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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Michele Zaccheo, Chief of the Television, Radio and Webcast Section within the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the World Health Organization, World Meteorological Organization, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the World Trade Organization.

Update on Signing of the Black Sea Grain Initiative

Michele Zaccheo, Chief of the Television, Radio and Webcast Section within the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, said that the Secretary-General was in Istanbul today as part of the United Nations efforts to ensure full global access to Ukraine’s food products and the Russian Federation’s food and fertiliser products.

The signature of the agreement, also referred to as the United Nations initiative on global access to Ukrainian food products and Russian food and fertilizer was expected to take place this afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Istanbul time (3:30 p.m. Geneva time, 9:30 a.m. New York time). A broadcast of the signing would be carried on UN Web TV as fed by the host broadcaster TRT via partners at the European Broadcasting Union. UN Web TV would livestream the feed and links would be shared with accredited news media to a Google Drive containing the recorded audio-visual material at broadcast quality.

Representatives of Ukrainian and Russian parties would attend the event, along with President Erdogan of Türkiye and Secretary-General António Guterres.

Updated WHO COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy

Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that an updated version of the WHO COVID-19 vaccination strategy would be released this afternoon or on Monday.

The updated strategy stressed the importance of achieving a 100 per cent vaccination rate for vulnerable groups, such as elderly persons and health care workers; looked at who should receive booster vaccinations; and examined how to increase vaccination rates in countries that were not yet delivering even the first few doses of the vaccine to the most vulnerable groups.

In response to questions on monkeypox, Ms. Harris said the committee analysing the disease was still finalising their advice. Their advice was not time-bound.

There was a considerable number of countries that had yet to reach a 70 per cent vaccination rate.

Brutal Attacks in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Eastern Provinces

Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR), said that UNHCR was deeply saddened and gravely concerned by the accumulating death toll and suffering of civilians, including forcibly displaced people, in brutal attacks in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s eastern provinces.

This month, simultaneous attacks by armed groups in Ituri Province had left 11 people dead and 250 homes looted and burned. Between February and June this year, UNHCR and partners had recorded over 800 deaths from firearm attacks and machete raids on local communities in Ituri. At least 715 of these victims had been sheltering in internal displacement sites or were killed as they returned home. In June alone, 97 returning or displaced people were killed in attacks that included abductions, looting and burning of homes. More than 20,700 people had been driven from their homes by raids, which were also fuelling acute food insecurity in Ituri.

UNHCR’s operation in Democratic Republic of the Congo had received just 19 per cent of the US$225 million required to respond to the increasing needs of refugees and displaced people. Significant additional resources were urgently required to match the soaring needs of newly displaced populations.

UNHCR called on all parties to immediately cease this senseless violence, which was forcing the displacement of tens of thousands. It also called on authorities to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, protect civilians and humanitarian workers from violence, and ensure that the perpetrators of violence were brought to justice immediately.

Read the full press briefing here.

In response to questions, Mr. Saltmarsh said that instability in the region had been rife for many years, fuelled by tussles over mineral resources, and a lack of judicial structures and infrastructure. There had been an alarming upsurge in the activities of armed groups, particularly M23, in the region in recent months. There were an estimated 120 armed groups active in the region.

UNHCR was calling for more financial assistance from the international community. Fuel and food prices were rising, making financial aid needed now more than ever. The international community needed work with the Government to secure an effective and

lasting peace process. The United Nations Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Huang Xia had recently urged the M23 group to disarm unconditionally, and encouraged countries to maintain dialogue towards peace.

If financial aid was not received, vitally needed UNHCR programmes would need to be cut. This included shelter for displaced persons; clean drinking water supply; core relief items such as blankets, sleeping mats, soap, and sanitary supplies; cash assistance; and support for cases of gender-based violence, which had been rampant in the region.

It was an extremely dangerous environment for humanitarian workers, and this was a big concern for UNHCR. There had been redeployments and changes in security resources in the region recently, and militant groups had sought to take advantage. This had led to innocent civilians becoming victims of violence.

Update on Heatwaves

Brigitte Perrin, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the high-pressure system which has led to record-breaking temperatures in the UK and France had moved east and was now sitting, a bit weaker, over southern Germany/western Austria.

Temperatures were forecast to drop over most of western Europe as this high-pressure system, which was responsible for the extraordinary high maximum temperatures this week, was losing strength. Ms. Perrin said that there could be days towards the end of next week with high maximum temperatures, in the 30°C range over France, Spain, Italy, southern Germany, Greece and the northern Balkans.

On Tuesday, 19 July, WMO recorded a new daily maximum temperature in the United Kingdom of 40.3°C. 39 recording stations across the United Kingdom had exceeded the previous highest daily temperature extreme. The new high exceeded the previous record set in Cambridge in 2019 by a remarkable 1.6°C. Northern and/or central Italy were forecast to endure temperatures of 38°C towards the end of this week.

Germany had recorded its hottest day of the year as temperatures reached 40.3°C, while Hungary and Italy had been hit with high temperatures reaching nearly 38°C. In the north of France, the city of Brest and north-western Brittany reached temperatures exceeding 40°C. Temperatures in Portugal reached 47°C on 14 July, a new record for July. In Spain and Portugal, over 1,000 deaths had been attributed to heat.

Wildfires had been raging in Spain, destroying 40,000 hectares of forest. Greece and Italy also had to fight against wildfires this week. In France, in the Department of Gironde over 14,000 hectares had been consumed by wildfires since Tuesday. The wildfires in France had led to a degradation of air quality.

In Morocco, several wildfires had been reported in mid-July in at least three provinces, consuming over 1,600 hectares of forest, damaging homes and killing at least one person.

In Texas, United States, at least 21 homes had been destroyed by wildfires. On Wednesday, the United States Forest Service said that 99 per cent of Texas was experiencing some level of drought. In Yosemite National Park in California, a wildfire had consumed 1,500 hectares.

WTO Aid for Trade Global Review

Fernando Puchol, for the World Trade Organization (WTO), said that this year’s Aid for Trade Global Review event would take place from 27 to 29 July. The event would feature over 50 sessions held in-person at the WTO’s headquarters in Geneva and online.

The theme of the event was "Empowering Connected, Sustainable Trade”. It would examine the opportunities that digital connectivity provided for economic and export diversification in developing and least-developed countries, and explore how the Aid for Trade initiative could help empower various economic actors, such as women.

A provisional programme for the Global Review was available on the WTO website, and a final version would be prepared by early next week.

The opening plenary would take place on Wednesday at 9am. Speakers would be Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, WTO Director General; Gerd Müller, Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization; and Mathias Cormann, Secretary-General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The Global Review would also feature the launch of a WTO publication on Aid for Trade, which would draw on the responses to the 2022 edition of the OECD-WTO Monitoring and Evaluation Exercise.

Journalists wishing to attend the Global Review in person were requested to send an email to fernando.puchol@wto.org.

Daniel Pruzin, WTO spokesperson, would be briefing on Monday, 25 July at 5:30 p.m. following the meeting of the General Council. This meeting could be attended remotely or in-person.

State of the Climate in the Latin America and Caribbean Report Release

Brigitte Perrin, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that WMO was releasing at 4 p.m. today Geneva time the State of the Climate in the Latin America and Caribbean report at a high-level panel event in Cartagena, Colombia.

The report detailed extreme weather and climate change impacts in the region in 2021. It gave information on climate indicators including temperatures, ocean heat and acidification, sea level rise and glaciers, as well as on extreme events like tropical cyclones, heatwaves, drought, heavy precipitation and cold waves. It also highlighted the impacts of the changing climate on agriculture and food security, migration and displacement, socio-economic development, the environment and ecosystem services.

Announcements

Michele Zaccheo, Chief of the Television, Radio and Webcast Section within the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, announced that UNAIDS would hold a hybrid press briefing today Friday, 22 July at 2 p.m., under embargo until 27 July, to launch a new report ahead of the 24th International AIDS Conference taking place in Montreal, Canada. The report presented powerful new data on the AIDS response. Speaking at the briefing from UNAIDS were Ben Phillips, Director ad interim, Communications; Mary Mahy, Director ad interim, Data for Impact; and Liana Moro, Technical Officer, Programme Monitoring and Reporting.

On 26 July at 10 a.m., the Committee Against Torture (CAT) would meet to discuss follow-up to its concluding observations, individual communications and reprisals against persons who have collaborated with the Committee. The Human Rights Committee would also meet on Wednesday, 27 July, at around 5 p.m., to end its current session.

 

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