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UN Geneva Press Briefing

Rolando Gomez, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by representatives and spokespersons of the World Health Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization, and the Human Rights Council.

Report on Enforced Disappearances in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Marta Hurtado, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that a report published today by the UN Human Rights Office vividly detailed the ongoing suffering of victims of enforced disappearance and abduction by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The report called for renewed efforts for truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence. The report was based on interviews with 38 male and 42 female victims of abduction and enforced disappearance, including relatives of forcibly disappeared people. The testimonies laid bare the severe and sustained psychological harm and emotional suffering, as well as the economic impact, such violations had on their lives.

The report, entitled These wounds do not heal’, detailed enforced disappearances and abductions dating back to 1950, including arbitrary detentions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in some cases following forcible repatriations from neighbouring countries; abductions of nationals of the Republic of Korea during and after the Korean War; non-repatriation of prisoners of war from the Korean War; and abductions or enforced disappearances of nationals from Japan and other States. “These deeply tragic stories of lives ripped apart by State-sponsored abductions and enforced disappearances demand action,” said UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk.

Video of the High Commissioner’s comments can be viewed here.

More details on the report are available here.

The OHCHR did not have a total number of enforced disappearances, explained Ms. Hurtado in response to a question, stressing that the DPRK was one of the most hermetic countries in the world. Ms. Hurtado said that it was part of the OHCHR’s mandate to engage with every Member State; there were regular exchanges with the DPRK Mission in Geneva; an OHCHR office had existed in Seoul since 2016. OHCHR wished to engage with the DPRK Government with the objective of improving the human rights situation in the country. OHCHR was asking that due investigations take place to establish accountability for the disappearances and ensure that justice be served. Enforced disappearances were an ongoing crime, continuing until the disappeared person’s whereabouts were known, stressed Ms. Hurtado. The report did not include cases of US soldiers missing from the 1950s war, she explained.

One year of the state of emergency in El Salvador

Marta Hurtado, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the state of emergency had now been in force in El Salvador for a year, during which the authorities had taken several measures that raised serious human rights concerns.

While the OHCHR understood the serious challenges posed by gang violence and the State’s duty to ensure security, it was also the State’s duty to do so in compliance with international human rights law. Over the past year, at least 65,000 people had been detained, some of which might amount to arbitrary detention, as they appeared to be based on poorly substantiated investigations, on the physical appearance or social background of the detainees. Conditions in frequently overcrowded places of detention were also deeply concerning, and there were allegations of violations of prisoners’ rights, such as prolonged solitary confinement and inmates with chronic disease not receiving their prescribed medication.

OHCHR called on the authorities in El Salvador to ensure people were not arrested without sufficient legal authorization and ensure that those detained be afforded all fundamental safeguards as required under international human rights law. OHCHR also called for the national human rights institution o have an unrestricted access to all prison facilities so it can conduct regular, independent reporting on prison conditions.

Full statement is here.

Quadripartite call to action for “One Health for a safer world”

Dr. Francesco Branca, Director for Nutrition and Food Safety at the World Health Organization (WHO), said that the principals of the four “quadripartite” organizations – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), and the WHO had met in Geneva the previous day to issue a joint call to action for “One Health for a safer world”. “One Health” was an integrated, unifying approach that aimed to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals and ecosystems. It recognized that the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment were closely linked and interdependent.

The call to action by the four principals, issued on 27 March, stressed the need for enhanced collaboration and commitment to translate the “One Health” approach into policy action in all countries. The Quadripartite leaders urged all countries and key stakeholders to prioritize “One Health” in the international political agenda, increase understanding and advocate for the adoption and promotion of the enhanced intersectoral health governance. States should make sure that adequate resources were there, and that intersectoral workforces were formed and coordinated regularly. They were also invited to strengthen and sustain prevention of pandemics and health threats at source, targeting activities and places that increase the risk of zoonotic spillover between animals to humans, and to encourage and strengthen “One Health” scientific knowledge and evidence creation and exchange. Finally, explained Dr. Branca, Member States were called upon to increase investment and financing of “One Health” strategies and plans ensuring scaled up implementation at all levels, including funding for prevention of health threats at source.

More details are available here.

Answering questions, Dr. Branca said that avian influenza was indeed one of the diseases that would be covered by the “One Health” approach. He explained that biosecurity in medical labs was not part of the “One Health” discussions at this stage.

Labour market impact of the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye

Maurizio Bussi, Director, Priority Action Programme on Decent Work in Crises and Post-Crisis Situations at the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that the ILO was issuing two separate technical briefs on labour market impact of the earthquakes in Syria and Türkiye, one with a technical analysis of the developments thus far, and another with recommendations for action by the two governments. Some 658,000 workers in Türkiye were currently out of work because of the earthquakes. ILO estimated that the affected workers were losing about USD 230 per month, which aggregated to USD 150 million per month in the damaged areas. Mr. Bussi said that in addition to employment losses, in the ten provinces of Türkiye, there were some concerns with occupational safety and health, including a possible surfacing of child labour.

In Syria, after the 12 years of civil war had had a huge impact on the economy, some 70,000 workers had lost their jobs as a result of the February earthquakes. Those job losses affected, directly and indirectly, as many as 750,000 people. In Syria, USD 5.7 million were lost in income per month. More than seven million people of working age lived in the most affected governorates and were thus most directly affected; some 2.7 million had been in employment before the earthquakes, explained Mr. Bussi. The ILO report was quite data rich, and its recommendations included promoting employment-rich infrastructure reconstruction works and further investments in skills developments.

More details are available here.

Human Rights Council

Pascal Sim, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that the Council had received a total of 43 draft resolutions. Members States would be called to take action on them during the two last days of the 52nd session, on 3 and 4 April. Seventeen of those draft resolutions were on country situations and 26 were on thematic issues; 18 included mandate renewals. There was also a draft proposal to create a new mandate on Haiti.

Since 24 March, informed Mr. Sim, the Human Rights Council had adopted the final Universal Periodic Review (UPR) reports of ten countries: Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Algeria, the United Kingdom, India, Finland, and the Philippines. It continued today with the adoption of the final UPR reports of Brazil, Poland, and the Netherlands this morning, and South Africa this afternoon.

Starting today and until 30 March, the Council would hold general debates on several items on its agenda, namely Items 6, 7, 8 and 9. On 29 March at 4 pm, the Council would hold a debate to commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Finally, on 30 March, in the afternoon, at 4 pm, there would be a dialogue on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to be followed by a discussion on the situation of human rights in Mali.

On 29 March, the Security Council would hold a meeting on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said Rolando Gomez in a response to a question.


Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that today at 3 pm there would be a global virtual press briefing by Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE). Multiple issues had been discussed by SAGE; COVID-19 was not the only topic on the agenda.

On 29 March at 10:30 am, there would be a hybrid briefing on the increase of trauma injuries across Eastern Mediterranean Region, and WHO response and management. Speakers would be Dr. Rick Brennan, Regional Emergency Director of the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region; Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, WHO Representative for the Occupied Palestinian territory; and Dr. Sara Halimah, Trauma Care Specialist for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Mr. Lindmeier also informed that the WHO EPI-WIN Webinar on avian influenza H5: its evolution and associated risk would be held on 29 March at 12:30 pm.

 Finally, he said that a regular press briefing with Dr. Tedros would be held in the afternoon on 29 March.

Marta Hurtado, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), informed that the High Commissioner for Human Rights was in New York today, where he would address the General Assembly on the issue of the missing persons in Syria. Rolando Gomez, for the UN information Service (UNIS), said that the Secretary-General would address the same informal meeting of the plenary to hear a briefing on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Mr. Gomez said that the previous day, the Secretary-General had delivered remarks at the General Assembly event marking the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Today, he would speak at the Security Council on threats to safety and security caused by terrorism.

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances would conclude its 24th session on 31 March, at 5:30 pm, when it would issue its concluding observations on the four countries reviewed during the session: Zambia, Argentina, Germany, and Costa Rica.

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families had begun this morning its review of the report of Morocco.

The Conference on Disarmament was having this morning a public plenary meeting. At the end of this week, the Conference would complete the first part of this year session.

The first-ever Day of Zero Waste would be marked on 30 March. This Day aimed to promote sustainable consumption and production patterns and raise awareness about how zero-waste initiatives contributed to the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.