PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
09 December 2022
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Information Service, read out a message on behalf of Rolando Gomez, for the Human Rights Council, to remind that the Council were today holding a meeting to elect its bureau for 2023. The current president, Federico Villegas, would deliver his end-of-year statement and step down from his position on 31 December. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, would also deliver a statement at the meeting. The public meeting would be webcast live from Room XX.
International Mountain Day
Rosalaura Romeo, for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said International Mountain Day was celebrated each year on 11 December. FAO would mark the day with a high-level event at its headquarters in Rome, co-organizing an event at the Vatican on Monday, and with a new study that shed light on the kinds of discrimination faced by women living in mountains. 2022 was the International Year of Sustainable Mountain Development and was the 20th anniversary of the Mountain Partnership. The Partnership and the General Assembly had just approved a mountain resolution, sponsored by 110 governments, that declared the next five years (2023-2027) the “five years of action for mountains”. This was an important step to fully recognize that mountains were among the ecosystems most affected by climate change, while they provided water and energy to the planet, and needed to be protected.
“Women move mountains” was the theme of this year's International Mountain Day. Women played a key role in environmental protection and social and economic sustainable development in mountain areas. They were often the primary managers of mountain resources, guardians of biodiversity, keepers of traditional knowledge, custodians of local culture and experts in traditional medicine. More than 50 per cent of women in mountainous regions performed agricultural activities. Food insecurity in mountain areas could be very high but in addition, in some mountain societies women were discriminated by socio-cultural gender norms and stereotypes. Women tended to have less access to credit, land tenure, services, and education.
To mark the 2022 edition of International Mountain Day, FAO had published a study highlighting the stories of mountain women, with a focus on mountain tourism. The publication was produced together with the Mountain Partnership Secretariat and the Feminist Hiking Collective. Entitled Mountain women of the world: Challenges, resilience and collective power, the study was based on in-depth interviews with 313 local mountain women in eight countries - Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Italy, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, and Tanzania.
The event at FAO would also launch a video and fashion show about the recent collaboration between the Peruvian women’s collective Illariy Threads4Dreams, and Mountain Partnership goodwill Ambassador Stella Jean. For this collaboration, Stella Jean travelled to the village of Tolconi, located 4,800 metres above sea level in the Peruvian Andes, to create garments, using multicoloured alpaca fibre for a 2023 fashion collection, to be sold directly by the women online. Together with Illiary Threads4Dreams, Stella Jean created her capsule collection for 2023, bridging her knowledge of Italian design with the cultural legacy and heritage of the mountain women, who were gaining a place in the international market. The Mountain Partnership Secretariat, was promoting an initiative on ethical fashion for fragile ecosystems to promote the work of mountain women, highlighting ancient traditional techniques.
By advocating for governments and intergovernmental organizations to include gender considerations into their politics and projects and calling for data to be disaggregated by sex, the Mountain Partnership Secretariat was working to make development activities in mountains more equitable and inclusive. The Mountain Partnership was also working to provide technical and financial support to smallholder mountain producers from developing countries, largely focusing on women, to create enterprises, enhance their marketing skills and boost their livelihoods by improving the value chains of mountain products.
UNHCR ramps up assistance to refugees, displaced families in northern Ethiopia as peace returns
Mamadou Dian Balde, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said UNHCR was stepping up assistance to conflict-affected populations in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions. Since the signing of the peace agreement, UNHCR had seen a major change in humanitarian access and its ability to move critical assistance into Tigray. As of this week, UNHCR had been able to send 61 trucks into Tigray, carrying 2,400 metric tons of much-needed relief, including medicine, shelter materials, blankets and household items, and a tanker carrying 20,000 litres of fuel to bring aid to those most in need.
While UNHCR teams had remained in Tigray throughout, operating from Mekelle and Shire, it had now resumed operations in secondary field locations like in Maichew, Adigrat, and Abi Adi. Working together with the Ethiopian Government’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) and partners, UNHCR had been able to assist more than 7,000 Eritrean refugees stranded in the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps in western Tigray. They had been relocated to the recently established Alemwach site in Amhara region, where more than 22,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers were now living. In Alemwach, people were supported with assistance and essential services.
In Afar, UNHCR also supported the voluntarily relocation of more than 900 Eritrean refugees from various locations, including the regional capital Semera back to Barahle camp, and hoped to fully resume services with RRS and partners soon. UNHCR was also working closely with local authorities in northern Ethiopia to support Ethiopians displaced by the conflict. Between January and October this year, UNHCR had assisted more than 2.1 million internally displaced people to return to their homes. They also provided counselling and support to the most vulnerable, including separated children and survivors of gender-based violence. Thanks to the peace agreement, over 50,000 internally displaced persons had been supported to voluntarily return to their homes within Tigray, Afar and Amhara.
It was important to support access to health services. While the latest developments were appreciated, there was still more to be done. UNHCR continued to advocate for more conducive conditions in the affected regions, including restoring critical services such as banking and telecommunication, to operate more efficiently. The recent reconnection of Tigray’s capital Mekelle to the national electricity grid and the resumption of telephone services in Shire were welcome steps.
More regular flights into Tigray and surrounding regions would help UNHCR and their partners to reach the most vulnerable, to provide much needed assistance, protection, and solutions. UNHCR was appealing to the international community to continue with its funding support. The door to provide much needed humanitarian assistance was now open, but there was still a need for resources to provide it.
Mr. LeBlanc said the Secretary-General had expressed his full commitment to mobilizing the United Nations system to provide the humanitarian support to people who needed it. The Secretary-General had met Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in early December, and reiterated his full support for the implementation of the permanent cessation of hostilities agreement.
In response to questions, Mr. Dian Balde said that the Secretary-General and the United Nations very much welcomed the new development in Ethiopia, as suffering had thus far been immense. UNHCR had had access to refugees intermittently, and had provided some medical and food support, but had not been able to respond to all needs. Refuges had expressed their desire for additional support, and UNHCR was doing its best to respond to those calls. The latest development was a great opportunity that UNHCR was seizing. The situation remained fragile, but the UNHCR was used to working in such situations. It was working with Ethiopian authorities to provide much needed assistance and help people to rebuild their lives.
Rhéal LeBlanc, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), recalled that today was the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. In his message, the Secretary-General said that the day was an occasion to remember and pay tribute to the victims and survivors of genocides across the world. He said it was a day to re-examine our collective failure to prevent this crime in the past, and to redouble prevention efforts for the present and the future.
More than 70 years after the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, he added, the threat of genocide remained present in many places around the world. Discrimination and hate speech, the early warning signs of genocide, were on the rise everywhere. We must do more to promote strong political leadership and resolute action against these dangerous trends, said the Secretary-General. The full message was sent to correspondents.
Mr. LeBlanc said tomorrow was Human Rights Day. In his annual message, also shared with correspondents, the Secretary-General said that “The world is facing unprecedented and interlocking challenges to human rights. Hunger and poverty are increasing… Civic space is shrinking. Media freedom and the safety of journalists are in dangerous decline in almost every region of the world. Trust in institutions is evaporating, especially among young people.”
The Secretary-General urged “Member States, civil society, the private sector, and others to put human rights at the heart of efforts to reverse today’s damaging trends. Human rights are the foundation for human dignity, and the cornerstone of peaceful, inclusive, fair, equal and prosperous societies.”
Mr. LeBlanc said the day would mark the beginning of a year-long celebration leading up to the 75th anniversary of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights, next year.