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REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

Bi-Weekly Briefing

Rhéal LeBlanc, Chief of the Press and External Relations Section at the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, which was attended by spokespersons of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Refugee Agency, the World Meteorological Organization, and the World Health Organization.

Killings of displaced people by armed groups in eastern DRC

Boris Cheshirkov, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), stated that the UNHCR was appalled by a series of deadly attacks by armed groups on displaced people in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the latest incident, 26 people had been killed on 28 November at Ndjala site in the Drodro health zone in Ituri Province. Ten women and nine children were among the dead. The attackers had used guns, machetes, and knives.

Elsewhere in the east of the country, an armed group had attacked a site for displaced people at Mikenge town in South Kivu on 14 November, killing six children and a pregnant woman. Eight others had been wounded by machetes and bullets. 

Those attacks, which stemmed in part from inter-communal tensions, compound problems faced by people who were internally displaced. The theft of livestock, which often accompanied the raids, deepened economic insecurity and the violence added to the distress of people who had been forced to flee their homes at least once. UNHCR called on all parties to respect the civilian and humanitarian character of displacement sites, where both IDPs and the local population were being attacked in their homes. Full briefing note is here.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), responding to questions, explained that the peacekeeping operation MONUSCO was doing all within its mandate to assist the security forces and help the affected populations. Mr. Cheshirkov said there were dozens of armed groups, even as many as 120, who were committing such attacks. A group called CODECO, which was committing extreme human rights violations, was possibly behind some of the latest atrocities; it was one of the most active groups in the Ituri Province.

Global seasonal climate update

Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that La Niña had developed for the second consecutive year and was expected to last into early 2022, impacting temperatures and precipitation. Most models indicated it was likely to be weak to moderate – slightly weaker than the 2020/2021 event. Despite the cooling influence of this naturally occurring climate phenomenon, temperatures in many parts of the world were expected to be above average because of the accumulated heat trapped in the atmosphere because of record high levels of greenhouse gases. The cooling impact of the 2020/2021 La Niña, which was typically felt in the second half of the event, meant that 2021 would be one of the ten warmest years on record, rather than the warmest year.

More information is available here.

COVID-19

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organizaton (WHO) informed that the final briefing of the World Health Assembly Special Session would take place after the closing on 1 December in the afternoon, which would be combined with a regular presser with COVID-19 updates. Today, a closed-door update on COVID-19 for Member States would be given by the WHO, as per regular weekly practice. A social media discussion with Dr. Mike Ryan and Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove would also be held today. In addition, a travel advisory regarding the new Omicron variant would be issued later today, he said.

Several journalists requested a dedicated press briefing for Geneva press corps by specialists on the Omicron variant as soon as possible, and also requested that technical documents on Omicron be shared with them as they come out.

Mr. Lindmeier, responding to questions, explained that the new variant was labeled as “high risk”, according to preliminary findings the WHO had. There might indeed be higher transmissibility and immunity breaks, but further details might be available in a couple of weeks. As long as there was no more certainty regarding this variant, the measures we already had in place and were known to work ought to be continued, such as wearing a mask and ensuring proper ventilation. While Omicron was high on the agenda right now, other variants were out there as well, reminded Mr. Lindmeier. The most severe cases were among those who were unvaccinated.

Journalists also asked about the measures applied by UN Geneva in response to the new cantonal measures. Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service, said that, at the Palais des Nations, the wearing of marks had been expanded to spaces inside the buildings, including when sitting at one’s desk. It was also important to continue to respect all other COVID-19 measures on the premises.

Mr. Lindmeier, in response to another question, said the deliberations at the WHA were progressing well, and it was expected that a draft decision should be ready towards the end of the session on 1 December. It was a Member State-driven assembly, the dynamics of which could change at any time, however. The website of the session was being updated regularly.

Geneva announcements

Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that on 2 December, the Global Humanitarian Overview 2022 would be launched, and an embargo press release had already been sent out. UN Emergency Coordinator Martin Griffiths would be in Geneva, and available for an embargoed press briefing on 1 December at 3 p.m.

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that World AIDS Day would be on 1 December. A hybrid-format commemoration would be held, with the participation of the WHO Director-General, among others. Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), referred to the Secretary-General’s message on this occasion, in which he said that it was still possible to end the epidemic by 2030, but that would require stepped up action and greater solidarity. The United Nations General Assembly had recently adopted a bold new plan to accelerate progress, including new targets for 2025.

A press briefing on malaria would take place on 2 December at 3 p.m., to present a new report on malaria, informed Mr. Lindmeier.

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UNCTAD would today publish its regular Global Trade Update. New UNCTAD estimates showed that global trade would reach about USD 28 trillion in 2021, indicating an increase of 11 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. Global trade growth had stabilized during the second half of 2021, but the outlook for 2022 was very uncertain, however, with mounting risks and concerns related to COVID-19's evolution and vaccine inequity.

Ms. Huissoud also announced that, on 8 December, UNCTAD would publish its Economic Development in Africa Report 2021, which would focus on the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) ou ZLECA in French. A press conference would be held on 8 December noon with the UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebecca Grynspan.

Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said that today at 3 p.m., the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) would hold a press briefing to present its report Measuring digital development: Facts and Figures 2021. Speakers would be Doreen Bogdan-Martin, Director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, and Maria Francesca Spatolisano, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology. 

Rhéal LeBlanc, speaking for the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), announced that the 168th session of the FAO Council had started on 29 November and would last until 3 December. The session could be followed online, via the FAO’s live webcast.

The Committee against Torture would close on 3 December its 72nd session and issue its concluding observations on the six countries reviewed during the session: Sweden, Kirghizstan, Nigeria, Lithuania, Serbia, and Bolivia.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would also close on 3 December its 105th session and issue its concluding observations on the five countries reviewed during the session: Switzerland, Singapore, Thailand, Denmark, and Chile.

Mr. LeBlanc said that today, 30 November, was the Day of Remembrance for All Victims of Chemical Warfare. In his message, the Secretary-General said that any use of chemical weapons was unacceptable and a clear violation of international law. The United Nations supported all efforts to uphold the norm against chemical weapons, and to relegate these dreadful weapons to history.

Finally, 2 December would be the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, informed Mr. LeBlanc, and on that occasion the Secretary-General had issued a message. In his message, the SG called on Member States, civil society, and the private sector to strengthen collective action to end the heinous practice of slavery, an evil which continues to blight our modern world. He recalled that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had recognized the connection between racism, discrimination, and human trafficking.

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