REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid press briefing, which was attended by the spokespersons of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization, and the Human Rights Council.
Displacement in Burkina Faso
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), referred to the statement by the Secretary-General, in which he strongly condemned the appalling attack on the night of 11 June against the town of Seytenga, in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, which had resulted in the deaths of scores of civilians and the displacement of large numbers of people from their homes. The Secretary-General expressed his sincere condolences to the bereaved families of the victims, as well as to the people of Burkina Faso.
Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that UNHCR was alarmed at the recent escalation of violence against civilians by armed groups in Burkina Faso that had forced thousands to flee, placing humanitarian resources under strain as insecurity continued to plague the Central Sahel. Since 12 June, almost 16,000 Burkinabe, mostly women and children, had arrived in Dori, IN eastern Burkina Faso, after fleeing the brutal attack by armed men in Seytenga. More were expected to arrive in the coming days, while some 360 people were reported to have crossed into the Tillabéri region of Niger, adding to the 15,500 Burkinabe nationals already there who had been forced to flee and were already present.
UNHCR was also working to identify new arrivals with protection needs, such as children and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and get them access to appropriate care.
Despite the acute and growing needs, UNHCR’s country budget requirements of USD 109.9 million for 2022 were only 20 per cent funded so far. UNHCR called on the international community for greater solidarity and support for Burkina Faso, including funding for humanitarian operations to save lives.
Full press release is available here.
Responding to questions, Mr. Saltmarsh said that nobody had claimed responsibility for this attack, and he could not provide more information on the assailants. Survivors spoke of men going door to door and committing atrocities. There was no confirmation that this attack was connected to the one of the previous year. The food situation in the region was also dire and help by international donors was much needed.
Responding to a question, Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), informed that out of the USD 591 million needed for the humanitarian response plan for Burkina Faso in 2022, only 91 million, or 15 percent, had been funded so far. Largest contributors were the United States, the Central Emergency Relief Fund, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands.
World Refugee Day
Matthew Saltmarsh, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that, ahead of the World Refugee Day, UNHCR informed that the numbers of the displaced people had been continuously growing over the past decade and had now surpassed 100 million. On a positive side, a number of refugees were voluntarily returning home, and over 80,000 stateless people had their status regulated in the past year, the highest number ever. UNHCR’s key message for the World Refugee Day was that everyone had the right to seek safety.
Responding to questions, Mr. Saltmarsh stressed that the vast majority of refugees were hosted by middle and lower-income countries, and the burden remained primarily theirs.
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), quoted the Secretary-General, who, in his message, said that protecting refugees was a responsibility we all shared.
He asked all to pledge to do more for refugees everywhere – and for the countries that hosted them while themselves facing a cascade of challenges.
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), stated that an unusually early and intense heatwave had spread up from North Africa through Europe. Although it was only mid-June, temperatures were more typical of those witnessed in Europe in July or August. In some parts of Spain and France, temperatures were more than 10°C higher than the average for this time of year. This was combined with drought in many parts of Europe. Mid-week, nearly one third of the American population was also under some form of heat advisory. The ongoing episodes followed a prolonged heatwave in India and Pakistan in March and April.
Ms. Nullis stressed that, because of the climate change, heatwaves were starting earlier and were becoming more frequent and more severe because of record concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. What we were witnessing today was a foretaste of the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projected that for 1.5°C of global warming, there would be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons, and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes would more often reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health, the report showed.
Adaptation was necessary, stressed Ms. Nullis. The WMO had co-sponsored Global Heat Health Information Network and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) had marked 14 June as Heat Action Day to raise awareness of how to #BeatTheHeat. The campaign addressed issues including how to recognize and prevent heat-related health risks at home, at work, during sports and leisure. Ms. Nullis said that city dwellers were particularly affected, and in Switzerland temperature differences between urban and rural areas were as much as six degrees, which was particularly noticeable at night.
Finally, Ms. Nullis informed that today was the World Day to Combat Drought and Desertification. Responding to questions, Ms. Nullis said that concrete actions could be taken by governments and individuals to address the climate change. The current heatwave in Europe had started in Africa, and should end by Sunday night. However, the fact that the current heatwave was ending soon did not mean that more such extreme temperatures would not repeat later in the summer. She also stressed that proactive steps could be taken to prevent and alleviate drought before it struck.
Carla Drysdale, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that 55 million people were affected by droughts every year. One region particularly affected by droughts at the moment was the Horn of Africa. Early action and response could avert a crisis, she stressed. WHO was specifically concerned about the situations in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda, where it was working to help prevent the outbreaks of infectious diseases such as measles and cholera. Many people had to make choices between affording food or health care. Access to clean drinking water, sanitation and hygiene were needed.
Human Rights Council
Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), informed that the Council today was continuing discussion with the special expert on discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender equality, Victor Madrigal-Borloz. After that, the Council would discuss the issue of girls’ and young women’s activism, followed by a discussion on peaceful protests in crisis situations, and access to resources. At the end of today, the Council would discuss a report on access to health care for persons with leprosy. On 20 June, the Council would hear from special experts on violence against women, independence on judges and lawyers, among others.
Mr. Gomez also informed that the Commission of Inquiry on Syria had just released a paper, “Syria’s Missing and Disappeared: Is there a Way Forward?”, in which the Commission called on Member States to act now on behalf of the millions who were looking for their missing loved ones in Syria. The paper contained the Commission’s recommendations for a mechanism with an international mandate.
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Information Service (UNIS), informed that today at 12 noon, there would be a hybrid press conference by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions on the occasion of closing of the 2022 Conferences of the Parties. Speakers would be Rolph Payet, Executive Secretary, Secretariat of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions, and Christine Fuell, Senior Programme Officer for the Rotterdam Convention
On 22 June at 2:30 pm, the Permanent Mission of Spain in Geneva/Club de Madrid would host a press briefing with Danilo Türk, a former President of Slovenia, and President of Club de Madrid and Member of the High-level Advisory Board for Effective Multilateralism. President Türk would share his reflections on the links between the war in Ukraine, multilateral peace and security mechanisms and the retreat of democracy, as well as the proposals that have come out of Club de Madrid´s recent work on this front.
On 23 June at 2 pm, there would be a hybrid press conference by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of climate change, Ian Fry.
18 June would be the first day to combat hate speech, informed Ms. Vellucci. She referred to the Secretary-General’s campaign to combat hate speech. Hate speech was a danger to everyone, and combating it had to be a job for everyone.
Ms. Vellucci also informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which had opened this week its 82nd session, was reviewing today the report of Namibia.
The Conference on Disarmament would announce at a later stage the date of its next public plenary meeting, which would still be held under the presidency of Ambassador Tao Song Han of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.