REGULAR PRESS BRIEFING BY THE INFORMATION SERVICE
19 March 2013
Corinne Momal-Vanian, Director of the United Nations Information Service in Geneva, chaired the briefing which was also attended by Spokespersons for the Human Rights Council, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, the International Labour Organization, and the International Organization for Migration.
Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at a press conference yesterday in Damascus, Radhouane Nouicer, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, stressed that it was the Syrian civilians who were paying the price of the conflict. They had lost livelihoods and jobs, their homes, their access to food, water, fuel and health care, and they were watching the future of their children being put at risk.
The Regional Humanitarian Coordinator also highlighted that Syrian homes, industries, phone networks, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, the electricity and oil sectors, and agriculture had all been damaged. Furthermore, there was a significant shortage of funding for humanitarian operations. For this reason, he said, relief programmes failed to feed all those who require food, failed to treat all the sick and wounded, and did not provide shelter for all the families in need.
Mr. Nouicer then called for adequate allocation of funds to fully implement the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan, which was currently 21 per cent funded, but said only politicians and decision-makers can resolve the crisis.
Mr. Laerke added that the Humanitarian Bulletin for Syria covering the period 5-18 March had been published and was available online.
In response to a question, he said that of the $1.5 billion pledged at the Pledging Conference in Kuwait 30 January 2013, $341 million had been committed as of 18 March. OCHA continued to work pro-actively with countries that pledged funds but it took time to convert pledges into commitments.
Ms. Momal-Vanian answered a question on the timing of a recent statement from the Secretary-General saying it was released to mark the two-year anniversary since the start of the conflict.
Elisabeth Byrs for the World Food Programme (WFP) said WFP currently supported over 662,000 Malian refugees in Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, as well as a vulnerable population in Mali.
Parts of Mali had recently become more accessible and WFP had begun to send food to Northern Mali, which had been cut off from most humanitarian assistance since conflict flared one year ago. However, the situation was still volatile and many areas remained out of reach.
WFP assistance in Northern Mali was ongoing, and while access remained challenging in the northern regions, commercial transport was slowly resuming, allowing for the delivery of commodities by truck from Mopti and Bamako to Gao, Kidal and Menaka. Since January, 3,300 tonnes were delivered to the Northern region of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal.
Emergency school feeding was ongoing in Gao region. Assistance was to be provided in 20 schools, for a total of over 8,600 school children.
The Executive Director of the WFP, Ertharin Cousin, on her return from a five-day trip to Mali and Burkina Faso (13-17 March) had said the Sahel was facing a double threat: instability, caused by a conflict that had sent refugees across its borders and chronic hunger, caused by cycles of drought and poor harvests.
In 2013, WFP’s planned to assist 5.5 million people in eight countries affected by the impact of the Mali conflict and last year’s drought – Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and The Gambia – with a total budget of $611 million. As part of this schedule, WFP planned to reach more than one million people in Mali this year and a further one million in Burkina Faso, though there was currently a funding gap of $118 million in this project.
Answering a question about a United Nations peacekeeping force for Mali, Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations had said July could see the transfer of AFISMA to a stabilisation mission. The Security Council would be required to vote on any United Nations presence in the country and that would probably be discussed following the presentation of a report from the Secretary-General, due on 27 March.
Human Rights Council
Rolando Gomez for the Human Rights Council (HRC) said the general debate on Item 8 had finished this morning and the HRC was currently debating Item 9. This was to finish at around 11:30 a.m. and this afternoon between 12.00pm and 3. p.m. there was an annual thematic discussion on technical cooperation, which this year focused on strengthening the judiciary in the administration of justice in order to ensure human rights and the rule of law. This was co-moderated by the President of the Council and the Ambassador of Thailand, with the High Commissioner delivering the introductory remarks
Following this segment came the presentation of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, followed by interactive dialogue. After that, time permitting, came the presentation of the report on Haiti. On the schedule for tomorrow were reports on up to nine situations including, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Guatemala, Guinea, Colombia, Cyprus, Iran, Libya and Sri Lanka.
He added that 45 draft resolutions had been tabled for discussion and possible adoption on Thursday and Friday (21/22 March). The first of these was Sri Lanka and they would be considered in the order of the agenda item and within the agenda item per the order in which they were submitted. He was to keep correspondents informed on the exact timings. A list of all 45 was to be made available later today.
Asked about the Congolese general wanted for war crimes, Bosco Ntaganda, who had apparently turned himself into the United States Embassy in Kigali, Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said the High Commissioner had regularly spoken out on the need for justice for leaders of the M23 group.
Ntaganda was first indicted in 2006 by the International Criminal Court for conscripting and using child soldiers during a conflict from 2002 to 2003 in Congo. Everything done to hasten international justice was good news, she said.
New Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had appointed Ms. Flavia Pansieri of Italy as the new Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ms. Pansieri was to replace Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea.
Most recently, Ms. Pansieri served as the Executive Coordinator of the UN Volunteers (UNV) Programme and brought to this position nearly 30 years of experience with the UN around the world, including her time spent with UNDP and UNIFEM.
Answering questions, she said the appointment was made as Ms. Kang’s term of office had expired. Ms. Kang was to move to a post as the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Visit of European Parliament President
Jean Martinage for the International Labour Organization (ILO) said European President Parliament Martin Schulz, was to visit the ILO on Friday to participate in a session of the Administrative Council on the social aspect of globalisation. This was part of his tour of Switzerland and there would be an opportunity for journalists to briefly meet with him for 15 minutes from 9:40 a.m. Journalists wishing to attend should get in touch with either him or the Delegation of the EU to UNOG to register their interest.
Answering questions, he said the maximum time possible was allocated to the press encounter.
World Meteorological Day
Clare Nullis for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the formal ceremony at WMO headquarters for World Meteorological Day took place on Thursday (21 March) at 2.30 p.m. with WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud giving the welcome address. The special guest on the day was Prof. Alan Thorpe Director-General of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). The guest speaker was Dr. Hamadoun Touré Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
As part of events to mark the day, WMO was to host a Scientific and Technical Forum at its headquarters in Geneva at 9 a.m. on 21 March, featuring leading experts from around the globe. The Forum provided an overview of the past successes of World Weather Watch and its evolution into the 21st century. It was to highlight advances in the three pillars of World Weather Watch: coordinated observations, telecommunications and meteorological forecasts.
In addition, WMO was to release its Annual Statement on the Status of the Global Climate in 2012 to coincide with the day’s events.
Funding for United Nations projects
Answering a question, Jens Laerke for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said to his recollection there had never been an appeal that was 100 per cent funded, and generally, year on year, they received somewhere between 65 and 70 per cent of the requested financing. This year, the lowest funded was the appeal in Afghanistan, which had received one per cent of its call for resources. The two highest were for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Philippines, which were 26 per cent funded.
Anti-trafficking measures in Ethiopia
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said IOM and the Government of Ethiopia had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to implement a two-year project intended to enhance national capacities and cooperation for the prevention of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) and to ensure the protection of victims and prosecution of traffickers in Ethiopia.
The IOM project was focussed on improving the capacity of the national Anti-Human Trafficking Committee to spearhead and coordinate nation-wide efforts against human trafficking. It was to also strengthen the national legislative and criminal justice capacities to effectively prosecute traffickers and adjudicate TIP cases. Moreover, the project will work to improve identification, referral, protection and assistance services to victims of trafficking.
The two-year project had been funded by a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of State, Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (J/TIP). Ethiopia was a source country for trafficking into several countries in the region and into the Gulf States, he said.
Answering a question, Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said there had been an increase in the number of migrants being deported from Libya, as the authorities sought to ensure residents had a regular and documented status.
Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said migrants in all parts of the world deserved respect for their well-being, to not be subject to arbitrary detention, or to be deported against their will. Security conditions in this situation were difficult and complex, and it was not easy to gain access to verify and investigate allegations. She then called for respect for migrants’ dignity and physical and moral well-being, all over the world.
Ms. Momal-Vanian said the Committee on Human Rights this morning finished reviewing the report of Macau and started this afternoon reviewing the report of Peru, which was the last country in the programme of the session. The session ended next Thursday, (28 March) and the Committee was to publish its findings the following week.
The Conference on Disarmament, this morning debated the issue of how to prevent an arms race in space. A list of speakers had been distributed.
Today, (19 March) at 2:30 p.m. in Press Room 1, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) held a press conference on the International Patent System in 2012, the International Trademark System in 2012 and the International Design System in 2012. The speaker was Francis Gurry, WIPO Director-General.
Adrian Edwards for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said tomorrow, (20 March) 2013 at 10 a.m. in Press Room 1, there was an embargoed press briefing on the release of UNHCR's report on ‘Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries.’
Cécile Pouilly for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said on Thursday (21 March) a panel discussion on “Racism and Sport,” was to be held from 13:15 to 14:45, in Room XIX. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, was to open the panel discussion, which was followed by a press conference, from 15:00 to 15:30.
New IOM spokesperson
Jumbe Omari Jumbe for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Gaëlle Sévenier had been appointed as a spokesperson for the IOM.
The representatives of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also attended the briefing but did not speak.
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The webcast for this briefing is available at http://bit.ly/Xn1K2J