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Bi-Weekly Briefing

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

Humanitarian response in Afghanistan

Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), provided an update on the humanitarian response in Afghanistan. A humanitarian flight to Kabul had been completed on 12 September, which was a turning point as bringing humanitarian workers and cargo into the city was of paramount importance. UN Humanitarian Air Service was also transporting non-food items, and three such flights had been completed for the needs of the World Health Organization.

Mr. Phiri stressed that the humanitarian agencies were struggling to deliver food supplies before the onset of the winter. Much more was needed now, as nine million people had to be reached by November. Since the beginning of 2021, the WFP had already assisted over six million people in the country. WFP had deployed an additional 34 mobile health teams, for a total of 117 teams in the country right now. From 15 August to 7 September, 600,000 people had been reached with food assistance, specified Mr. Phiri. In anticipation of growing food needs, WFP was positioning food and other stock in border areas of the neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that WHO was the first aid agency to airlift essential medicines and supplies into the country, through Mazar-i-Sharif airport since the country had come under control of the Taliban and disruptions at Kabul airport had begun on 15 August. Such shipments had taken place on 30 August, 6 September, 12 September, and 13 September. Two Qatar Airways flights had also been donated by the government of the State of Qatar: the first flight had arrived in Kabul on 13 September, and the second was expected to arrive this week. WHO was exploring options to expedite further shipments of health supplies to Afghanistan to urgently replenish and restock health facilities to keep life-saving health services running.

Responding to questions, Mr. Phiri said the bulk of the WFP’s supplies had been produced and purchased locally in Afghanistan. WFP would bring from abroad what was needed to fill in the gaps. Mr. Lindmeier said there was a possibility for Dr. Tedros to travel to Afghanistan, but there were no details at this stage.

World Patient Safety Day

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said the focus this year was on maternal and newborn safety.

Dr. Neelam Dhingra, Unit Head at the Patient Safety Flagship, World Health Organization (WHO), stated that the World Patient Safety Day had been established by the World Health Assembly in 2019 through resolution WHA72.6 on “Global action on patient safety”, and was observed annually on 17 September. Objectives of the Day were to enhance global understanding of patient safety, increase public engagement in health care safety, and promote global action to prevent and reduce avoidable harm in health care. The main priority was to avoid preventable harm in health care; at the moment, millions of patients were still harmed in health care every year, which took numerous human lives and cost trillions of dollars in damages.

This year’s theme highlighted the need to eliminate harm to mothers and their newborns. Every day, some 810 women and over 6,700 babies lost their lives around the time of childbirth. The majority, almost three-fourths, of those deaths and stillbirths were avoidable, stressed Dr. Dhingra. Despite the progress made in reducing maternal and newborn mortality, there was still so much to do, and the area that had to be addressed first and foremost was the safety and appropriate care for mothers and newborns. WHO was engaging multiple stakeholders and would launch a set of goals to provide the world with a list of best practices; a virtual global conference would take place on 17 September. Goals included reducing harmful practices; promoting respectful care of safe childbirth; and securing safe transfusions during childbirth.

More information on the World Patient Safety Day is available here.

Landmark report on reshaping agricultural support

Marco V. Sanchez, Deputy Director of the Agrifood Economics Division at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stated that in 2020, up to 811 million people in the world had faced chronic hunger and nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) had not had year-round access to adequate food.

The new report, A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems, being launched today by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), found that current support to producers mostly consisted of price incentives, such as import tariffs and export subsidies, as well as fiscal subsidies tied to the production of a specific commodity or input. Those were inefficient, distorted food prices, hurt people’s health, degraded the environment, and were often inequitable, putting big agri-business ahead of smallholder farmers.

Global support to producers in the agricultural sector amounted to USD 540 billion per year, making up 15 per cent of total agricultural production value. By 2030, this was projected to soar up more than three times to USD 1.759 trillion. Yet 87 per cent of this support, approximately USD 470 billion, was price distorting and environmentally and socially harmful. The report proposed a six-step guide for countries to follow, which would help end poverty, eradicate hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, promote sustainable agriculture, foster sustainable consumption and production, mitigate the climate crisis, restore nature, limit pollution, and reduce inequalities.

The new report, launched ahead of the
2021 Food Systems Summit, COP15 on biodiversity, and COP26 on climate change, served as a wake-up call for governments around the world to rethink agricultural support schemes to make them fit for purpose to transform our agri-food systems.

Human Rights Council

Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, informed that the Human Rights Council, had commenced its 48th session the previous day, with a global update by the High Commissioner. That had been followed by a series of updates on Nicaragua, Venezuela, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Currently under way there was a discussion on Yemen, to be followed by a general debate, where some 120 States and NGOs would react to the High Commissioner’s update. The foreign ministers of Denmark and Tunisia would speak, among others. Venezuela, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, and Sri Lanka would also speak as concerned countries. On 15 September, the Council would hear from Special Rapporteurs on water and sanitation, and on unilateral coercive measures.

Mr. Gomez said that today, at 1:30 p.m., there would be a hybrid press conference by the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, which would launch its report on the latest investigations. Speakers would be Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, Chair, and Hanny Megally, Commissioner.

Geneva announcements

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service (UNIS), informed that, after 24 years with UNHCR, Andrej Mahecic would start a secondment at the World Meteorological Organization in the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where he would lead on comms for the IPCC as Programme Manager for Communications and Media Relations. Mr. Mahecic thanked his colleagues at UNHCR, the UN Information Service, and other spokespeople with whom he had cooperated over the years.

On 14 September at 3 p.m., the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) would present its Trade and Development Report 2021. The speakers would be Rebeca Grynspan, UNCTAD’s new Secretary-General; and Richard Kozul-Wright, Director of UNCTAD’s Globalization and Development Strategies Division.

On 15 September at 10 a.m., the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) would launch the Cluster Munition Monitor 2021 Report. Speakers would be Mary Wareham, Human Rights Watch Arms Advocacy Director; Loren Persi, Monitor Impact research team editor; and Ruth Bottomley, Monitor Impact research team editor.

On 15 September at 2 p.m., there would be a press conference to present the High Commissioner’s report on right to privacy in the digital age – how artificial intelligence affects human rights. Speakers would be Peggy Hicks, Director of Thematic Engagement; and Tim Engelhardt, Human Rights Officer, Rule of Law and Democracy Section.

On 16 September at 9:30 a.m., the World Meteorological Organization would release its United in Science multi-agency report on greenhouse gases and climate change. Speakers would be Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the WMO; and Juerg Luterbacher, Chief Scientist of the WMO.

On 16 September at 11 a.m., the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi would present its latest report The Façade of Normalization, where speakers would be Doudou Diène, Chair; and Françoise Hampson, Commissioner.

On 16 September at 2 p.m., the OHCHR would launch the report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Speakers would be Marta Valiñas, Chairperson of the Mission; and Francisco Cox Vial, Member.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that usually, Dr. Tedros’ briefings on COVID-19 were on Wednesdays, but this week it would be held today at 4 p.m., with a group of special guests. A media advisory had been shared with the press corps. Mr. Lindmeier could not provide details on when press conferences would start to be held physically at the WHO.

Mr. Lindmeier also informed that on 17 September, the WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) at 2 p.m. would issue a joint estimate on work-related disease and injury burdens. A media advisory would be sent out today.

Mr. LeBlanc informed that the Committee in the Rights of the Child was concluding this morning its review of the report of Poland. Eswatini and Switzerland would be reviewed next.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which had opened its twenty-first session the previous day, would conclude this afternoon at 3 p.m. its review of the report of Brazil. The Committee would also review a report by Panama and additional information by Spain and France.

Finally, Mr. LeBlanc informed that the Conference on Disarmament had officially closed its 2021 session on 10 September.

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