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08-12-2020 | Press Conferences

UNOG Bi-weekly press briefing 8 December 2020


Situation in Tigray, Ethiopia


Responding to a question, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service, said that the UN Secretary-General was very concerned about the current situation in the Tigray province in Ethiopia. He felt that it was essential to quickly restore the rule of law, in full respect for human rights, promote social cohesion, an inclusive reconciliation, as well as to re-establish the delivery of public services and guarantee unfettered humanitarian access. The UN remained totally committed to supporting the African Union initiative.


Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), responding to a question, said that OCHA was aware of the reports on an alleged incident involving UN staff in Tigray. For the sake of safety and security of UN staff on the ground, no comments on this issue would be currently made.


Babar Baloch, for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that the humanitarian situation was increasingly critical. The principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and operational independence needed to be implemented. Sadly, humanitarian access was still not possible and there was no real-time information for a month now. UNHCR remained very worried for the safety of refugees in Tigray. Lack of access meant that refugees and others in need could not be reached. UNHCR still used the figure of some 96,000 Eritrean refugees in the region who could not be reached. Meanwhile, while Ethiopian refugees continued to arrive to Sudan, the numbers of new arrivals were going down, and stood at 400-600 per day. The refugees were reporting an increased number of checkpoints along their way. Over 49,000 people had been registered as having crossed from Ethiopia into Sudan so far.




Responding to a question, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization, said that vaccines were a great tool and would be very helpful, but their effect was still far off. In the meantime, public health measures such as distancing, wearing masks, hand washing, and contact tracing needed to be conducted with great rigor in order to slow down and control the spread of the virus.




Vincent Defourny, Director of the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva, informed that the World Press Freedom Conference 2020 would take place on 9-10 December. Organized jointly by UNESCO and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the event would take the form of a digital conference to be streamed live from the World Forum in The Hague. The theme of the 2020 celebration was ‘Journalism without Fear or Favour‘. The event would explore issues related to the protection of independent journalism around the globe, overcoming the obstacles of media capture and guaranteeing journalism that provided reliable information and a diversity of views. It would jointly commemorate World Press Freedom Day (3 May), and the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November). Participation was free but online slots were limited and registration was necessary.


The World Press Freedom Conference would be one of the subjects of the hybrid press conference on “World Press Freedom & Public Service Journalism in the Viral Age”, organized by UNESCO today at 1:30 p.m. in cooperation with the Geneva UN Information Service and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU). Liz Corbin, EBU Head of News, informed that at today’s press conference, the Union would present its News Report for 2020. “Fast Forward: Public Service Journalism in a Viral Age” explored how newsrooms reinvented themselves in the throes of the global pandemic to ensure accurate and impartial information was there for audiences when they needed it most. In turn, audiences had rediscovered public service media, turning to it in huge numbers for trusted news. Presenting the findings of the report would be co-author Maike Olij, who had spoken to 20 leaders from newsrooms across Europe as the crisis was unfolding, to find out what they experienced and the lessons they had learned for 2021 and beyond.


Speaking about media accreditations for 2021, Alessandra Vellucci, for the UN Information Service (UNIS) said that the renewal of accreditations would only start in January, as the UN Office at Geneva was going to roll out then a new version of the accreditation system Indico. The current badges would be valid through January. A note to correspondents on this matter had been shared with the press corps by UNIS.


Tomson Phiri, for the World Food Programme (WFP), informed that the WFP would be accepting the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize on 10 December at 1 p.m. WFP Executive Director David Beasley would receive the award on behalf of the agency and its 20,000 staff in a virtual ceremony that could be viewed worldwide here. WFP would also be hosting a Facebook Live event The People’s Prize here - a celebration of the remarkable history, people and partners who were behind WFP winning the Nobel Peace Prize, as well as reactions from WFP staff around the world.


Jens Laerke, for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), announced the high-level pledging event for the Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) at 4 p.m. Geneva time. It would be broadcast at webtv.un.org. Achievements in 2020 would be discussed, and pledges made for 2021. Mr. Laerke reminded that CERF had been around for 15 years and was used for rapidly developing emergencies. The ambition was to reach USD one billion.


Ms. Vellucci, speaking on behalf of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), said that UNCTAD would publish its annual Handbook of Statistics on 9 December and on the occasion would publish its latest nowcasts on 2020 global trade in merchandises and services.


This morning, at 10:30 a.m., a hybrid virtual Special Meeting was taking place at the Palais des Nations, Room XX to mark the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (which was celebrated every year on 29 November).


Alessandra Vellucci, speaking on behalf of UN Women, informed that today at 3 p.m. (Nur-Sultan time) the Spotlight Initiative Regional Programme for Central Asia and Afghanistan would be officially launched and bring together dignitaries and senior leadership of the European Union and the United Nations, governments of Central Asia and Afghanistan and envoys of women’s movements to give a start to the programme designed to deliver on gender equality commitments. The Initiative was the EU-funded programme with an initial budget of more than USD 4.3 million for Central Asia and Afghanistan. All the information was available here.


Today at 2:45 p.m., the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would present latest figures from UNDP Climate Promise covering 114 countries national determined contributions (NDCs): What has been achieved since 2015 and how to keep up with climate ambitions? The speaker would be Cassie Flynn, UNDP Climate Advisor.


Finally, Ms. Vellucci said that on 9 December at 10:30 a.m., Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, would hold a press conference on “Reflections on 2020 and looking ahead to 2021” – on the eve of Human Rights Day, she would speak about the need to recover better and stand up for human rights.

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UNOG Bi-weekly press briefing 8 December 2020 / 38:18

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