PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
4 August 2023
Jeremy Laurence, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stated that, as Bangladesh was gearing up for a general election in January 2024, OHCHR urged all political parties, their supporters, and the security forces to ensure a peaceful, inclusive, and safe environment enabling a free and fair ballot.
In recent months, recurring violence had erupted at a number of opposition rallies, where police had used rubber bullets, tear-gas, and water-cannons. Police, alongside men in plain clothing, had been seen using hammers, sticks, bats and iron rods to beat protesters. Many opposition supporters, as well as some police, had been injured. Senior opposition leaders had been beaten in broad daylight. Mr. Laurence stressed that the authorities had to abide by their human rights obligations and allow people to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of opinion and expression, and to act diligently to protect against attempts by third parties to suppress or limit exercise of those rights. OHCHR called on the authorities to ensure that all those canvassing ahead of the 2024 election are assured a safe and peaceful environment that respects and promotes political plurality and the expression of diverse views.
Full statement is available here.
Responding to a question on Alexey Navalny, who was expected to appear in court today for further sentencing, Mr. Laurence said that the OHCHR was closely following his case and had frequently addressed this topic in the past.
Incidents and displacement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said that in the first six months of 2023, the UN had recorded 591 Israeli settler incidents, or an average of 99 incidents per month, a 39 per cent increase compared to 2022. Palestinian herding communities were particularly vulnerable; OCHA had recorded displacement of at least 399 herders, mostly Bedouins whose livelihood depended on their livestock. The reason for the herders leaving was settlers’ activity, including violence and settlement expansion. OCHA and humanitarian partners had launched a humanitarian assessment of 60 Palestinian herding communities. Israeli settlements were illegal under international law, stressed Mr. Laerke.
More information is available here.
Daniel Johnson, for the UN Information Service, highlighted a statement released on Thursday evening by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which called for an immediate cessation of fighting in the Ein Al Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. UNRWA called for the protection of all UNRWA schools and other facilities at all times, including during the fighting.
Food Price Index
Maximo Torero, Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), speaking from Rome, said that the FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) had averaged 123.9 points in July 2023, up 1.5 points from June but remained 16.6 points below its value in the corresponding month in 2022. The FFPI’s rebound in July had been led by a solid rise in the vegetable oils price index, partially offset by a significant decline in the sugar price index, together with small decreases in the price indices for cereals, dairy, and meat.
International wheat prices had risen by 1.6 per cent, marking their first month-on-month increase in nine months, mainly driven by the uncertainty over Ukraine’s exports following the decision taken by the Russian Federation to terminate the implementation of the Black Sea Initiative and the subsequent damage to Ukraine’s port infrastructure on both the Black Sea and the Danube River. Mr. Torero explained that the FAO Vegetable Oil Price Index had averaged 129.8 points in July, up 14.0 points from June, marking the first increase after seven months of consecutive declines. This pronounced increase in July had been driven by higher world quotations across sunflower, palm, soy and rapeseed oils. International sunflower oil prices had rebounded by more than 15 per cent month-on-month, primarily underpinned by renewed uncertainties surrounding the exportable supplies out of the Black Sea region, after Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Initiative.
More details are available here.
Responding to questions from the media, Mr. Torero said that the level of acute food insecurity in Sudan had increased substantially, to more than 11 million people, and the situation was further deteriorating. The increase of the FAO Food Index, especially wheat, would affect some of the countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, while sub-Saharan Africa would be less affected, he explained. On the other hand, rice, the price of which was now at the 2011 levels, was a big problem for sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Torero said that the Ukrainian farmers were now experiencing significant difficulties in exporting their grain. It was very important to support the Black Sea Initiative in order to keep cereal prices under control.
Daniel Johnson, for the UN Information Service, said that UN famine prevention and response coordinator Reena Ghelani had told the Security Council that the number of people suffering from acute food insecurity had reached a record 250 million in 2022. She said 376,000 of them were facing famine-like conditions in seven countries. Another 35 million were on the brink of famine.
Extreme weather updates
Clare Nullis, for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said that the WMO had issued the latest in a series of updates on extreme weather. This was a summer of extremes, not just on the land, but also marine heatwaves with unprecedented sea surface temperatures. Canada was experiencing its worst wildfire season on record, said Ms. Nullis. The EU Copernicus monitoring system indicated that as of the end of July, Canada wildfires’ carbon emissions had reached double the level of the entire previous year. China had set a new national daily temperature record in July and had been hit by record-breaking rainfall at the start of August. July was expected to be proclaimed as the warmest month on record; final figures for last month would be issued on 8 August.
Further details can be found here.
Answering questions, Ms. Nullis said that the UN Secretary-General was convening the Climate Ambition Summit in New York in September this year.
Daniel Johnson, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), informed that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) would open its 110th session on 7 August at 10 a.m. During the session, the Committee would review reports of six countries: Italy, Croatia, Uruguay, Namibia, Senegal, and Turkmenistan. More details can be found here.
The Conference on Disarmament had resumed its 2023 session in Geneva this week.