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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 (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the Human Rights Council, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Forty-seventh session of the Human Rights Council

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, recalled that the Council had yesterday adopted a procedural decision, by electronic roll-call vote, with 26 votes in favour, 7 against and 14 abstentions, to maintain the two interactive dialogues on Myanmar scheduled to take place on 6 and 7 July, but without the participation of the concerned country. He noted that the situation, in which two different representatives of a single State had requested to take part in a Council session, was unprecedented.

Mr. Gomez noted that, because of problems with the electronic platform, the deadline for the submission of draft resolutions to be considered by the Council on 12 and 13 July had been moved to Monday 5 July. Some 30 texts were expected to be tabled on a wide range of thematic and country situations.

The Council was this morning hearing the presentation of the report of the new Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, addressing disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression. It would be followed by an interactive dialogue. At 12.30 today, the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, containing a study relating to drug policies, would be presented, followed by an interactive dialogue.

In the afternoon, the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, would present a report addressing data privacy guidelines for the development and operation of artificial intelligence solutions and recommendations on the right to privacy of children. He would also report on his missions to Argentina, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. An interactive dialogue would then follow.

On Monday 5 July, the Council would hear a panel discussion on violence against women and girls with disabilities, with an opening statement by Nada Al-Nashif, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. That would be followed by the continuation of the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

On Monday afternoon, the Council would hear from the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin, who would present her report covering recent developments in the country, followed by a statement from the concerned country and an interactive dialogue. At approximately 4.30 pm, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, would present her report on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, followed by a statement from the concerned country and an interactive dialogue.

In answer to a question, Mr. Gomez said that the UNGA Credentials Committee would take a decision on the representation of Myanmar later in the year. Participation of the concerned country in interactive dialogues, while a longstanding practice, was a courtesy rather than a requirement, and it was not the first time that a concerned country had not spoken during such a dialogue.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), in answer to a question, said that the United Nations continued, as it had throughout the exceptional circumstances due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, to do its best to iron out technical issues happening during virtual meetings.

Meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) was ongoing and likely to conclude today, having been extended by a day. He recalled that the previous day Ján Kubiš, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Libya, had urged LPDF members to live up to the commitments they had made to the Libyan people when they adopted the Roadmap, supported by Security Council resolution 2570 and the conclusions of the Second Berlin Conference. The Special Envoy had added that there was other way to Libya’s unity, stability, sovereignty, and prosperity than holding the national elections in December. Mr. LeBlanc said it was unlikely that a concluding press conference would be held, and the media should expect a final statement to be issued by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. It would be shared with journalists as soon as it was available.

Asked if Mr. Kubiš was participating physically in the meeting, Mr. LeBlanc said the Special Envoy had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week and was in self-quarantine as a result. He was in good health and following the proceedings remotely. Assistant Secretary-General and UNSMIL Coordinator Raisedon Zenenga was facilitating the LPDF meeting, representing the Special Envoy.

UNCTAD announcements

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that the 2021 Commodities and Development Report, “Escaping from the commodity dependence trap through technology and innovation”, would be published on Wednesday 7 July. A press conference would be held for accredited media on Tuesday 6 July at 2.30 p.m., with the Report under embargo until 7 a.m. Central European Time on 7 July.

Ms. Huissoud also announced that UNCTAD experts had looked at the economic impact of the new European Union Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, part of plans to decarbonize the European Union by 2050. They would present their conclusions on the implications for developing countries during the week of the 12 July.

Exceptional heat updates

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the unprecedented heatwave in Canada had peaked on Wednesday with a staggering temperature record of 49.6°C. The most immediate and direct consequence had been that the village of Lytton, which had recorded record temperatures for three consecutive days, had been devastated by fire on Thursday, Canada’s National Day.

The unprecedent event was having multiple major impacts: heat stress in people, animals and vegetation; air quality (pollutants due to hot stable air); forest fire risk; possibility of landslides caused by glacier melting in mountains; damage and malfunctioning of infrastructure and transport systems not prepared for such high temperatures; and many other social and economic risks.

Heatwaves were occurring not just in North America but also in other parts of the world: Siberia, which last year had seen extended and exceptional heat, was also being hit by heat and renewed wildfires.

Ms. Nullis also said that WMO had recognized a new record high temperature for the Antarctic continent of 18.3° Celsius on 6 February 2020 at the Esperanza station, Argentina. The previous record for the region had been recorded in 2015 at the same station. Verification of the maximum temperature record was important as it helped to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers. The Antarctic peninsula was among the fastest warming regions of the planet, having seen an increase of almost 3°C over the last 50 years. The new temperature record was therefore consistent with the climate change being observed.

WMO had, however, rejected an even higher temperature, of 20.75°C, reported on 9 February 2020 at an automated permafrost monitoring station on Seymour Island, Brazil. A committee of experts, including Brazilian experts, had considered that the equipment, while good for measuring permafrost, was not appropriate for recording high temperatures. WMO had decided to undertake “rapid response” team analysis of new purported records to provide initial guidance to global media and the public prior to a formal in-depth investigation, which often took many months.

The full press release is available here.

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that heat waves could result in significant excess mortality, as had happened in 2003, when 70,000 people in Europe had died as a result of the June-August event, and in 2010, when 56,000 excess deaths had occurred during a 44-day heatwave in the Russian Federation. However, the negative health impacts of heat were predictable and largely preventable with specific public health actions. WHO had issued public health guidance for the general public and medical professionals on coping with extreme heat.

Some populations were more exposed to, or more physiologically or socioeconomically vulnerable to, physiological stress, exacerbated illness, and an increased risk of death from exposure to excess heat. They included the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual workers, athletes, and the poor. In heat waves, it was important to keep the home cool, keep out of the heat, keep the body cool and hydrated and to help others.

Further information is available here.

In answer to a question, Mr. Jašarević said that rehydration should be carried out with water and non-alcoholic drinks, while drinks containing alcohol or excessive amounts of caffeine and sugar should be avoided.

Situation in Tigray region, Ethiopia

Tommy Thompson, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the sudden change of administration in the Tigray region this week had left 35 WFP staff members trapped by the fighting for several days, with the last two groups being evacuated only yesterday. Although WFP operations had been suspended for only 48 hours and had begun again in the north-western part of the region, bridges on the major roads had been destroyed, leaving Tigray region cut off from the rest of the country. Electricity and telephone networks were down and there were no incoming supplies of food, fuel or cash. WFP currently had food supplies for only one third of its case load in Mekelle and they would be exhausted by the weekend. It was sharing the supplies of light aircraft fuel it had with humanitarian partners involved in food distribution.

WFP had been trying to reach 1.6 million people in the current round of humanitarian assistance and scale that up to 2.1 million in the next round, but, with the supplies it had in stock, would be able to help only 680,000 people.

Further information is available here.

Answering questions from journalists, Mr. Thompson said the fighting was now concentrated on the periphery of Tigray region, so WFP hoped to be able to gain greater access as soon as it could get assurances that the areas it needed to reach were clear of fighting. Even then, great care would need to be taken because of explosive remnants of war. Discussions were ongoing with the aim of allowing an air bridge to be established. People were dying because of the lack of access for humanitarian actors and more would die if they were not allowed to provide assistance.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Secretary-General had said on Tuesday that the events in the Tigray region of Ethiopia were extremely worrisome and showed that there was no military solution to the crisis. He had spoken with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and was hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities would take place. It was essential that civilians were protected, humanitarian aid reached the people in need and a political solution was found. Mr. LeBlanc added that 419 United Nations staff were involved in supporting the humanitarian response in Mekelle and Shire in Tigray region.

First WFP food convoy arrives in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP had moved its first food supplies to its logistics hub in Maracaibo, Venezuela, as it prepared to launch its school meals programme for vulnerable school children and school employees in the country. It would provide take-home rations including rice, lentils, salt and vegetable oil, prioritizing school children under the age of 6 in areas most affected by food insecurity. The 42,000 food packages arriving in Maracaibo will be distributed in the first month of operation. The aim was to reach up to 185,000 children and school personnel by the end of the year and expand that geographically and numerically to 1.5 million by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. WFP would manage its own supply chain, from purchasing food to distributing it in schools.

Further information is available here.

Situation of children in the Niger

Aboubacry Tall, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that this year, 3.8 million people, including 2.1 million children or 18% of children in Niger, would need humanitarian assistance in the Niger. Many of those in need were in hard-to-reach areas with limited humanitarian access. The situation was the result of a combination of factors: recurring armed conflict, displacement, malnutrition, epidemics and climate-related disasters, as well as the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Insecurity along the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali had exacerbated needs in Tillabéry and Tahoua, where over 195,000 people were displaced. Attacks on civilians in the Lake Chad region had prevented nearly 269,000 people in Diffa from returning home.

Despite recent efforts, severe acute malnutrition rates and burden remained extremely high. Some 2.2 million people needed nutrition assistance and more than 1.6 million children under five were estimated to suffer from malnutrition, over 450,000 them severely malnourished. The situation was exacerbated by climate disasters: record floods had hit the country in 2020, affecting more than 640,000 people, and forecasts for the 2021 rainy season indicated there would be more this year.

UNICEF was responding to the chronic and acute crises with programmes including nutrition, especially for young infants, and water, sanitation and hygiene, access to schools for displaced children, basic health services and the provision of essential household items. It was appealing for USD 102 million to support assistance programmes for 1.3 million people.

In answer to a question, Mr. Tall said that the problem of malnutrition was cyclical in the Niger. It needed to be prevented from the start of children’s lives, as, even if they recovered, its impact was lifelong. Mr. Tall also said that host communities were generous in sharing their resources with displaced persons, who tried to engage in food production and small business enterprises when they were able to.

Numbers affected by the pandemic were low, although that was possibly a reflection of limited testing capacity, and a vaccination programme assisted by the COVAX facility was expected to cover 20 per cent of the eligible population.

Further information is available here.

Geneva announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the Human Rights Committee would next meet in public at 4 p.m. on 16 July, to consider the progress report of the Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations on State party reports. The 132nd session of the Committee would then close on 23 July.

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament was scheduled for the 27th of July, still under the presidency of Ambassador Leslie E. Norton of Canada. 

Finally, Mr. LeBlanc reminded journalists that, from next week, the regular bi-weekly press briefings would be held in room XXVII of the Palais des Nations.

 

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The webcast for this briefing is available here: https://bit.ly/unog020721

The audio for this briefing is available here: https://bit.ly/3jDryvI  

 

 

Mr. Gomez noted that, because of problems with the electronic platform, the deadline for the submission of draft resolutions to be considered by the Council on 12 and 13 July had been moved to Monday 5 July. Some 30 texts were expected to be tabled on a wide range of thematic and country situations.

 

The Council was this morning hearing the presentation of the report of the new Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan, addressing disinformation and freedom of opinion and expression. It would be followed by an interactive dialogue. At 12.30 today, the report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, containing a study relating to drug policies, would be presented, followed by an interactive dialogue.

 

In the afternoon, the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, Joseph Cannataci, would present a report addressing data privacy guidelines for the development and operation of artificial intelligence solutions and recommendations on the right to privacy of children. He would also report on his missions to Argentina, France, Germany, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. An interactive dialogue would then follow.

 

On Monday 5 July, the Council would hear a panel discussion on violence against women and girls with disabilities, with an opening statement by Nada Al-Nashif, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. That would be followed by the continuation of the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.

 

On Monday afternoon, the Council would hear from the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin, who would present her report covering recent developments in the country, followed by a statement from the concerned country and an interactive dialogue. At approximately 4.30 pm, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, would present her report on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, followed by a statement from the concerned country and an interactive dialogue.

 

In answer to a question, Mr. Gomez said that the UNGA Credentials Committee would take a decision on the representation of Myanmar later in the year. Participation of the concerned country in interactive dialogues, while a longstanding practice, was a courtesy rather than a requirement, and it was not the first time that a concerned country had not spoken during such a dialogue.

 

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), in answer to a question, said that the United Nations continued, as it had throughout the exceptional circumstances due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, to do its best to iron out technical issues happening during virtual meetings.

 

Meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum

 

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) was ongoing and likely to conclude today, having been extended by a day. He recalled that the previous day Ján Kubiš, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Libya, had urged LPDF members to live up to the commitments they had made to the Libyan people when they adopted the Roadmap, supported by Security Council resolution 2570 and the conclusions of the Second Berlin Conference. The Special Envoy had added that there was other way to Libya’s unity, stability, sovereignty, and prosperity than holding the national elections in December. Mr. LeBlanc said it was unlikely that a concluding press conference would be held, and the media should expect a final statement to be issued by the United Nations Support Mission in Libya. It would be shared with journalists as soon as it was available.

 

Asked if Mr. Kubiš was participating physically in the meeting, Mr. LeBlanc said the Special Envoy had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in the week and was in self-quarantine as a result. He was in good health and following the proceedings remotely. Assistant Secretary-General and UNSMIL Coordinator Raisedon Zenenga was facilitating the LPDF meeting, representing the Special Envoy.

 

UNCTAD announcements

 

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said that the 2021 Commodities and Development Report, “Escaping from the commodity dependence trap through technology and innovation”, would be published on Wednesday 7 July. A press conference would be held for accredited media on Tuesday 6 July at 2.30 p.m., with the Report under embargo until 7 a.m. Central European Time on 7 July.

 

Ms. Huissoud also announced that UNCTAD experts had looked at the economic impact of the new European Union Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, part of plans to decarbonize the European Union by 2050. They would present their conclusions on the implications for developing countries during the week of the 12 July.

 

Exceptional heat updates

 

Claire Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the unprecedented heatwave in Canada had peaked on Wednesday with a staggering temperature record of 49.6°C. The most immediate and direct consequence had been that the village of Lytton, which had recorded record temperatures for three consecutive days, had been devastated by fire on Thursday, Canada’s National Day.

 

The unprecedent event was having multiple major impacts: heat stress in people, animals and vegetation; air quality (pollutants due to hot stable air); forest fire risk; possibility of landslides caused by glacier melting in mountains; damage and malfunctioning of infrastructure and transport systems not prepared for such high temperatures; and many other social and economic risks.

 

Heatwaves were occurring not just in North America but also in other parts of the world: Siberia, which last year had seen extended and exceptional heat, was also being hit by heat and renewed wildfires.

 

Ms. Nullis also said that WMO had recognized a new record high temperature for the Antarctic continent of 18.3° Celsius on 6 February 2020 at the Esperanza station, Argentina. The previous record for the region had been recorded in 2015 at the same station. Verification of the maximum temperature record was important as it helped to build up a picture of the weather and climate in one of Earth’s final frontiers. The Antarctic peninsula was among the fastest warming regions of the planet, having seen an increase of almost 3°C over the last 50 years. The new temperature record was therefore consistent with the climate change being observed.

 

WMO had, however, rejected an even higher temperature, of 20.75°C, reported on 9 February 2020 at an automated permafrost monitoring station on Seymour Island, Brazil. A committee of experts, including Brazilian experts, had considered that the equipment, while good for measuring permafrost, was not appropriate for recording high temperatures. WMO had decided to undertake “rapid response” team analysis of new purported records to provide initial guidance to global media and the public prior to a formal in-depth investigation, which often took many months.

 

The full press release is available here.

 

Tarik Jašarević, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that heat waves could result in significant excess mortality, as had happened in 2003, when 70,000 people in Europe had died as a result of the June-August event, and in 2010, when 56,000 excess deaths had occurred during a 44-day heatwave in the Russian Federation. However, the negative health impacts of heat were predictable and largely preventable with specific public health actions. WHO had issued public health guidance for the general public and medical professionals on coping with extreme heat.

 

Some populations were more exposed to, or more physiologically or socioeconomically vulnerable to, physiological stress, exacerbated illness, and an increased risk of death from exposure to excess heat. They included the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women, outdoor and manual workers, athletes, and the poor. In heat waves, it was important to keep the home cool, keep out of the heat, keep the body cool and hydrated and to help others.

 

Further information is available here.

 

In answer to a question, Mr. Jašarević said that rehydration should be carried out with water and non-alcoholic drinks, while drinks containing alcohol or excessive amounts of caffeine and sugar should be avoided.

 

Situation in Tigray region, Ethiopia

 

Tommy Thompson, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that the sudden change of administration in the Tigray region this week had left 35 WFP staff members trapped by the fighting for several days, with the last two groups being evacuated only yesterday. Although WFP operations had been suspended for only 48 hours and had begun again in the north-western part of the region, bridges on the major roads had been destroyed, leaving Tigray region cut off from the rest of the country. Electricity and telephone networks were down and there were no incoming supplies of food, fuel or cash. WFP currently had food supplies for only one third of its case load in Mekelle and they would be exhausted by the weekend. It was sharing the supplies of light aircraft fuel it had with humanitarian partners involved in food distribution.

 

WFP had been trying to reach 1.6 million people in the current round of humanitarian assistance and scale that up to 2.1 million in the next round, but, with the supplies it had in stock, would be able to help only 680,000 people.

 

Further information is available here.

 

Answering questions from journalists, Mr. Thompson said the fighting was now concentrated on the periphery of Tigray region, so WFP hoped to be able to gain greater access as soon as it could get assurances that the areas it needed to reach were clear of fighting. Even then, great care would need to be taken because of explosive remnants of war. Discussions were ongoing with the aim of allowing an air bridge to be established. People were dying because of the lack of access for humanitarian actors and more would die if they were not allowed to provide assistance.

 

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Secretary-General had said on Tuesday that the events in the Tigray region of Ethiopia were extremely worrisome and showed that there was no military solution to the crisis. He had spoken with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and was hopeful that an effective cessation of hostilities would take place. It was essential that civilians were protected, humanitarian aid reached the people in need and a political solution was found. Mr. LeBlanc added that 419 United Nations staff were involved in supporting the humanitarian response in Mekelle and Shire in Tigray region.

 

First WFP food convoy arrives in Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

 

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that WFP had moved its first food supplies to its logistics hub in Maracaibo, Venezuela, as it prepared to launch its school meals programme for vulnerable school children and school employees in the country. It would provide take-home rations including rice, lentils, salt and vegetable oil, prioritizing school children under the age of 6 in areas most affected by food insecurity. The 42,000 food packages arriving in Maracaibo will be distributed in the first month of operation. The aim was to reach up to 185,000 children and school personnel by the end of the year and expand that geographically and numerically to 1.5 million by the end of the 2022-2023 school year. WFP would manage its own supply chain, from purchasing food to distributing it in schools.

 

Further information is available here.

 

Situation of children in the Niger

 

Aboubacry Tall, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that this year, 3.8 million people, including 2.1 million children or 18% of children in Niger, would need humanitarian assistance in the Niger. Many of those in need were in hard-to-reach areas with limited humanitarian access. The situation was the result of a combination of factors: recurring armed conflict, displacement, malnutrition, epidemics and climate-related disasters, as well as the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Insecurity along the borders with Burkina Faso and Mali had exacerbated needs in Tillabéry and Tahoua, where over 195,000 people were displaced. Attacks on civilians in the Lake Chad region had prevented nearly 269,000 people in Diffa from returning home.

 

Despite recent efforts, severe acute malnutrition rates and burden remained extremely high. Some 2.2 million people needed nutrition assistance and more than 1.6 million children under five were estimated to suffer from malnutrition, over 450,000 them severely malnourished. The situation was exacerbated by climate disasters: record floods had hit the country in 2020, affecting more than 640,000 people, and forecasts for the 2021 rainy season indicated there would be more this year.

 

UNICEF was responding to the chronic and acute crises with programmes including nutrition, especially for young infants, and water, sanitation and hygiene, access to schools for displaced children, basic health services and the provision of essential household items. It was appealing for USD 102 million to support assistance programmes for 1.3 million people.

 

In answer to a question, Mr. Tall said that the problem of malnutrition was cyclical in the Niger. It needed to be prevented from the start of children’s lives, as, even if they recovered, its impact was lifelong. Mr. Tall also said that host communities were generous in sharing their resources with displaced persons, who tried to engage in food production and small business enterprises when they were able to.

 

Numbers affected by the pandemic were low, although that was possibly a reflection of limited testing capacity, and a vaccination programme assisted by the COVAX facility was expected to cover 20 per cent of the eligible population.

 

Further information is available here.

 

Geneva announcements

 

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that the Human Rights Committee would next meet in public at 4 p.m. on 16 July, to consider the progress report of the Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations on State party reports. The 132nd session of the Committee would then close on 23 July.

 

The next plenary meeting of the Conference on Disarmament was scheduled for the 27th of July, still under the presidency of Ambassador Leslie E. Norton of Canada. 

 

Finally, Mr. LeBlanc reminded journalists that, from next week, the regular bi-weekly press briefings would be held in room XXVII of the Palais des Nations.

 

 

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