13 December 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, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Guests


Today I have as my guest here Awa Marie Coll‑Seck, who is the Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and joining us by video link are Robert Newman, who is the Director of the Global Malaria Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), and Ray Chambers, who is the Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for Malaria.  And they are going to brief you on the launch of the 2011 World Health Organization World Malaria Report.


So first of all I am going to pass the floor to Mr. Newman, the Director of the Global Malaria Programme, and then after that Mr. Chambers will say a few words, followed by Ms. Coll‑Seck here, and obviously we can then open up to questions.


So, first of all, Mr. Newman, please, the floor is yours, and welcome by video link to this briefing.


[Press Conference on the 2011 World Malaria Report is issued separately.]


So I have a few more items and then I am happy to take questions.


**Security Council


The Secretary‑General briefed the Security Council this morning on his visit last week to Somalia.  He told Council members that we finally face a moment of fresh opportunities in Somalia, and we must seize it.


All city districts are now effectively under the control of the Transitional Federal Government, with the support of the African Union Mission (AMISOM).  The Secretary‑General said that we must secure gains and extend them beyond Mogadishu.  He said that the Somali leadership has heeded the Security Council’s call to work together.  Nonetheless, despite some progress, important deadlines have been missed.  He said that he had asked the leadership to intensify efforts to implement the road map, and made clear the transition must end in August 2012.  And the Council followed its open meeting with consultations, also on Somalia.


**Global Sustainability


The Secretary‑General met with his Panel on Global Sustainability this morning.  He told them that sustainable development is an overriding priority for his second term.  He said that the UN Conference on Sustainable Development — “ Rio+20” — is a once‑in‑a‑generation opportunity that we cannot afford to waste.


The Secretary‑General pointed to the challenges the world faces on sustainability, with policymakers worried about the debt crisis in Europe and the United States, volatile markets, and widespread public dissatisfaction with politics as usual — from protesters on Wall Street to demonstrators in Tahrir Square and beyond.  He said that we will not achieve sustainable development without addressing inequality.  The Panel will present its report to the Secretary‑General next month.  And we have his remarks in my office and available online.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary‑General leaves New York today for Kampala in Uganda.  She will represent the Secretary‑General at a summit of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, which will include a special session on gender‑based sexual violence.  The Deputy Secretary‑General will hold bilateral meetings and meet with United Nations officials based in Uganda.  And while there, she will also visit a project focusing on community‑based youth education.  And the Deputy Secretary‑General will return to New York at the weekend.


** Sahel


The World Food Programme (WFP) says that drought has returned to the Sahel region, where people are facing their third food crisis in the past decade.  The World Food Programme is particularly concerned about the situation in Niger.  The country is seeing unusually high food prices, although it is in post‑harvest period, a time when cereals are available and prices usually drop.


The Programme has been increasing its assistance after the Government’s announcement that at least 750,000 people are severely food insecure.  That number is expected to increase to a million by January.  And in Mauritania, a recent assessment has shown that this year’s harvest is more than one third below the five‑year average.


**Horn of Africa


Football superstars Zinédine Zidane, Ronaldo and Didier Drogba will be joining other past and present players in a match organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Hamburg, in Germany.  The game seeks to raise funds for the crisis in the Horn of Africa and to boost awareness of the crisis.  In a message to the event, the Secretary‑General said that he is delighted to see that athletes, the UN family and the world of sport are working together to build a better world.  And the kick‑off will be quite soon.


**2012 Humanitarian Appeal


Tomorrow in Geneva, the Under‑Secretary‑General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, will launch the consolidated humanitarian appeal for 2012.  She will be joined by Kristalina Georgieva, the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response.  The funding is needed to help more than 50 million people in places such as Somalia, Yemen, Haiti and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  The United Nations and its partners called already today for $1.5 billion to make sure that they can continue their life‑saving work in Somalia.


**Secretary-General’s Press Conference


And as I already announced, tomorrow at 11 a.m., the Secretary‑General will be here to give his year‑end press conference.  Needless to say, that means there won’t be a noon briefing.  But the briefing will be resuming on Thursday.


Questions, please?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Excuse me, any update on Iran’s letter to the Secretary‑General about the US drone captured in Iran?


Spokesperson:  No, as I said yesterday, the Secretary‑General received the letter, but we don’t have any comment on that.  Okay, any further questions?  Yes, please?


Question:  The time with the Secretary‑General tomorrow is at 11 a.m.?


Spokesperson:  Correct.  Yes, that’s right.  Mr. Abbadi, then Matthew.


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Staff Union, through its Staff Council, has expressed great concern regarding the abolition of posts, they say, at the lower levels.  And they would like to have the opportunity to meet the Secretary‑General to discuss these matters.  Will he be able to meet with them?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary‑General not so long ago had a very long and productive meeting with the Staff Union and the Staff Council.  And this is something that he intends to repeat, certainly.  Exactly when that will be, I don’t know.  And obviously there are other contacts taking place at a lower working level, if you like.  But the Secretary‑General has made clear his intention to interact more frequently and more intensively with representatives of the staff in their organized forms — Staff Union, Staff Council.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you again about the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo elections.  The UN’s own radio station, Radio Okapi, is reporting that Mr. [Etienne] Tshisekedi may be under a form of house arrest, the main opposition leader.  There are also these reports of basically any type of protest being outlawed and stopped with riot police before it begins in Goma and eastern Congo, where I know MONUSCO [United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] has a big presence.  So, I am wondering, what does MONUSCO say, particularly… well, each of those things, including the reported house arrest of the opposition candidate? 


Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have anything on that particular point on the house arrest, but simply what I would say is to repeat what I’d said yesterday, that MONUSCO really emphasizes the need for the parties to settle all election disputes by peaceful means through established institutions, including the National Mediation Committee; and importantly is underscoring how important it is that there should be a thorough and transparent handling by the Supreme Court of Justice of all formal challenges.  And I’d also mentioned yesterday that MONUSCO urges the State security and law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint and comply with international human rights law in dealing with public demonstrations, and to respect the rights of all citizens, including supporters of political parties and candidates, to life, physical integrity and freedom of assembly and expression, which is guaranteed by the constitution.


Just to come back on the last point, you’re quite right that the Mission is very heavily deployed in the eastern part of the country, for very good reasons — 90 per cent in fact, deployed in the eastern part of the country.  But, and this partly addresses your question from yesterday, MONUSCO has redeployed some troops and police to potential electoral hotspots, so to say, including Kinshasa.  And so MONUSCO has about 1,400 forces deployed in Kinshasa, including 500 police, 900 troops, and they are conducting active patrols.  But I think it is important to stress that the Mission has limited capacity to provide protection to the local population in Kinshasa in the event of significant deterioration in the security situation.  But just to stress that, in accordance with its mandate, MONUSCO will do what it can within its existing capabilities to protect civilians under imminent threat of violence.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Martin, you indicated that the situation in the Sahel region — and that includes Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Chad — is getting very critical in terms of food.  What is the World Food Programme doing right now in order to head off a humanitarian crisis in the region?


Spokesperson:  Well, I mentioned a part of what is happening just a second ago.  For example, in increasing its assistance to Niger, in particular, but the story doesn’t end there, for sure.  And the World Food Programme, I know, has more details on that.  And so I would encourage you to contact our colleagues at the World Food Programme for more details, which they certainly have and would be, I think, keen to share with you.  Yes, last question, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I guess I wanted to know, some time has gone by since this claim about the spread of cholera in Haiti, this letter that was written, it is claimed, by attorneys, and it was said it was being studied by, I guess by New York, not by MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti].  Can you just say, one, who is studying it and when is the study period going to end?  What is the status of responding to their claim that there is no Standing Claims Commission, and that… what’s the status of that?


Spokesperson:  Well, to my knowledge it is still being looked at here at Headquarters by the relevant people.  That would obviously include OLA, the Office of Legal Affairs, and the peacekeeping colleagues.  If and when we have more information, I’d let you know.  But to my knowledge, it is still being looked at.


Question:  Because the speakers, when they held the press conference here, they’d said that they view this as an opportunity to respond, and if not, they would try to seek remedies elsewhere.  I wanted to know — maybe you can find this out from OLA — does OLA believe that there is any kind of a time limit?  Is there some end to the studying and they will give them a response, one way or another?


Spokesperson:  I am sure that our colleagues in Legal Affairs and elsewhere will be looking at it carefully, and when they are ready, and if they are ready to respond, they will do so.


All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record