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Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by spokespersons of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Humanitarian delivery in Ukraine

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), stated that on 22 April the United Nations had organized a humanitarian convoy to the non-government controlled areas of Ukraine, a second such convoy to cross the contact line since the reopening of the humanitarian corridor a week earlier. The convoy had carried 23 tons of hygiene items. The first convoy since the reopening, with 18 tons of equipment primarily for the treatment of COVID-19, had crossed the contact line on 15 April. This reopening was very much needed, as there were as many as 1.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Mr. Laerke reminded that, due to the pandemic, the civilian crossing points on the contact line had been mostly closed since March 2020, which had severely affected civilian movement and the capacity of the UN and partners to deliver aid to people in need. The humanitarian plan for Ukraine remained only 13 percent funded for the time being, stressed Mr. Laerke.

Leaders’ Summit on Climate

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service, reminded that the previous day the Secretary-General had participated at the Leaders’ Summit convened by US President Joe Biden. The commitments and actions announced, stressed the Secretary-General, provided a much-needed boost to the collective efforts to address the climate crisis ahead of COP 26 in November in Glasgow. To avert a permanent climate catastrophe, the world had to urgently build on the momentum delivered, in this make-or-break year for people and planet. The Secretary-General looked forward to convening leaders in September to make a final push towards COP 26.

Informal Cyprus talks in Geneva

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), stated that an informal five-plus-one meeting on the Cyprus issue would be held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva from 27 to 29 April. The Secretary-General would be coming to Geneva to convene this informal meeting following consultations conducted on his behalf by a senior UN official, Jane Holl Lute. Those consultations had been done over the previous several months. 

As these talks were informal, there would be no official media opportunities. The talks would be covered by UNTV and a photographer, along with a small media pool. If there was to be a press conference, it would be held in a hybrid manner and the media would be duly informed.

Shipwreck in the Mediterranean

Responding to questions, Safa Msehli, for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that the NGO SOS Méditerranée reported that as many as 130 people had died when their rubber dinghy had sunk in the Mediterranean this week. The NGO had sent distress signals to States asking them to send rescue vessels; however, when the NGO’s Ocean Viking vessel had eventually arrived to the area, it had found dozens of bodies floating around the rubber dinghy. It was not the first time that States had refused to respond to distress calls, which was their international obligation. Ms. Msehli added that another boat had been returned to Libya, and there were also reports of a third boat reportedly carrying 40 people, which remained missing.

Ms. Msehli, in an answer to another question, said that there had been 523 recorded deaths in the Mediterranean in 2021; this number rose to 650 deaths if the reported deaths from the previous day were added. The IOM’s ability to monitor the deaths in the Mediterranean was limited due to the inactivity by States, and the true number was likely to be higher.

Tensions in Chad

In an answer to questions from journalists, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), stated that the UN priority was now on helping to defuse tensions and sustain peace as part of our conflict prevention mandate. The United Nations was consulting with African partners, primarily the African Union, on how to achieve those goals and support Chad in the best way possible. The UN was also looking forward to supporting Chadian stakeholders to work towards a peaceful and inclusive election leading to the appointment of a new civilian leadership.

Geneva announcements

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that today at 1 p.m. there would be a virtual press conference by the World Health Organization (WHO), on the disruption to essential health services globally over one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Speakers would be Dr Jim Cambell, Director, Health Workforce, and Dr Patrick Zuber, Lead Health Systems Connector.

Alessandra Vellucci said that the Committee on Enforced Disappearances would conclude today at 12 noon the review of the initial report of Mongolia.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would conclude its 103rd session on 30 April.

The Committee against Torture would open on 25 April at 12:30 p.m. its three-day 70th session.

Ms. Vellucci also informed that 23 April was the World Book and Copyright Day, the English Language Day, and the Spanish Language Day. 24 April would mark the beginning of the World Immunization Week.

24 April was the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, on which occasion an in-depth conversation had been recorded with the UN Geneva Director-General, the Special Envoy for Syria, the UN Representative to the Geneva International Discussions, the new Director of the Graduate Institute, and researchers from the Graduate Institute of Geneva and the University of Geneva.

Ms. Vellucci finally informed that 256 UN Secretariat cases had been tested positive to COVID-19 since March 2020.


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