10 April 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


This morning the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, told the Security Council that United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) will continue to assist the Government and people of Iraq to address the challenges facing the nation.  Mr. Kobler commended the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait for their efforts to improve bilateral relations.


Mr. Kobler noted that continued violence in Syria could have spill-over effects.  He said it could affect the fragile balance of power and increase communal tensions in Iraq.  Mr. Kobler said the United Nations has encouraged Iraqi leaders to find common ground to break the political impasse in the country.  An inclusive forum is essential to address the differences between Iraqi leaders.  He said the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq stands ready to continue supporting these efforts.


As you know, the Security Council is also discussing the situation in Syria in closed consultations.


**Trip Announcement


The Secretary-General will depart New York tomorrow, on a trip to Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg.


In Switzerland, he will go to the United Nations Office at Geneva and will chair a meeting of the United Nations System Chief Executives’ Board at a retreat outside Geneva.


He will then travel to Brussels, where he will attend the European Union Summit on Sustainable Energy for All.  He will also hold a series of meetings with European Commission officials, including President José Manuel Barroso.


The Secretary-General’s last stop will be in Luxembourg, where he will meet the Grand Duke, the Prime Minister and other senior Government officials.  He will also address the Luxembourg Parliament.


The Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday, 18 April.  And as the Secretary-General has mentioned before, he’ll be attending the Middle East Quartet meeting in Washington, D.C., tomorrow.


**Nutrition


The Lead Group for the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement, which was appointed by the Secretary-General, held its first meeting earlier today.  Chaired on behalf of the Secretary-General by Anthony Lake, the Executive Director of UNICEF, the 27 members of the Group agreed to focus on ensuring that support to countries that are scaling up nutrition produces tangible results and that resources for country-led actions are coordinated, aligned, transparent and accountable.


The Secretary-General appointed the Group, building on his commitment to put an end to the stunting, which affects almost 200 million children worldwide.  Investing in better nutrition during the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday prevents long term and irreversible impact on intellectual, physical and social development.  There is a press release with more details in my Office.


**Sahel


United Nations agencies said today that a lack of funding is compromising efforts to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis facing the Sahel region of West Africa.


UN agencies operating in the Sahel region say that an estimated 15 million people are facing acute food shortages as a result of drought and conflict, and close to 1.5 million children are on the brink of starvation.  Only half of the nearly $800 million required to respond to the crisis has been received so far.  The agencies warn that the crisis is likely to get worse in the coming months if additional support is not forthcoming.


**Yemen


I’ve been asked about recent developments in Yemen.  And, as mentioned already, we are following the situation closely.  The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, remains in contact with all sides, including close consultations over the weekend.  I can tell you he and his team will return to Yemen shortly to support Yemenis to continue implementation of the November agreement and to move the transition forward.


Questions, please?  Yes, Erol?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  A few questions.  First of all, the Secretary-General this morning indeed met with the Prime Minister of Kosovo.  I’d ask first what is the framework under this meeting has occurred since Kosovo is not a Member State of the UN?  And what did they discuss, beside the opportunity to ask Prime Minister, as we did, from the point of view of the Secretary-General, what was the most important issue that they discussed?


Spokesperson:  Well, I would anticipate that we’ll have a little information further on this just a little bit later.  That’s the first thing.  The second, to come back to the first part of your question, is that, as you well know, there is a UN Mission in Kosovo, and I am sure that it is partly in that context that such a conversation would take place.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You indicated that there is a meeting of the Quartet tomorrow in Washington, D.C. Is there anything new on its agenda?


Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, this was a commitment that was made during the last meeting that the Quartet members held in the Secretary-General’s conference room just quite recently.  This is obviously against the backdrop of the need to push forward the Middle East peace process.  We’re all aware of the difficulties that there have been recently, and of the efforts that have been made by the Jordanian authorities, and I think that this is a further step in this direction, remaining connected and consulting on this occasion at the principals’ level.  Of course, the envoys continue to work behind the scenes in between times.  Matthew?


Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to, I guess, first ask you, yesterday, there was a press conference across the street by… by Haitian activists, including human rights activists and those who filed the claim for compensation with MINUSTAH and the Secretary-General.  And, among other things, they said that they have heard nothing back from this… from this UN, at any level, since December, and they… they are quite exercised about it, they think that The New York Times article, which quotes people on the panel, should have changed things.  They also say that the camp at issue has… is… has been vacated in some way, which I hadn’t heard.  I guess I want to know, what is the… what’s the current… since it has been four months and there have been new developments, is there some… is there a time line?  Is there any… what’s the UN’s thinking about this issue, because they are saying that it is hurting the credibility of the UN with Haitians and others?


Spokesperson:  Two things, Matthew.  One is that, as we have repeatedly said, a claim has been received and it is being studied.  There is nothing unusual in the time frame for studying a claim of this nature.  The second point is that the focus is on what we can do to help the Haitian people now, and, of course, in the run-up to the rainy season, which is to come.  So, I think that the focus is rightly on the need to help people now and to ensure that sanitation measures are put in place before the rainy season and during the rainy season.  On the first part of the question, the answer remains the same.


[The Spokesperson later added that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations had informed him that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) was still deployed in Mirebalais.]


Question:  And just, thanks a lot, I just… because this is… there… so I guess I could say it’s their question, but what a number of the participants — including this Mario Joseph, a very widely respected Haitian human rights lawyer — they… they make this comparison of the $800 million a year they say is spent on MINUSTAH peacekeeping, they say… he said, you know… anyway, they say if this money was actually devoted to water purification, it would change Haitians’ lives totally and they are… there is a total lack of balance… I understand it is a Security Council mandate and others, but is that the real number and sort of what… have you heard that?  I mean it seems that what they are saying is not just pay cash to the families of people who died, but exactly what you are saying, so is there some way to get a comparison of what the UN spends in Haiti on just what you are saying, sanitation, water and forward-looking preventative measures as opposed to… to this peacekeeping force?


Spokesperson:  I think that we’ll be in a position to provide you and others with an overview of precisely the kind of measures that are being taken, and have been taken since the outbreak began.  And obviously that is our focus.  Progress has been made in reducing the number of cases, but there is a long way to go and that is precisely why the focus needs to be there.  Let’s see if we can come up with something that gives you a good snapshot of where we are.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Erol, and then Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Martin, a few days ago I asked you about the dates and that the dates that the new appointees of the Secretary-General, in particular the new Executive Director for the Economic Commission for Europe, will start his work.  So I wonder, probably it’s too technical to ask you about this, but I still couldn’t find the information when it is going to be.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I understand it, that information was provided to you already.


Correspondent:  It was not.


Spokesperson:  Well, if…


Correspondent:  Probably I missed it in my e-mail.


Spokesperson:  I suspect that you must have missed it, because I can’t… oh, yes I can.  What’s today?  It’s Tuesday the 10th.  He starts work today.


Correspondent:  Okay, he starts today.


Spokesperson:  And that’s something that I think was relayed to you, it may be that you didn’t get it, but it was certainly relayed to you last week.  But, anyway, he started work today.


Question:  And just as a small follow-up on that, or more substantial question than that technical one.  Is the Secretary-General aware of the criticism after he has made his choice on this position, particularly in the Bosnian public etcetera?


Spokesperson:  Look, we don’t live in a vacuum.  It is obvious that there will always be different voices to be heard about appointments.  There is nothing unusual in that.  But, the Secretary-General has made an appointment that he is confident in, and is confident in the abilities of the person he has selected.  And day one today.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  On Syria, the Joint Special Envoy said this morning… Kofi Annan said this morning that it is too early to say that his mission has failed.  Is that point of view shared by the Secretary-General?


Spokesperson:  I think you can take it for granted that that is the case, yes.  Let me just point out that the Joint Special Envoy did give a press conference, I am sure you were all able to monitor that yourselves, so I don’t really need to reiterate what he has said there, except to say that as he mentioned, a letter from him was being transmitted to the Security Council members.  I can tell you that that letter has now been circulated to Security Council members.  And, as you also heard the Joint Special Envoy say, he will be briefing the Council himself on the 12th, so on Thursday, in more detail.  Today’s letter is giving an overview of where things stand now; he intends to provide more detail on Thursday.  As you well know, on Thursday, 6 a.m. Damascus time, is the outer limit of the deadline for a cessation of all violence by all sides.


Question:  Will that letter be made public?


Spokesperson:  It is my understanding that the letter is likely to be circulated as a document.  Should that happen, we’ll obviously make sure that you have it as quickly as possible.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I want to ask something about the Congo again, but first, I wanted to ask something that… anyway, it has to do with the Senior Advisory Group on peacekeeping operations and… and they met in… they met April 2 and 3, and I went to try and cover it, it appears this is a factual thing I am going to ask you, which is that it appears that Shavendra Silva, I won’t go through the whole, or the back wrap to it, that… that appears in Ban Ki-moon’s report about this Panel of Experts, his division in… depicted engaged in war crimes, did not attend.  I tried to cover it, I guess my… my que… it’s a two-pronged question, the first, I want to know… I wanted… if I can just get a confirmation from the UN system that he didn’t attend.  I am told by the Sri Lankans that the only reason he didn’t attend is that he was out of town and that’s… it’s an important… I would like to know what the position is.  What bothered me the most is… I heard from… from Media Accreditation here that the organizers did not give permission for press coverage of the meeting, and it was unclear to me, number one, if that in the UN system people have to give permission for press coverage, but more substantially, I don’t know who the organizers are.  Like, is it a panel that it… Ban Ki-moon appointed some people, regional groups appointed others, who makes that decision?  Who are the organizers, because a number of the Member States on it did not only permit, but invited press coverage, and so I have sort of… I want to know, it may seem like a little bit kind of a logistical question, but since it is something that I was trying to cover and it… it’s a committee that advises Ban Ki-moon and I am told I can’t cover it without their permission, I would like to know what the position is.


Spokesperson:  Well, I think there is a difference between covering it and seeking access to a building without being accompanied by an official from the Media and Accreditation Liaison Unit, which is standard procedure.  And as I understand it, MALU, the Unit in question, has made it very clear what the rules are, but also their readiness to help you to be able to have access to parts of the UN premises that are off campus, if you wish, to be able to cover an event.  So, that’s the technical part of it.  On the other bits, let me find out.


Question:  Can I just, if I can just ask one follow-up on that.  Thanks a lot, because I want to… but the problem that I have here is that… it is a two-pronged problem.  One is, if they are saying that the organizers, and I don’t know who they are, don’t permit press coverage, it seems strange I… I’m going to cover it the next time they meet, like I intend to cover it, and however it takes place.  And, so, the question becomes they said yes, we’ll escort you into the building, but does this require the undisclosed and unnamed organizers who I don’t know who they are, and I would like to know if the Secretariat is some part of it…


Spokesperson:  Well if…


Question:  The other… the other part of the question, if I can just say this…


Spokesperson:  Yeah.


Question:  …one out, is… is… you know, is… is… and I hate… I hate to say this, but it ends up a… the… my sense is, in order… in actually doing this…


Spokesperson:  Well, if you hate to say it, why are you saying it?


Question:  Okay, I am going to say it, because if… does MALU report any information to the rest of the Secretariat?  I am a reporter trying to get information…


Spokesperson:  In what sense do you mean?  I think this is…


Question:  I mean, I…


Spokesperson:  Matthew, can I just interrupt you?


Correspondent:  Please.


Spokesperson:  For one second?


Correspondent:  Yes.


Spokesperson:  Which I don’t do terribly often, but…


Correspondent:  Okay, I understa… no, I [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  But, let me just say, I think that this is a conversation that is best carried on off-line rather than taking up the time of the briefing on what is very much an individual request, which I respect, which I respect, but I think that we can deal with it off-line.  So let me just — I know you have a question on Congo — but I want to see if other people have other questions first.  No, they don’t, so a question on Congo and that’s it, we’ll make it a wrap.


Question:  Okay, the question is this, and I have asked DPKO and I haven't received an answer, does MONUSCO use Saracen Uganda or any other Saracen variant which is a private military contractor, for security in the Congo and how does it comply with UN rules on using mercenaries?  And also, is there any involvement — I got your answer yesterday about Mr. Meese flying out to Goma in this, an ongoing situation — is there any involvement by MONUSCO, logistical or otherwise, in the… the attempted now track down of Mr. Bosco Ntaganda, and is the goal of tracking him down to turn him over to the ICC?


Spokesperson:  Well, if we have any further information, I’d certainly let you know.  It is something that the Mission has been following, as we mentioned yesterday.  On the first part, if you have asked DPKO and they haven't answered yet, don’t take that necessarily as a no, it means they may still be trying to get the answer you are looking for, okay.


Question:  Since you’ve got a procurement data base, they can just plug the name in.


Spokesperson:  Thanks, Matthew, for that, and let’s see what we can come up with.  Good afternoon everybody.


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For information media • not an official record