|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. Okay, I’ll get started because we will be having guests coming shortly.
My guests today, who will join shortly, will be Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); Ambassador James Victor Gbeho, President of the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); and Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA). And they will be here to brief you on UNODC’s programme for West Africa.
** Côte d’Ivoire
In Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission there, UNOCI, is calling on all parties to show restraint and to remain calm. The Mission reiterates that violence is not the way to resolve the political stalemate. It also says that parties should refrain from acts that could jeopardize the numerous efforts being made to allow the will of the Ivorian people, as expressed on 28 November 2010, to prevail.
The Mission reports that since the announcement of the marches by the Rassemblement des Houphouetistes pour la Démocratie et la Paix (RHDP), the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-jin, has increased his efforts to avoid violence. He is in contact with Prime Minister Guillaume Soro and the Chief of Staff of the Forces de défense et de sécurité, General Philippe Mangou, in an effort to help calm the situation.
The UN Mission will continue to play its role and implement its mandate, including interceding as required during the marches in case of incidents between youth and to protect civilians. Heavy fighting, during which mortars and other heavy weapons were used, erupted at 11:30 Abidjan time between the Forces Nouvelles elements and the Forces de défense et de sécurité, who had reinforced their checkpoints on the main passages to the Golf Hotel. The mission established contact with both sides with the aim to stop the fighting.
**Secretary-General on Sexual Violence
The Secretary-General will speak at the Security Council’s meeting this afternoon on sexual violence, which begins at 3 p.m. He will tell Council members that we must do more to fight stigma, protect women’s security and help the victims. And he will say that we cannot permit the sexual violence that is used as a tactic of war to become a way of life. We’ll have copies of his statement later, available this afternoon.
The Security Council this afternoon will also consider a resolution that, among other things, could enable the Secretary-General to list parties who commit sexual violence in his reports on this question.
Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Security Council this morning on Sudan, and discussed the state of preparations for the referenda scheduled for next month. He said that we are greatly concerned about the impasse concerning the referendum for Abyei.
He also expressed concern about the recent reports of bombings by the Sudanese Armed Forces along the border areas between northern Bahr El Ghazal State and South Darfur, and in western Bahr El Ghazal State. We urge both Governments to exercise restraint and prevent the situation from escalating, he said. Le Roy told Council members that we are working on options for a possible augmentation of UN troops in Sudan, to prevent any deterioration in the security situation after the referendum, and to increase our capacity to monitor possible ceasefire violations and protect civilians throughout the mission area. We continue to engage the parties on this issue.
The Security Council adopted a presidential statement on the referenda in Sudan, which notes, with deep concern, the absence of an agreement on Abyei. They welcomed the Sudanese parties’ reaffirmation of their commitment to full and timely implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
The Security Council this morning adopted a resolution, requesting the Secretary-General to establish the United Nations Office in Burundi (BNUB) as a significantly scaled-down United Nations presence, for an initial period of 12 months, beginning on 1 January 2011.
**Women and Children’s Health
The United Nations is establishing a high-level commission charged with developing an accountability framework that will link resources committed to women’s and children’s health with the results they are intended to achieve. This follows the adoption of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health at last September’s Millennium Development Goals Summit, which called for the World Health Organization (WHO) to establish such a commission.
The Secretary-General says that strengthening accountability is critical if we are to save the lives of more women and children. “We must ensure that partners deliver on their promises but, in turn, it is crucial that they know whether investments are leading to sustainable progress,” he said.
The Commission will be co-chaired by Jakaya Kikwete, the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada. The Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Hamadoun Touré, and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Margaret Chan, will act as Vice-Chairs.
The Commission will hold its first meeting on 26 January, and will present its final report by May 2011.
**Press Conferences Today
And like I said earlier, we will have guests in about 10 or 15 minutes: Yuri Fedotov, the Head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; James Victor Gbeho, President of the Commission of ECOWAS; and Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa.
Also today at 1 p.m., Michele Klein-Solomon, the Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), will hold a press conference to brief on the IOM World Migration Report for 2010.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Then tomorrow at 10 a.m., Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, the Permanent Representative of Austria, will hold a press conference upon completion of Austria’s two-year term in the Security Council.
And at 11 a.m., the Secretary-General will hold his year-end press conference in this room and there will, accordingly, be no noon briefing tomorrow.
And that’s it from me. Are there any questions? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, sure. I wanted to know if the UN system or UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] has any response to this Council of Europe report saying that Kosovo’s Prime Minister [Hashim] Thaci was involved in an organ-trading ring — and that the UN knew that, that’s one of the allegations.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We are aware of the report; we’ve seen the reports coming out from the Council of Europe and are studying what they have to say. At this stage, there is nothing further to say by way of response, but obviously we’ll continue to study it and may have a response down the line. Yes?
Question: Sorry, Farhan, I came in a little late. On the Abidjan situation, are the troops at the Golf Hotel, are UN troops engaged at all?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yeah, what I made clear at that point, that there was heavy fighting at around 11:30 Abidjan time between the elements of the Forces Nouvelles and the Forces de défense et de sécurité, on the main access to the Golf Hotel. The UN Mission there, ONUCI, established contact with both sides with the aim to stop the fighting. Since then, we have seen signs of greater relative calm, compared to earlier in the day.
Question: But there is no — no UN troops took fire?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in terms of our deployment there, UNOCI has deployed a total of almost 800 military and police personnel and eight armoured personnel carriers to provide security for the Golf Hotel, together with Force Licorne and the Forces Nouvelles. One additional Formed Police Unit is being deployed from Bouaké today. And as a precautionary measure, UNOCI has also pre-positioned potable water, bulk water tanks, generators and fuel in the Golf Hotel, should any of these services be disrupted. So that’s what we have on hand there. But in terms of our involvement, like I said, we had established contact with both sides to help ease the situation there.
Question: Were there reports that the UN force has been shot?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have any reports of firing involving the UN forces at the Golf Hotel, no. Yes?
Question: Thanks, Farhan. I am wondering, this new commission that will be co-chaired by Canada and Tanzania, I am wondering how it worked before, because it seems to be something to increase the accountability and monitor better the progress. And so, I am wondering, how was it working before — and a little surprised also that there wasn’t such a mechanism before, since it’s such an important part of the MDGs, and they’re due in 2015.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the reason that this mechanism is being established now is as one of the offshoots of the September summit. So, because of the agreements that were achieved on women’s and children’s health in September, one of the things that they decided to do is to establish this particular body. And like I said, they all meet for the first time next month, and then have a report by May. We also have, I believe, a press release with some further details that’s being circulated on this.
Question: Do you know where the meeting will be?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know quite where. We’ll try to get the location. I think it could be here, but we’ll get the further detail in due course. Yes, you had a question? [The correspondent was later informed that the meeting would be in Geneva.]
Question: Excuse me. What is on the Secretary-General’s mind with regard to the escalating violence in Côte d’Ivoire?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: On his mind, certainly the Secretary-General is in touch with a variety of interlocutors, including his Special Representative, Choi Young-jin, to get the latest updates. Once again, I would like to draw attention to what he said yesterday, where he reiterates his call on all the Ivorian parties and their supporters to exercise patience and refrain from any actions that could, accidentally or deliberately, provoke violence. He stresses that in the currently charged political environment, such actions could have unpredictable consequences, including reigniting civil war. The Secretary-General therefore reminds those who incite or perpetrate violence, and those who use the media for this purpose, that they will be held accountable for their actions. And that continues to be his position. Yes?
Question: Are you aware of any mediators being dispatched?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: We’re aware of signs that from the African Union side, that Jean Ping is to arrive in Côte d’Ivoire today. And like I said, Mr. Choi is on the ground doing what he can to maintain the calm.
Question: Is it true that there was a proposal for the formation of a coalition government in order to stop the violence? Is that true and whether it was accepted… why, if not, why was it not acceptable?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, well, we are aware that Mr. Laurent Gbagbo has said he wants to talk to President-elect Alassane Ouattara about a power-sharing arrangement. As the Secretary-General made clear in his remarks to the General Assembly on Monday, this option is unacceptable. What he said on Monday is that the election had a clear winner. The will of the people must be respected, and we should not set a dangerous precedent. So that is what he said at that point, yes. Yes?
Question: Yeah, actually, I wanted to ask about Egypt and Sri Lanka. In Egypt there is this developing allegation that there [are] 250 Eritrean refugees held by a human trafficker somewhere within the boundaries of Egypt. I just wonder whether, what the UN system is doing about this. Are you aware of this?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I believe the UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] has made some comment about the situation of Eritreans in Egypt, so please check with UNHCR. I believe they had some information on this.
Question: Okay, because Egypt is somehow denying that they are aware of them being there, and I just wanted to know…
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Like I said, please check with UNHCR. I believe they have some information.
Question: And this is directly on the Secretariat. There is…on this, that Sri Lanka panel of experts, their deadline was yesterday. I think I had asked yesterday about people, there is people now saying that they sent evidence by FedEx; it was returned from this building or was supposed to be delivered on the third floor, so there seems to be a lot of logistical problems, and I am wondering if there is any thought of extending the time.
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in terms of the logistical problems, what I have been told, I don’t have a precise announcement to give just yet, but we are checking with the panel. And I believe that there will be some extension of the deadline, the previous deadline, which would have expired yesterday. But I believe that there is going to be an extension of that. And once we can confirm that, we will announce it.
Question: What does it say — that packages sent, they invited submissions to be sent to them and that there was no one to receive them? I have a number of FedEx things that said that no one was there to receive it. What is — does, some complain and say that this shows a kind of a lack of seriousness of the panel. What do you say to that?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the panel is serious. There are people in this building who are at work on the panel regularly. The panellists themselves, the three panellists themselves travel, but there is a regular secretariat who are doing the work and who are receiving a substantial amount of information. I don’t know whether there were any problems with this or that particular package, but certainly they do intend to accept all of the relevant information. And I do believe that there will be an extension of the deadline. Yes?
Question: Is there any update on UN peacekeepers being moved to north-east DR Congo, because of these feared Christmas attacks? There was an announcementthe other day, and aid groups have come on to us saying, “No, there are no reinforcements sent there, these are just troops that are already there”. Maybe there is a clarification to be made?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as far as that goes, based on lessons learned from previous years, MONUSCO, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been reinforcing its positions in the areas where Lord’s Resistance Army rebels operate. It recently established operation “Rudia Umbrella” in the Dungu area of Haute-Uele province. It is clear that a broader approach is needed in order to comprehensively address the threat that the Lord’s Resistance Army poses to regional security. So we are also looking towards that. But yes, there is an operation under way.
Question: But no figures on numbers of troops who have been sent there then?
Acting Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have the precise figures. I believe my Peacekeeping colleagues would have the precise numbers on that. But there is an operation under way in that particular zone.
Okay, that’s it for now. We’ll be back here in just a few minutes, I guess. Let’s keep the room open. Our guests are running a little bit late, but they should come here shortly, and we’ll have a briefing then on the UNODC programme for West Africa.
* *** *For information media • not an official record