27 February 2012
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 noon briefing.


**Secretary-General Travel


The Secretary-General is in Angola today.


He has meetings with President José Eduardo dos Santos, the Foreign Minister and civil society.  They discussed how to strengthen the partnership between the UN and Angola.


The Secretary-General commended the authorities for progress on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and encouraged them to push even harder, and to work toward a more equitable distribution of wealth.


Earlier today, the Secretary-General launched Angola’s 2012 polio vaccination campaign in Viana near Luanda, and helped administer vaccine drops to some children.  The Secretary-General arrived in Angola from Zambia yesterday.


Over the weekend, the Secretary-General held talks with President Michael Sata of Zambia and other Government officials in Lusaka.  He visited the Fountain of Hope, a drop-in centre for street children run by International Inspiration in partnership with UNICEF, and the Government of Zambia and civil society groups.


Together with Dr. Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, the Secretary-General also visited the Olympic Youth Development Centre.  He said the Centre goes beyond promoting excellence in sport by providing help to educate young people.


In Livingstone, the Secretary-General opened a new centre to help make it easier to invest in tourism and visited the Victoria Falls.  He also visited a school where he discussed a wide range of human rights issues with the students.


The Secretary-General will be heading back to New York overnight.


**Security Council


This morning Under Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe addressed the Security Council on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, noting that piracy continues to undermine efforts by States in the region to maintain peace, security, and stability and to promote socio-economic development.


Piracy has become more sophisticated, and attacks have targeted cargo rather than taking hostages for ransom.


Mr. Pascoe noted that the Gulf of Guinea countries need a united front to respond effectively to this growing threat.  The resources are inadequate to meet the tasks at hand effectively.  Significant logistical support is required.


He noted the recent visit to the region of a UN assessment mission to assess this threat, and concluded that we must take further concrete steps to eradicate piracy in the region.


**Deputy Secretary-General


At the opening of the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) today, the Deputy Secretary-General said that the body is at the heart of the United Nations’ global efforts to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.


She called for greater attention to be focused on protecting and empowering rural women.  Unleashing their potential will make a major contribution to ending poverty and hunger and achieving sustainable development, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed.  Her full remarks are available online.


**Press Conferences Today


Immediately following my briefing today, here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference on the topic of “Youth Employment, Social Cohesion and the Arab Spring”. Participants will include Mr. Jose Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, Executive Director of the Employment Sector of the International Labour Organization (ILO).


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


Tomorrow I will have as my guest, Georg Kell, the Executive Director of the Global Compact Office.  He will be here to discuss the business role at Rio+20 and the Global Compact’s plans for a Rio+20 Corporate Sustainability Forum, to be held on 15-18 June.


And then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference in support of Global Efforts to End Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).  Participants will include:  United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin; United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Goodwill Ambassador Angelique Kidjo; Italian Minister of Labour, Social Policies and Gender Equality Elsa Fornero; Ambassador Cesare Maria Ragaglini of Italy; and a FMG survivor.  The event is jointly sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations, UNFPA and UNICEF.


That’s all from me.  Do you have any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  [inaudible]…Kofi Anna’s mission?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, they are still working on the details.  Once we have details we will announce them immediately.  But right now we have no details yet on his travel plans and on his mission.


Question:  No reaction from the SG on the new referendum in Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The referendum in Syria?  The Secretary-General noted the referendum in Syria held yesterday.  While a new constitution and the end of the Baath’s Party monopoly on power could be part of a political solution, a referendum must take place in conditions free of violence and intimidation. It is unlikely to be credible in the context of pervasive violence and mass human rights violations.  The priority in Syria must, therefore, be for all violence to stop.  Only such conditions will allow a genuine political process that will meet the democratic aspirations of the citizens.


That’s what I have on Syria.  Yes?


Question:  And on Syria, any update on Valerie Amos’ visit to Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we are still waiting to see further action on that.


Question:  Waiting for what?  I mean, waiting, [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, waiting for reaction from the Syrian Government.  She is consulting with Governments in the region and we’re waiting for a reaction from the Syrian Government.


Question:  So, how big is the team?  Is she going by herself or with a team or…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I really couldn’t answer that right now; we will have to find that out for you.


Question:  Sure, also, I guess I’ll start on, I have some Sudan questions, but on Syria there are the, the wife of this British photographer Paul Conroy has said that it is possible that the UN could help get him out of Homs where he lies injured.  Is that, is that, do you have any idea what the UN is seeking to do for the, the, both of the bodies of the killed journalist but also these journalists that are injured in there?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, obviously for this to take place the violence must stop.  We have been asking for the violence to stop; we have been supporting calls for the violence to stop.  Obviously, if the violence doesn’t stop, it is very difficult to get people out of Homs.


Question:  Also, I, on Friday in the morning, I’ve sent you this question about Kofi Annan, I understand that it is not about when he will travel to New York, but it is a simple question of, in naming him, is he going to be a, is he, is he paid for this; is he paid by the UN, what are the logistics of this assignment?


Deputy Spokesperson:  All of this is being worked out; we will be getting back to you on that.


Question:  And on Sudan, you said on Friday there had been new attacks, but on Friday you said that UNAMID was going out to look into this report of a clash with rebels.  There are now reports in Jao that the rebels JEM, as well as SPLM North, have taken over Jao.  Do you have, so one, do you have anything from Friday?  I saw you inserted one line that you would look into it, but what’s the answer?  And also on Jao, does anyone in the UN system know whether this clash took place and what is the [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t have access to Jao, so we can’t verify that.


Question:  What about Darfur?  It was on Friday you said that there was going to be a UNAMID mission to find out if this clash took place in Darfur where you have a billion-dollar peacekeeping mission.  Is there an answer on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on Darfur here, no.  No, sorry, I don’t have anything.  We will get back to you on that.


Question:  And could I, there is one other thing.  I just, when you left on Friday I thought somewhat abruptly from the briefing, I was asking about an incident in 380  Madison that wasn’t, I don’t think it was the one that you referred to.  You said it was something about serving a summons on a non-UN person.  Actually, there was a case there that goes back, there is a letter from OHRM [Office of Human Resources Management] involving a UN employee that charged a UN-employed supervisor, an OHRM manager, with sexual abuse and police wanted to go in and arrest the individual and were blocked by the UN from entering the building based on, I guess, diplomatic or UN immunity.  And I wanted to know, how does the UN state publicly it has a zero tolerance policy, if in fact it doesn’t allow in host country police authorities to make an arrest that they sought to make?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN does have a zero tolerance policy; the Secretary-General has underlined that several times in media discussions and in his speeches and in his actions.  I don’t have any information on that particular incident.  The incident I did have information on was the one I described to you on Friday.  We will try and find out and get back to you on it.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the incident where NY police came to Madison was an incident unrelated to the United Nations.  The summons server was there to serve a summons to a member of a company that leases floor space in the same building at 380  Madison.  It was not aimed at a United Nations employee.


The only letter from the Office of Human Resources Management in January related to a sexual harassment case is regarding a case that is sub judice and, therefore, the Spokesperson’s Office is not in a position to comment.  It has no relation to the case of last week, which, again, has nothing to do with the United Nations.]


Question:  Because, yeah, ask OHRM, the head of OHRM [inaudible], on this case.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will do what we have to do, Matthew.


Question:  Okay, thank you.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay.  Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.  Have a nice afternoon.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record