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REGULAR 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, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria and the Interparliamentary Union.

Women in parliament

Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), launched this year’s edition of Women in Parliament, the IPU’s annual analysis of women’s participation in parliaments based on the previous year’s elections. For the first time ever, women now made up more than a quarter of parliamentarians worldwide. The global average of women in parliament had reached 25.5 percent, representing a yearly increase of 0.6 percent compared to 2019. Although that was an all-time high, progress was still painstakingly slow. At the current rate, it would take another 50 years before achieving gender parity in parliament. An all-time high of 58 women held speaker roles in 2020, an increase of one from the previous year, representing a global average of 20.9 percent.

The COVID-19 pandemic had shown that women were at the forefront of the response. But although 70 percent of health, care and service workers were women, they were represented by a mere 25.5 percent of the world’s parliamentarians. As people had been obliged to stay at home, online violence against women had become even more widespread and had been a particular threat for women in politics. On the positive side, technology-driven parliamentary practices such as virtual voting and sittings may helped members to juggle careers and raising children.

Mr. Chungong stressed that well-designed and ambitious gender quotas remained a constant and critical success factor for women to be better represented in parliament. Electoral gender quotas had been applied in 25 of the 57 countries that had parliamentary renewals in 2020, and on average, parliaments with quotas had elected 11.8 percent more women to single and lower chambers and 7.4 percent more women to upper chambers.

Thomas Fitzsimons, for the Interparliamentary Union (IPU), said that the report on women in parliaments and a related press release had already been shared in English, whereas the French versions would be sent out shortly. Moreover, on 10 March, the IPU would share its annual report on women in government.

More information and the full Women in Parliament report can be found here.

Replying to questions, Mr. Chungong said that the United States had jumped from the 82nd to the 67th position in global rankings, out of the 192 countries ranked. For the first time, the US Senate was presided by a woman, Vice President Kamala Harris. The Americas as a region were a global leader with over 32 percent of women in parliaments; the US and a number of small Caribbean states had recorded substantive increases in women’s representation. The Middle East and North Africa region continued to lag behind, while the strongest concern was for the Pacific region, where Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea had no women in parliament. Mr. Chungong stressed the need to have a zero-tolerance policy towards violence against women, be it in parliaments or everyday life. Answering a question, he also clardified that the data for Venezuela referred to the 2015 elections.

COVID-19 vaccine tracker

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), informed that OCHA today presented an online dashboard to track deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines in countries in humanitarian crises. The COVID-19 Data Explorer gave an overview of the impact of COVID-19 and showed how many vaccine doses were allocated and delivered, either through COVAX, other donations or procured by the country itself, and how many doses had been administered in each country. So far, 13 crisis countries had received over 12 million vaccine doses; less than 500,000 doses were estimated to have been administered. 

The dashboard can be accessed here: COVID-19 Data Explorer (humdata.org)

Killings and protests in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, Iran

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), condemned use of force violations in recent weeks by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and state security forces against unarmed fuel couriers and protesters belonging to the Baluch minority, which had reportedly led to the killing of at least 12 individuals, including at least two minors.

According to some unconfirmed estimated, as many as 23 people may have been killed in all. Precise verification of the death toll had been made more difficult following disruptions of local mobile data networks. OHCHR was deeply concerned by the widespread shutdown of the internet across several cities in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, with the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what was happening there. OHCHR also deplored the systematic intentional use of lethal force by Iranian border officials, especially against border couriers from the Kurdish and Baluch minorities, and called for immediate measures to end the impunity that perpetuated that practice. During 2020, a total of 59 Kurdish couriers were reported to have been killed by border officials in provinces in the north-west of Iran.

Under international human rights standards, firearms should only be used to defend against the imminent threat of death or serious injury and intentional lethal use of firearms is only justified when strictly unavoidable to protect life.

The briefing note is here.

Crackdown on protesters in Algeria

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR was very concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Algeria and the continued and increasing crackdown on members of the pro-democracy Hirak movement.

Protests, which had been continuing online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, had resumed on the streets in recent weeks, with the authorities responding in the same repressive manner seen in 2019 and 2020.

Journalists had been arrested for covering or reporting on the protest movement, and 16 independent online media outlets known for their critical reporting had been blocked. Vaguely worded provisions of the Algerian Penal Code were being used to unduly restrict freedom of expression and prosecute people expressing dissenting opinions.

OHCHR called upon the Algerian authorities to stop using violence against peaceful protestors and cease arbitrary arrests and detentions. OHCHR also urged the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those arbitrarily arrested or detained for allegedly supporting Hirak and drop all charges against them.

OHCHR briefing note can be found here.

Savage attack on an LGBT activist in Montenegro

Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR was appalled by an attack earlier this week on a member of the LGBTI community in Montenegro, which according to local activists, had borne all the hallmarks of a hate crime.

According to information available, the man - a member of an NGO called LGBT Forum Progress – had been attacked by two assailants on 3 March in the capital, Podgorica, reportedly suffering cuts to his genitalia, face, and hands, and a cross had been cut into his chest. OHCHR welcomed the fact that the attack had been widely condemned, including by the country’s political leaders. The police had launched an investigation and urged the authorities to ensure that the investigation be thorough, independent and effective and that those responsible be brought swiftly to account.

The full briefing note is here.

Princess Latifa

Responding to a question on the missing Dubai princess, Rupert Colville, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), confirmed that OHCHR had held discussions with the representatives of the United Arab Emirates in Geneva, but there was nothing specific to report. Proof of life had been requested but had not been received yet.

Activities of the Special Envoy for Syria

Jenifer Fenton, for the Office of the Special Envoy for Syria (OSE), informed that on 8 March, the Special Envoy would participate in a Security Council Arria-formula meeting, from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. Geneva time. The event entitled “Ensuring the Full, Equal and Meaningful Participation of Women in UN-led Peace Processes” would be co-hosted by the Permanent Missions of Ireland, Mexico, Kenya, Tunisia, and the United States. The registration link is http://bit.ly/3dYZRL5.

Ms. Fenton also informed that in this month that the Syrian conflict marked a decade, Special Envoy Pedersen was scheduled to brief the Security Council on 15 March.

Other announcements

Fadéla Chaib, for the World Health Organization (WHO), announced a press conference on 9 March at 4 p.m. at which the WHO and partners would present the report Global, regional and national estimates for intimate partner violence against women and global and regional estimates for non-partner sexual violence against women. The detailed report included data from the largest ever study on violence against women and covered the period from 2000 to 2018, updating the previous estimated from 2013. A media advisory and an embargoed report would be sent out shortly.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed that, on the International Women’s Day, UNCTAD would organize an online discussion around a new study called Multinational Enterprises and the International Transmission of Gender Policies and Practices. That would be an online event on 8 March, from 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Issues to be addressed included: how benefits associated with FDI also translated into more gender-equal labour market outcomes; which polices could enable gender equality in FDI host countries; what was the role of domestic labour market legislation in promoting women participation in the economy, etc. The programme of the event is available here, and registration can be done here.

Alessandra Vellucci informed the date of the next public plenary of the Conference on Disarmament would be announced at a later stage.

The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would close today at 4 p.m. its 69th session, during which it had reviewed the reports of Finland and Latvia.

The Human Rights Committee, which was holding its 131st session, would review the report of Kenya the following week.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would open on 8 March at 12:30 p.m. its 24th session, during which it would review the report of Estonia.

 

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