, the average per capita consumption of energy is 1,811 kilocalories per day, which is much lower than the Indian Council of Medical Research norm of 2,155 kilocalories per day.

6.4 percent of children under five are both stunted and wasted and also are underweight, while 18.1 percent of children are both stunted and underweight and 7.9 percent of children are both wasted and underweight.

Despite India becoming self-sufficient in foodgrain production with a large increase in the production of rice, wheat and other cereals, the per capita availability of these grains has not increased at the same level due to inequality, population growth, food wastage and losses and exports.

In the last decade, the double burden which includes both over- and undernutrition, is becoming more prominent and poses a new challenge for India.”

IPU’s 130th anniversary

Thomas Fitzsimons, for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), providing an overview of the Union’s history, said that it was celebrating the 130th anniversary of its founding from 24 to 30 June. What had begun as a small group of parliamentarians dedicated to promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue had since grown into a global organization of national parliaments. By the end of 2019, ITU membership would inch closer to universal, with 180 national parliaments and 12 supranational parliamentary bodies and increasing participation in its meetings. On the anniversary itself, on 30 June, five recent, current and upcoming presidents of IPU assemblies would be holding a meeting at IPU headquarters; interviews could be arranged. In addition, a number of other events would be taking place, including a re-enactment of the original 1889 founding meeting in Paris and an exhibition set up in both the Salle des Pas Perdus at the Palais des Nations and the visitors lobby at UN headquarters in New York.

Geneva announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, said that Secretary General António Guterres had designated Ms. Olga Algayerová as acting Director General from 1 July until Ms. Tatiana Valovaya assumed her functions in August.

Ms. Vellucci also reminded journalists that on 27 and 28 June, the Conference on International Conference on the question of Jerusalem “Preserving the cultural and religious character of Jerusalem” will be hosted at the Palais des Nations. Officials from the UN Department of Political Affairs were available to provide more information about the programme which had already been distributed to the media, together with the invitation to a press conference in Room III on 27 June at 1 p.m. Speakers at the press conference would be H.E. Mr. Cheikh Niang, Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations in New York; H.E. Mr. Ahmad Majdalani, Minister for Social Affairs of the State of Palestine; and H.E. Mr. Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations in New York
Press conferences

Tuesday, 25 June at 11.30 a.m. in Room III
UN Geneva Director General
Key achievements, challenges and progress for UN Geneva during the last six years (end of mandate press conference)
Speaker:
· Michael Møller, Director General of UN Geneva

Tuesday, 25 June at 3.00 p.m. in Press Room 1
International Trade Centre (ITC)
Publication of the SME Competitiveness Outlook 2019: Big Money for Small Business – Financing the Sustainable Development Goals
Speakers:
· Arancha González, Executive Director, ITC
· Marion Janson, Director of Market Development and Chief Economist, ITC

Wednesday, 26 June at 2.30 p.m. in Press Room 1
UNCTAD
Publication of the Economic development in Africa Report 2019 - Made in Africa: Rules of Origin for Enhanced Intra-African Trade (embargo until 26 June 2019 at 5 p.m. GMT)
Speakers:
· Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD Secretary-General
· Paul Akiwumi, Director, Division for Africa, Least developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: http://bit.ly/unog250619