|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to the briefing. As you will have heard, we’re not quite ready to go over to Port-au-Prince, and to have the briefing with them; with Edmond Mulet, who is the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, and also the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso. They’re still in a meeting. Once they’re out they will be able to join us.
In the meantime, I could brief you on a couple of other items, starting with Israel.
In July last year, the United Nations submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel a claim for reimbursement for the losses that the United Nations had sustained in a number of incidents that occurred during the Gaza conflict of 27 December 2008 to 19 January 2009.
And since that time, discussions have taken place between the United Nations and Israel further to that claim. And as a result of those discussions, an arrangement has now been finalized between the United Nations and Israel.
Pursuant to that arrangement, the Government of Israel has made a payment of $10.5 million to the United Nations in respect of the losses sustained by the United Nations in the incidents that were investigated by the United Nations Headquarters Board of Inquiry early last year.
With this payment, the United Nations has agreed that the financial issues relating to those incidents referred to in the terms of reference of the Board of Inquiry are concluded. The Secretary-General would like to record the cooperative approach that the Government of Israel has shown in the course of the discussions that led to this settlement.
The money will not itself repair the buildings and facilities damaged. For that, the unhindered and expedited passage of actual cement and other building materials is urgently required. As with reconstruction generally in war-damaged Gaza, we call again here for the lifting of the closure, so that the people of Gaza can rebuild their homes and their economy.
That’s what I have for you at the moment. And I’m happy to take any questions you might have on this topic. On Haiti, I think clearly we’re going to have people right on the spot. So, let me take any questions you might have on what I’ve just mentioned or any other topic that’s related to this.
Just very briefly, Jean Victor will be briefing on the General Assembly at the very end.
**Questions and Answers
Question: The UN driver who was killed. Is the money that Israel paid, is that being used to compensate his family?
Spokesperson: No. No United Nations personnel were killed in the seven incidents that were the subject of the Organization’s claim. A total of eleven people were injured in those seven incidents, but none of them seriously. An amount was included in the Organization’s claim in respect of those injuries.
But as for the other two incidents, a caretaker at a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) school was killed in one of them. And it has subsequently been confirmed that he was not United Nations personnel. However, the Organization has provided material assistance to his family.
Question: [inaudible] 6 million, but I don’t remember…?
Spokesperson: No, that’s not correct. I can tell you details: The Board of Inquiry estimated the property damage sustained by the United Nations in the incidents that it investigated was in the region of $11,200,000. And the Board noted in its Report that this figure was based on estimates and it emphasized that further expert evaluation was required. And so, the Organization retained the services of an independent loss adjuster to review the losses that the Organization had sustained and also to review the valuation methodologies that had been used in reaching those estimates. And as a result of that review, the figure that the Organization included in its claim was some three-quarters of a million dollars less than that mentioned in the Board’s report.
Israel made the payment while maintaining its point of view that it was not legally responsible for any of the incidents that were investigated by the Board of Inquiry. The United Nations, however, accepted the payment while maintaining its point of view that Israel was indeed legally responsible for the seven incidents for which the Board had found Israel responsible.
Question: Martin, can you, you mentioned the material assistance to the family of this one individual -- the caretaker. Is that the only case where the UN has done that involving individuals injured or killed in the fighting? And can you tell us how much?
Spokesperson: The Organization did not claim any sum in respect of the deaths and injuries caused to non-United Nations personnel, because there was no lawful basis for doing that. In the case of, as I mentioned, in the case of the caretaker, the Organization has provided material assistance, and has apparently given a job to another member of the family, for example.
I’m not aware of other cases like that.
Question: [inaudible] is there sort of a dollar amount or is the material support thing is like the job for the family member?
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of the full details. I am aware that a job has been given to another member of his family.
Question: [inaudible] the caretaker’s family?
Spokesperson: No. I have already said that the money was to cover seven incidents and no United Nations personnel were killed in those seven incidents, which were the subject of the Organization’s claim. And 11 people were injured in those incidents, but none of them seriously. And the amount in the Organization’s claim –- an amount in the Organization’s claim relates to those injuries. In other words, to the eleven people who were not seriously injured in those incidents, okay? So, you need to keep…
Spokesperson: It says here that an amount was included in the Organization’s claim in respect of those injuries. That is money that’s aimed at the… A part of it, I don’t know the amount, a part of it is aimed at the eleven people who were injured.
Question: [inaudible] that they actually fired these missiles and they hit those buildings?
Spokesperson: Israel did not admit that it was legally responsible for any of the incidents that were investigated by the Board of Enquiry. But the United Nations, for its part, maintained its position that Israel was legally responsible for the losses sustained in the seven incidents for which the Board of Enquiry had found Israel responsible. But, as often happens in such cases, the United Nations and Israel agreed to put the question of legal responsibility to one side for the purposes of settling the Organization’s claim.
Spokesperson: Yes, we have our guests here. We can’t keep them waiting. We can come back to this at the end of the briefing, okay? We’ll come back to this and any other questions you have, but we have here the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic and we also have the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti, Edmond Mulet, joining us here. And, David Wimhurst would you like to introduce the other guests, if appropriate?
Unidentified speaker in Haiti: Yes, on behalf of David, we have the Haitian Ambassador to the Dominican Republic; also the Dominican Ambassador in Haiti, [inaudible], the Consul-General, Vice-Minister, some colleagues from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent [Societies]; and, of course, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carlos Morales Troncoso.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Haiti , Edmond Mulet: Thank you, Martin. Thank you very much, and good afternoon dear friends from New York. We’re here in Port-au-Prince and our special guest today here is the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic, Mr. Carlos Morales Troncoso, with whom we have been having a very constructive and productive meeting this morning. And as you know, we have been in touch with the Dominican Government since the very beginning of this tragedy, and they have been responding in such an extraordinary way; providing food and assistance, facilitating the opening of the border. By the thousands the Dominicans have been coming to Haiti in their own cars, and pick-ups and trucks and bringing anything they can in order to assist the Haitian population. And the contacts at the local level between President [René] Préval and President [Leonel] Fernandez were able to organize this conference in Santo Domingo last Monday where very important decisions were made. And that was the first international conference in support of Haiti. And also, we’re extremely grateful as MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) and the United Nations and DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) for the Dominican’s contribution to MINUSTAH with a 150 troops that will be integrated under our command.
So, many things are happening here with the Dominican Republic. They are the ones facilitating and opening this humanitarian corridor, and this is the lifeline to Haiti at this point.
So I would now like to give the floor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Dominican Republic.
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: Thank you, Mr. Mulet. Hello to each and every one of you. I am, as a follow-through of President Fernandez’s visit last Friday, one week ago, and also as a follow-through of the conference that was held in the Dominican Republic last Monday, which was attended by Mr. Mulet with…from the UN, from the World Bank, from all the agencies, and also you had the presence of five prime ministers from the Caribbean. We just met with Ambassador Mulet. Prior to that we met with President Préval, Prime Minister [Jean-Max] Bellerive [of Haiti], and my colleague Marie Michele Rey. We’re continuing in our efforts to help Haiti in every way, shape or manner that the Dominican Republic can do; and we will follow through. I just told Mr. Mulet that we will also be present in the meeting in Montreal that will be held next Monday.
There are…the rescue efforts are, most of the rescue efforts were passing into the new stage of rehabilitation. The Dominican Republic has two airports -- the San Isidro Airport and the Barahona Airport. We are proceeding now as a bridge between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, in order that by land we can get all the immediate help like water, food, first aid and the Dominican Republic is ready, as we were from day one, to continue helping Haiti in this crisis, to see how we can, so how can we restore the normality again to the Haitian people. So, we met with President Préval, and also mentioned that the Dominican private sector is willing to help in restoring the electricity. There are many, as you know, there are many needs, needs that I just said were unprecedented. And in such a way also, the help that is needed has to be also unprecedented. So we have worked very closely with MINUSTAH. We have worked very closely previously with Mr. Mulet, with Mr. [Hédi] Annabi and all the friends that we lost in this tragedy.
So here we are representing the Dominican Republic, giving follow-through to the first visit of a Head of State that was held by President Fernandez last Friday, and we can tell the UN and the world that Dominican Republic is here to help.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: Back to you, Martin.
Spokesperson: Okay. Thanks very much Edmond, and thank you very much Minister. I’m going to ask for questions here in this auditorium here, and they will say who they are and who they work for when they ask their questions. I’m going first to Barbara. Yes.
Question: Barbara Plett from the BBC. Mr. Mulet, I understand that the United Nations signed an MoU with the Americans today setting out formally the way that you will be coordinating. Can you just confirm that and tell a little bit about what it said?
Spokesperson: Yes indeed, signed. The American Ambassador and myself, we signed this statement of principles that reaffirms the primary responsibility of the government of Haiti for the response to the earthquake of 12 January. But also, this document notes the scale of the disaster and the urgency of the humanitarian relief needs. And this requires a comprehensive and coordinated international response. So MINUSTAH and the UN family here in Haiti, we are, also with the United States, committed to supporting the Government of Haiti in carrying out its responsibilities.
So, we’ll be coordinating every single one of our actions on the ground here with the Haitian authorities and the Americans will be dedicated to the distribution of humanitarian aid; providing security also for that distribution. And MINUSTAH will try to perform our traditional duties here in assisting the national police and guaranteeing safety and stability and security in the country. So, this is a document that clarifies the roles and responsibilities; areas of work of the different forces on the ground.
A similar document is now near, consulted on with the Canadian government, because as you know, we have Canadian troops also on the ground. So, we’ll be also signing a similar document with them shortly.
Spokesperson: Yes, please.
Question: Wall Street Journal. A question for the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic. Did the Dominican Republic initially offer 800 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission for Haiti, and was that initially rejected by Haiti until a lower number of a 150 could be negotiated and accepted later?
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: We’re here to help. The Dominican Republic did not; we did not specify a number. And President Préval -- he doesn’t correspond to us. It was requested by him, and President Préval just gave a statement on that. It’s good for you to know that we’re here to help. This is a friend in need, it is a friend in need more than… it’s a neighbouring country with whom we share this island.
Spokesperson: Well, wouldn’t it be…forget the numbers; wouldn’t it be fair just to say that there was an initial, there was a negotiation, and at first it wasn’t accepted; and now you’ve worked it out?
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: [laughs] There is no negotiation. No negotiation whatsoever. I mean, when you’re helping, how can you negotiate when you want to help? From each side, one party needs help; the other one is willing to help. So, how [could] there be a negotiation?
Question: Hello, sir my name is Khaled Daoud from Al-Jazeera. But we did hear from, I mean [from] ambassadors here at the United Nations, that your government has initially offered a battalion and that this offer was not welcomed by the president of Haiti. So, can you just confirm these reports or how accurate they are?
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: [repeats the question to the Foreign Minister] That you have offered a 150 and Préval rejected that as well.
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: No, that’s not true. It’s certainly not true. President Préval just said that it was absurd and it was totally false.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: Yeah, I mean, I can again confirm and reiterate what the Minister of Foreign Affairs is saying that there was no negotiation, and no initial offer was made by anybody. It was an offer in general by the Dominican Republic, and it was us at the United Nations Force Generation Service that we thought that a certain amount of troops will be necessary for the patrolling of that area. And then we received this note from the Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic at the UN offering 150 troops… [interrupted].
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: Yes, that was a letter that we sent.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: A letter that you sent…
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: Yes, the letter we sent stated at 150.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: Yes. And now, and now the Dominican Republic is saying that they will send 130, not the 150 that they had originally offered because their own, I mean structures, etcetera. But I mean, I’m not aware, I can confirm that there was no rejection or negotiation or…
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: No, no, no.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: …at all.
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: Oh, no. We held a press conference with the… we held a press conference with President Préval. President Préval denied it and he said it was totally false. Yes. But the Dominican Republic, as far as, and that was what was President Fernandez [inaudible]. We want to be the facilitator for the humanitarian aid. I want that to be very clear. The Dominican Republic is the facilitator due to the fact that we belong to the same island.
Spokesperson: Okay, thank you. Please.
Question: Mr. Mulet, my name is [inaudible] Kyoto News Japanese agency. I want to ask about the number of deaths caused by the earthquake. I know it’s very difficult -- I have just come back from Haiti. I have seen it. But once again, will the UN or the government of Haiti ever come up with a figure one day, or it is almost impossible? And if it is very impossible, could you explain to us why? Is it because of lack of registration or simply it’s the devastation is so catastrophic so its…? Tell us why.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: I think we will have broad estimates, but we will never, never have a very precise number of casualties or deaths in Haiti. One of the reasons is that many of the people, I mean just picked up the bodies of dead relatives and friends and buried them in their own houses and in their own yards. This was one phenomenon. Then other people just took the bodies of their loved ones to cemeteries and were just left there without being buried. And some, as you know, many bodies were lying on the streets and on the sidewalks in different neighbourhoods here and the Government teams, and then MINUSTAH troops at the very beginning were just picking up all these bodies and taking them to a burial site.
Since then, we have opened two additional communal burial sites in coordination with the Red Cross. And this started, let’s say, last Saturday. And since then we have been making an effort to identify the victims; taking pictures and trying to find some kind if ID or something on them to try to register that. But from the day of the earthquake, let’s say Tuesday night until Friday, Friday afternoon, the recovery of bodies was done on a voluntary basis, and nobody was really in control of following up that situation.
So many of those dead and killed then are probably not [counted], we don’t have the numbers. Also, there is still a large, large amount of people and bodies under the rubble. Not only here in Port-au-Prince but in many other cities. I was yesterday in Leogane, for example, and 80–85 per cent of the city is completely destroyed; under the rubble, under big masses of concrete, etcetera. And those bodies will probably be there forever, because those are massive blocks of concrete that will probably never be removed. So, many of these reasons compound for the explanation that we might never have a precise number, only general estimates.
Question: Mr. Mulet, I’m [inaudible] from Radio France. Yesterday or today, I don’t exactly know, an American NGO (non-governmental organization) tried to distribute food, and a lot of violence erupted. What I want to know is, where was either the United States or the UN there? I mean, there was nobody to secure the place.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: There are many distribution points. Many NGOs are doing this on their own, and this is why we say it is important for coordination; and for voluntary groups or individuals who are helping and assisting here. They have to come to us and [made] requests for that assistance and that security. Sometimes we don’t have that possibility, because we’re completely overwhelmed, as you understand. The needs and the necessities here for people are enormous. So, we’re hoping that the American troops and the Canadians will come soon to the ground and help us in that distribution system and also providing security for that. But there are many, many demands. We have had some incidents as the one you’ve mentioned, but this is the situation here on the ground.
The logistics have been a big, big problem in order to bring what we need; in order to distribute, and the Americans are still mounting their operation and their base here in order to bring their troops that will be performing those tasks. But information, coordination, telling us where they’re going is important and also for us to provide their security. Also because internal communications are broken down. Most telephone lines and cellular phones do not work. It’s very difficult for people who are in those circumstances, needing assistance for security, to communicate with us. So it’s much better if they could communicate to us before, so we can see how we can assist them in that distribution.
And security is absolutely fundamental in this distribution, especially now in the very beginning. And the Government has now identified all the different points of distribution; this is why we are already guaranteeing the safety and security of those places and providing an escort to humanitarian assistance going to those distribution points. But if you have NGOs on their own distributing their own food in places where we have no control, previously or no visibility or no information previously; then it’s much more difficult for us. So, that coordination doesn’t only have to come from us. But we need the contribution, the information from [inaudible] in the field also in order for us to help them.
Question: Matthew Lee, Inner City Press. It’s a question for the Dominican Foreign Minister about immigration. There have been various reports, now I’ll just cite one of them. The Miami [Herald]has described people seeking to flee Haiti stopped at the border, and it has quoted Trinidad Benita as the Dominican official in charge of immigration as saying “Here only the seriously injured, students, legal workers and missionaries may get through,” and describes a woman with a baby deemed not sick enough to get across. I’m wondering, is that an accurate statement of the Dominican way of assessing Haitians who are fleeing, and what can you say about that?
Dominican Republic Foreign Minister Troncoso: No. This crisis has shown that there is a power of cooperation. Together with us there has been a power of hope. There has been the power of patience. The Dominican Republic, in a very unconditional way, has brought its trucks, its vehicles, its equipment, in order to help Haiti. We are coordinating a meeting for this weekend amongst the immigration officials, and we are accepting… we have a large number of Haitians that were hurt that are being taken care of in the Dominican hospitals.
Question: What cities… I guess what this report is saying is that the standard for injuries is too high, and it describes, you know, dehydrated babies not allowed to cross. I wonder if…
Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso: Sir, I have no knowledge of the report. I cannot comment on a report that I haven’t read.
Question: Ali Barada from An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon. Mr. Minister, do you have an estimate of the Haitian refugees that are now in the Dominican Republic?
Foreign Minister Carlos Morales Troncoso: Well, there’s not only the people fleeing into the Dominican Republic, or who fled to the Dominican Republic in the very beginning of this disaster, but also many people fleeing Port-au-Prince, and many of the affected areas, into other parts of Haiti -- going to the provinces, to the departments, and fleeing to those areas and to those cities. We have been asked to move, mobilize, some of our troops that we have all over the country, in order to come to Port-au-Prince to assist in the urgent activities here. But then, with all this exodus of people from Port-au-Prince going everywhere, then I have to keep my troops there, because I don’t want to deplete my forces in the countryside, since we also have to provide security there.
And also, the international assistance, and humanitarian assistance, will have to focus also, not only in Port-au-Prince or the affected areas, but all over the country. We have a big movement of internally displaced people, a movement of people, going to their places of origin, or just seeking refuge somewhere else. So now, we are identifying and trying to count how many people have been moved to these different places, different cities, all over the country. But that movement, that exodus, will continue.
So, we have to be prepared in order to assist them in those places. So, it’s not only people who have crossed the border into the Dominican Republic, but also inside Haiti. And those [people] will be needing assistance. So, the earthquake has not only affected Port-au-Prince and other areas where the destruction happened, but it has affected the entire country on the humanitarian scale.
Question: I’m from the German news agency. This is for Mr. Mulet. It’s about the additional troops you are asking for. The Dominican Republic Government sent about 130, I think Brazil about 900 troops. What is now the situation? What other countries are offering troops? And when do you think they are going to arrive? You asked to have them in two weeks. Thank you.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: As you know, the Brazilian battalion, around 850 soldiers and one company of Brazilian military police, will be arriving in the next three to three-and-a-half weeks to the country. We also have to prepare the ground for accommodation. We have to try to find a place for them to be and live and be installed, for their own camp. Also, what we have requested is that countries that already have troops on the ground, that have contingents on the ground, that have camps and they have logistics support for them, are the ones that we would be privileged if they want to send additional troops. They would get the support and the security and anything they need from their own contingents that are already on the ground.
We’re also receiving offers from other countries that have never been present with troops in MINUSTAH, in Haiti. What we’re asking from them is to come completely self-sustainable -- with their own tents, and with their own equipment, with everything. Because at this point, the Mission is completely overwhelmed and overstretched, and we will not be able to facilitate what we normally facilitate to troop contributing countries when they come on the ground to a peacekeeping mission. These are exceptional times. So the Force Generation Service in New York is trying to identify, first of all, which countries that already have troops on the ground are willing and capable at this point of sending additional troops. And then we’re going to look into other ones that could be self-sustainable in coming here.
On the police side, we already have been receiving from -- they’re already on the ground -- from Chile, arriving today from France, and many other countries on the police side. Those are smaller groups and are more easily housed and attended to.
On the military side, it’s a little bit more difficult. So, it’s going to take a few weeks. It’s not something that will happen immediately or automatically.
Question: Is this, sorry, a concern for you? Or you are, as you said before, because there are problems with security -- in the sense that for the delivery of food, all the aid the people need there -- you are waiting for the American troops or the Canadian troops? Those are going to be the main security then, for the delivery of the food? Because MINUSTAH is…
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: American and Canadian troops, their main task, their main responsibility in this division of labour we have agreed with them, is that they will be the ones assisting in the delivery of humanitarian aid and food and water, etcetera, to the population; providing escorts and fixed protection at distribution points, etcetera. MINUSTAH already, 40 per cent of the distribution of humanitarian aid and food, is already being done by our military. And we will continue doing that. But, we need, I mean, more assistance and more people to be involved in that distribution system. So, whatever we can do at this point in humanitarian aid and assistance, we are doing. But, in their case, their main responsibility won’t be that. We will be doing humanitarian aid, also, of course, as we have been doing now, but also continuing with our responsibilities related to supporting the national police and providing security over all the country.
Question: [inaudible] with [inaudible] Publishing. A couple of questions. First, on the status of in-kind contributions coming into the airport: Are you… Is the airport starting to clutter up with goods and materials and products that you’re not quite sure what to do with? Or is that more or less under the control, and everything coming in to Port-au-Prince has a recipient? And also, if you could provide details on how the military operation is provided with fuel -- is it the Petrocaribe initiative being expanded, or are you getting in-kind contributions from any other nations? If you could just provide some details on that. And I apologize if you already answered these questions.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: No problem. This first week, and this first stage of responding to the emergency, it was very urgent to have on the ground as many teams, as many people, as many volunteers, I mean, as many people, who could come on the ground and help and assist. The coordination of that, of course, is impossible. And it’s not desirable. Because we didn’t want to bureaucratize that assistance that came on the ground in a very spontaneous way, and that did save lives on the ground. I mean, the medical teams that came -- the surgeons, the trauma experts, the rescue teams, the initial food and water distribution people that came -- all that was more than welcome. But, now, we’re leaving that emergency phase behind and we have to come into a different phase in a more structured way. And now, we will be requesting -- and this is an appeal we make to the international community, to the generous countries that are providing assistance to Haiti -- to be in touch with us, so we know what the content of the cargo is, what is in the airplane; and to ask us what are the priorities and the necessities and what is needed here in Haiti.
Sometimes we have some cargo that arrives, it’s not really the most important thing at this point. So, the coordination that we’re trying to establish herewill need the contribution and the help and assistance from the contributors to this. We have now established these coordinating mechanisms that are working together very well on the different clusters, working inside. We have with the Government, with the Americans, with the Canadians, with NGOs -- all that is being put in place right now. We’re working at the airport to establish the priorities for landing slots -- all that is being done. But, this effort that’s being done here on the ground also needs the contribution from the ones providing that assistance. So, we make this appeal for them to be in touch with us and inform us of what their intentions are, what they have to offer, so we can discuss with them the priority of that assistance. But, all that structure is being put in place right now.
And yesterday, again this morning, again this afternoon, we’ll have other meetings with the Government, with the President, with the Prime Minister, in order to establish those guidelines and those mechanisms. I do hope that during the conference in Montreal, we will be able to present to the international community the whole package of the coordinating structures that will be established here at the operational level, here in Port-au-Prince, and at the tactical level on the ground. Of course, on the strategic level, that belongs to the capitals, to New York, etcetera, to the ministers above there. And this is something that will also be needed, not only on the horizontal level at those three strategic operational and tactical levels, but also vertical -- between those segments.
Question: So, thus far you have not, then, been getting complaints of, like, crates filled with microwaves or solar-powered radios or other weird stuff that people don’t know what to do with? You’re… things are… what’s needed is entering the country?
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: We had some generous contributions of people bringing things that we really don’t need right now. But of course, if an airplane comes and lands at the airport and this is the cargo they bring, so we unload that. And we put it on the side. But this is also taking up space. Our efforts could be dedicated to more important and urgent things right now. So, it’s good for us… and we’re more than willing and happy to coordinate, but we need that information, that collaboration, from the people and institutions and countries that are willing to come to Haiti.
Spokesperson: Edmond, a couple of the journalists were asking, could you give an example of shipments that have arrived that you don’t actually need at the moment? It might be useful later, but you don’t need them right now -- did you have an example? If not, then maybe David can give it later.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: I don’t have a list of things we don’t need right now, but I certainly have a list of the things we need.
On the fuel issue, the logistics of the whole operation has also been very problematic. We have enough amounts of food and stuff and assistance here to be distributed. But what we don’t have is vehicles -- trucks, pick-ups -- to reach out to the population. So, yesterday, we only reached 100,000 people, for example. We have foodstuff to distribute much more than that, but we didn’t have the vehicles. And the fuel has also been a problem. But now, the Dominican Republic has been facilitating the distribution of fuel towards Haiti on the border. Only for water distribution, for our system of water distribution, we are importing from the Dominican Republic 10,000 gallons of diesel per day, in order to provide fuel to our water trucks working all over the city.
But all this -- fuel depots and reserves in Haiti -- is there. We are, of course ‑‑ MINUSTAH ‑‑ providing security to the main tanks and depots here in Port-au-Prince, so it will not be a problem. That, from the Dominican Republic, and through the port, that will be guaranteed. We’re now opening more and more gas stations around the city. MINUSTAH and the Haitian National Police (HNP) are providing security there.
And also, too, we launched and kick-started again the economy. We have been working with the banks. Our UNPOL police and military, we went two days ago, and again yesterday, to recover from all the cash machines and banks and vaults the money there. So we recovered the whole thing. We gave that all back to the banks. We will be providing security to the 40 banks that will be opening on Saturday. Of course, the main responsibility to provide security to the banks is the banks themselves, but this will give an opportunity, while we provide security for them in the next week or two weeks or something, to reorganize their own security services. We’re doing even that -- working with the banks in order to kick-start the economy.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much Edmond, and thank you very much Minister. I’m very conscious that you have a huge amount to do. So, I think we’ll leave it there. We’ll be -- I know that we will be -- having briefings next week, too. We thank you very much for sparing the time to do this for us.
Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mulet: Thank you very much. Good day everybody. Thank you.
Spokesperson: Thank you very much.
Spokesperson: Say again?
Spokesperson: I just wanted to mention a couple of things: you asked about an update on the figures. The Secretary-General mentioned those figures in his address to the General Assembly this morning, which as you know, has adopted a resolution on humanitarian support. I’m guessing that JeanVictor will have more details on that. So, you can read the latest figures ‑‑ they are the latest figures -- in the Secretary-General’s remarks.
Question: On the way, I read the Secretary-General saying that it’s now 70. But again, the same question: I mean, like, when are we going to, kind of, reach a final figure for the UN losses? I mean, obviously the figure of unaccounted for is going down steadily, I mean, by a ratio of 100 a day or so. So, I mean, when do you expect to have, like, a solid estimate of UN losses?
Spokesperson: Well, that’s really difficult to say. I mean, people are doing their level best to try to work on both sides. In other words, to recover and identify those who have died in this, and also to track down people who are still alive. But, it’s difficult to say by when that will be completed. It’s being done as quickly as it can be, because obviously the families want to know. That work is really going on in a very intensive fashion.
Question: And do you think there is a time for ending the removal of the rubble of the Christopher Hotel? I mean, like, “This [inaudible] work will be done in one week, two weeks, one month?”
Spokesperson: That’s an assessment that needs to be made on the ground. That’s not something that I can really speak about right here. But, what I would say is, the Secretary-General has made clear that we should expect that the death toll will continue to rise.
And I just wanted, just very briefly, to mention a couple of other things before going back to the other questions that I know are out there.
Next week, so, on Monday, at 4 p.m., there will be a briefing here by John Holmes and also by Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme. So, I think that that’s going to be…
Spokesperson: On Monday.
Question: Isn’t he going to Montreal on Monday?
Spokesperson: I beg your pardon?
Question: He’s in Montreal on Monday, Mr. Holmes, isn’t he?
Spokesperson: That’s a good point. This is what we have here. Let me check. But, that’s a very good point.
There will be, today, a UNICEF briefing. It will be a background briefing, and it will provide information on child security matters in Haiti. And that’ll be here, too.
And a couple of other stakeouts that are taking place today that you’d probably be interested in. One is at 1:15 p.m., so pretty soon. That’s with the Foreign Minister of Nigeria. He’ll speak to correspondents over in the North Lawn Building. And then at around 4:35 p.m. Catherine Ashton, who, as you know, is a Vice-President for the European Union, will speak to correspondents in the same place, over in the new building.
So that’s where we are. I’m conscious that -- I don’t want to hog the limelight here. We have JeanVictor here. But I sensed that there were some other questions related to Israel and maybe other topics.
Question: Another topic, if that’s okay? The Secretary-General met with Yemen’s Foreign Minister this morning. Are there any details on that?
Spokesperson: Not yet, but we expect to have a readout.
Question: And on the meeting on Yemen next week, is the Secretary-General attending?
Spokesperson: No, he won’t, but the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs will be attending.
Question: Is the Secretary-General visiting Cyprus next month?
Spokesperson: That’s something that the Secretary-General has said in the past that he would be willing to visit Cyprus if the timing was appropriate. So, we’ll have to wait and see.
Question: A couple of questions. First, sort of following off what you’d said about the payment for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and UNRWA’s decision to provide material assistance. Can you either state now, or at the next briefing or in between, what material assistance is being provided to the families of those UN staff, both international and national, who perished in Haiti? And whether the benefits are the same, the material assistance? How, you know, between these two groups. And just what the number…? I’ve heard that [it’s] Schedule D of the benefits package, but I’d like to know what it is.
Spokesperson: I’m sure you would. And I’m sure that more than you, the family members would like to know. And that is being worked on very intensively, and it’s something that occupies the mind of many people, not least the Secretary-General.
Question: But isn’t there a standard, I mean, isn’t there a UN policy? What I’m asking for is the policy, not actually what, what… You see what I mean?
Spokesperson: Yes, I do understand. This has to do with insurance and other matters, and that’s being looked into very closely by the right people in Field Support, in the Department of Management, Department of Human Resources Management.
Question: Sure. When a decision is made, you’ll…?
Spokesperson: The question of payments of whatever kind to family members or those who were injured is really a matter for them, between the United Nations and them. The principle that you refer to, of course, is something that we would want to make public.
Question: Isn’t it a public…? I mean, it’s a public organization.
Spokesperson: That’s what I’m saying. The principle is very clear. It’s a matter of public interest, you’re absolutely right. And on the principle, we will make it clear what’s going on. But, the details are something for the family members.
Question: I also wanted to ask -- this is on a different matter -- a Minister of Parliament in Uganda has called for a UN or UN-OCHA investigation of what he says is a Government bombing of civilians in the Karamoja region, killing 30 civilians, according to him. I think that OCHA does have a presence in this Karamoja region of, you know, they call it a cattle or pastoralist area. So, I wanted to know, whether the UN can either confirm or deny it, or whether it’s going to respond to the request that it look into this alleged killing of 30 civilians.
Spokesperson: Confirm or deny what, Matthew?
Question: Confirm or deny that this incident took place. If OCHA has an office there, are they aware of the bombing by airplane of the Government, of civilians?
Spokesperson: We’re aware of the report, and we’ve asked OCHA to give us some more information on that.
Question: Can I ask one more?
Spokesperson: I’d like, actually, to see if there are others, and I think I would ask Jean-Victor to join us. Just please do join.
But, one thing I did want to respond to was, you asked a question, Matthew, yesterday, about the debt repayments by Haiti. The Secretary-General, of course, welcomes any efforts to ease financial burdens placed on Haitians. As for the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, it says it has supported, and is supporting, rural and agricultural development in Haiti through seven loans, for a total amount of $90 million on highly concessional terms. Six of these loans are now completed and closed. And they’re covered by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries relief initiative, and consequently, the debt repayments are covered by debt relief. There is one loan not covered by that initiative, and repayments for this loan will not start before 2018. The Fund is now reviewing its approach towards these repayments with a view to call on its Member States to assist in directly supporting Haiti with further relief.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Thank you, Martin. Good afternoon.
Just recalling that, earlier today, the General Assembly resumed its consideration of subitem (a) of agenda item 70, which is “strengthening of the coordination of emergency humanitarian assistance of the United Nations”. Resolution 64/250 on the Haiti earthquake, responding to the situation in that country, was adopted today. On that occasion, on behalf of President [Ali Abdussalam] Treki [of Libya], the Acting President of the General Assembly, Byrganym Aitimova, the Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations, expressed support to the Government and the people of Haiti. She said: “This is an occasion to reiterate our full commitment for the provision of immediate relief and emergency assistance to the people of Haiti. Beyond that, it is crucial to ensure support for the even more difficult task of long-term reconstruction and development of Haiti. It will require sustained focus and attention of the international community in the months and years ahead. The entire UN system, as well as the international financial institutions and development agencies will have a key role to play in this regard.”
Just want to clear some possible confusion, because I’ve been receiving queries this morning about the other resolution. Well, the other resolution is an annual draft that is usually adopted with consensus. So there was no specific Haiti item in this regard. Both resolutions are posted online, as well as the statement of Ambassador Aitimova, which we will also post online later today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure. Just to follow up on something that arose here. I wanted to know whether, you know, when the UN, when these types of tragedies occur, whether it was in Baghdad, or Algiers, or now in Haiti, is the arrangement between the United Nations and its staff, both international and national, to the degree that they’re different, is that a subject under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly and its Budget, Fifth Committee? Or is entirely in the discretion of the Secretariat?
General Assembly Spokesperson: The arrangement between the UN and its staff, and staffing matters, which are contractual matters, really are matters for the Secretariat. The General Assembly is mainly a policy-formulation organ. The specific committee, including the Committee you referred to, the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions], has budgetary responsibilities. But, in terms of executing application and implementation of the resolution that are adopted every year in the General Assembly, it really is the Secretariat that you have to address these questions to.
Question: But isn’t there… I mean, there’s a thing they call the human resources plan that goes before the Fifth Committee, and things like continuing contracts are not… are voted on by them and weren’t adopted. So, I just… Maybe you can look into whether this… what the provisions are, and whether the Fifth Committee has voted on what the, you know, material assistance to staff should be?
General Assembly Spokesperson: I hear you. In light of what happened recently in Haiti, specifically, I’ll try to look into it, if there is really something that comes out. But I was just responding on the general policy aspect of what we do, and what we don’t do.
Question: And also, I just wanted to know, in light of the visit by the European Union Foreign Minister, or whatever they’re called, the High Representative, are you aware of this proposal by the European Union to get an observer status in the General Assembly, under which they could participate in debates and co-sponsor resolutions? And, if so, what’s the status of that and when will it be decided on?
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of that as yet. I will double-check. But, you may also want to check that with members of the European Union caucus.
Thank you. No further questions? I wish you a pleasant weekend. Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record