9 April 2010
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, everyone.


**Kyrgyzstan


Jan Kubis is on his way to Kyrgyzstan as the Secretary-General's special envoy.  Once there, Kubis will meet constitutional authorities and representatives of relevant political groups.


Kubis will then fly to New York to brief the Secretary-General on his fact-finding mission.  He is liaising closely with the special envoys from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union.


**Secretary-General in Vienna


Today and tomorrow, the Secretary-General is chairing a session in Vienna of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which brings together the heads of the UN system worldwide.


He’ll be back in New York this weekend, having wrapped up his visit to the five Central Asian countries and to Austria.


** Haiti


In Haiti, agencies are teaming up to relocate several thousand people at risk of potential flooding in the Petionville Club settlement in Port-au-Prince.


According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 7,500 people were identified as being at risk.  The agencies also worked with the UN Mission in the country, MINUSTAH, and others to identify priority areas within where work has to be carried out to prevent flooding and mudslides. 


People living in dangerous areas were presented with voluntary relocation options.  When those are not possible, relocation will be facilitated to the new Corail Cesselesse site.  Relocation to this site will start tomorrow.  The process is expected to take several days.


The Corail Cesselesse site will include health care and food distribution services, as well as specialized services for children, such as a learning area provided by UNICEF.


**Travel to Haiti


On Haiti, the Secretary-General has made clear his concerns about the difficult living conditions in the camps for displaced Haitians and, in particular, reports of sexual violence against women and children.  As he informed you earlier this month, he is dispatching the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, to Haiti to survey the situation in the camps, assess the steps that have been taken and explore areas for further action.


The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Haiti this Sunday, where she will meet with President René Préval and other senior Government officials.  She will spend Sunday night in one of the camps for Haitians displaced since the earthquake and meet with residents and police there, in order to assess the efforts to protect the people there from sexual violence and related problems.


She will also visit Leogane on Monday and discuss child protection issues with Haitian officials.  And she intends to speak to the press on Tuesday before she returns to New York.  Then, next Wednesday, she is scheduled to be the guest at the noon briefing, and she will talk about her trip to Haiti at that point with you.


** Sudan


After his briefing yesterday to the Security Council on the status of preparations for the upcoming elections in Sudan, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, issued remarks to the press, noting that the United Nations has been providing technical assistance and some limited logistical support to Sudan’s National Election Commission.


Le Roy said that we continue to express some concerns regarding aspects of the electoral environment.  We have encouraged the Government, the National Election Commission and political parties to take steps to ensure respect for political freedoms and equal access to the media. 


We are encouraged by some steps taken in this regard, the Under-Secretary-General added.  But it will be for observers to assess the elections.  It will be important that the process and results be regarded as legitimate by the Sudanese population.


Meanwhile, our UNifeed service will be distributing election coverage from Sudan, via the UNTV fiber lines and on its website, www.un.org/unifeed.  That coverage will begin on Sunday at 7:30 EDT, 11:30 GMT.


And I was asked yesterday about our reaction to the European Union’s withdrawal of observers from Darfur.  What I can say is that we understand that the European Union has withdrawn its six electoral observers from Darfur, because of insecurity and movement restrictions.  This is unfortunate, but it is for the European Union to decide whether the security and other conditions are in place for their personnel.  We are encouraged that there will be approximately 750 international and 18,000 domestic observers monitoring these elections throughout the country.


**Somalia/Yemen


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reports that the flow of people crossing the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea has slowed in recent months.  The largest drop was registered in the number of new Somali arrivals in Yemen:  some 3,200 Somali refugees have arrived in Yemen this year, which is approximately a third of their number during the first quarter of 2009. 


The drop in the number of Somali arrivals was unfortunately not driven by improvement of conditions inside Somalia, UNHCR says.  The first three months of 2010 had recorded some of highest displacement rates since last year, with an estimated 169,000 people being forced to leave their homes in south central Somalia, particularly from Mogadishu.  We have more details in UNHCR’s briefing notes.


**Climate Change


The first round of formal United Nations negotiations on climate change following the Copenhagen Conference has started today in Bonn, Germany.


According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the meeting is designed to decide the organization of work in 2010, including the number and duration of any additional negotiating sessions in the second half of 2010, in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Mexico -- which will start at the end of November.


Around 1,700 delegates from 174 countries are meeting in Bonn until Sunday, 11 April.  And the Executive Secretary of the Framework Convention is scheduled to hold a press conference that day.


**The Week Ahead


And also, we have The Week Ahead at the United Nations.  Among the highlights of that, next Monday, 12 April, as we announced yesterday, the Secretary-General will attend a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.


On Tuesday, the Security Council is to meet to discuss the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC).


On Wednesday, the Security Council will hold an open debate on the situation in the Middle East.  And, like I said, Asha-Rose Migiro will be guest at the noon briefing to brief you on the visit she is taking at the start of the week to Haiti.


And on Thursday, the Commission of Inquiry looking into Benazir Bhutto's assassination will turn in their report to the Secretary-General.  At 4:30 p.m., they will hold a press conference, moderated by the Commission’s Chairman, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz.


And that is it for me.  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  What does the Secretary-General think about the absence of Israel from this summit on nuclear issues in Washington?  Especially knowing that Israel is a nuclear State?


Associate Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General does not have any comment on who will or would not be attending the Nuclear [Security] Summit.  Obviously, it is a good thing for as many leaders as possible to show up for the Summit, and the Secretary-General will be there and expects to meet a number of the leaders while he is there.


Question:  Just one more on the same subject, Farhan.  Will he be carrying a certain message related to, for example, creating a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East?  You know, everybody is talking about Iran, but is he planning to make any mention of the case of Israel among these circumstances?


Associate Spokesperson:  You were not around yesterday, but I did mention what his concerns are as he goes in, and I can share that with you afterwards, but one of the things he will do is also present his own particular action plan dealing with the issue of non-proliferation.


Question:  Is it in the Middle East?


Associate Spokesperson:  No, no, it is his plan dealing with the issue of non-proliferation in general.


Question:  Including the Middle East?


Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the Middle East is a part of the world as a whole.


Question:  Sure, Farhan.  I wanted to get a description of which offices of the UN -- DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or DPA [Department of Political Affairs] -- were involved in this “road map [towards] peace” for Darfur, the uniting of rebel groups under a single umbrella that took place in Doha and was ultimately signed by an, until 8 March, UN staff member.  So, you referred me to ECA [Economic Commission for Africa] and I have gotten some answers from this, but what I want to know is:  was there UN involvement in the process?  I am aware of that, and so I want to know… it is not ECA; they say they had no engagement in it.  So was it the Department of Peacekeeping Operations or the Department of Political Affairs or some other UN unit that was involved in seeking to unify the Darfur rebel groups under the leadership of Mr. Al-Tijani Al-Sissi?


Associate Spokesperson:  I will have to check and see which part of the system deals with that topic.


Question:  Well, I guess I want to know, and you have referred me to ECA, I have gotten their answers and now I am just asking you.  Given that they say that Mr. Al-Tijani Al-Sissi was paid by the UN system from 2005 through 8 March 2010, and during that time made public statements about his desire to unify Darfur rebel groups and to become the leader, what does the UN Secretariat have to say about this use of staff time, violation of staff rules, and, in fact, involvement in the political process of Darfur by a UN staff member?


Associate Spokesperson:  Certainly, if any staff member for ECA is involved in inappropriate activities, it is for the Economic Commission for Africa to look into that.  As you know, there are rules and regulations that prohibit certain types of political activity for staff of the United Nations.


Question:  Is it entirely an ECA matter, or are the UN staff rules consistent throughout the system and policed by OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] and others?


Associate Spokesperson:  There are staff rules and regulations throughout the system.  Obviously, each different entity is responsible for monitoring and examining the actions of their own staff to make sure that they are appropriate and conform with the appropriate rules.


Question:  But just to tie this one up, this is the reason I am asking -- when you look into which UN units, DPKO or DPA, were involved in the process of unifying the groups, can you ask how they were not aware that the person who emerged and who spoke and wanted to become the leader of these united groups was, in fact, a UN staff member?  I just see it as sort of a fragmented response.  It seems like the UN has a paid staff member that did it.  To refer all the questions to ECA just seems like a way to let DPKO, DPA or the Secretariat off the hook.


Associate Spokesperson:  The questions having to do with his employment in ECA have to be referred to ECA.  That is simply logical.


Question:  How about the question of how DPKO or DPA could be working with somebody and not know they were a UN staff member when everyone else knew?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, let’s not speculate about what they were or were not doing.


Question:  But can I get an answer on that, not from ECA?


Associate Spokesperson:  Do not speculate.  But first, let’s get the details about what precisely did happen on that.


Question:  Can I ask, actually, one more?  It has to do with Kim Bolduc.  The reason I am asking you this is she was presented here, she has appeared on that screen, and she has been praised by the UN system.  She has left her service after a mere four months in Haiti.  She left on 30 March.  And so I want to know, it seems strange to… they say that her assignment ended.  Was her assignment when she went to Haiti only for four months?  And if not, what happened that she left on 30 March?


Associate Spokesperson:  Well, yes, she did leave at the end of her assignment.  I believe she continues to be on contract with UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], and I would refer you on to my colleagues at the United Nations Development Programme for anything further.


Question:  Also yesterday, you said that Mr. Le Roy, which he did, he issued a written statement at the end of yesterday’s… it had been said he was going to do a stakeout and take questions.  But one question I wanted to ask him and now I guess I will ask you is:  is it the case that he is now going on leave for ten days, and if so, who is going to handle both DPKO’s response from UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] and UNAMID [African Union/United Nations Hybrid operation in Darfur] to Sudan elections [and] the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] trip by the Security Council to negotiate the extension of MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo]?  With Mr. [Edmund] Mulet now firmly in Haiti, who in DPKO will be the officer in charge, if he is, in fact, on leave for ten days?


Associate Spokesperson:  First of all, we would not have any comment on the leave of any of our staff.  Second of all, as you know, the UN is an organization.  We have quite a lot of people looking at all of the work that we do.  And certainly, for the Sudan elections, there are a huge number of people involved in this, including of course the heads of the UN Missions on the ground, including the head of the UN Mission in Sudan, Haile Menkerios.  There are quite a lot of people dealing with it.  And of course, since it is an election, there are also people like the electoral division of the Department of Political Affairs also looking into it.  There are quite a lot of people who will be involved.


Question:  I am not asking where he is going on leave.  I am simply asking -- is it confidential if an officer in charge is put in charge of DPKO during this critical time?  Is that a secret, or can it be said who the officer in charge is?


Associate Spokesperson:  As far as that goes, there is -- and I think we will have an announcement shortly -- there is an Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and let me check when we can announce that formally.


Thanks very much.


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