22 June 2011
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, everyone; welcome to the briefing.


**Press Conferences Today


Today my guest is Radhika Coomaraswamy, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  And Ms. Coomaraswamy is here to brief you on her recent trip to Chad, and obviously to take questions.  And after that I’ll be happy to provide a few more details to you on other matters and take some questions.


So, please, the floor is yours; welcome.


[Briefing by Ms. Coomaraswamy issued separately.]


**Secretary-General Second Term


So, as you are aware, the General Assembly adopted a resolution by acclamation yesterday afternoon, agreeing on a second term for Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General, from 1 January 2012 until 31 December 2016.  And he was then sworn in, after placing his hand on the original copy of the UN Charter.


Speaking to the Member States, the Secretary-General pledged his full commitment to accept their support, and vowed to continue to build bridges among nations, saying, “Together, no challenge is too large.  Together, nothing is impossible.”


He also spoke to the press corps and said that we can be proud of what we have achieved and we should be proud of the progress so far, but clearly we have far to go.


Copies of his speech and the transcript of his press encounter are available in my office and online.


** Sudan


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, said in a statement that the treatment of civilians in South Kordofan, including the reported human rights abuses and targeting of people along ethnic lines, is reprehensible.


Ms. Amos added that more than 70,000 people have been displaced.  She urged an end to movement restrictions, which are continuing to limit the UN’s ability to assess the situation, to provide people with the aid they urgently need, and to re-supply stocks.


She also said that threats to aid workers and peacekeepers need to stop immediately.


Ms. Amos expressed her concern that the overall security situation in Sudan is deteriorating at an alarming rate, with severe humanitarian consequences.  She warned that we could be facing a worst-case scenario, with millions of civilians in both North and South Sudan in need of protection and critical humanitarian assistance.


A copy of her full statement is available in the Spokesperson’s Office.


** Gaza


Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, welcomed the “significant step” taken yesterday with Israel’s approval of construction projects that are to be implemented by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees [in the Near East], known as UNRWA.


Mr. Serry said that we will continue to work together with the relevant UN agencies to implement these projects in a timely fashion, so as to improve the situation in Gaza.


The Secretary-General discussed this matter, along with other topics, with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a telephone call on Monday.  With respect to UN projects in Gaza, the Secretary-General welcomed the progress made and urged speedy implementation of the UN Relief and Works Agency’s housing projects in Khan Yunis and Rafah.  The readout of that call is online.


**Security Council


The Security Council is discussing the question of missing Kuwaiti persons and property in Iraq in closed consultations this morning.


In his latest report on that topic, which is out as a document, the Secretary-General says that the efforts in the search for missing Kuwaiti and third country nationals are gradually moving forward.  He believes that the task of discovering their fate is urgent and should not be influenced by political factors and considerations.  For this reason, the humanitarian mandate must be insulated as much as possible from wider regional developments to ensure its effective implementation.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow, the guest at the noon briefing will be Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and that’s on the occasion of the launch of the 2011 World Drug Report.


And then at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference to mark the first International Widows’ Day.  And this event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Gabon.


Questions, please?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In his speech yesterday to the Assembly you just mentioned, the Secretary-General also announced that he will be in contact with Governments to seek views on a vision for the United Nations for the next few years, and that he will present a report on that in September.  The vision for the United Nations, as you know, is reflected in the Charter, as well as in the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] formulated by the summit in 2000.  What kind of vision is the Secretary-General seeking now?  Is it going to be on the implementation of the Millennium Goals, or an entirely new vision?


Spokesperson:  First of all, I think the Secretary-General’s speech yesterday was rather comprehensive.  But also it set out the clear challenges that we all face.  And that’s why now with the support reconfirmed and reaffirmed in the General Assembly for the Secretary-General for the second term, he really will be reaching out once again to the Member States to hear their views and to be able to take into account their views.  And starting tomorrow, already, there will be meetings with the regional groups to be able to hear from the Member States what they have in mind.  And of course, discussions have already been going on — the original regional group meetings in the last couple of weeks have been a part of that process, as well.


This is all leading us, as the Secretary-General himself said, and bringing into the equation the advice and wisdom from within the UN system itself to the setting out in September of a vision, and then moving from that to real concrete action from the beginning of the year, the second term of the Secretary-General.  There are already priorities in place, and many of them, of course, are not going to disappear.  They remain absolutely crucial — the Secretary-General has mentioned that sustainable development and climate change is part of that.  For example, the Millennium Development Goals are also a part of that and it is obvious that, now with a second term, the Secretary-General has an even greater added incentive and motivation to really make things happen by 2015.  So, there is a lot of work ahead, and the Secretary-General has made it clear that he wishes to continue the practice of listening hard to what the Member Stats have to say and incorporating their thoughts and ideas as we pull together a vision for the coming years.  Questions, I am sure from you, Matthew, yes?


Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask; the President of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, in a… speaking to his supporters in Port Sudan, has said that, has made the threat of blocking the oil of South Sudan, which is currently shipped out through Port Sudan.  In light of the upcoming independence and all the issues around Sudan, is any, as to whether Mr. [Haile] Menkerios or the Secretariat, is there any comment on that?  Is there anyone working on that issue?


Spokesperson:  Well, working in general in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement; and Mr. Menkerios has obviously worked extremely hard on that with others, in seeking to bring together the sides so that the outstanding questions that there still are, the unresolved topics that there still are, are speedily concluded so that when we move to independence for South Sudan, which is obviously a very important moment, that this can be done not against the backdrop of the kind of tensions that we have seen in the past few weeks and continuing to today.  This is a very important area.  It is really important that the two sides here, parties and others, can come together to talk about how these outstanding issues can be resolved, in a comprehensive, consensual way as soon as possible.


Question:  Norway’s Ambassador has said that Hilde Johnson has been offered the post of the future UNMIS to head it in South Sudan.  And so, since he seems to be a pretty credible source, is that something that the Secretariat can confirm?


Spokesperson:  Well, what we can say is that Ms. Johnson has indeed been identified as the candidate for that position.  However, obviously, the Security Council has not yet determined the nature, the precise nature and the details of a future mission in South Sudan.  But the intention of the Secretary-General to appoint Ms. Johnson to that position has been coordinated with the Security Council.  And clearly, we await the Council’s decision on the mission, and then the other bits of the jigsaw puzzle would fall into place.


Question:  May I… also there is this issue of… it appears that some of the ASGs [Assistant Secretaries-General] in DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs], Thomas Stelzer or Ms. [Rachel] Mayanja, that their contracts have expired, that according to Secretariat data, in the one case, expired in December; in one case, expired in March; the idea being that maybe they are not going to be renewed, that they are supposed to find other posts as part of mobility.  Can you confirm that, and what is the, what are the legalities, what are the specifics of working at the UN without a contract?  It said that Mr. Stelzer is being paid as, almost as a consultant, although he is an ASG, at least on paper.


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t think right here and now I would want to get into individual personnel cases.  I don’t think that is appropriate.  If that picture changes, I will let you know.


Question:  But, I guess, all I am just wondering is, is it, can you say as a general matter that this idea that five years in a post may be enough and that people should look, not to leave the system, but look for other posts in the system.  Is that something that the Secretariat is putting out?


Spokesperson:  As you well know, that is something that has been discussed at some length amongst Member States, and there are differing views on that amongst Member States.  And as a general rule, as a general practice, it is not appropriate to comment on individuals’ contracts or employment status with the Organization.  Other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Following the re-election of the Secretary-General in the General Assembly yesterday, as you mentioned, he had an encounter with the press and he also said he will remain available to the press.  Will he be holding a press conference this month or next month at the latest?


Spokesperson:  I am sure that the Secretary-General will be holding press conferences at regular intervals.  Yes, Iftikhar, you had a question?


Question:  No, no.


Spokesperson:  Okay, right.


Question:  May I ask a follow up on what Mr. Abbadi was saying?  I just wanted to sort of know what the practice is; at that press encounter yesterday, it seemed that the question was granted by yourself to UN Radio, which is owned by the UN, so it’s sort of an in-house station.  Is that generally accepted?  Was it a one-time thing?


Spokesperson:  No, it is not generally accepted, and it shouldn’t have happened.  And UN Radio staff have been reminded of what the rules are.  The rules are quite clear: it is for people with press badges to ask questions.  As I say, they have been reminded; it shouldn’t have happened.  I’m sorry about that.


Okay, any other questions?  All right, thank you.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record