|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. Welcome to the briefing.
Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, attended the Emergency Ministerial Meeting on Food Security in the Horn of Africa in Rome today, on the Secretary-General’s behalf.
She delivered a message from the Secretary-General to that meeting, in which he said that a catastrophic combination of high food prices, drought and conflict had left more than 11 million people in the Horn of Africa in desperate need.
Short-term relief must be linked to building long-term sustainability, the Secretary-General says. This means an agricultural transformation that improves the resilience of rural livelihoods and minimizes the scale of any future crisis. It means climate-smart crop production, livestock rearing, fish farming and forest maintenance practices that enable all people to have year-round access to the nutrition they need. The Secretary-General adds that providing accessible nutrition must be our top priority. To do this, we need about $1 billion for the rest of this year.
And the Security Council is receiving an update today from [Catherine Bragg] of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the situation in Somalia.
**Horn of Africa
And UN agencies are scaling up aid efforts throughout the Horn of Africa, including the World Food Programme (WFP), which is feeding 1.5 million people in Somalia and working to reach a further 2.2 million people in areas of the south that have been inaccessible. Food drops are being considered in order to get food to these people urgently.
UNICEF says that 780,000 children are acutely malnourished in south Somalia, an increase of over 35 per cent, or 1 million people, since January this year. UNICEF has sent nearly 900 metric tons of therapeutic and supplementary feeding supplies, which will help some 38,000 children in the area in the coming days.
And the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is distributing aid packages to some 189,000 people in southern Somalia, and is working with the authorities and other partners to register Somali refugees in Kenya and Ethiopia, and to urgently improve shelter, water and other aid services for them.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos has expressed concern that humanitarian supplies are dwindling for the people in the areas of Southern Kordofan held by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement–North.
If we are not allowed access to replenish them, the consequences for civilians affected by the fighting will be grave, she said. Relief workers have distributed emergency aid to more than 70,000 people in mountainous areas of Southern Kordofan State. Ms. Amos said she is worried about how people will cope once their rations have run out. She is calling on all parties to the conflict to allow aid to be brought into the area.
Two peacekeepers serving with the joint African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) were injured last Friday in an ambush. The incident took place between two camps for the internally displaced near El Geneina, West Darfur, while UNAMID was escorting two fuel tankers. One peacekeeper is in serious condition while the other is in stable condition. And the mission is investigating the incident.
**Secretary-General at High-Level Meeting on Youth
At the opening of a two-day High-Level Meeting on Youth today, the Secretary-General urged the international community to expand opportunities for young men and women and to support them as agents of change.
He said that, although the Facebook generation is showing resolve to change the world, the global economic crisis is constraining opportunities. The Secretary-General added that the United Nations is investing in young people and making greater efforts to engage them in decision-making.
Young people, he said, must play a central role in bringing new ideas and fresh thinking to the Rio+20 process next June. The Secretary-General added that sustainable development should become the defining issue of this generation to address climate change and the needs of citizens.
Meanwhile, in the outcome document, the General Assembly will urge Member States to take measures to protect young people from terrorism and incitement, and to ensure the rights of those living under foreign occupation.
The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met today in Nicosia on governance and power-sharing. This was also the first of nearly 20 all-day sessions of talks as part of intensive negotiations which will last until late October.
The twenty-third UN Conference on Disarmament Issues will be held in Matsumoto, Japan, from 27 to 29 July, hosted by the Government of Japan and the city of Matsumoto, and it is organized by the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs. The theme of the Conference is “Urgent and United Action towards a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World”. And enhancing nuclear safety and security is also high on the Conference’s agenda, especially in the wake of the recent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
In a statement issued on Friday, the Special Advisers of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and on the Responsibility to Protect said that there was a serious possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed and continue to be committed in Syria. Francis Deng and Edward Luck urged the Government of Syria to ensure that all forces and personnel under their command fully comply with international human rights obligations.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On this, in the backdrop of these killings in Norway, where it has been suggested on the website of the killer that the alleged killer, that he was influenced by anti-Islamic rhetoric coming out from the United States, and that Islamophobia had a big role to play in it. Would the Secretary-General in that context encourage Member States to have more dialogue on that? I know he has been encouraging it, but now to become more pronounced and the need is now necessary for Islamic dialogue amongst countries, interfaith dialogue?
Spokesperson: This is a very important question and an extremely important point. The Secretary-General indeed did refer to this in his remarks this morning to the High-Level Meeting on Youth. He started out his remarks by sharing his shock about this attack in Norway, and he said he was particularly saddened that this murderer had singled out young people keen to engage meaningfully in the future of their country, and that this atrocity stands in stark opposition to the theme of this meeting, which is dialogue and mutual understanding. So I think he has addressed that very directly there.
And clearly that is absolutely crucial not just in Norway, but elsewhere, as at the moment obviously the people in Norway and elsewhere are coming to terms with what has happened there. And you will have heard the Norwegian authorities speaking out about how they will be wishing to stick to their core values of tolerance and respect and commitment to international cooperation. This is something that the Secretary-General has commended Prime Minister [Jens] Stoltenberg and the people of Norway for, for having, despite the tragedy, stuck to this very principled message. And that’s an important point that the rest of the world will be looking at, I am sure, in the days and weeks ahead. So other questions? Yes, please?
Question: Haaretz is reporting that the [Geoffrey] Palmer report on the Gaza flotilla is going to be delayed again until 27 July… I am sorry, until 20 August. I wanted to know, I wanted to confirm that. Is that true, that it’s been delayed?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that the members of the flotilla panel have agreed to delay finalizing the report until later in the month of August. And this decision is based on consultations between the Secretary-General, the panel members and the two concerned Governments.
Question: Just as a follow-up, of all of those parties that you just mentioned, were any of them particularly interested in having it postponed or was this a consensus?
Spokesperson: I am reading you what the position is, which is that the members of the flotilla panel have agreed to delay finalizing the report until later in the month of August. And it was based, the decision was based, on consultations between the Secretary-General, the panel members and the two concerned Governments. And what I would also add is that the Secretary-General continues to encourage the parties to reach a political resolution. Okay, other questions? Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask on Southern Kordofan, I want to ask you two things. One is that, previously you’d said that the statement by the Sudanese Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, that they would accept foreign troops was something that the UN was looking into. He has since been quoted that he didn’t mean it; they don’t want any foreign troops. What’s the UN’s understanding and who has the UN been speaking to, to try to pursue this issue of getting peacekeepers into Southern Kordofan?
Spokesperson: Well, again, in the same way that we saw the comments made in Vienna, we’ve also seen the denial. And we’re trying to get to the bottom of it. But I don’t have anything specific at the moment. But we have seen, we saw the first report, we’ve seen the second report and we’re trying to understand precisely what the picture is.
Question: Thanks. And I also, on that report, on the, I guess what’s now, it’s still being called the leaked report about human rights in Southern Kordofan, Mr. [Ivan] Šimonović has been, quote… has… it’s been said that Mr. Šimonović stopped short of endorsing the recommendation that it be referred to the International Criminal Court, including on the basis of having… of crimes against peacekeepers, i.e., stripping them down, putting them at gunpoint, and two things: One, is that true? Is that… does Mr. Šimonović or his office not support the recommendation? And two, what is the status of the report now that it is 10 days after he briefed about the report here?
Spokesperson: Well, on the first question, I think that you could ask his office or Mr. Šimonović, for that matter. On the second point, as we’ve said, this was not yet finalized; I do not yet have word on when it will be finalized. And as soon as it is, I am sure that we will be able to tell you. But I don’t have anything on that at the moment.
Okay, what I do have is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Myanmar:
The Secretary-General welcomes the meeting today in Yangon between Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Minister for Social Welfare U Aung Kyi. He notes that the parties have expressed satisfaction at their positive talks and their intention to cooperate further on matters beneficial to the people of Myanmar. The Secretary-General encourages such contacts and dialogue. It will be recalled that his Special Adviser had meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Minister Aung Kyi during his recent visit to Myanmar.
In line with the international community’s expectations and Myanmar’s national interest, the Secretary-General hopes such efforts will continue with a view to building mutual understanding through genuine dialogue. He also calls upon the Government of Myanmar to consider early action on the release of political prisoners in that country.
So, any other questions, please? Yes?
Question: Yeah, I just have two questions. One, is this report on the first flotilla report… there was a Secretary-General’s… a report that was expected, I think it was today or tomorrow? Is it delayed or is it coming out?
Spokesperson: Well, Masood, I just answered a question on that just a little while ago. I just answered a question on that, saying that the members of the flotilla panel have agreed to delay finalizing the report until later in the month of August.
Question: Sorry about that. I just want to know about this declaration of famine in Somalia. I just want… in the Horn of Africa now, Ms Amos is saying that all of Horn in Africa is going to be affected by this food shortage and water shortage and so forth. Now, only parts of Somalia have been declared famine-affected. And then again some more parts are being added. Is there a reason that other, to believe that other countries could be added to the famine appeal?
Spokesperson: Well, the overall appeal is to deal with the food security crisis in the Horn of Africa. As you know, famine was declared in two parts of southern Somalia. It’s a very precise definition based on malnutrition rates. And I am sure that my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs could give you that precise definition. What they have said and what we have said is that there is a danger of the intensity of this crisis building and growing if the international community does not step up its efforts. There have been very strong efforts. You’ve seen the work that’s being done; it’s being placed out on television screens, of course, around the world, the work that’s being done to provide aid as quickly as possible. But it is self-evident that there is much, much more to be done. That’s why this emergency meeting was held in Rome today, and why there is a continuing need for funding at a much faster clip than we’ve seen so far. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. One more question on Sudan, then something for Egypt and Senegal. In Sudan, there is the killing… the reported killing of South Sudan, not part of the Government, rebel leader Gatluak Gai, and some people are saying this is a bad sign, and yet that amnesty had been offered to him, that there was some talk of a ceasefire, now he has been killed. I wonder, the new, this new UNMISS [United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan] with two S’s on the end, what’s its understanding of how Mr. Gai was killed? The Government says he was shot by his own men, his side says he was killed by the Government. What’s… and what’s UNMISS, I guess, it’s sort of its first kind of test case of tension within South Sudan proper; what is it doing on this matter?
Spokesperson: I’ll check.
Question: Also, in Egypt, it’s been reported that the military council has barred in advance internal observation of the elections scheduled for November. And I wonder, given the UN’s work on topics there, does the UN have any comment on whether international observers should be allowed in for that election?
Spokesperson: Well, this was something that was announced by the Egyptian authorities last week, and the United Nations, through the Department of Political Affairs — and as you know, they have an Electoral Support Division — they are offering assistance to the Egyptian authorities to the extent that the Egyptian authorities require it. And they have been in conversation with the Egyptian authorities. As you know, B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, was there just very recently. This is a conversation that continues. It is obviously the right of every sovereign Government and country to decide how it runs its elections. And it is advice provided by the United Nations to the extent that each country accepts it. And that’s the way that it is.
Question: But does that mean… I guess, is it fair to ask in this first election to be held after the depart… fall of [Hosni] Mubarak and all the things that the Secretary-General said about the Arab Spring, does he think it would be a good thing that there be transparency and international observation of this election?
Spokesperson: I think it is sufficient to say that the eyes of the international community will be on this election process from start to finish, for precisely the reason that you mentioned, that this is a first and people are keenly interested to see how it plays out. It is an extremely important event and process. The United Nations has offered assistance and will continue to do so to the extent that the Egyptian authorities request it and require it.
Question: Just one… just one… I just… I am wondering whether there is any UN comment on the protest over the weekend in Senegal, where the Government tried to… said that political rallies in some places were not allowed; there are people calling for President [Abdoulaye] Wade to go, others want him to stay. Since there is this office there of Saïd Djinnit, what’s the… is there any involvement by the UN Office on West Africa and also is there any comment on the banning of protests in Senegal?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check with Mr. Djinnit’s office. I am sure that they would be able to help us with that. Okay, anything further? Yes?
Question: Yeah, Martin, on the situation in Libya, which is now… it doesn’t seem that the United Nations has too much… I mean, at least nothing is coming out. What does the representative, Secretary-General’s representative, doing over there? And is there a way over the impasse that is over there now, that the Secretary-General can see any other independent arbiter to do, what you call, involve themselves, because it seems the Arab League is committed, United Nations is committed, EU is committed for removal of Mr. [Muammar] Qadhafi. Now, you have to have somebody in between who will be able to talk to this regime of Mr. Qadhafi to either step aside, or how do we provide?
Spokesperson: Well, as I think we’ve mentioned a number of times, the Contact Group in its last meeting in Istanbul very clearly said that the Special Envoy, Mr. [Abdul Ilah] al-Khatib, has a leading role in these mediation efforts. And indeed Mr. al-Khatib is in the region as we speak, and I would expect to have a little bit more to say on that shortly. But I do not have more details right now.
Question: Does the Secretary-General believe that, besides Mr. al-Khatib, there could be somebody, some other country or other entity, which can involve itself to resolve this crisis, because there are people taking sides?
Spokesperson: Well, Masood, again, as we’ve said, there is any number of initiatives out there. The key is to ensure that they are coordinated, and that’s why Mr. al-Khatib’s role is particularly important, so that the various ideas, road maps, plans, proposals that are out there are closely coordinated to ensure that you have the maximum effect when speaking to the authorities, whether in Tripoli or Benghazi. And that’s precisely what Mr. al-Khatib is doing; he is working very closely with the various players, whether it is the League of Arab States, the African Union, individual Member States, to push this forward in a concerted but coherent and coordinated fashion.
Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record