|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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the noon briefing.
The Secretary-General travelled this morning from Copenhagen to Sweden. Upon arrival, he went straight to Uppsala, where he visited the grave of his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, marking 50 years since he died in an air crash.
The Secretary-General was greeted by three former soldiers who had served with the United Nations Mission in the Congo in 1961, and members of the Hammarskjöld family also joined in the ceremony. Paying tribute to Dag Hammarskjöld’s great legacy, the Secretary-General said: “The anniversary of his death has given us a valuable chance to remember these accomplishments. Even more important, to share them with succeeding generations.”
The Secretary-General then travelled to Stockholm, where he went to Parliament for talks with the Speaker, Per Westerberg. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Secretary-General attended a lunch hosted by Gunilla Carlsson, the Minister for Development Cooperation, who also serves on his High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. Later, he held talks with Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt.
At a joint press conference following their meeting, the Secretary-General said they had discussed developments in the Middle East and Libya, women’s empowerment, the Millennium Development Goals, and next year’s Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development. He also thanked Sweden for its steadfast support for the United Nations. The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York.
The Security Council this morning decided to extend the authorization of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for 12 months.
The Council is also discussing security sector reform in Africa. Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, noted that security sector reform is a crucial preventive tool, as previously underscored by the Security Council.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warns that more people in Yemen are slipping into hunger as the country faces a serious humanitarian situation. Rising prices, fuel shortages and political instability are severely straining the people’s ability to feed their families, the Programme notes. It is scaling up its programmes in Yemen to feed 3.5 million vulnerable people who have been pushed into hunger in the country’s northern and southern regions. There is more information on its website.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) says that more than 40 per cent of the 10 million cubic metres of rubble caused by last year’s earthquake in Haiti has now been removed in one of the largest-scale clearance operations of its kind by the United Nations and partners. Homeowners and private enterprises have cleared an additional 10 per cent of the debris.
Together with the Haitian Government, UNDP coordinates the activities of nearly 50 in-country partners to map all debris-related initiatives in affected areas. Meanwhile, in and around Les Cayes, the UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, has helped evacuate some 300 people as heavy rains continue in the area. The Mission remains on standby to help the authorities, if necessary.
And tomorrow we will have as our guest at the Noon Briefing, Hervé Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
That’s all I have. Questions, please?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] the Secretary-General has received the letter of the Iranian Ambassador here warning about the United States allegations with regard to the terrorist attempt, alleged attempt in the United States. Is there any response about that letter?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no information on that letter, when I have it we’ll let you know if we have any comments. Yes?
Question: Thank you. As you mentioned, the Secretary-General visited the gravesite of former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, and he referred in particular to his vision on multilateralism and human solidarity. We know of the work of Mr. Ban in advancing multilateralism. But can you refer to anything that he did to advance human solidarity, or he intends to do… to do that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think the Secretary-General was very clear in what he plans to do in his speech to the General Assembly where he outlined his vision for five main pillars of action that he will undertake the next five years, including working with women and youth, including helping countries get back on their feet after they have been through severe crises. These are all things he plans to do, and I think if you read his speech you will have a pretty good outline of what he plans to do.
Question: I am referring in particular to the concept of human solidarity that he mentioned.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, human solidarity, when you are working to advance the rights of women and youth in the world, that’s very strongly human solidarity. When you are discussing getting a country to hold democratic elections, to establish a legal system, to establish a policing system that is just and respects human rights — that is all human solidarity. Matthew?
Question: Yeah, I want to ask, there is a high-profile UN whistleblower, James Wasserstrom, he’s filed a claim against the UN for having been retaliated against for reporting corruption. He has filed a claim for $1 million, and I am wondering, what does the UN… what does it make of this case that’s bounced around so long and… and what does the Secretary-General think of it?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we can confirm that Mr. Wasserstrom has brought a complaint against the Secretary-General. Mr. Wasserstrom's complaint is currently before the United Nations Dispute Tribunal. And as such, we cannot discuss it further.
Question: Can I ask, there is… there is… maybe you will know this or you can… there is another… whistleblower, Tony Shkurtaj, that actually won his case on appeal, or at least some compensation was supposed to be paid for him. But I’m not sure if it actually has been. Is there possible… is it possible to know that even in these whistleblower cases and that one in particular… Scar… Tony… Anthony Shkurtaj, whether the UN actually paid the damages?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll have to check on that and get back to you.
Question: I wanted to ask you if I could… something I… I had asked Vannina yesterday, but I didn’t get any response to it. There is an item in the… in the… Monday’s [New York] Daily News about an incident that took place Saturday at the South Korean Mission where a… a Daily News reporter reports being pushed by security — it doesn’t say whether it was UN security, South Korean security or who it was — and told do not ask a question to the Secretary-General. So I wanted to know, since I asked it yesterday, she said she’d look into it, what is the answer? Who did it… did it not happen?
Deputy Spokesperson: So far we have no information on that, Matthew, sorry. When we have it we’ll get back to you on it. Yes?
Question: Has United Nations anything to assist Yemen human crisis? Do you have any plan to or no?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the UN is working with the Special Assistant… the Special [Adviser] of the Secretary-General has been very hard at work, Mr. Jamal Benomar, he briefed the Security Council yesterday and had a media stakeout afterwards where he explained many of the things that he has been doing with both parties to try and get them to achieve a resolution. So the short answer is yes, the UN is working with both sides as far as possible to try and resolve the situation in Yemen. Yes?
Question: About the situation in Sirte, Libya, what is the last assessment that the UN is doing about it the situation in the city? I mean, there is still fighting going on. And I would like to know if… when the UN will be able to have somebody inside the city to assess how the people are treated.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, obviously it’s very difficult for the UN to access the city that’s besieged right now. But the Secretary-General’s Special Representative is on the ground in Tripoli, and I am sure that once the situation is viable for him or members of his team to travel to Sirte to assess the situation, they will do so.
Question: Yes, I would like to go back to the concept of human solidarity that the Secretary-General mentioned in talking about Dag Hammarskjöld. Do you think the concept of human solidarity has a moral component?
Deputy Spokesperson: Has what?
Correspondent: Moral component.
Deputy Spokesperson: I think it always has a moral component. Human solidarity stems from the morality of people wanting to stand together to fight for justice and human rights. So I think it has a very strong moral component and it’s on that moral component that human solidarity is based. Anything else?
Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record