19 August 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon to everybody.


**Noon Guest


We have as our guest today Martin Mogwanja, who’s the Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan, and he’s joining us by teleconference to update us on the situation in Pakistan.


[Press conference by Mr. Mogwanja issued separately.]


I have a couple of other items, just very briefly.


**Secretary-General on Pakistan


As I just mentioned, the Secretary-General will address the General Assembly at 3 this afternoon about the humanitarian needs in Pakistan.  You’ve heard plenty about that just now from Mr. Mogwanja.


The Secretary-General will say that Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami, with needs expected to grow.  The Secretary-General will thank the international community for the generosity it has shown so far, while underscoring that the needs are great, and this disaster is far from over.  And he will ask nations to respond urgently to the UN emergency appeal for the $460 million we have heard about, to cover the next 90 days.  We have put out embargoed copies of the Secretary-General’s remarks.


The Secretary-General is also meeting with a number of the participants at the General Assembly session, many of whom are Foreign Ministers.  We will provide you with readouts as soon as we get them and, indeed, we have available for you readouts on the Secretary-General’s meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister and the Canadian Foreign Minister.  Both of those will be available in my Office.


**Humanitarian Day


The Secretary-General, as we also heard, marked World Humanitarian Day and he spoke out about the United Nations commitment to life-saving relief efforts and our remembrance of those who died while serving this cause.


He paid tribute to those who have perished while working for humanitarian causes, including in Haiti, where January’s earthquake had a devastating impact on aid workers.  He said the United Nations lost some of its most dedicated staff on that day.


Before delivering an address for World Humanitarian Day, the Secretary-General laid a wreath in honour of the 22 people who died in the bombing of the UN offices at the Canal Hotel in Baghdad, which happened seven years ago today.


I would also encourage you to check out the short film produced by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to mark World Humanitarian Day.  You can find the link on the UN website and on the website of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or you can simply Google World Humanitarian Day.


**General Assembly Stakeouts


Staying with the General Assembly session, there will be a number of stakeouts this afternoon, and two specifically I would mention: at 4:30 p.m., the Canadian Foreign Minister; and at 6:15 p.m., the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, along with the President of the General Assembly.  Those stakeouts will be taking place outside the General Assembly Hall.


So, I can take a couple of questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I want to refer again to the Goldstone Report issue.  Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, assessing that the investigation that has been handed to the SG falls short of being thorough or impartial.  But also they said that they regret that the SG merely passed on the reports instead of making the failings of these investigations clear.  So, do you agree with that assessment and what’s your reaction to that?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I said yesterday, the Secretary-General was not requested to express his views on the responses received, and he has done what he was asked to do by the General Assembly, namely to transmit the responses from the parties to the General Assembly.  This he has done.


Question:  But would you mind following up?  I have the resolution with me and it says that, paragraph number five: “requests the SG to report to the General Assembly on the implementation of the resolution”, and the resolution is asking for independent, thorough investigations.  Not just to hand them over, or to pass them, as the Human Rights Watch people said.


Spokesperson:  The intention of the resolution was for the parties to provide their reports and it was for the Secretary-General to transmit those.  This he has done.  He was not asked to express his views on those responses.


Question:  Martin, there is a report out — a United Nations report on Gaza — there’s a new report about how the Israeli tanks have gone through the fields of the Palestinians in Gaza, how it has affected the livelihoods of the Palestinians involved.  My question in that regard is, has the Secretary-General been in touch once again with the Israelis to loosen the grip on Gaza, to allow more shipments of food in there, so that free trade is also allowed, so the Palestinians can earn their livelihood?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has repeatedly and consistently called for an easing of the situation that we have in Gaza to allow more supplies in and, crucially, as we’ve also mentioned, to allow people in and out, and of course to allow trade to take place, so that Gaza can function as a normal economy.


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Back to Pakistan, especially on the assistance provided already or pledged.  I have read somewhere that UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] is coming up with $900 million and the Asian Development Bank with $1 billion.  Do you have any information on that, or know if OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] has?


Spokesperson:  I think it would have been possible to ask Mr. Mogwanja this, but I’m sure that we can find out from UNDP.  As for the Asian Development Bank, I’m sure that they would be able to help you.  I’ve seen reports along the lines you’ve mentioned about the Asian Development Bank, but that is a separate institution and they can speak for themselves, I’m sure.  Please?


Question:  I also had a follow-up question about Pakistan.  It’s just that with the second wave of deaths that’s being predicted, that it will be the more vulnerable population such as children that will suffer the consequences; and I’m curious what actions are specifically being targeted to protect the children of Pakistan.


Spokesperson:  Again, that would have been a good question for Mr. Mogwanja.  I don’t recall that you put your hand up to ask a question.  So, I don’t want to second-guess what he might have told you.  We can also check with UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO).  Clearly, you’re right to highlight it.  Children in any crisis, and particularly a natural disaster of this magnitude, are particularly vulnerable, as are women and the elderly, so that must be one of the priorities that we have on the ground.  But my colleagues who are more specialists in this, I’m sure, would be able to provide more information.


Question: I’m following up on the question on Goldstone Report.  The General Assembly resolution asks the Secretary-General to send the report to the Security Council.  Has he rejected that request?  He’s not done so.


Spokesperson:  Let me find out.


Question:  I want to ask about Myanmar, Sudan and something about staff.  On Myanmar, I don’t know if this is for World Humanitarian Day, but on 31 July, there’s this thing called the Tripartite Core Group — that the UN had long praised in dealing with Cyclone Nargis as mediating between humanitarian workers and the Government -- was disbanded, it said.  And the Government has said that there’s essentially no more need for post-cyclone work, and that humanitarian workers should seek visas from individual agencies, which the NGOs [non-governmental organization] say will take between four months and two years.  I’m just wondering what the response is of the UN to this pretty abrupt curtailment of post-cyclone aid, whether the good offices have anything to say about it and what you think this portends for people in the Irrawaddy Delta, many of whom are still suffering the consequences of that cyclone.


Spokesperson:  Let’s see if we can find out.  I don’t have anything for you right now.


Question:  And then on Sudan, maybe you’ll have something on this.  The UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] humanitarian coordinator has said that the LRA’s, the Lord’s Resistance Army’s, rampages are destroying the whole agricultural sector of South Sudan.  It seemed like a pretty strong statement, but it was unclear to me what UNMIS is doing about this rampaging LRA.  Do you know? What are they doing?


Spokesperson:  Let’s ask my colleagues to give us an update on what they can tell us about that.


Question:  And do you have any update on West Darfur, the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] and FAO [Food and Agricultural Organization] individuals that were reportedly being expelled by local officials due to a lack of security?


Spokesperson:  Not beyond what I mentioned the other day.


Question: Finally — hopefully, we’ll try to engage you on this one.  I think you’ll have something to say on it.  It’s come to my attention that there are UN staff members from countries that are on United States sanctions lists that, whereas diplomats from these countries are precluded from travelling beyond 25 miles outside of New York without getting permission of the State Department, that there are UN staff members that, although they are international civil servants, are similarly being required to check with the State Department to travel beyond 25 miles.  I think that there are Under-Secretaries-General aware of their staff members in this situation.  I wanted to know whether the Secretariat believes it’s appropriate that UN staff members who are international civil servants, not working for their underlying Government, are subject to this restriction.  Why hasn’t the Secretariat fought for the rights of its staff members right here in the United States?


Spokesperson:  Where you’re sitting now is not in the United States, Matthew.


Question:  No, no, I understand.  I’m saying that the State Department, in granting the G-4 visa, has imposed the condition that these individuals, UN staff members…


Spokesperson:  No, I heard what you said, but I need to find out.  I don’t have anything for you on that.  But thanks for the question and we’ll look into it.  Yes?


Question:  Ban Ki-moon is supposed to meet Hillary Clinton today at 2 p.m.  Are they going to discuss by any chance the Quartet statement — we’ve been expecting it many days — or is this only…?


Spokesperson:  Well, as we’ve repeatedly said, when a Quartet statement is ready — if it’s ready — we’ll let you know.  I think you know as well as I do that it’s in the works, but when it’s ready we’ll let you know.  And as for the Secretary-General’s discussions with Hillary Clinton, we will provide a readout afterwards.  Okay?


Question:  I know it will come out when it comes out, but “expected soon” — why is it being delayed?  Because we’ve been hearing these almost daily reports…


Spokesperson:  It’s something that the Quartet envoys are working on and when it’s ready, we’ll let you know.


Question:  You can’t tell us at all what the problems delaying the Quartet statement are?


Spokesperson:  It’s in the works.  Okay?  Alright.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record