PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
04 November 2022
Food Price Index
Upali Galketi Aratchilage, Senior Economist at the Markets and Trade Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking from Rome, informed that the Index had remained virtually unchanged in October month-on-month, as increases in cereal prices had been almost offset by declines in other indices. The dairy, vegetable oils and meat indices had fallen month-on-month, respectively, by 1.7 per cent, 1.6 per cent, and 1.4 per cent, while sugar had fallen by a moderate rate of 0.6 per cent. Mr. Galketi explained that the Index had dropped nearly 15 per cent from its peak in March this year, and it was only 2.7 per cent above the level one year before.
This was the second month in a row that the Cereal Price Index had increased, and at nearly double the rate of increase in October than in September, with increases across all cereals, wheat, coarse grains, and rice. As for vegetable oil prices, with the latest decline, the Index had fallen by 20 per cent below last year’s level, driven by lower prices of palm, soy, and rapeseed oils. Sunflower oil prices, however, had risen. Dairy prices had remained 15.4 per cent above year-on-year despite declines in recent times, because of tight supplies. Meat prices had fallen for the fourth consecutive year, broadly reflecting rising supplies, while import purchases were subdued. Sugar price declines had been moderate for two consecutive months on good production prospects in Brazil and India, and the weakening of the Brazilian real against the United States dollar.
Mr. Galketi concluded that, overall, food production was under strain due to extreme weather events induced by the ongoing la Niña weather phenomena, high and volatile energy prices, high fertilizer prices, labour shortages and animal diseases. Many developing countries were facing challenges in sustaining food production with limited fiscal space.
More information on the latest Food Price Index is available here.
Responding to questions, Mr. Galketi said that some increases had been seen recently in fertilizer production. The pandemic had affected the fertilizer chain production, which had been further accentuated by the war in Ukraine. Natural gas prices had increased faster than fertilizer prices, he said. Pulses were currently not part of the FAO Food Index, explained Mr. Galketi. Ethanol prices had made using sugar for ethanol production rather attractive. Food import bills had increased significantly, and, as a result, developing countries were paying higher prices for lower quantities of food. Market fundamentals, rather than speculation, could explain most of the price rises in the previous year. Recently, declining food prices would help decrease hunger in parts of the world, but another factor remained limited foreign currency reserves in many countries, said Mr. Galketi.
Attacks on civilians in Yemen
Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that it was now just over a month since the expiry of a UN-mediated truce in Yemen which had started on 2 April, and the OHCHR was gravely concerned for the safety and security of civilians. There had been reported loss of life and injuries resulting from sniper attacks and shelling, as well as an attack on a port facility that had put the lives of civilians at serious risk.
Volker Türk, Human Rights High Commissioner, echoed the calls of the Secretary-General to extend the truce and to work toward a negotiated settlement to bring this protracted and terrible conflict to an end once and for all.
OHCHR reminded all parties to the conflict that they had to strictly adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law in the conduct of military operations and to do their utmost to absolutely limit the impact of those military operations on civilians. Parties to the conflict had strict obligations to facilitate the access of humanitarian relief organizations to populations in need and to facilitate civilian access to humanitarian and life-saving services. It was evident that the suffering of the Yemeni people would continue until this conflict was ended.
Full OHCHR statement is available here.
In response to journalists’ questions, Mr. Laurence said that the six-month ceasefire had been largely effective as the parties observed the ceasefire. Recent sniper attacks and shelling attributed to the Houthi forces were of particular concern. The Yemen crisis had not been forgotten, and the UN continued to deal with Yemen daily. Rhéal LeBlanc, for UN Information Service, reiterated that humanitarian support for Yemen continued, as well as the efforts to reinstate the ceasefire. The last briefing to the Security Council by UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg had taken place on 13 October.
Female press conference interrupted in Afghanistan
Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), had received reports that on 3 November in Kabul a number of de facto security officials had disrupted a press conference by a nascent women’s civil society organization, Afghans’ Women Movement for Equality, arresting one woman, Zarifa Yaqobi, and four of her male colleagues. Sources reported that police officers had detained the remaining female participants in the press conference room for about one hour. They had reportedly conducted body searches and examined the women’s phones, before releasing them. Zarifa Yaqobi and the four male colleagues remained in detention.
OHCHR was concerned about the welfare of those five individuals and had sought information from the de facto authorities regarding their detention. All Afghans had the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and opinion, without fear of arrest or intimidation. OHCHR urged the de facto authorities to respect those rights and to release those detained.
Brazil election aftermath
In a response to a question from a journalist about the truck blockades in Brazil following Sunday’s election, Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stressed that the OHCHR welcomed a democratic, transparent, and successful election process in Brazil, and called upon the authorities to ensure an orderly transition based on democratic values and the rule of law.
[For the United Nations Information Service, Rhéal LeBlanc later added that the Secretary-General’s spokesperson had responded to a similar question this week, stating that those who had concerns with the elections or its results should address them using existing constitutional or legal avenues.]
Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council (HRC), said that the Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia had just issued a statement on the cessation of hostilities agreement. In the statement, the Commission welcomed the expressed commitments to human rights, the protection of civilians, unhindered humanitarian access and accountability, and urged the immediate resumption of full and unfettered humanitarian access and the restoration of basic services to the Tigray Region. The Commission also welcomed commitments to the cessation of hostile propaganda, rhetoric and hate speech. Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service, reminded that the Secretary-General had also issued a statement supporting the agreement between the Ethiopian Government and Tigray Region.
Mr. Gomez further reminded that the Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel, would hold a first series of public hearings from victims and witnesses, from 7 to 11 November, in Room XVII at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. They would be broadcast live in English on UN Web TV. Media without UN Geneva media credentials who wished to attend needed to register on UNOG · Indico. Journalists could attend with their cameras.
The Universal Periodic Review Working Group would start on 7 November and last for two weeks. More information was available here.
Sarah Bel, for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), announced that the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner would participate at COP27 during the Leaders’ Summit from 8 to 10 November; Directors from the regional Bureaux for Africa and Arab States would also be part of the delegation.
UNDP would have a Pavilion hosting many events focusing on climate finance, the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), and energy transition. Ms. Bel also said that on 15 November, Energy Day, UNDP would launch a major program focusing on scaling up the potential of mini grids in Africa to bridge the energy poverty gap and provide wider access to the millions who were still disconnected from the main grid.
Mr. LeBlanc confirmed that the UN Secretary-General would be heading to COP27 shortly. He would be urging countries to increase their political will to act on the issue of climate change, and he would call for a pact in which developed countries deliver on the commitments made in Paris and make an additional effort to reduce emissions, in line with the 1.5-degrees goal.
Karima Cherif, for the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), reminded that UNRISD was releasing today its Authentic Sustainability Assessment: A User Manual for the Sustainable Development Performance Indicators, which stressed that sustainability required contextualization and addressed the challenge of “greenwashing. A press conference would be held at 12 noon with Ilcheong Yi, Senior Research Coordinator, and Zhen Lee, Research Analyst, UNRISD.
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the UN Information Service, said that the Human Rights Committee would conclude at 3 p.m. today its 136th session and issue its concluding observations on the six countries reviewed: the Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and the Russian Federation.
The Committee Against Torture would begin on 8 November in the morning the review of the report of Somalia.