PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
Rolando Gómez of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) in Geneva, chaired the hybrid briefing, attended by the spokespersons and representatives of the World Meteorological Organization, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Health Organization and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said on Wednesday the 17th of November, WMO would issue its annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which reported on the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other gases driving climate change. There would be a press conference held with Professor Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, which would be his last before he stood down at the end of the year. This October had been the hottest on record and it seemed almost certain that 2023 would be the warmest year on record. WMO would confirm this in their annual report, being released on 30 November. Antarctic sea ice was at a record low for the sixth consecutive month, which was also very concerning. Due to the concern about the speed of climate change, this week the French Government had convened a One Planet-Polar summit, which bought together scientists and policy makers, among others, to discuss what was happening in the Poles and glaciers, and the impact. The Summit would conclude in Paris today, with a leaders summit hosted by French President Macron, who would issue a Paris call for glaciers and poles.
Responding to questions, Ms. Nullis said the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin would be released under embargo either Monday or Tuesday. Ms. Nullis said the subject of climate asylum was outside of WMO’s mandate, but this issue would become more pertinent in the years to come. Responding to further questions, Ms. Nullis said the Copernicus Climate Service had the Era 5 data set, which had revealed that October was the warmest on record. WMO factored in six data sets into their global climate statements. It was provisional; the final temperature figures would only be available early January. WMO’s statement at COP28 would be the first consolidated report of all the data sets and would be the authoritative report.
Ms. Nullis said Cyclone Otis had gone from being classified as a tropical storm, to receiving the top level 5 status, making it one of the most rapidly intensifying hurricanes which had ever been seen. Significant research was being done in this area. One of the contributing factors was that Otis had passed over warm waters ahead of landfall. This year was seeing record sea surface temperatures, which meant there were a lot of warm waters. A similar case had been seen in Vanuatu. This was a real phenomenon which WMO was aware of.
Situation in the Gaza
Rolando Gómez for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said on Monday, at 9:30am in Geneva and across duty stations throughout the globe, the Secretary-General had invited personnel to observe a minute of silence to mourn and honour the colleagues who had been killed in Gaza, which tragically to date was 99 UN Staff.
Responding to questions, Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said yesterday a total of 65 trucks carrying food, medicines, bottled water, and hygiene products, as well as seven ambulances, had crossed from Egypt into Gaza via the Rafah crossing. This brought the total number of trucks which had entered Gaza since October 21 to 821. There were some issues with the crossing; although it had been used in recent years for a limited number of trucks, it was first and foremost a pedestrian crossing. OCHA was advocating with the authorities to reopen the Kerem Shalom crossing, which was designed for trucks and could accommodate many more vehicles.
Mr. Laerke said he did not have an overview of where all the trucks were. Most of the trucks were not UN trucks but belonged to the Red Crescent and non-governmental organisations. Currently, the trucks could not drive to the north, which was frustrating, as several hundred thousand people remained in the north. If there was a hell on earth today, it was Northern Gaza. People who remained there faced death, desperation, and darkness. The entire Gaza strip had been plunged into darkness since 11 October, when the entire electricity grid was shut down. OCHA advocated for a humanitarian ceasefire which covered the entire strip. Any such halt in the fighting and how it would work for humanitarian purposes would need to be coordinated with the United Nations. For this to be done safely, it would have to be agreed with all parties, in order to be truly effective.
Mr. Laerke said around 50,000 people had fled the north of Gaza towards the south. Many people were walking or pushing carts as there was no fuel. This could only make the situation of overcrowding in the UNRWA facilities worse. Some of the facilities were at four times the capacity, while others were at 10 times the capacity. There had been stories of one shower for 700 people. This gave an insight of the challenges of preserving people’s human dignity in this situation.
Responding to questions, Margaret Harris for the World Health Organization (WHO), said increasing numbers of hospitals were no longer functioning. There were now 20 hospitals out of action, and Al Shifa was coming under bombardment, as well as Rateesi hospital which was the only hospital providing paediatrics. In this hospital, there were numerous children on life support and receiving dialysis who could not be evacuated. There were now only 16 hospitals functioning, however these were providing the bare minimum of services, did not have adequate supplies, and were massively overcrowded. Many people had gone to the hospitals to shelter from the war, as hospitals should never be a target.
Rolando Gómez for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the procedure for holding a special session of the Human Rights Council, which was a State-driven process,was to have the support from at least one-third of the 47 members. There had not been any formal request yet. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would comment on this as soon if there were any developments.
Responding to questions, Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said access across the border was a key issue to establishing a refugee camp in Southern Gaza, and furthermore, Southern Gaza was not safe.
Margaret Harris for the World Health Organization (WHO), said WHO never allocated blame, but rather verified whether attacks had occurred. She had information that there was intense violence around the hospital. Access and safety were the key impediments to stopping the establishment of safe and clean camps. WHO was ready to send resources to support the health system, but there was no safe access. Nowhere was safe. This was evident in the huge number of UNRWA colleagues who had been killed. WHO was desperately concerned about the levels of infectious disease, particularly the increasing levels of diarrhoea cases. There needed to be a real humanitarian ceasefire.
Rolando Gómez for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the number of UN staff killed in Gaza was over the last weeks was the highest number of UN staff killed in such a short period of time. He referenced a statement by Volker Türk, who said the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure was paramount. Responding to another question, Mr. Gómez said the UN had been briefing the media about the situation in Gaza constantly since October 7, providing vast messages and urgent appeals, encouraging them to be dispersed. The UN did not bow to any pressure and was here to serve and deliver messages without pause.
Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the Paris conference on Gaza, held yesterday, was very important. The UN was fully engaged and involved; Martin Griffith had attended and the Secretary General had relayed a message. Martin Griffiths had thanked President Macron for his leadership and for getting so many people around the table. The UN was not part of organising the conference, so it would be for the French host to comment on the outcome.
Rolando Gómez for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Secretary-General had told those gathered in Paris to step up efforts to assist and protect civilians in Gaza, including through a humanitarian ceasefire.
Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said only a humanitarian ceasefire would work in the situation of Gaza. Mr. Laerke said Martin Griffiths was in Paris yesterday and remained in Europe. More would be heard from him in the days and weeks to come. In terms of volumes on a daily basis, the Rafah crossing was the second-best option. The best option was the Gómez crossing which was controlled by the Israeli authorities who had not opened it up for entry.
Margaret Harris for the World Health Organization (WHO), said the numbers were constantly changing; there were currently 20 of 36 hospitals not functioning, with the remaining 16 only partially functioning. What was available was nowhere near adequate. She would provide specific numbers later. Any data would be out of date due to the bombardments and lack of fuel. She did not have any information on the French ship sent to Gaza to support hospitals.
Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the flash update which had been released, had an entire section on health care in the Gaza Strip and violence and casualties in the west bank.
Margaret Harris for the World Health Organization (WHO), said currently, there had been 235 attacks on health in the whole of the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 7 October. 108 were in Gaza and 127 were in the West Bank. The prevalent injuries were crushing injuries, burns and severe damage to bones. There needed to be safe access to provide teams to support the health system and the beleaguered doctors, who were doing extraordinary things in highly difficult conditions.
Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said the process for allowing in aid was not determined by the UN and the process was completely transparent although quite complex. Mr. Laerke said the revised flash appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory was 1.2 billion dollars.
Situation in Sudan
William Spindler, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), speaking on a press release issued by UNHCR on increasing human rights violations in Darfur, said reports had been received from new arrivals in Chad fleeing Darfur. These witness accounts had described armed militia going from house to house killing men and boys in Ardamata. Men and boys were being prevented from leaving Darfur and fleeing to Chad at checkpoints. This was a worrying development for an area which had been relatively peaceful. These killings had reportedly happened in the last few days.
Mr. Spindler the staff in Sudan were not able to carry out their daily activities. Access was limited in Darfur. In Ardamata, UNHCR had been able to distribute relief items, but since then the situation had become much more dangerous. UNHCR had received testimonies of gross human rights violations including rape and sexual abuse, killings, people being extorted and other mistreatment, which was very worrying. Everyone knew what happened in Darfur 20 years ago, and it was concerning to see this dynamic being repeated. On the Jeddah talks, UNHCR had welcomed the agreements and commitments there. However, this was something which needed to be translated into access for humanitarian actors on the ground and protection for the civilian population.
Jens Laerke, for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on November 7, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan issued a statement on the Jeddah talks, saying the statement of Commitment adopted in Jeddah marked a moment of truth for the country, and were promises which needed to be kept. The Humanitarian Coordinator had welcomed the agreement to establish a humanitarian forum for Sudan, which was being led by OHCA. This forum would deal with the key issues, including access, to facilitate the implementation of the agreement.
Rolando Gómez for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), said the Committee Against Torture was currently in session and would review Egypt on Tuesday.
The 44thWorking Group of the Universal Periodic Review was currently reviewing the human rights record of Canada, and would continue next week reviewing Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cameroon and Cuba.
At 3:30pm today, at Bar Serpent at the Palais des Nations, the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine would host a Press Stakeout. Ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi, would deliver a statement, as would a representative of a group of ambassadors.
On Tuesday, 14 November at 9:15 a.m., UNIDIR would hold a press conference to launch the Landmine Monitor 2023 report, where several speakers would address this issue-
On Wednesday, 15 November at 11 a.m. WMO would hold the press conference for the launch of the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, which would hear from WMO Secretary-General,
Today was World Science Day for Peace and Development, with the theme “building trust in science.”
Thursday the 16th of November, would be the Young Activists Summit, where around 650 young people would gather at the Palais des Nations, including five young activists, between the ages of 14 and 29, to speak on issues including Rohingya, child marriage and the climate. Prince Albert of Monaco would also attend in person, and address the Summit.
Responding to questions, Mr. Gómez said for the Press Stakeout, an audio recording would be provided.