9 November 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.


So, good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council’s open meeting on civilians and armed conflict, which was chaired by Portugal’s President, Aníbal Cavaco Silva.


The Secretary-General emphasized five priorities in protecting civilians:  enhanced compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law; compliance by non-State actors; well-trained and appropriately resourced peacekeepers; improved humanitarian access to affected populations; and enhanced accountability.


The Secretary-General added that, while protection was essential, we must not lose sight of dealing with the causes of conflict.  His remarks are available online.


**Democratic Republic of the Congo


A new United Nations report catalogues a worrying number of human rights violations during the pre-electoral period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office documented 188 human rights violations linked to the electoral process between 1 November last year and 30 September this year.  The violations most frequently infringed individuals’ freedom of expression, the right to physical integrity and the right to liberty and security of the person, and also the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that the Government and leaders of political parties must make it clear that there is to be zero tolerance against any such actions, which seriously limit the exercise of the right to vote.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, added that it is incumbent on all candidates, political leaders, and their followers to do all possible to ensure appropriate conditions for peaceful, open, and democratic elections. 


And, as you know, yesterday, the Security Council heard a briefing from Roger Meece.  And afterwards, in a statement, Council members reiterated their call for credible and peaceful elections in the country.


**Mediation


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at an informal General Assembly event on United Nations mediation.  He is expected to say that he is pleased to note how far we have come in recognizing mediation as an invaluable tool for conflict management and resolution.  The Secretary-General will highlight the advances made in enhancing our capacity and in establishing effective partnerships with regional organizations and civil society.  His full remarks will be made available by my office later this afternoon.


**Holocaust


Today, the United Nations Department of Public Information and the International Bar Association will mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the Nuremberg trials with a round table discussion entitled “Justice and Accountability after the Holocaust”.  The discussion will examine the failure of the judiciary in Nazi Germany and how the International Criminal Court and others can protect vulnerable populations today.   The event will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. this evening in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber, and it is open to media.


Questions, please?  Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you.  Later on, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with Amr Moussa, the former Secretary-General of the Arab League.  What is the subject under discussion?


Spokesperson:  Well, I expect that we would be able to have a read-out on that after the meeting.  But, as you pointed out, and as Matthew asked yesterday and we later were able to confirm, the Secretary-General is indeed meeting with Amr Moussa in his capacity as a former Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.  Let’s see whether we can get a read-out after that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to… first I wanted to ask you about something that just came up in the Council.  Catherine Bragg, in her statement on protection of civilians, said, “I am concerned by air strikes conducted by Kenyan armed forces against Al-Shabaab earlier this month.”  So I wanted… I had asked you before about this, you know, whatever, incursion or hot pursuit, and I wondered now that the UN… at least OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] states as a fact that these air strikes occurred, is DPA [Department of Political Affairs]… is any… is the Secretary-General… I mean, I know you’ve referred me to the [Augustine] Mahiga statement, and the statement that I found was that the incursion is a good thing, on balance.  So I am wondering, what’s the UN’s political engagement in what is clearly a cross-border conflict, including air strikes that allegedly killed civilians?


Spokesperson:  Well, bear in mind that Ms. Bragg, as the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, speaks on behalf of the humanitarian community, and there is a clear separation — and you will have heard Ms. [Valerie] Amos say the same thing — a clear separation between the political and the humanitarian.  And her concerns will have been addressing the humanitarian side of things.  This is not to say that we should not look at the other aspect, and I will try again to get something for you.  Okay.  Other questions?  Yes, please?

Question:  A follow-up to my question yesterday about the willingness of the Secretary-General to meet with the leaders of the Syrian community in the New York metropolitan area?


Spokesperson:  As I said, it may be more appropriate for people to meet with, for example, representatives from the Department for Political Affairs, and I will be able to let you know if and when something is arranged, okay?  All right.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  I am sorry I missed the beginning of the discussions in the General Assembly on the subject of the reform of the Security Council.  Has the Secretary-General made a statement to the Assembly?


Spokesperson:  Say again, on…?


Question:  Has the Secretary-General made a statement to the General Assembly on the reforms of the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge, but I think his views on the topic are quite well known; namely that there is clearly widespread feeling in the international community that the Security Council does need reforming.  But it is for the Member States to decide what shape that reform takes.  And certainly, the Secretary-General has been encouraging the discussions that have been taking place, simply with a view to ensuring that those discussions take place in a speedy fashion.  But it is for the Member States to decide ultimately what shape any reform takes.


Question:  Can I follow up?  The intergovernmental negotiations on the reform of the Security Council have now taken 18 years.  Wouldn’t the international community be interested in learning what the opinion of the Secretary-General on the subject is at this time?


Spokesperson:  I think I just told you, Mr. Abbadi.  Yeah, next question?


Question:  Sure, two kinds of press freedom questions.  One is about a journalist, Sudanese journalist, from the Sudan Tribune, Nigo Goreng, who has been arrested in… arrested for speaking ill of Salva Kiir, and there has been… there is a kind of a campaign to have him released as a journalist, and I wonder whether either UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] — the “SS” UNMISS — or the Secretariat here is aware of that and what they say about this arrest of a journalist.


Spokesperson:  I’d need to check on the details, I don’t have anything specific on that.  But obviously journalists anywhere need to be able to go around about their business unencumbered.


Question:  And the other one was about, I guess, the right to publish.  In Sri Lanka — I know a country that the Secretary-General has had a number of meetings about — there is a number of publications that have been taken off the Internet and there has been a law… there has been a procedure promulgated under which anyone that writes about Sri Lanka should seek accreditation and can be blocked from being viewed inside the country.  What does the Secretary-General have to say about this in light of his May 2009 statement on…?


Spokesperson:  Well, leaving that aspect aside, I think again it is the fundamental principle of freedom of expression and freedom of the media — that is a universal principle.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?


Question:  Regarding this morning’s meeting between the Secretary-General and the Norwegian Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, did they discuss the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and Rio+20 and the fact that Norway rated number one out of 187 countries in this field in the Human Development Index?


Spokesperson:  I believe that those topics were raised.  We are expecting a read-out on that meeting a little later.  But certainly, as you know, the Secretary-General recently visited Norway and was present at a major conference dealing with precisely this topic.  And it was also a way to help roll out the Secretary-General’s own initiative on Sustainable Energy for All.  But more details, I would think, would come in a read-out a little later.  Okay, thank you very much.  Just, last question, yeah.


Question:  Okay.  I actually have two, whistleblowers and disarmament.  They both seem to be in [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  Which one do you want to choose, Matthew?


Question:  Of the UN… I think both should be… it’s only 12:17 p.m.


Spokesperson:  Matthew, choose one, and you can ask me another question tomorrow, okay?


Question:  Okay, I guess I’ll go with the disarmament one.  In South Korea, there has been an arrest of activists on Jeju Island for protesting a large naval base.  But they say at least that their arrests took place during the UN-ROK [Republic of Korea] disarmament conference and they found their treatment by authorities particularly egregious in light of sort of a UN involvement in this conference there.  So given, without trying to pigeonhole the Secretary-General, but given the UN involvement at this conference, is he aware of these arrests?  What does he think of them and what does he think of the ironic, you know, militarization of Jeju Island, where these disarmament conferences take place?


Spokesperson:  Let me check, I don’t have anything on that.  I am happy to come back.  Let me check, let me check. 


Question:  How about whistleblowers?


Spokesperson:  You can ask me another time, Matthew.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record