5 November 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, everybody.


**Secretary-General on Group of 20 (G-20)


The Secretary-General will travel next week to Seoul, where he will meet with G-20 leaders and discuss development issues with them.  He has sent a letter to the G-20 leaders, describing the consultations he has had with Member States on development.


He said that, while there may be divergences within the G-20 on some issues, there is one point on which we can all converge:  we cannot afford to let the recovery falter at this stage.  Otherwise, the world’s poor and the vulnerable will again have to pay an unacceptable price.  He urged the leaders to continue their efforts to sustain economic recovery globally and to lay the foundations for more inclusive, resilient and green growth, including through a concerted focus on delivering the Millennium Development Goals.


In his letter, the Secretary-General stressed that G-20 nations can contribute to development by addressing vulnerabilities as they emerge, dealing with climate change directly and addressing food and nutrition security comprehensively.  As the MDG Summit has proven, we can and must pull together to ensure a more secure, prosperous and equitable world for all.


**Climate Change Financing


And as you probably saw earlier today, the Secretary-General received the final report of the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing.  The Secretary-General had asked the Group to identify new, innovative and additional sources of financing to meet the goal set by industrialized countries, last year in Copenhagen, of $100 billion a year by 2020.


He said that the options identified in the report are both financially feasible and politically viable.  He said the Advisory Group has given us a path, and it is now up to Governments to consider the options and to act.  The Secretary-General also said that the report will feed into the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process and that it could help Governments in their discussions on climate finance — one of the most difficult areas in the negotiations.


**Security Council


The Security Council heard an open briefing this morning on Guinea-Bissau by the Secretary-General’s Representative for that country, Joseph Mutaboba.


The Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on Guinea-Bissau says that it is the responsibility of that country’s civilian and military leaders to demonstrate their firm commitment to long-lasting stability for their country.  He urges them to forge a national consensus on the best way to ensure the stability of Guinea-Bissau.


He further appeals to the authorities not to spare any effort to maintain stability and ensure respect for constitutional order and the rule of law, as well as to be resolute in fighting impunity and promoting national reconciliation.  He also recommends a one-year extension of the mandate of the [United Nations] Office in Guinea-Bissau.  The Council followed its meeting with consultations, also on Guinea-Bissau.


** Sudan


A peacekeeper for the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was shot by unknown armed men while on guard duty at a water point in Kutum, in North Darfur.  UNAMID forces nearby retaliated with gunfire, which forced the attackers to flee.  The peacekeeper was taken to a nearby UN medical centre for treatment and later evacuated to the mission’s hospital in El Fasher.  He is in a stable condition.  The Mission is appealing to the Sudanese authorities to speedily investigate this incident and bring the perpetrators to justice.


Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, is in Sudan, where she said today that the January referendum on the future of Southern Sudan could create new humanitarian needs if violence breaks out.  She said that Southern Sudan was at a critical juncture.


Amos stressed that the already difficult humanitarian operating environment in the South had deteriorated.  She noted the worrying trend of increased interference in humanitarian operations by Southern Sudanese State authorities and security forces.  Since February, there have been 118 reports of interference, harassment and restriction of aid workers’ access to beneficiaries by State authorities.


Amos said:  “The security of humanitarian staff is essential to carrying out humanitarian programmes, especially as the final stages of a highly political process are unfolding”.  And we have more details in a press release.


** Haiti


In Haiti, UN agencies continue to prepare to respond to Tomas – which has now strengthened to a hurricane, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that additional emergency supplies and equipment are urgently needed.  Tarpaulins and tents in stock only cover 60 per cent of the estimated number of people who could be affected by Tomas.


Yesterday, more than 2,000 people from the exposed Corail Cesselesse camp for internally displaced persons were evacuated to a nearby building.


UN agencies and their partners are also continuing their efforts to contain and prevent cholera in the country.  The World Health Organization (WHO) says it has sent emergency health kits to Port-au-Prince, which contained medicines to treat 10,000 persons for three months.  Other emergency kits were sent to other areas with the capacity to treat between 10,000 and 20,000 people also for three months.


** Pakistan


Rauf Engin Soysal, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan, says that millions of people there remain in need of immediate help, 100 days after the flooding crisis began in the country.


The emergency is far from over, with an estimated 14 million people in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.  Many face serious challenges on a daily basis and need supplies of safe drinking water, food, health-care and shelter, especially as the harsh winter begins and temperatures drop in northern Pakistan.


The humanitarian crisis is still widespread, with displaced people scattered across vast areas and floodwaters still engulfing their homes, particularly in the province of Sindh.  To date, the UN Floods Relief and Early Recovery Response Plan, which amounts to $1.93 billion, is only 40 per cent funded.


That’s what I have for you. I am happy to take questions.  Yeah, Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, okay.  I’ve got a few.  I wanted to ask, because I have some Sudan questions, but I wanted to ask about Myanmar first because of the upcoming election on Sunday.  It’s been reported that the Government there is extending an invitation to diplomats and UN representatives to tour polling stations on Sunday.  It’s also… that some diplomats have said that they won’t go on the tour, but will make their own arrangements to make some observation.  I wanted to know, since the Government there forbid outside election observers, but said it would ask the diplomatic community, including the UN, to do it, what’s the UN intending to do on election day in Myanmar?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out.


Question:  Maybe hopefully before the day, is that possible?


Spokesperson:  It wouldn’t be a bad idea, yeah.  Okay?


Question:  Okay.  And then on Sudan, I heard what you said about the shot peacekeeper, but there are also these reports of three pilots from a Latvian helicopter company working for WFP [World Food Programme] that have been taken hostage.  Can you confirm that?  And there seems to be some unclarity about what country they are from or who took them.  What’s the UN going to do?


Spokesperson:  Well, I can confirm that three crew members working for the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service contracted to the World Food Programme, as you mentioned, were abducted in Nyala town on Thursday.  They are all Latvian nationals and are helicopter crewmen.  And we don’t have any more information at this point.


Question:  Thanks.  The SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] is saying that… they have come out with an allegation that Southerners who live in the North are being told, in Government medical facilities, are being told they’ll only get medical treatment if they vote for unity.  I wonder if it’s something… it’s in the Sudan Tribune and I am assuming elsewhere.  I am wondering if that’s something… I guess that would be an UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] issue, or perhaps… whether the UN system is aware of that allegation, what they think of it, if it is true and what they are doing to find out if it is true?


Spokesperson:  Well, at the very least, if they are reading the Sudan Tribune like you, they will have seen the same reports and I would assume that they are doing so.  We will need to check whether they have further information that was not in this Sudan Tribune.  But, I don’t have that right now.


Question:  Okay.  No, no, I mean I am pretty sure they would be aware of this, I just wonder if this is the type of thing that they feel a duty to investigate to see if it’s true or to make some statement about.


Spokesperson:  As I say, let’s first establish what they know about it.


Question:  About Pakistan, the Special Envoy, the new one, is he there?  Is he based there?  What does he do?  Did he start working?


Spokesperson:  Well, he has evidently started working.  I will need to check exactly where he was when he was speaking about this topic today.  Yes?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I wanted to know whether you have information about the nationality of the UNAMID peacekeeper that was shot.  And then secondly, if you have any idea how soon the Secretary-General will make his determination on the new Executive Director for UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund], in case you have any information to share since the interviews were concluded in September?


Spokesperson:  On the first one:  no, I don’t have any details on the nationality of the peacekeeper.  If we do get that information, then we’d obviously share that with you.  But I don’t have that at the moment.  On the UNFPA appointment, as I have mentioned in an exchange with you not so long ago, that is a process that is not yet completed.  When it is, of course, we will announce it.


Question:  My question is on the G-20.  I’m just wondering whether the Secretary-General is planning on addressing the fact that, like countries that we saw today, like Norway, that are sort of leading players in eco-sustainability and green environment, whether the issue of their representation at the G-20 will be brought up, as well as representation of countries in Africa?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is there to represent the United Nations, and by definition, that means 192 countries.  And obviously, the 20 countries that are there are represented themselves.  The G-20 leaders themselves, it’s for them to discuss and to express an opinion on the membership, if you like.  But what the Secretary-General has consistently said is that, when attending the G-20, his aim is to be able to speak on behalf of the entire membership, and that’s why he was able to take the opportunity to brief the General Assembly membership, in other words, all countries, and to hear their views ahead of this G-20 Summit.  And of course, for the first time, you have on the agenda in Seoul, the G-20, the topic of development.  And this is crucial to Africa.  It plays into climate change as well, and, therefore, countries that have been playing an important role like Norway, this is clearly an important topic and the Secretary-General will… development is an important topic, and the Secretary-General will be speaking out quite clearly on that, I am sure.


Question:  Just to follow up, Martin, if you don’t mind.  Does the Secretary-General have a voice of his own regarding the representation of Africa on G-20?  Does he have his own voice considering the fact that there is only one African country that is in the G-20; does he have a voice of his own?


Spokesperson:  As I say, the membership of the G-20 is for the G-20 countries to deliberate on and for them to articulate how they feel about that.  What the Secretary-General has done in advance of this summit is to speak with and to hear from the entire membership of the United Nations.  And that is reflected, one, in the letter that he has sent to the G-20 leaders, and two, in what he will discuss with them when it comes to development there in Seoul next week.  Okay?  Yes?


Question:  I wanted to ask a couple of things that either they were left unaddressed or follow up on to this morning’s press conference.  First, on climate change and this report on financing, I just wanted to know, basically I am repeating the question that I was asking yesterday, whether the Secretariat, now I guess, rather than the two co-chairs, has any views on whether the election on Tuesday, which changed the control the House of Representatives to the Republicans, and that President [Barack] Obama has said will make passing of climate change [inaudible] more difficult.  What impact… does this change in any way the, I guess, the price of carbon and the realisticness and, also are the elections, for example, being discussed in today’s Chief Executive Board meeting or is it … does the UN system see that as potentially having some impact both on climate change and more generally?


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think my answer is any different than it was yesterday, Matthew.  I would simply add that, as Prime Minister [Jens] Stoltenberg pointed out, this was an advisory group, it’s an advisory report.  It’s not saying, “This is how it must be,” it’s saying, “Here are a set of options you may with to consider”.  It’s for the countries, the Member States, those countries that are a party to this UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process to then decide what they do with that.


Question:  I notice that there was one question asked and taken on this question of human rights and the trip.  And so, I just wanted to ask one thing.  Just in terms of what he did say, the Secretary-General said that at the school in Beijing, he’d raised the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the protection of human rights defenders.  So, I know you’ve gotten this question before, but I just want to ask maybe, does that… would that include, for example, this most recent winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned.  He is described by most, by many people, as a human rights defender.  Should we read that comment as being an indirect comment on that situation or…?  And I also wanted to know whether he has any comment yet on Mr. Sha [Zukang], on the Under-Secretary-General, who… I spoke to him last night, he said that he was… he thought it was just a dinner with the Tiananmen Square General, not an award giving.  But even so, I wonder, is that the Secretary-General’s understanding of this private dinner with the Tiananmen Square General, and in what capacity would that have been taking place?


Spokesperson:  When you say “he”, who are you referring to?


Question:  Mr. Sha.  Does the Secretary-General… has he received this same explanation from Mr. Sha of how that photograph of the World Harmony Foundation award being given by Mr. Sha to the General came about, and is he satisfied, does that seem appropriate for a USG?


Spokesperson:  Well, on the first question about the Secretary-General’s remarks this morning, I don’t have anything further to add to that.  He spoke very clearly, and I don’t need to elaborate or analyse what he said.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing, on Under-Secretary-General Sha, I do not have anything further beyond what I have already said on the topic.  If I do have something else, then I will surely tell you.  But I don’t at the moment.


Question:  Is it something he discussed with Mr. Sha, or is it just…?


Spokesperson:  As I say, I have told you what I have to say, and I don’t have anything else, okay?  All right.  So, thank you very much.  Have a good weekend.


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For information media • not an official record