|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, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, everyone. If you can take your seats, please.
**Guest at Noon
We’re very pleased to know and to have with us today, as our guest at the noon briefing, John Ging, the Director of Operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and he is here to brief on the current situation in Gaza. Mr. Ging, welcome.
[Press Conference by Mr. Ging issued separately]
If you bear with me, I have just a few more notes and I can also take your questions.
**Secretary-General in Kazakhstan
First of all, the Secretary-General is in Astana, Kazakhstan, today, where he met with President Nursultan Nazarbayev in advance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Summit. He and the President discussed the ongoing cooperation between the United Nations and the OSCE in reinforcing stability in Kyrgyzstan, among other topics. The Secretary-General told reporters afterwards that he commended the President’s cooperation and contribution to peace and stability in Afghanistan, and they also discussed how to empower women in Central Asia, among other topics.
The Secretary-General also met today with Roza Otunbaeva, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic. The Secretary-General congratulated the President on the peaceful parliamentary elections in October and the important progress in strengthening democratic institutions in the country that should include the swift formation of a coalition Government. They also discussed the security situation in Kyrgyzstan and the importance of protecting the rights of refugees and reinforcing the rule of law there.
And the Secretary-General met with Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, Secretary General of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They discussed a range of topics, including the OSCE Summit, UN-OSCE cooperation and the protection of human rights, as well as a number of regional matters, including Kyrgyzstan, the South Caucasus, Moldova and Afghanistan. And we have the full readout available in our office.
The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on Somalia. Once those consultations end, Council members expect to hear from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Atul Khare, who will provide an update on the situation in Haiti following the Sunday elections.
Then, at 3 o’clock this afternoon, Council members have scheduled consultations on Cyprus, to discuss the latest report by the Secretary-General on the UN peacekeeping force there, UNFICYP. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, will speak to reporters following the briefing.
Today is the last day of the UK Presidency of the Security Council. Ambassador Susan Rice of the United States will assume the Council’s rotating Presidency tomorrow.
The Secretary-General, on behalf of international humanitarian organizations, is calling for $7.4 billion to provide urgent humanitarian aid to 50 million people in 28 countries worldwide. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the 2011 Humanitarian Appeal is the biggest one yet in dollar terms since the creation of the Consolidated Appeal Process in 1991. It comprises appeals for the West Africa region and more than a dozen countries. And we have a press release on this in our office.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that assessments of Myanmar’s humanitarian needs in the wake of Cyclone Giri show that much remains to be done. Logistical constraints are hampering relief efforts, and roads and bridges damaged by the cyclone are still being repaired. OCHA cites Government figures, which place the number of dead at 45, with 20,000 houses destroyed and more than 100,000 people made homeless. OCHA estimates that some $53 million are needed to address this emergency, but so far, only $18 million have been mobilized. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners are finalizing plans for food distribution, to benefit some 200,000 people starting next month.
An AIDS-free generation is possible if the international community ramps up its efforts to provide universal access to HIV prevention, treatment and social protection. That’s according to a new UN report, issued ahead of World AIDS Day tomorrow.
Achieving this goal hinges on reaching the most marginalized members of society, it stresses. Although children in general have benefited enormously from strides made in the AIDS response, millions of women and children have fallen through the cracks due to inequities rooted in gender, economic status, geographical location, education level and social status. And we have a press release with more details in our office.
**Under-Secretary-General Francis Deng
We also have available in our office a response by Under-Secretary-General Francis Deng, the Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, concerning the questions that you’d asked recently about how he had been writing books. Among other things, he makes clear that the books that have come out since he joined the UN were written when he was, for successive years, a Fellow at the US Institute for Peace, the Library of Congress and MIT, and were in the pipeline for publication. But it’s a lengthy explanation and we have the note from him available in the Spokesperson’s Office.
My guest tomorrow will be Mike Smith, the Executive Director of the Counter-terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), who will brief on the issue of “Bringing Terrorists to Justice”, and a special event taking place at UNHQ from 1 to 3 December.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Also tomorrow, at 11 a.m., Rob Vos, the Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will hold a press conference about the launch of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2011. And the report gives projections of the global economy in the coming year.
And that is it from me. Any further questions? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the Pakistan situation, is there any update that you have for us? And other than that, I want to ask you, the flood affectees, who were -- I know the IDPs [internally displaced people] resulting from army action are being rehabilitated. What about the flood affectees? Are they now being rehabilitated or the process will begin later?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, the people who have been affected by the flood, as the flood waters recede, are being returned to their homes. I had mentioned, I think to you, about a week or so ago that some 200,000 families in Sindh Province were being returned at the time. I will see; when we get an update, we’ll try to provide what the latest numbers are. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. I want to ask, start with Côte d'Ivoire. There is a report that an associate of President [Laurent] Gbagbo has asked SRSG [Special Representative] Choi [Young-jin] for some kind of -- I don’t know if it’s within the power of Mr. Choi — but for a recount. Has somehow expressed an intention to challenge the results from three regions of Côte d'Ivoire on Sunday’s election? Is that something that the UN can confirm, and what does it think of that request, if it is aware of it, by Mr. Gbagbo?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in terms of rumours, we’re aware that there have been a number of rumours, including ones that we believe have been spread to cause panic or unrest in the area. At this stage, as you know, no results have been announced. We would note that several rumours are deviating attention from serious matters. It would be the role of the UN mission, ONUCI, to confirm those as they come up. But at this stage, what I want to point out is, I’d like to stress the points made by the Secretary-General in his statement yesterday afternoon, where he did urge the candidates and parties to abide by the law in the resolution of any disputes related to the electoral process.
And the Secretary-General stresses that any disruption in the electoral process would not be in the interest of the people of Côte d’Ivoire, who have waited many years to reach a successful conclusion to the crisis, of which these elections are a critical step.
Question: The other day Mr. Choi met with the -- I will dig up his name — but with this close associate of Mr. Gbagbo. I just want factually, not rumour or not, has this meeting taken place?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Choi is meeting with a number of officials as his work progresses. And as we made clear yesterday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Choi Young-jin, will continue, in the context of his certification mandate, all his efforts to safeguard the electoral process so that the will of the Ivorian people will be respected. The United Nations will provide its full support to the completion of the electoral operations and to the Ivorian peace process as a whole. Yes?
Question: I know you covered this yesterday, but is there anything else to add on the WikiLeaks, that the US would ask its employees to undertake intelligence-gathering activities at the UN? Does this affect the Secretary-General’s relationship with the US at all, and does he think that this is acceptable behaviour?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, actually, the Secretary-General was asked, while he is in Kazakhstan today, was asked by Radio Free Europe about the allegations reported by WikiLeaks, and he said, and this is a direct quote of what he told Radio Free Europe: “I do not believe that anybody would be happy when somebody knows that he or she is under watch by somebody.” That’s the quote from him. However, he added that his job and his performance are transparent and under constant scrutiny by the international community. And he reiterated that all UN Member States should adhere to existing conventions and treaties respecting and protecting the immunities and privileges of the United Nations. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you. Regarding the current conference taking place on climate change in Cancún, there are some indications that the US and China, who emit most of the CO2, have come to some kind of understanding. Is the Secretary-General aware of such understanding, and is he hopeful that this time there would be substantive progress at the conference?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General continues to hope for substantive progress at the Climate Change Conference in Cancún, which, as you know, he will be attending at its outset. At the same time, I don’t have anything to report about actions taken by the Governments of China and the United States. It would be up to them to confirm any such thing. Yes?
Question: Sure, Farhan. This is actually some Sudan questions, but I want to ask also a follow-up to yesterday’s interchange on this issue of the frequent flyer miles which appears in the memo as something that the US wanted to get about UN officials. I had asked you yesterday what happens with these miles and you’d said that they remain the possession of the United Nations and that they are held by the United Nations. I have talked to a lot of people and they’ve basically said the UN staff, when they fly commercial, keep the miles. They don’t return them to the Organization at all. So I just wonder if that’s something… it seemed to me that you’re going… you said you were going to check on it? But, again, I stand to be corrected, but I…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: In fact I am checking on that. Once I have any response from the Ethics Office — because ultimately I see this as an issue on which I’d like to hear the position of the Ethics Office -- once I have something from them, I’ll get back to you.
By the way, before you go on, one thing I want to mention on the Security Council. Council members are holding consultations on Cyprus to discuss the latest report by the Secretary-General on his mission of good offices there, not on UNFICYP. So that is what they are talking about and, like I said, Alexander Downer does expect to talk to reporters after that briefing.
Question: I understand the Ethics Office and what should happen is on a separate question, but I just want to know what actually is. And I just wonder…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: That’s what I’m trying to get. I’m trying to get the information from the Ethics Office about what the relevant rules are.
Question: Well, what actually happens? That’s what I am more interested in, about what should happen.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, and for that I would need what the relevant rules are, for which I have asked the Ethics Office. Once I have a reply, I’ll get back to you.
[The Acting Deputy Spokesperson later said that the United Nations has no policy on frequent flyer miles programmes, because only individuals can accrue them and since they are not transferable, they cannot be recovered or converted by the Organization for official travel. Therefore, using mileage accrued as a result of official travel is not a violation of the Organization’s rules.]
Question: On the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from Al-Ghajar in south Lebanon, is there any progress after the announcement earlier that there were discussions with both sides on the issue?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] did say at the time that they were following up with both sides, and they will continue to do so. I don’t have any specific fresh information to give you on this but, as you know, we did put out a statement at the time about the intention to withdraw from Ghajar and UNIFIL is trying to follow up on the ground.
Question: About Sudan, I wanted to ask: there are these reports that in Jonglei state of South Sudan in Akobo County, up to eight people have been killed, have died as part of disarmament of people there by the Government of South Sudan. Is that something that UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] is aware of? It’s in the Sudan Tribune. Have they gone to check on that? What’s the status of that disarmament and do they think that this… Why is it so violent, I guess?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’re aware of the reports; UNMIS is aware of the reports. I’ll see whether they have any update on whether they can confirm that, but they are aware.
Question: And also, in Central African Republic, I want… it seems that maybe the Government has taken back control of… but there is this garrison town of Birao that MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic] used to somehow have a presence in, that they handed back to the Government on 15 November, it was reported to be overrun by rebels. What’s going to be… One, is there any kind of update, whether from OCHA or otherwise, on what’s the status of that town? And what’s going to be the UN’s ongoing role, if any, in that part of CAR which seems to be -- the civilians are being displaced and rebels are taking and untaking towns?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, on that, the only thing I’d have to share with you is to reiterate the points made by the Secretary-General in his recent statement, in which he condemned the recent attack on the town of Birao by rebels of the “Convention des patriotes pour la justice et la paix” (CPJP). And he calls on all concerned to exercise maximum restraint to ensure the safety of civilians, as efforts are being made by the national authorities to restore normalcy, and ensure peace and reconciliation among all the parties concerned.
And with that, have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record