Bi-weekly press briefing - 08 August 2023
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Press Conferences | UNCTAD , UNHCR , WHO , WMO

Bi-weekly press briefing - 08 August 2023

PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE

8 August 2023

 

Publication of the Economic Development in Africa Report 2023

Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said UNCTAD would unveil a roadmap on how African economies could become major participants in global supply chains, in its Economic Development in Africa Report 2023, to be launched on 16 August. Efforts to fortify global supply chains in the face of recent disruptions had opened opportunities for Africa to become a manufacturing destination for tech-intensive industries. Its abundance of critical minerals and metals, vital components in technology-intensive industries, positioned the continent as an attractive destination for manufacturing. The main launch of the report would take place in Nairobi, with other press conferences in Dakar and Geneva, and a press kit to be sent shortly.

Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar Annual Report

Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), said the 5th Annual Report of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar was being was released today, which marked four years of work by the Mechanism. Unfortunately, the report showed the violence and suffering of the people had increased. In particular, there had been a significant rise in war crimes and crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians from aerial bombings, an increase in mass executions of civilians, and the intentional burning of civilian homes and buildings. The Mechanism’s report had collected evidence from 700 sources, including more than 200 eyewitness accounts, along with photographs, videos, documents, maps, geospatial imagery, social media posts and forensic evidence. This amounted to over 20 million items collected to date. It was important that perpetrators knew there was an entity shedding light on these crimes and collecting the evidence. International justice could take a long time but could also achieve many successes. The evidence was already being shared with three ongoing proceedings concerning crimes against the Rohingya population.

Responding to questions, Mr. Koumjian said regarding evidence against higher officials, the linkage was always the challenge in international cases. Exactly how the case evolved would depend on what charges were brought and the elements of crimes in those jurisdictions, among other factors. A lot of evidence had been collected and in some ways, was strongest against those at the very highest levels. It was hard for these people to evade responsibility, as actions could only occur with their consent and orders. This evidence would be useful in the future to jurisdictions looking to prosecute these cases.

The real challenge with the post-coup crimes was access to witnesses, as the Mechanism had not received any cooperation from Myanmar and could not travel inside the country. However, they had spoken to male and female victims who had provided evidence of sexual violence, particularly in places of detention. This was something the Mechanism would concentrate on. The Mechanism was also studying evidence from brave witnesses in regard to the Rohingya, and were looking at whether State institutions had fulfilled their obligations to investigate sexual violence. Under international criminal law, the failure to investigate could also be considered a crime.

Global air temperature reached new record high in July 2023

Chris Hewitt, Director of Climate Services for the World Metrological Organisation (WMO), said the earth had been warming since pre-industrial times. The latest Annual State of the Climate Report for 2022, noted that 2015 to 2022 were the eight warmest years on record, going back 170 years and despite persistent La Nina conditions. The long-term warming trend was driven by increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. 2016 was the warmest year on record, due to a strong El Nino event and the long-term warming of the climate system. El Nino conditions were now developing in the tropical pacific, with temperatures expected to peak next year. It was very likely that one of the next five years would be the warmest on record, with a 66 percent chance that it could temporarily exceed 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial value. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the frequency and intensity of hot extremes had increased in recent decades and were expected to keep increasing. This year was already breaking records.

Samantha Burgess, Deputy Director Copernicus Climate Change Service/ECMWF, for the World Metrological Organisation (WMO), speaking from Reading in the United Kingdom, said the global average temperature for July 2023 was the highest on record for any month, estimated to be around 1.5 degrees warmer than the average for pre-industrial times. Heatwaves were experienced throughout July in multiple regions around the world. The global average sea surface temperature continued to rise, reaching record high levels in July. The north Atlantic was over 1 degree Celsius warmer than average in July, and El Nino conditions continued to develop over the Equatorial Eastern Pacific.

Responding to questions, Ms. Burgess said it was true that the Copernicus climate change data set went back to 1940. However, when looking at historical records, the observational records could be extended back many tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years. Ice core records went back eight hundred thousand years, which showed changes in concentrations or the ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the atmosphere. From the IPCC sixth assessment report, combining observation records and paleo-climate records, it had not been this warm for 120,000 years.

Mr. Hewitt said the warmer temperatures would cause problems for various habitats, however he could not specifically respond on the Amazon. July had been very warm and there did not look to be respite in the warming throughout the year. Ms. Burgess said the temperature for July was 16.95 degrees as a global average.

Responding to further questions, Mr. Hewitt said it was not yet known why the world was experiencing these warmings. Ms. Burgess said ultimately there was a direct correlation of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and the land, sea, and air temperatures. This meant less biodiversity and less of a carbon sink in forests, meaning ultimately that the planet would be less able to naturally remove greenhouse gas concentrations from the atmosphere.

Mr. Hewitt said that 2024 would probably be one of the hottest years on record. As it continued to warm, the world would get closer to the 1.5 degree Celsius limit above pre-industrial levels which all countries have committed not to overstep and this would eventually be exceeded temporarily in the next five years. Unless greenhouse gases decreased in the future, the world would continue to exceed this limit. Ms. Burgess said when the 1.5 degree limit had been exceeded in the past, this was in late winter and spring due to anomalies such as El Nino events. 2023 was the third warmest year to date and it depended on what would happen over the next five months. It was unusual that these records were happening in the northern hemisphere summer. It was important to look at heatwave events around the world to understand how 2023 would compare.

Ms. Burgess said the Copernicus climate change service had an application which focused on the relationship between vector-borne diseases and warming temperatures on their website.

Responding to further questions, Mr. Hewitt said this didn’t mean that everywhere would be warmer or that each year would be warmer than the previous year. Over the long term, the temperatures would go up, and at the moment this was record-breaking for July and June. These temperature records would become more and more common as it became warmer. Ms. Burgess said the IPCC report showed that there was a direct correlation between warmer temperatures and extreme weather events. It was also probable these would become more frequent as greenhouse gas levels continued to increase in the atmosphere. Mr. Hewitt said it was important to keep monitoring the climate system and provide early warnings around the world. Greenhouse gases needed to be reduced and the world needed to be prepared.

Daniel Johnson, for the United Nations Information Services (UNIS), reiterated the message of the Secretary-General about the early warning systems, and said that yesterday, UNICEF warned that four hundred and sixty million children in South East Asia were exposed to extreme high temperatures.

Health conditions worsen as displacement from Sudan conflict exceeds 4 million 

William Spindler, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said

with more than 4 million people now forcibly displaced by the Sudan crisis, UNHCR was deeply worried about deteriorating health conditions across the country, including in refugee camps. The situation inside Sudan where UNHCR was present was untenable, as the needs far outweighed what was humanly possible to deliver with the available resources. In White Nile state, a lack of essential medicines staff and supplies was severely hampering health and nutrition services in all ten refugee camps, where over 144,000 newly displaced refugees from Khartoum had arrived since the conflict started. In addition, severe cholera and malaria were expected in the coming months, due to flooding from the continuing rains and inadequate sanitation facilities.

The full statement is available here.

Responding to questions, Mr. Spindler said UNHCR operations were badly underfunded. Of the 566 million dollars required for the regional refugee response plan, just 29 per cent had been received. Access continued to be a problem, due to the heavy rains and the security situation. Between 15th of May and 17th of July, around 300 deaths, mainly among children, were reported. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported attacks on personnel, as well as chronic shortages on health staff inside Sudan, which were having a significant impact on the quality of health care inside Sudan. Ruptured supply chains meant medicines were running low for hundreds of thousands of people in need, and malaria and other diseases were expected in the coming months, due to the rains and flooding.

Responding to further questions, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier, said that four months into the conflict, insecurity, and limited access to medical supplies continued to pose a challenge to health care. WHO condemned the attacks on Médecins Sans Frontières staff as they were carrying out their lifesaving duties. Humanitarian workers needed assurances of safety and security. Between 15 April to 31 July, 53 attacks on health care had been verified, resulting in 11 deaths and 38 injuries. WHO condemned in the strongest terms attacks on health facilities; these attacks must stop. Figures from the federal authorities showed 12,200 injuries and 1005 deaths in Sudan, with 3071 injuries and 207 deaths in Khartoum alone.

Responding to questions, Mr. Spindler said cholera was a major concern due to the onset of the rains in the region which had caused significant flooding, making the sanitation situation quite dire.

Daniel Johnson gave an update from Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), who confirmed yesterday that the first humanitarian convoy since the start of the conflict, had arrived in the East Darfur state after nine days on the road. 430,000 tonnes of agricultural seeds provided by the Food and Agricultural Organization would be distributed to offices across the state, by the Ministry of Agriculture. OCHA insisted that further humanitarian access was urgently required, so that all farming areas in Darfur could benefit from the provision of seeds. All parties needed to provide farmers access to agricultural lands to ensure their protection as they planted and harvested their crops, because a failed agricultural season would have further devastating consequences on all communities.

Mr. Lindmeier clarified that attacks on healthcare were a violation of international humanitarian law and the right to health. He also said the conditions in Sudan were unfortunately perfect for outbreaks of cholera and other similar diseases, and it was important to start preparing for this. The sanitary situation was bad, and the supply of fresh water was a challenge, which were the main reasons for cholera outbreaks.

Mexico

William Spindler, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said

access to safe territory for asylum seekers was a cornerstone right that governments were required to uphold. UNHCR opposed anything that prohibited this, as seeking asylum was a human right. The situation of refugees and migrants arriving in Mexico was concerning and the humanitarian situation on the US side of the Mexican border remained serious. Many people arriving in the border area did not have access to information they needed, to decide on their options. There was a strong need for information services and legal support, medical attention, food assistance, and mental health and psychological support. Responding to questions, Mr. Spindler clarified that this was a shared responsibility, but ultimately needed to be led by competent authorities.

Niger

Responding to questions, William Spindler, for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the situation in Niger remained fluid and UNHCR continued to monitor the situation of displaced people in the country. There had not been any cross-border movement of people and no internal displacement had been reported due to the recent developments. The agency was committed to staying and providing humanitarian assistance. Mr. Lindmeier said he did not have any information regarding health conditions in Niger.

Dengue in Bangladesh

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said Bangladesh was experiencing a sharp increase in Dengue cases, since late June. From January 1 to August 5 this year, a total of nearly 64,000 cases and 303 deaths had been reported, which was consistently higher than any of the past five years for the same period. WHO had been working with authorities to identify and survey hotspots and take actions to counter the outbreak, including through providing communication material to the population. WHO was providing 100,00 dengue rapid diagnostic tests and was working to procure another 100,000 kits. The national dengue clinical guidelines were also being supported and revised. There was no prevention or specific treatment for dengue; early detection was vital in accessing proper medical care which could greatly lower fatality rates. The climate crisis was increasing the risk of transmission, and WHO teams were helping the Bangladeshi government with diagnostics. Cases were on the rise across the South-East Asian region, including in India, Nepal and Thailand.

Responding to a question about cases of malaria and leprosy in southern Florida, Mr. Lindmeier said instances of malaria where it had been extinct for a long time was an effect of climate change.

Virtual media briefing on Traditional Medicine

Christian Lindmeier, for the World Health Organization (WHO), said on Thursday 10 August from 13:30-14:30, there would be a global virtual media briefing on traditional medicine. Experts would discuss WHO’s work on traditional medicine, including the upcoming global Summit taking place next week in India. Next week would be the first WHO traditional medicine global summit, which would be webcast live.

A global webinar was scheduled for tomorrow for the Global day of Indigenous People, on indigenous people’s leadership, on 9 August from 14:30 to 16:00. It was being recorded and would be available afterwards. At 3pm on the same day, a briefing of the Director General would be held, which would touch on important issues.

Responding to questions, Mr. Lindmeier said the media advisory would be sent in the next hour which would have all the details and contact details. The traditional medicine global summit would look at the exponential of traditional medicine to achieve universal health coverage for people around the planet. It would help to chart a roadmap to scale up advancements in traditional medicine.

Answering further questions on Dengue, Mr. Lindmeier said 2.8 million cases and 1180 deaths had been recorded this year. The highest number of Dengue cases were observed in Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. There were several new tools under development which provided greater hope for prevention and control of Dengue. A vaccine was in the market and two more were in the final phase. The rainy season meant there was a risk that this disease could spread further.

Announcements

Daniel Johnson of the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) said tomorrow was the Day of Indigenous Peoples. He reiterated the message of the Secretary General, that across the world, indigenous peoples faced serious challenges. But young indigenous peoples, who were the theme of this year's day were helping to fight back.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would be meeting until August 31, and reviewing Italy, Croatia, Uruguay, Namibia, Senegal, and Turkmenistan. Opening comments yesterday highlighted that the commitments outlined in the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were not being lived up to. The situation of migrants and climate change were two major challenges.

The Conference on disarmament was meeting this morning at 10am, under the presidency of Germany, and would meet until at least the 15th of September. A working group was meeting which reflected renewed efforts by State parties to reinvigorate the Biological Weapons Convention, in light of scientific and technological advances.


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