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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section of the United Nations Information Service, chaired the hybrid briefing which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Food Programme, the Human Rights Council, and the World Health Organization.

Forty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), announced that the forty-seventh session would commence on 21 June and run until 13 July. The session would be based from Room XVIII, with most statements delivered virtually. On 21 June, the session would open at 10 a.m. with a statement by the Council President, to be followed by an oral update by the High Commissioner on the activities of her office. She would then present a report on States responding to the pandemic, to be followed by the presentation of a report by the new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea – Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker. An interactive discussion on the High Commissioner’s presentation would also be held on 21 June.

All key statements would be shared with the media as soon as possible. The session would be webcast live at webtv.un.org, and press summaries would be prepared by the UN Information Service. Side events would be organized virtually.

Impact of fighting on civilians in Yemen

Elisabeth Throssell, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that the OHCHR was seriously concerned about the continuing impact of fighting on civilians and the targeting of civilian objects in Marib Governorate in Yemen, which Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, had been trying to seize from the Yemeni Government for several months.

Among recent attacks, a civilian compound in Marib City - which included the Governor’s office, the local branch of the Ministry of Planning, police headquarters, a mosque and a women’s prison – had been hit on 10 June by what were believed to be missiles, and possibly an explosive-laden drone, launched by Ansar Allah. Eight civilians had been killed and 30 other civilians injured. A few days earlier, on 5 June, a petrol station reserved for military personnel and authorized civilians, located within a Government military base close to the city, had been hit by an Ansar Allah missile.

OHCHR called on all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, which prohibited the targeting of civilians and civilian objects and infrastructure, as well as the principles of proportionality and precautions during attacks. OHCHR also urged all parties to the conflict to go back to the negotiating table and agree on a nationwide ceasefire.

Full statement is available here.

Responding to questions, Ms. Throssell reiterated the OHCHR was concerned about civilian objects being hit and repeated its call to all parties to respect international humanitarian law.

Mr. LeBlanc referred to a statement by Martin Griffiths, the outgoing UN Special Envoy for Yemen, who admitted that the differences between the warring parties remained significant, and also praised the efforts of civil society in trying to move the peace process forward.

Pakistan enforced disappearances law

Elisabeth Throssell, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that OHCHR was encouraged by the Government of Pakistan’s tabling this month of a bill before Parliament to criminalize enforced disappearances. The proposed legislation would be a major step forward in addressing enforced disappearances, which, for decades, had been a key human rights concern in Pakistan. OHCHR urged Pakistan to take all necessary steps to ensure the bill’s timely passage.

The UN Human Rights Office stood ready to lend any technical advice or assistance required in adopting the law in line with international standards.

OHCHR statement can be read here.

World Refugee Day: hunger levels increase among refugee populations

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), read parts of the UN Secretary-General’s message on the occasion of the World Refugee Day, 20 June. The Secretary-General stated that for so many refugees, the pandemic had wiped out their livelihoods, led to stigmatization and vilification and exposed them disproportionately to the virus. At the same time, refugees once again demonstrated their invaluable contribution to their adoptive societies as essential and frontline workers. We all had a duty to help refugees rebuild their lives, he said.

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that refugees worldwide were facing increased hunger because of funding gaps due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Significant funding shortfalls in Africa and the Middle East had led to rations being cut by as much as 60 per cent. In Jordan, more than 230,000 Syrian refugees could be cut from the assistance altogether, unless more funding was received. Sufficient funding was needed at least a month in advance of a predicted gap, to secure continuity. Some of the most underfunded WFP operations supported large refugee populations, as in Uganda. Refugees were among the most vulnerable people in the world, and their situation deteriorated by the ongoing pandemic, stressed Mr. Phiri.

Answering questions, Mr. Phiri reiterated that the cuts were very serious and could lead to hunger amongst the vulnerable refugees. In Cameroon, for example, the WFP might need to reduce rations for over 100,000 people who had crossed the border from the Central African Republic. Programs for refugees were included in the WFP’s overall activities; the WFP needed USD 5 billion to avert famine for the people most at risk around the world. While the WFP had received a record contribution from donors in 2020, the situation in 2021 could not be considered “business as usual”.

Number of people at risk of famine increases globally

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said the global hunger continued to rise as the effects of climate change, conflict, and the pandemic overlapped. More than 217 million people were estimated to be extremely food insecure or at risk of famine in 2021. The number of people teetering on the brink of famine had risen to an estimated 41 million in June, and even the slightest shock could push them into famine. South Sudan, Madagascar, Ethiopia, and Yemen were of particular concern; Nigeria and Burkina Faso had also recently had areas affected by Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) Phase 5. Meanwhile, food prices continued to increase globally. WFP was targeting 159 million people this year, said Mr. Phiri. WFP needed USD 5 billion in 2021 to avert famine; that was one-third of the WFP’s resourcing needs for this year. In a response to a question, Mr. Phiri confirmed that the WFP was working with agrobusiness and small farmers to stimulate and support food production.

More information is available here.

Geneva announcements

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Rhéal LeBlanc said the UNDP would release on 24 June a policy brief assessing the IMF members Special Drawing Rights and highlighting the huge potential a redirecting of the allocation could have to secure sustainable development prospects of the 82 highly debt vulnerable countries. On 22 June, there would be a media briefing with Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator; George Gray Molina, UNDP Chief Economist and Lars Jensen, the author of the Brief, at 3:30 p.m. Geneva time. Journalists could get more information from Sarah Bel.

Mr. LeBlanc also informed that on 21 June at 12:30 p.m., Edward Kallon, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, would hold a press briefing on the situation in Nigeria. There would be live webcast on http://webtv.un.org

On 23 June at 10 a.m., the International Trade Center would present the SME Competitiveness Outlook 2021: Empowering the green recovery. Speakers would be Pamela Coke-Hamilton, Executive Director, International Trade Centre; Barbara Ramos, Chief Economist; and Vittorio Cammarota, Chief of Communications and Events.

The Conference on Disarmament had held a plenary meeting at 10 a.m. today. Ambassador Eheth had made closing remarks at the end of the presidency of Cameroon, before handing over the presidency to Canada.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) would open its seventy-ninth (online) session on 21 June.

Mr. LeBlanc announced that the General Assembly was expected to confirm António Guterres as the Secretary-General for the second term. The latter was expected to address the media at a stakeout around 4:30 p.m. Geneva time.

The Security Council would hold a special meeting on Myanmar today, which would be attended by the SG’s Special Envoy. A stakeout was expected around 6 p.m. Geneva time. There would be no noon briefing in New York today.

19 June was the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, said Mr. LeBlanc, who referred to the Secretary-General’s message in which he said that the world could not allow this already underreported crime to slip further into the shadows. “Perpetrators must be punished,” he said.

Responding to questions, Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said the WHO was currently considering a gradual return of journalists to its premises. Journalists would be duly informed once a decision had been made. For the time being, Dr. Tedros’s press conferences would continue to be held twice a week, she confirmed.

 

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