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, welcome to the briefing.


** Yemen


Food insecurity in Yemen has reached alarming levels, with almost 5 million people unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to the preliminary findings of a survey carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in cooperation with the Yemeni Central Statistical Organization and UNICEF.  The World Food Programme has already increased its humanitarian assistance in 2012 to feed 3.6 million vulnerable people in the wake of sharp rises in food prices and displacement of people fleeing conflict in the northern and the southern regions of the country.  The World Food Programme will be working with humanitarian partners on the ground to ensure that the immediate needs of the severely food insecure are met and calls for joint action to increase assistance to the vulnerable Yemeni population.  The full report will be available in April.


**International Criminal Court — Lubanga


As you will have seen, the International Criminal Court has found the former Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, guilty of war crimes.  The Court said he conscripted and enlisted boys and girls under the age of 15 as child soldiers in Ituri in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo between September 2002 and August 2003.  It is the first verdict issued by the International Criminal Court Trial Chamber since it was established in 2002.  Lubanga will be sentenced at a later date.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy said today’s verdict will serve as a strong deterrent to warlords and commanders across the world.  The United Nations Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, said the judgement is key in the fight to end impunity in the country.  The Secretary-General is expected to make a statement later today.


**Lord’s Resistance Army


I’ve been asked what the United Nations is doing to deal with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).  I can tell you that MONUSCO, the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is authorized by the Security Council to provide support to regional forces undertaking operations against the LRA in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, if requested by the Congolese Government.  And the Mission has not received such a request.


However, the issue of cross-border operations by troops from the four countries affected by the LRA, and which participate in the African Union-led Regional Task Force to counter the LRA threat, was raised at the joint UN-African Union Stakeholders meeting that took place in Addis Ababa on 29 February.  The African Union announced that, as a first step forward, it would convene a meeting of military experts from the four countries involved.  In coordination with the African Union, the United Nations will continue to facilitate regional efforts to end the atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.


** Rio +20


More than 110 Heads of State and Government have said they’ll be taking part in the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, “Rio+20”, which is being held in Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, this June.  The Secretary-General has personally appealed to all Heads of State and Government to attend and to make this conference a success.  The level of attendance is amongst the highest seen for this kind of event.  The number is already higher than the Johannesburg conference.  A detailed list of participants will be made available towards the end of the month.


The Secretary-General is expected to brief the General Assembly this Friday at 10 a.m. on his High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability report, entitled Resilient People, Resilient Planet:  A Future Worth Choosing.


**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has asked us to let you know that this afternoon at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 2 of the North Lawn Building here at United Nations Headquarters, actress-humanitarian Ashley Judd will discuss her memoir in conversation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  And all are invited to that.


**Press Conferences


Immediately following my briefing, there will be a press conference by the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters on an updated version of “The United Nations Model Double Taxation Convention between Developed and Developing Countries”.  And I know that those experts are already in the room, ready to brief you after my briefing.


And then at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) on the Lubanga Case — as we’ve said, the first verdict in an ICC trial.


And then tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on OIC-United Nations cooperation.  Speakers will include the Secretary General of the OIC, Ambassador Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please.  Yes, Sylviane?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Do you have any…? I didn’t receive any update regarding the trip, Mr. Annan’s trip to Syria.  Do you know if Mr. Annan will be briefing the press soon here and at the United Nations?


Spokesperson:  To my knowledge, there is no briefing to the media in the immediate future.  As you will be aware, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Joint Special Envoy was distributed this morning, and I can read that out for you.


The Joint Special Envoy for Syria, Kofi Annan, has now received a response from the Syrian authorities.  The Joint Special Envoy has questions and is seeking answers.  But given the grave and tragic situation on the ground, everyone must realize that time is of the essence, and as he said it in the region, this crisis cannot be allowed to drag on.


So that was the statement that was issued on Kofi Annan’s behalf this morning in Geneva.  This was a written statement.  I don’t have anything further on that at this point.  Yes?  I will come to you in just one second.  Yes?


Question:  On the street, Tibetans, they are on hunger strike in front of the building on 42nd and First Avenue, and they said they are waiting for a UN official to visit them or a Ban Ki-moon adviser to visit them.  So I just wanted to know, I mean, what do you plan on, going and paying them a visit or not at all?


Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell is the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, met a representative of the Tibetan Youth Congress on Monday, 12 March.


Question:  Could you repeat the name?


Spokesperson:  Ivan Šimonović.  He said he would convey the group’s concerns to the relevant Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, in line with established procedure in handling human rights matters.  The Assistant Secretary-General also met on Monday with the Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations.  Mr. Šimonović has briefed the Executive Office of the Secretary-General on these meetings.  The Secretary-General affirms the right of all people to peaceful protest.  He is, however, very concerned about the health of the hunger striking protesters.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Sorry, you said that the Secretary-General, Mr. Annan has received a response from the Syrian Government and he is still… I mean, there is going to be a back and forth.  How long will this back and forth take place before Mr. Annan is going to…?


Spokesperson:  Well as Mr. Annan’s spokesman said, everyone must realize that time is of the essence.


Correspondent:  Yes.


Spokesperson:  But the Special Envoy has questions and is seeking answers.  That’s what I have for you at the moment.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, I wanted to ask you also about Kofi Annan’s trip.  The… I am now told that there is a letter from the Secretariat to the Syrian Mission naming the individuals who would go and that it included Alan Doss, Nicolas Michel, Ahmad Fawzi, and I am just wondering, one, will you confirm those names, and two, can you say why the Arab League-nominated Deputy Nasser al-Kidwa didn’t go?  And can you clarify what the role of Mr. Guéhenno is?  I have been told that Kofi Annan chose Mr. Guéhenno as his Deputy and then this was in some way overruled.  Is Mr. Guéhenno a Deputy or not?  Why didn’t Mr. Nasser al-Kidwa go, and with those three names, will you confirm that they went?  It’s not that long a list, just to let you know.


Spokesperson:  I’ll let you know, I’ll let you know, Matthew.  Yeah?


Question:  What about Kidwa, did he go or not?  I mean, it’s kind of important.  I’ll ask a more pointed question.  It’s been said that… that… that President Assad only accepted Kofi Annan’s visit in his UN hat.  That all attempts were made to not have it be a joint Arab League trip and that’s why Mr. Nasser al-Kidwa did not go.  I would like you, can you respond to that?


Spokesperson:  As you know, Mr. Annan is the Joint Special Envoy, he is a Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States.  Yes?


Question:  So, was [inaudible]?


Question:  Martin, yesterday I asked you about this, the Secretary-General’s visit to Nepal, and you said that such a visit has not been announced as yet, although Nepalese Government is making arrangements for it because they have received go ahead signal from the Secretary-General’s office.  So… and… and…


Spokesperson:  Masood, we have not announced such a visit, okay?  Other questions, please?  Yes, please?


Question:  I just wanted to get the clarification.  Earlier in the month, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of the Special Adviser on Africa.  I wanted to know whether this appointment is going to be like it has been in the few years when the Special Adviser is also the Under-Secretary-General for the landlocked nations and…?


Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew asked me that question, and I am seeking the answer.  I don’t have it yet.  But I am aware of the question.


Question:  Cheick Diarra…  Mr. Diarra is still in place in that… in that landlocked role?  I guess that is… that’s why I think it is… it is…


Spokesperson:  I believe so, let me check.


Question:  All right, great.  I wanted to ask you about, it concerns the announcement you made about the Thomas Lubanga case.  This is something I would… maybe you wouldn’t have, but I wanted to make the question, which is that at the time of the same, simultaneous with Mr. Lubanga, to the knowledge of the UN and MONUC in the DRC, there was another warlord, a Peter Karim of the FNI who kidnapped UN peacekeepers, you know, ended up killing… you know, some were killed, released some and has ended up make… being made a colonel in the Congolese army, and I wanted to…  There was pretty documented stuff about the number of children he recruited, and I wanted to know what the UN system, whether it is MONUSCO now or MONUC in the past, what their understanding of Mr. Karim’s status is and what, if anything, was done about his recruitment of children and kidnapping of UN peacekeepers, and if it is true, in fact, that the UN sort of signed off on or allowed immunity or impunity in this case for a child soldier recruiter?


Spokesperson:  Let me find out, Matthew.  Any other questions?  All right, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.


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