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PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons and representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the World Health Organization, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Impact of a climate crisis on the world’s most vulnerable children

Paloma Escudero, Global Director of Communications and Advocacy at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and head of UNICEF’s delegation at COP27, speaking from Sharm el-Sheikh, stated that at COP27 she was working with youth climate activists from around the world to put spotlight on the impact of the climate crisis on the most vulnerable children. UNICEF warned that this year had brought overwhelming flooding to at least 27.7 million children in 27 countries worldwide. A large majority of the 27.7 million children affected by flooding in 2022 were among the most vulnerable and at high risk of a multitude of threats including death by drowning, disease outbreaks, lack of safe drinking water, malnutrition, disruption in learning, and violence.

In Pakistan, for example, which Ms. Escudero had visited the previous week, the worst floods in 100 years had killed at least 615 children, and left 10 million children in need of immediate, lifesaving support. The floods had contaminated drinking water, which was spawning deadly water-borne diseases such as acute watery diarrhea, which compounded already acute malnutrition. Estimates suggested that close to 1.6 million children in flood areas could be suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The stagnant water was a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, increasing the risk of malaria and dengue. Ms. Escudero emphasized that Pakistan was drowning in the world’s inaction. Pakistan’s floods had been made worse by climate change, international climate scientists concluded. In Africa, just like in Pakistan, children were paying the price for a climate disaster not of their making, said Ms. Escudero. 

From COP27, UNICEF was challenging world leaders to respond at an unprecedented scale. Governments and big business had to prevent a climate catastrophe by rapidly reducing emissions. UNICEF urged leaders to take immediate action to protect children from climate devastation by adapting the critical social services they rely on. Children also had to be prepared for the changing world by educating them on climate change, teaching them how to respond to disasters and equipping them with green skills for future jobs. Finally, the previous year, developed countries had agreed to double support for adaptation to USD 40 billion a year by 2025. At COP27, they had to present a credible roadmap with clear milestones on how this would be funded, as a step to delivering at least USD 300 billion per year for adaptation by 2030. People with power had to start acting.

More details are available here.

Responding to questions from the media, Ms. Escudero said that one had to be in Pakistan to understand the scope of the devastation; the enormity of the catastrophe in Pakistan was overwhelming. UNICEF’s delegation at COP27 had 37 youth climate activists, she specified, including Egyptian, Saheli, and Pakistani activists. Vanessa Nakate, a Ugandan activist, was also part of UNICEF’s delegation. It was hoped that more young people would be included in countries’ delegations at future COPs.

Call for release of jailed blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah in Egypt

Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), informed that High Commissioner Volker Türk today expressed deep regret that the Egyptian authorities had not yet released blogger and activist Alaa Abdel Fattah, whose life was reportedly at imminent risk after a seven-month hunger strike while in Wadi El Natrun prison.

“I urge the Egyptian Government to immediately release Abdel Fattah from prison and provide him with the necessary medical treatment,” the High Commissioner said. He also called on the Egyptian authorities to fulfil their human rights obligations and immediately release all those arbitrarily detained, including those in pre-trial detention, as well as those unfairly convicted. No one should be detained for exercising their basic human rights or defending those of others.

Full statement can be read here.

Answering to journalists’ questions, Ms. Shamdasani said that at least 151 detainees were being currently investigated by the supreme state prosecution. Back in April, following a presidential pardon, hundreds of detainees had been released, but new arrests were continuing to take place in Egypt at a fast pace, said Ms. Shamdasani. The High Commissioner had stressed the importance of civil society’s participation in COP27. It was also hoped that this event would help improve the human rights situation in the country. Alaa Abdel Fattah ought to be urgently released and provided necessary medical attention, stressed Ms. Shamdasani, informing that the High Commissioner had spoken to the Egyptian authorities on 4 November.

UN Secretary-General, who was in Egypt now, had raised the issue of human rights during an informal meeting with the Egyptian authorities, added Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service.

Deadly attacks against IDP camps in Syria

Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR was gravely concerned by a series of deadly ground-based strikes and airstrikes that had stricken several camps for internally displaced persons in Idlib on 8 November, amid worrying signs of a fresh escalation of hostilities in north-western Syria.

OHCHR had verified the killing of at least seven civilians and the wounding of at least 27 others.

The upsurge in fighting and the return to violence were cause for alarm. As in previous escalations, civilians were the ones paying an unacceptable price. It was essential that all parties to the conflict strictly abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law to take constant care to spare the civilian population and civilian objects in the conduct of hostilities. OHCHR emphasised to all parties to the conflict that indiscriminate attacks were prohibited by international humanitarian law and, depending on the circumstances, may further amount to war crimes.

In a response to questions, Mr. Laurence said that there was information that IDP camps had been affected, even if not directly targeted. This could lead to a further displacement, he said. OHCHR was concerned for all civilians, including internally displaced persons, who might be caught up in this horrific situation.

Full OHCHR statement is here.

Announcements

Alessandra Vellucci, on behalf of the Human Rights Council, informed that the Universal Periodic Review Working Group would today review the reports of Tunisia and Morocco, while the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel , was continuing its public hearings from 2 pm today, which would be webcast live at webtv.un.org.

David Whitbourn, for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), said that the 19th CITES COP would take place in Panama City from 14 to 25 November. One of the key discussions would be on how CITES could help stop the zoonotic transmission of diseases. New World Wildlife Trade Report would also be released at the 19th COP, informed Mr. Whitbourn. There were about one million species currently threatened by extinction, he said.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed about an embargoed media briefing at 3 pm today on the 2022 Global Vaccine Market Report. The report would be coming out on 9 November.

Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that on 13 November at COP27, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) would be launching its Green Technology Book, a press release on which would be sent out on 10 November.

Finally, Ms. Vellucci informed that the Committee Against Torture was beginning this morning the review of the report of Somalia.

 

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