20 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 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 began the day in Washington, D.C., at the World Bank with a meeting with its President, Robert Zoellick.  He then attended a meeting on Rio+20 with the world's leading finance ministers participating in the World Bank spring meeting.


He then delivered the keynote address at an event entitled “Delivering Sustainable Energy for All:  Opportunities at Rio+20”, hosted by the Center for Global Development and Climate Advisers.


Saying that the support of the leading ministers of finance is crucial to the transformation to a green economy, the Secretary-General emphasized the need to seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to agree on a concrete set of outcomes that will create an inclusive green economy for this and future generations.


His remarks will be available shortly.  The Secretary-General is expected back at UN Headquarters this afternoon.


**Humanitarian Assistance in Syria


The Humanitarian Forum on Syria opened today in Geneva.  The Forum was an operational meeting for Member States, regional organizations, and international and non-governmental organizations.


It was chaired by John Ging, the Director of Operations at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and co-facilitated by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the European Commission's humanitarian arm and the League of Arab States.


The top message that came out of this meeting is that we must urgently scale-up the humanitarian response.


John Ging told media that a draft plan has been developed to help 1 million people over the next six months with food, medical assistance, support for basic services such as education, provision of other emergency supplies and livelihood support.


This complements the regional plan to help Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries and is an essential step to strengthen operations and ensure the response is coordinated adequately and is as flexible as possible.  He noted that the existing humanitarian capacity in Syria was not sufficient to respond to the huge demand and, thus, the need to send in more humanitarian workers.


In the meantime, United Nations World Food Programme, through the Syrian Red Crescent, has already provided food for up to 100,000 people.  This figure is expected to double this month.


**Yemen


The United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF, says there has been an increase in measles outbreak in Yemen with some 180 deaths and over 4,000 cases reported by the end of March.


UNICEF says the outbreak is the result of insecurity and a breakdown of health-care services following last year’s political crisis.  And it is made worse by severe malnutrition affecting children in Yemen.


UNICEF says it has an on-going vaccination campaign which is targeting to reach 8 million children under the age of five years.  UNICEF is also expressing grave concern that children were increasingly becoming victims of landmines and unexploded ordinance in Yemen.


In the first three months of 2012 alone, 13 children were reported killed and another 12 maimed by unexploded ordnance or mines in 12 reported cases.  In 2011, 28 children were killed by landmines in Yemen.


**CEB


The United Nations Chief Executives Board (CEB) has released a statement ahead of the Rio+20 Conference.  It says the Conference provides an opportunity to strengthen the institutional framework for effective coordination and support to Member States in achieving sustainable development.


The Chief Executives Board says it is heartened that momentum is building to define sustainable development goals in Rio.  These goals, it says, will need to complement and reinforce the MDGs, which have been instrumental in advancing poverty eradication and social development.  It adds that the sustainable development goals should form part of an integrated, coherent agenda for addressing the critical changes of the post-2015 period.


As you know, the CEB is the highest level of coordination within the United Nations System.  It meets twice a year and brings together the heads of UN agencies under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General.


**Crime


International efforts to tackle the threat of national and transnational organized crime will be discussed during the 21st session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which opens on Monday, 23 April, in Vienna.


The President of the Economic and Social Council, Miloš Koterec, and the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, will be among UN officials speaking at the opening session.


On Tuesday, 24 April, there will be a special discussion on preventing violence against migrants, migrant workers and their families.  Other issues include strengthening State oversight in civilian private security services, countering maritime piracy and the treatment of prisoners.  The session wraps up on Friday, 27 April.


**Disaster


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, begins a six-day visit today to Cambodia, one of Southeast Asia’s most flood-ravaged countries.  She is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other senior officials.


Cambodia is currently the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and while she is in the country, Ms. Wahlstrom is expected to propose that the Government convene a dialogue on disaster risk reduction and lead the post-2015 Hyogo Framework for Action discussions.


That’s it from me.  Questions, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Is there any Council meeting today at all about Congo?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I didn’t see anything on the agenda on Congo, no.


Question:  Okay.


Deputy SpokespersonMasood?


Question:  Yeah, I just want, you know, two questions, one is about Egypt.  There is a massive demonstration, a million-man demonstration, in Egypt today, and there appears that there would be a confrontation.  Have you noticed that?  Is there anything on that from the Secretary-General’s side?  Are you aware that is going to become a problem?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of what is happening in Egypt; there is a situation there that is developing, it has been developing for the past year.  We are looking at the possibilities of elections soon and we are hoping that the process will be carried all peacefully.


Question:  The reason why is that the Egyptian army says that it might delay the election, that’s the reason why there are so many; that they will delay the election, scheduled for June.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to see what happens with the election date.


Question:  And similarly, in Bahrain, there is about… I don’t know, 100,000 — I mean, the 10,000 to 8,000 people demonstrating, it means this rally that is going to happen, the car, NASCAR rally.  Do you have anything to say about that?


Deputy Spokesperson: No.  Basically, the Secretary-General has called on the Governments of all countries to respect the right to peaceful demonstrations, and it is a right of all people to demonstrate peacefully for what they believe in.  Nizar?


Question:  A follow-up on that; well, now Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike in Bahrain, has passed through the 70th day of his, I think more than 70 days now, of his hunger.  Are you aware if he is still alive or not?  Has anybody been able to contact the Bahrainis and establish that he is still alive?  And what happened to the gesture that he would be transferred to Denmark?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as the Secretary-General said, he hopes that all prisoners everywhere are treated according to international law, and that if this gentleman decides he wants to go to Denmark, he should be allowed to go to Denmark.  But, we have no further information on his status.


Question:  For how long are you not going to check?  I mean, already there was no communication about him for how many days?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t have any information on that, I am sorry.


Question:  You have an office in Bahrain don’t you?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check.


Question:  Yeah.


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check.


Question:  Another thing.  When was the last time, there was a statement from the Secretary-General about the human rights in Saudi Arabia — do you have an idea, I mean…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I would have to — you can check on that on the website under SG statements.  Masood?


Question:  Yes, on the situation in Syria, on which the Secretary-General has been expressing concern again and again and again, and he has yesterday suggested to the Security Council to authorize an additional 300 peacekeepers.  Now, how soon does he think that the Security Council should authorize that they should be there?  Otherwise the situation is going get worse.


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General is not going to dictate to the Security Council when it should take decision.  We understand that the Security Council has been briefed fully.  They have received the Secretary-General’s lette.  Indeed, Permanent Representatives have commented on what the Secretary-General has raised.  And we are hoping that the Security Council will undertake its decision as soon as possible.


Question:  I mean, does he believe that this decision should be taken immediately, because, there are some contingency measures which have already been taken to…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, there are a number of factors.  We have seven people on the ground now; we should have nine people on the ground by Monday and hopefully the 30 should be there by the end of next week.  That’s how we are looking at the preliminaries.


Question:  Yeah.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yesterday, they signed the protocol, the preliminary protocol.


Question:  Yeah.


Deputy Spokesperson:  We are looking at the Syrian Government’s responsibility to provide mobility for the observers, and we are also looking to wait for the Security Council to decide on when it is going to, on what it is going to authorize.


Question:  So, so far, the Syrian Government is cooperating with the United Nations in facilitating the deployment of these observers?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the situation remains fragile, and as Mr. Fawzi said this morning in Geneva, the Syrian authorities have been cooperating with their teams on the ground up to a certain extent.  So, again, it is an evolving situation.  There is still violence on the ground as you are seeing from the daily reports, but the Secretary-General feels that this is the way to go.


Question:  So, the, so is there, I mean, is there a feeling that the, that the Syrian government is fully cooperating or it is not cooperating in the deployment of the…?


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think it is an evolving situation, and we are going to have to see how the situation on the ground develops over the next few days and weeks.  Obviously, the presence of 300 or 400 or 200, or whatever number the Security Council decides, observers will make a difference in the calculus on the ground.  They will have an opportunity to see what is happening and report back and provide the international community with factual first-hand information of what is happening.  Okay?  Up in the back?


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have a statement on the updates coming out of Heglig, in Sudan?


Deputy Spokesperson:  There is no statement.  He spoke yesterday extensively with the media, and said that the South Sudanese Government has to withdraw its troops from Heglig.  It is not a legal occupation.  It is an occupation of Sudanese territory.  And we understand there are reports today that the South Sudanese Government has said it is pulling out of Heglig in the next few days.  So, we will see what happens.


Question:  Sudan says that they pushed them out; that they haven't withdrawn…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am not going to get into a discussion as to who says what.  I mean, we are not going to participate in that kind of a dialogue.  What we are saying is that the Secretary-General has said the occupation of Heglig is not, it goes against international law and it should end.


Question:  We’ve heard reports of the withdrawal of troops, Sudanese troops…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we can confirm, we have been told by the South Sudanese Government, that they are going to withdraw within three days.  We are going to take a look and see what happens.


Question:  [inaudible] Sudan comments; have they actually gone…


Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t issue a statement every time somebody issues a comment.  We are going to see how the situation develops and we will see if, at the appropriate time, we will make a statement when it is necessary.


Okay, thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon, and a good weekend.


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For information media • not an official record