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.


**Noon Guests


Today, my guests are Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers and Nikhil Chandavarkar, - if you will excuse my pronunciation; I didn’t have time to practice it - Chief of Branch of Sustainable Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. They are here to brief you on the launch of a multi-media campaign called “Volunteer Action Counts”.


Please; whoever is going to start.


[Press conference on the launch of a multimedia campaign on “Volunteer Action Counts” issued separately]


Once again, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.


**Secretary-General Travel


As the Secretary-General himself announced yesterday afternoon, he will travel to Myanmar at the end of this week.


The Secretary-General will hold talks with President Thein Sein and other members of the Myanmar leadership and Government.


He will also meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political representatives, as well as with ethnic and civil society representatives.


The Secretary-General's agenda will cover a broad range of issues of mutual interest to Myanmar and to the United Nations.


His programme will include a number of events to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and Myanmar in key areas.


In the capital, Naypytaw, he will attend an event confirming the United Nations’ assistance to the Government of Myanmar in carrying out the country’s first population census in more than 30 years.


In Shan State, the Secretary-General will visit a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) alternative development project for opium poppy farmers.


In Yangon, he will attend the launch of a Global Compact network for Myanmar on the theme, “Promoting Responsible Business – Toward Job Creation and Sustainable Development.”


The Secretary-General will return to New York on Wednesday, 2 May.


**Security Council


This morning, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hervé Ladsous told the Security Council that host governments are ultimately responsible for the protection of their civilian populations.


Our peacekeeping missions cannot act as a surrogate for state authority -- we must do our best to strengthen frail state institutions to facilitate their ability to better protect civilians.


We can do so by supporting the vetting and training of national security institutions; by ensuring that women become an integral part of these institutions in high-ranking, operational and decision-making functions; and by strengthening awareness of the link between stronger national security institutions and lower instances of sexual violence, where conflict still flares.


Ms. Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women, urged the Council to support increased numbers of women in leadership positions.


She noted elections are the key means for the legitimate entry of more women to public office and for bringing women’s issues into policy debates.


The Security Council also adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Mission in Western Sahara until April 30, 2013.


This afternoon the Joint Special Envoy for Syria will brief the Council in closed session. The Council will also discuss the situation in Sudan and South Sudan.


**Sudan/South Sudan


You will have seen that we issued a statement on the situation between Sudan and South Sudan in which the Secretary-General reiterated that there could be no military solution to the disputes between Sudan and South Sudan. 


Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency says that, according to local partners, the recent fighting near the border between the two countries has displaced some 35,000 people in areas around Heglig, Talodi and other parts of South Kordofan.


It adds that in Yida settlement, more than 1,300 new arrivals were reported in the last four days and recent average daily arrivals were at triple the rate seen in March and February.


The [Office of the] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says the escalating hostilities are heightening concerns about the safety of refugees in Unity state and especially Yida. However, humanitarian agencies continue to provide over 20,000 refugees living there with life-saving assistance and essential services such as food, water, sanitation, community services and healthcare. 


**WHO


On the eve of World Malaria Day 2012, Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), said “in the past ten years, increased investment in malaria prevention and control has saved more than a million lives. However, malaria transmission still occurs in 99 countries around the world, and the malaria burden continues to cripple the health systems in many African countries.”

WHO’s new initiative “T3: Test. Treat. Track” urges the global health community to further scale up investments in diagnostic testing, treatment, and surveillance for malaria in order to save more lives and to make a major push towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals in 2015.


The WHO has published technical guidance for all three pillars of the T3 initiative, releasing the final two documents of the package today, Disease Surveillance for Malaria Control, and Disease Surveillance for Malaria Elimination.


There are more details online.


That’s it from me.  Questions, please? 


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you. A couple of days ago an Egyptian attorney was arrested in Jeddah airport in Saudi Arabia on the basis that he have used his legal rights in Egypt to file a law suit by Egyptian courts which he was complaining about the inhumane treatment for some of the Egyptian workers he was defending.  He later had to go to Saudi Arabia on a religious visit; not to the country, but to Mecca and he obtained a visa from the Saudi consulate, and when he arrived to Jeddah airport he was arrested and he found that the Saudi government has sued him in front of Saudi courts and have obtained a sentence for one year plus 20 lashes.  My question was this: Secretary-General knows about this and if so, what is his reaction especially on the physical abuse part of this sentence?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always said that prisoners should be treated according to international humanitarian law and human rights law.  That is the policy of the Secretary-General, it is the policy of the United Nations and it is the policy we expect Member States to follow.  With respect to this particular case, I really have no information on it. We’d have to wait and see what happens with the legal system.  The Secretary-General always expects the countries to implement their legal system in a legally acceptable way, and we’ll have to see what happens. Errol?


Question:  Today the Secretary-General will meet foreign minister of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Poposki, bearing in mind that all these years the negotiation on the name dispute with Greece is going on, what the Secretary-General has to say to Mr. Poposki who is definitely eager on the behalf of his government I know that from the facts talking to government officials in Macedonia to hear what’s in which way, in which direction these negotiations are moving, how UN can sort of…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well…


Question:  ...help with this.        


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are not going to prejudge what may be discussed this afternoon.  I would suggest we wait to see the readout of the meeting and then we will know what the Secretary-General has told the foreign minister.


Question:  But is there anything specific on agenda in advance that can you tell us besides the [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I haven't seen the agenda; we will have to wait and see what the readout says. Stefano?


Question:  Yes, I asked you this question I believe last week, and it was about the, in Egypt, the election process how this is going to develop and because is being, there have been three candidates they have been, major candidates have been disqualified; and ask if, if the Secretary-General has concern about how the democratic process is proceeding in Egypt and if he is watching the situation, if he is, the question is, is he concerned so far?


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, each country has its own electoral laws and its own electoral committee, commissions that manage elections and they have their own regulations.  We are not going to comment on that. The Secretary-General’s main message to all leaders has always been, listen to your people.  You have to listen to your people and let them exercise their democratic rights.  So I think I will leave it at that.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  There are reports indicating that Israel has decided to build a wall, another wall, this time along the frontier with Lebanon.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  I believe that he hasn’t; I haven't seen any reaction yet.  We will see if we can find something here on it.  But normally what the Israelis do on their territory is up to them to do -- with, you know, as long as it is not against international law.  And a number of countries in the world have built walls around their borders to stop the infiltration of people from the other side.  So, I don’t really think this is a matter that we will be taking up.  Erol?


Question:  Yes, Eduardo, you are so, always so elegant in, in giving your answers so, though I am not try, I am not getting what I am trying to extract from you; but anyhow, here is my question: In 1995 Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia signed agreement here at the United Nations under the auspices of the United Nations obliging actually Greece and Greece committed themselves, herself that she is not going to block the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to go and become a member of Euro Antarctic integration, like NATO or European Union. However, you know the ruling of the International Court of Justice rule that Greece was actually blocking that process, and I wonder what is the position of Secretary-General on that issue?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know the Secretary-General is, the International Court is a separate court from the United Nations; and the Secretary-General expects Member States who are parties to the Convention to adhere to its decisions.  Stefano?


[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted that Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between  Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had said that the decision of the International Court of Justice announced in December 2011 with reference to the Interim Accord of 1995 deserved careful study by the two Governments.  Mr. Nimetz had been in communication with both Governments and had urged them to view this event as an opportunity to think constructively about their mutual relationship and to consider a renewed initiative to reach a definitive solution to the “name” issue.]


Question:  This is a question about the human rights actually you touched slightly this subject when you were talking about how some of these are put on trial and eventually prison.  In Italy tomorrow is going to be an event, a protest, on the conditions of getting in prison, Italian prisons.  Statistics say that practically Italian prison, several Italian prisons there are, even the table of the detainees that they can contain, and this is an issue that is human rights issue. I would like to know if the UN, the Secretary-General, has any opinion or any reaction on what is going on and especially because it is going to be a, they expect a huge crowd in the Italian capital tomorrow.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s position has always been that prisoners have to be treated humanely and according to international human law and humanitarian law.  That’s about the extent to which he will get involved in that particular argument. Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  Thank you. President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has reportedly written a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on 17 April about the issues involved in the resumption of the peace process. Has the Secretary-General received the copy of that letter?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I will have to check. I don’t have any information with me. Matthew?


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General welcomes any opportunity for renewed dialogue.]


Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask a couple of things; one is, this thing of, of, I can, I have been trying to find out about Robert, you know, Robert Mood.  I had asked you yesterday.  It’s now been confirmed to me he did come to New York, and I just wanted to know since he’s, you know, I had asked you yesterday, is he, is he a UN staff member or not; does he, Mr. Fawzi has said to me that force commanders are selec..., are nominated by Member States to DPKO and then appointed by the SG.  Is that the process and so, did Norway pay for Mr. Mood to come here or did he come on his own dime…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t know, Matthew…


Question:  I know, but…


Deputy Spokesperson: …we’ll have to check on it; I really don’t know.  I don’t have that information.


Question:  But I asked the same thing yesterday; that’s why I am asking it again.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am telling you again, I don’t have that information.


Question:  But how, so, how do we get it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we are going to try and find out.


Question:  Okay, all right.  The, the, I also wanted to ask you about the, the DRC; not this Meece’s mills in Walikale, but there is some very serious fighting there, Mai-Mai Cheka, which is one of the remaining uh, uh, armed groups in eastern Congo has reportedly you know, killed colonels in the ar..., in, in the in the DRC army, FARDC, and is apparently rampaging through. So, I haven't seen anything said by, by, by MONUSCO on this so I am wondering, what is MONUSCO doing, eh, in, in light of this, there is also Mr. Bosco, there seems to be a lot of fighting in eastern Congo but we haven't heard anything from either this podium or DPKO or MONUSCO, what, what’s happening? 


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to find out for you; I don’t have that information with me.


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


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For information media • not an official record