30 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General’s Travels


Earlier today, the Secretary-General spoke at the formal opening session of the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, in Busan in the Republic of Korea.  He said the forum was being held at a critical time with aid under pressure everywhere.  He said cutting aid would not balance budgets.  But it would hurt the most vulnerable people in the world.  The Secretary-General urged new and emerging donors to contribute more, and he asked aid recipients to set clear priorities and strategies.


The Secretary-General later spoke at a private sector forum, urging business leaders to further expand partnerships with donor agencies to help make aid more effective.


While in Busan, the Secretary-General has been having a range of bilateral meetings with leaders from both the public and private sectors.  We've provided readouts on a number of these.


The Secretary-General and Mrs. Ban also visited the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in Korea to pay tribute to those who lost their lives fighting for the United Nations during the Korean War.  The Secretary-General noted that he was the first Secretary-General to visit the cemetery, where 2,300 soldiers from 11 countries are buried in ornate and carefully manicured gardens.  He said he left the cemetery all the more determined to carry forward the cause of peace for which those soldiers gave their lives six decades ago.  The Secretary-General met several South Koreans who fought in the war, and representatives from troop-contributing countries.  It's now already Thursday in Korea, and the Secretary-General will be back in New York on Thursday evening.


**Iran


During his meeting with Andrew Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development for the United Kingdom, today in Busan in the Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General said that he was shocked and outraged to hear of the incident in Tehran in which demonstrators entered the British embassy, briefly abducted embassy staff and damaged property.  He said he welcomed the Security Council's swift statement condemning the incident and shared its views.  He said the Iranian authorities should investigate how such an incident could have happened and take measures to avoid any repeat there or at any other diplomatic missions.


**Afghanistan


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous wrapped up a visit to Afghanistan today, his first to the country.  He held talks with the Foreign Minister, the National Security Advisor, the Speakers of the Upper and Lower Houses and other senior Afghan officials, as well as with representatives of civil society, media, the diplomatic corps and the military.  Mr. Ladsous also visited Mazar-i-Sharif, where he met with the Provincial Governor and staff of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).


**AIDS


Increased access to HIV services has led to a 15 per cent reduction in new infections in the past decade as well as to a 22 per cent drop in AIDS-related deaths in the last five years, according to a new United Nations report.  Advances in HIV innovations in the past year add hope for future progress, says the publication by the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).  Global progress in both preventing and treating HIV underscores the benefits of sustaining long-term investment in HIV/AIDS.


**Darfur


Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra, today visited UNAMID’s headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur, to meet with the Mission leadership and assess the situation on the ground.  Addressing UNAMID staff, Ms. Malcorra said that as the situation in Darfur shifts towards peace and development, there will be a need for a readjustment in the way the Mission’s personnel deliver their mandate, making sure they are closer to where they are needed most.  Ms. Malcorra told staff of her concern for any possible impunity for those who attacked UNAMID peacekeepers and urged the Government to bring the perpetrators to justice.  


**Security Council


This morning the Security Council met in an open debate on working methods.


**Press Conferences


At 12:30 p.m. today, the Coalition for the International Criminal Court will be holding a press conference.  William Pace, Convenor of the Coalition for the ICC and Richard Dicker, Director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch will be briefing.


And there are three press conferences scheduled for tomorrow.  At 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2012 report.  Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and Rob Vos, Director of Development Policy and Analysis for DESA, will launch the report. 


At 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on the upcoming tenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, President of the Assembly of States Parties and Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, incoming President of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC will be briefing.


At 2 p.m., there will be a briefing on the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which will take place in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 9 December.  Bob Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning will be briefing you in this room.  And that briefing is on the record.


That’s it from me.  Questions?  Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you very much.  As you know, Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d'Ivoire is now in the hands of the International Criminal Court.  This development, and the opposition, the partisans of Laurent Gbagbo are threatening reprisal.  This development is taking place just a few days before the elections.  Is the Secretary-General concerned that this development might complicate the process of elections?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General supports the Court and the Court’s activities and the Court’s method of operations and I think in this case the Court has taken a decision to bring him to justice and that is something that… we do not condone impunity on any crimes against humanity, sexual orientation or anything like that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial institution and has a mandate distinct and separate from that of the United Nations.  The Secretary-General fully respects and supports the Court and its work.  The Secretary-General looks forward to a fair trial of the former Côte d’Ivoire leader and is confident that the International Criminal Court will ensure due process for the former President.]


Question:  The question is whether this is going to complicate the election.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to hypothesize on the situation that hasn’t taken place yet.  We’ll see what happens.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I am figuring that there may now be some UN comment about the Congo elections.  One of the major top three candidates has called for them to be annulled, the commission has said that it is going to discount votes from some opposition areas and I notice that the Secretary-General spoke about DRC with President [Paul] Kagame of Rwanda when he met with him in Busan.  So if the… I mean, what does the UN say?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said yesterday, the voting continues under way and we are not going to comment right now on these things; there are different reports coming out from different sectors.  We have seen the reports from the African Union, observer mission… from the SADC observer mission; we’ve seen the reports from the Carter Center, and we are taking a look at all of these developments to see how things go, but we are not going to comment on that right now.


Question:  In his meeting with Paul Kagame, did the Secretary-General discuss the DRC elections?


Deputy Spokesperson:  You have the readout, that’s what’s in the readout.


Correspondent:  It just says DRC.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it’s in the readout, it was in the readout.


Question:  Just generally, I just want us to… because since this was a big issue in the Côte d'Ivoire election, is the idea of discounting or disqualifying votes from whole regions that are opposition strongholds, generally is that a good idea?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, these are reports we are seeing.  We are not going to comment on hypothetical reports.  Let’s see what happens.  Anything else?


Question:  Yeah, I wanted to… there was this report about a pretty substantial hacking of UN webs… UN system websites by a hacker activist group that was very critical of the UN, and I am wondering what the UN response is and what safeguards are in place or… I think that it was said it was some sort of an old server.  Are there other old servers out there, or has the UN sprung into action to defend itself?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t comment on security issues.  All I can say is that UNDP’s current server has not been compromised.  What was compromised was an old server that goes back to 2007.  There are no active passwords listed for those accounts and the UNDP has found the compromised server and taken it offline.


Question:  With regard to the attack on the British Embassy in Tehran, since it became a pattern recently, two weeks ago we were discussing the attacks on diplomatic missions in Syria — the US Mission, French, Saudi, Jordanian, Turkish — and the Secretary-General also expressed his outrage and dissatisfaction with the incidents.  What more do we… can we expect after the attack on the British Embassy, especially in Tehran since they have a record since 1979 with the attack and occupation of the US Embassy back then?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what the Secretary-General expects is for each State to fulfil its obligations to protect the diplomatic premises and persons of other countries stationed in their capitals.


Question:  And what if they don’t?  What are the penalties on that?  I mean, do just countries remain in the mercy that their diplomatic missions’ safety is subject to the approval of the Iranian Government positions whether this country is in sync with the Iranian positions or not?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that is a question each country has to take into account when it assigns diplomatic personnel and decides to open up an embassy in a foreign capital.  These are decisions that are up to each Member State that is sending an embassy to be established in another country.  But the UN has a policy that it is our belief that Member States, all States, have an obligation to respect fully the inviolability of diplomatic premises and diplomatic persons.  And that is a belief that we hold true to.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  With respect to the question I raised about the elections and which Matthew pursued, these are not hypothetical questions.  The partisans of Laurent Gbagbo are threatening reprisals.  There is a possibility of violence.  Is the Secretary-General concerned about that?  Would he wait until violence takes place in order to condemn?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the Secretary-General calls on all parties in the Ivorian elections to refrain from violence and to use legal means necessary in order to conduct whatever protests they may have.


Question:  I wanted to ask… I… maybe either you have something or can get a response to it.  There was a decision this week in the UN Dispute Tribunal in Geneva in the case of Ms. [Madeleine] Rees who is one of the P… one of the… it’s related to the matters in The Whistleblower, which I know the Secretary-General took very seriously, the film about sexual trafficking in Bosnia, and she was ordered to restore to her position, it seems to have been some dispute what the remedy is. They weren’t able to reach an agreement and the court has been pretty critical of how the UN handled her case, and I am wondering, is the UN going to continue to fight that case?  Is there… is the… are the things that the Secretary-General said about what was depicted in that film, what’s the relation between that and seemingly… seemingly fighting this finding of retaliation against the whistleblower in reality?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well I’ll have to find out more about that.  I don’t have any information on that right now.


Correspondent:  Rees case.


Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, I know, I know, the Rees case.


Correspondent:  All right, okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record