REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of Press and External Relations at theUnited Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the World Health Organization.
Launch of new UNAIDS report
Ben Phillips, Communication Director for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said that on 27 July – ahead of the international AIDS conference to be held in Montreal, Canada, from 29 July to 2 August and which could be followed remotely – UNAIDS would issue an update containing the latest data on the state of the global AIDS response. The report was titled “In Danger”, pointing to a worrying turn in how the global AIDS response had been affected by multiple crises, from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the war in Ukraine, and how that posed risks to human life and the economy and could cause a sizable social disaster if action was not taken. Although the data was under embargo until the launch, accredited journalists were invited to a hybrid press conference on Friday, 22 July, at 2 p.m., where they would receive the embargoed data and report in advance.
Refugee repatriation convoy leaves Angola for the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Boris Cheshirkov, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that, in the first such operation since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, UNHCR had that day restarted the voluntary repatriation of Congolese refugees living in Angola. The first convoy of 88 Congolese refugees – organized by UNHCR, together with the Governments of both countries and in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other partners – had departed from the Lôvua settlement in northern Angola and was expected to arrive in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 20 July, when the returnees would head to various destinations in the west of the country, including Kasai, Kasai Central, Kwilu, Sankuru, Lomami, Lualaba and Kinshasa. Although conflict continued in the east, improved security in the west had re-opened the possibility for Congolese to return to their country in dignity and safety. More than 600 Congolese refugees had already expressed willingness to be repatriated.
UNHCR-Angola provided assistance to some 57,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly in urban areas. In 2022, the operation had received US$ 10.3 million of the US$ 29.8 million needed. Meanwhile, UNHCR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had received just 19 per cent of the US$ 225 million required to respond to the growing needs of internally displaced persons.
Globally, nearly 430,000 people had been able to return home in safety and dignity in 2021, a 71 per cent increase over the previous year. However, that number represented only 2 per cent of the world’s refugees.
The full text of the briefing note can be found here.
In response to journalists’ questions, Mr. Cheshirkov said that, while most refugees wanted nothing more than to go home, for them to do so, the conditions for a return in safety and dignity had to be in place. In the case under discussion, UNHCR has assessed that the security situation in the western areas where the convoy was heading had changed fundamentally since 2017. UNHCR would continue to advocate for full support services to be provided to returnees so that they could rebuild their lives. In addition, UNCHR gave returnees cash assistance, calculated based on the local landscape, to cover basic needs, for instance the first month’s rent and essential household items, as well as help obtaining civil documentation and enrolling children in school. A procedure was in place, including screening and interviews by UNHCR and other entities, to ensure that repatriation was indeed voluntary.
Monkeypox and COVID-19
Replying to questions from journalists, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said that 69 countries from all regions of the world had reported cases of monkeypox. While the weekly briefing to be held on 20 July would deal primarily with refugee and migrant health, WHO Director-General would also provide an overview on monkeypox. WHO guidance on the naming of viruses was intended to avoid the stigmatization of places and animals.
Regarding COVID-19, she said that cases, as well as deaths, were on the rise around the world due to a relaxation of mitigating measures in many places. Amid that increase, the critical indicators the authorities should consider included the hospitalization rate, the death rate and the vaccination status of the most vulnerable. In Africa, WHO was particularly concerned about the countries with very low vaccination rates. Even though the vaccine was now available in most places, the wait for access had tended to generate disappointment and disinterest, making people less likely to seek vaccination. WHO urged Governments around the world to continue conducting PCR tests and submitting materials for genomic testing so that the development of new variants could be better tracked.
Syria talks in Switzerland
Answering a question on the suitability of Switzerland as the host of future talks on Syria, Mr. LeBlanc said the United Nations Office at Geneva always stood ready to host such talks, and the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, was continuing his efforts to organize another meeting of the members of the Constitutional Committee. He added that Special Envoy Pedersen was expected to present his next report to the Security Council next week, which could include details on next steps in the constitutional talks.
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service, announced that on Tuesday, 19 July, at 2 p.m., the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) would be holding a hybrid press conference on the current heatwave in Europe and its impacts. Speakers would include Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General; Robert Stefanski, WMO Chief of Applied Climate Services; and Maria Neira, Director of Environment and Health at the World health Organization.
Mr. LeBlanc also announced that the United Nations in Geneva would be present at a mass gathering of Swiss scouts, which would begin in the Goms Valley, in the Canton of Valais, on 23 July. This type of event only took place every 14 years, and some 30,000 scouts would be in attendance. Various United Nations entities would be present on the United Nations stand devoted to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals. The UN would also deliver a workshop on human rights (inclusion and diversity) in French, German and Italian for some 1,000 scouts. A press release would be issued shortly.
Mr. LeBlanc said that the Committee against Torture would be reviewing the report of the State of Palestine, in the morning of 19 July and on the afternoon of 20 July, and the report of Botswana, at 10 a.m. on 20 July and at 3 p.m. on 21 July.
He also said that on 19 July, at 3 p.m., the Human Rights Committee would hold a short public meeting devoted to follow-up to its concluding observations.
In response to other questions from journalists, Mr. LeBlanc said that the renovation works in the area of the Palais des Nations typically occupied by accredited journalists should be completed in the fall, and journalists could expect to move to their new offices in late November or early December 2022.
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