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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives from the World Health Organization, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

WHO: Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), introduced Darryl Barrett, WHO Technical Lead for Sensory Functions, Disability and Rehabilitation. Mr. Barrett said that WHO would launch today its Global report on health equity for persons with disabilities .

The report showed that many persons with disabilities died up to 20 years earlier and were at more than double the risk of developing a range of health conditions, compared to the general population. Many of these differences in health outcomes for persons with disabilities could not be explained by an underlying health condition or impairment, but rather by avoidable, unfair and unjust factors, including negative attitudes of healthcare providers; health information in formats that cannot be understood; and difficulties in accessing a health center.

The report analyzed these factors across four categories: structural factors; social determinants of health; risk factors for illnesses; and the health system itself (health workforce, service delivery and health information systems) – this was the most tangible place for ministries of health to act. The report therefore proposed a set of 40 actions for governments to take, all based on the primary health care approach.

Answering questions from journalists, Mr. Barrett stressed that WHO had already begun developing a practical tool to help governments implement the actions recommended by the report.

UNHCR calls for support, solidarity amid rise in risky Andaman Sea crossings

Shabia Mantoo, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said UNHCR and humanitarian partners were observing a dramatic increase in the number of people attempting perilous crossings over the Andaman Sea this year. Some 1,920 people, mostly Rohingya, had travelled by sea from January to November 2022, from Myanmar and Bangladesh, compared to only 287 in 2021. UNHCR warned that attempts at these journeys were exposing people to grave risks and fatal consequences: 119 people had been reported dead or missing this year alone.

The most recent arrivals had been recorded a fortnight ago when more than 200 people had arrived in North Aceh, Indonesia. Refugees who had safely disembarked on the Indonesian coast were currently hosted in a former immigration office in Lhokseumawe. UNHCR, with IOM and partners, was working with the local authorities to support the refugees, including through registration, providing for their basic needs and working to ensure secure and adequate accommodation.

With increasing levels of desperation and vulnerability forcing more refugees to make these deadly journeys, UNHCR and humanitarian partners stressed the need for increased regional and international cooperation to save lives and share responsibility. Indonesia currently hosted nearly 13,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly from Afghanistan, Somalia and Myanmar, and should not be alone in rescuing and disembarking people adrift at sea. It was imperative that States in the region upheld the commitments made in 2005 under the Bali Process to collectively find solutions for these desperate journeys.

Answering a question regarding “the migration issues in the Mediterranean”, Ms. Mantoo said that High Commissioner Filippo Grandi had recently urged for a response focused on saving lives and putting human dignity and protection at the forefront.

FAO: New Future of Food and Agriculture report, and Food Price Index November 2022

Lorenzo Bellu, Senior Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), announced the launch of The Future of Food and Agriculture report (FOFA 2022).

Mr. Bellu explained that agrifood-related targets of the Agenda 2030 were tremendously off track: if current trends affecting agrifood systems did not change, the sustainability and resilience of agrifood systems would be seriously under threat and food crises were likely to increase in the future. Furthermore, there was growing evidence that prevailing agricultural practices, which relied on the intensive use of agrochemical inputs and energy, were endangering the future of agrifood systems.

Changing the course of actions was far from easy, given the difficult trade-offs this entailed.

Achieving the four “betters” that FAO had placed at the heart of its strategic framework (better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life) required balancing short-term productivity gains against greater sustainability and reduced climate impact, for instance.

Key triggers of transformation existed however, as well as strategic policy options to activate them. Institutions and governance, consumer awareness, income and wealth distribution, as well as innovative technologies and approaches, were key priority triggers that influenced important drivers of agrifood systems. In this regard, the Future of Food and Agriculture report suggested selected strategic options and possible transformative policies.

Answering questions from journalists, Mr. Bellu stressed the importance of trade flows not being interrupted during crises, so that food could reach importing countries. But trade was only a mean to achieve and maintain food security, and it should be fair and sustainable. In the long run, there was a need to reinforce the resilience of agrifoods systems: as such, relying on massive imports of food might not prove resilient.

For his part, Upali Galketi Aratchilage, Senior Economist at the FAO Markets and Trade Division, said the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) had remained virtually unchanged in November for the second consecutive month, as month-on-month decreases in cereals, dairy and meat had been nearly offset by increases in those of vegetable oil and sugar. Compared to the peak the index had reached in March this year, the index had fallen 15.1 per cent, but was 0.3 per cent above November last year, when prices had begun rising steeply.

In short, market conditions for the major food commodities had eased, somewhat lowering food price inflationary pressure. However, concerns over the possible impacts of extreme weather events, high fertilizer prices and economic recessions on global food prices and food security remained – for example, heavy rains had delayed sugar cane harvesting in parts of major producing regions.

Answering other questions, Mr. Galketi Aratchilage said FAO was looking into including pulses in the price index; and that world production of rice in 2022 was expected to remain below last’s year all-time record.


Sophie Fisher, for the International Labour Organization (ILO), said the Organization would launch, on 5 December, a new report on violence and harassment in the workplace: The People’s Experiences of Violence and Harassment at Work: A first global account . The report and all associated materials would be under strict embargo until Monday 5 December at 4 p.m. (Geneva time); a virtual press conference would be held on Monday at 2 p.m.

Catherine Huissoud, for UNCTAD, said the International Debt Management Conference would be held next week at the Palais des Nations (5-7 December, Room XVII and online). In the context of cascading crises, the sustainability of debt in developing countries, its systemic aspect, and its impact on the global economy in case of multiple debt distress would be the focus of the meeting. UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan would open the Conference at 10 a.m. on Monday, 5 December, and her statement would be sent to journalists shortly after the morning session.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), announced that the third meeting of theIntergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB) for a WHO instrument on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, would be held on 5-7 December. The INB would consider a “zero draft” for an instrument. The event would be webcast.

Mr. Lindmeier also informed of a new report on What works to prevent online violence against children. Journalists would be sent a link to the recording of a webinar that would take place this afternoon on the same subject. Finally, the Director-General would hold a press briefing this afternoon.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service in Geneva, read a message from the UN Secretary-General for the International Day Abolition of Slavery, in which Mr. António Guterres stressed the “need to recognize that the legacy of the transatlantic trade of enslaved Africans reverberates to this day” and to “identify and eradicate contemporary forms of slavery, such as trafficking in persons, sexual exploitation, child labour, forced marriage and the use of children in armed conflict.” Mr. Guterres called on “Governments and societies to recommit to eradicating slavery. Increased action needs to be taken with full participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector, trade unions, civil society and human rights institutions”, and urged “all countries to protect and uphold the rights of victims and survivors of slavery.”

Mr. LeBlanc also said that the winners of the Young Activist Summit award would give a press conference at 12:30 p.m. to talk about their activities: Pashtana Durrani (Afghanistan), on organising underground schools for girls; Zulaikha Patel (South Africa), on fighting against anti-racism; Sameer Jha (USA), on opening safe classrooms for LGBTQ+ students; C’est Prévue Emmy Lusila (Democratic Republic of Congo), on protecting street children; Sebastián Benfeld (Chile), on a pollution-free environment & protecting environmental defenders; and Keely Cat-Wells (UK/USA), on promoting disabled talent and changing mindsets through entertainment.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would conclude this afternoon its 108th session and issue its concluding observations on the reports of France, Brazil, Bahrain, Botswana, Georgia and Jamaica. The President and two other members of the Committee would answer questions from journalists today at 12:30 p.m.

Finally, Mr. LeBlanc announced that a briefing on human rights would take place on Friday, 9 December, at 9:30 a.m., with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.