|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.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo
The UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) reports that seven peacekeepers were wounded in the Bunyiakiri area of South Kivu on Monday. The seven peacekeepers sustained bullet wounds.
A number of other peacekeepers were also injured after being hit by stones when a group of some 1,000 people surrounded a base belonging to the Mission in the area. The people were reportedly protesting against attacks by the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in the area. The Mission says elements of the Mayi-Mayi group, Rai Mutomboki, an armed self-defence group, may have been part of the protest and may have fired on the peacekeepers.
The Mission is monitoring the situation and has sent reinforcements to the area, which is now reportedly calm but tense. The seven wounded peacekeepers have been taken to Goma, North Kivu, for medical treatment.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, will begin the first mission by a UN Human Rights chief to Zimbabwe on 20 May, at the invitation of the Government. During the five-day mission, Pillay is due to meet President Robert Mugabe and other senior Government officials, as well as Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
Pillay is considering a number of field visits within and outside Harare, where she will meet local communities and civil society members to listen to their experiences and views, to better understand the human rights situation on the ground and to work with all relevant actors towards full enjoyment of human rights for all.
At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold a formal meeting to discuss the work of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK). And Farid Zarif, the Head of that Mission, will brief Council members.
The UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) confirms that one of its vehicles was hit by a bullet yesterday near the city of Homs. No peacekeepers were injured, and there was no significant damage. It is unclear who fired on the peacekeepers. As of yesterday, the Mission has deployed 189 military observers and 61 international and local civilian staff on the ground.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) condemned the assassination yesterday of Maulawi Arsala Rahmani, a senior member of the High Peace Council who had worked to promote peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. The UN Mission strongly believes that such an attack will not affect the courage and dedication of the High Peace Council members and others to continue their efforts to make peaceful reconciliation a reality. The UN Mission remains committed to supporting the Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process and providing assistance to the High Peace Council.
And tomorrow, my guest here at the briefing will be Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. She will be here to brief you on her recent trip to Afghanistan.
Following a two-day visit to Ethiopia, Operations Director John Ging from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has praised the Government for its innovative and effective efforts to deal with drought and climatic conditions.
“Ethiopia has made quite incredible advances in mitigating the impact of drought,” according to Mr. Ging. “Multi-year investments in safety nets and significant advances in health and nutrition have saved countless lives and protected millions from the famine experienced elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.” Mr. Ging went on to say that “the successful policies pursued by the Ethiopian Government provide an invaluable experience to share, not just elsewhere in the Horn, but also across the drought ridden Sahel”.
An advance briefing on the private sector role at the “Rio+20” summit meeting next month will be provided for the media tomorrow by Georg Kell of the UN Global Compact and Samuel Di Piazza, Board Vice-Chairman at Citi Bank. The Global Compact is organizing the Corporate Sustainability Forum in Rio de Janeiro, to take place just ahead of the summit itself. The press encounter will take place at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, at the Global Compact Foundation. More details are available on the exact location and how to RSVP. And you can get these details in my office.
**Press Conferences Today
And today at 12:30 p.m., right here after this briefing, there will be a press conference by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.
And finally, even if you are not an eagle-eyed reporter, you may notice that the Secretary-General has his left arm in a sling. I can tell you the Secretary-General has a minor fracture in his left hand from a tumble while playing in the UN diplomats’ spring soccer tournament over the weekend. He has to wear a cast for the next six weeks. He’s otherwise absolutely fine and in great spirits, as am I.
Questions, please? Yes, Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you about… I know that the Secretary-General had called for Sudan to pull out of Abyei, and it seems that the Government has said officially that they are not going to do it until there is an interim, you know, administrative body set up; they blame Juba for not agreeing to their person that they nominated, but what is the UN’s response to this position by Sudan?
Spokesperson: The statement still stands. He strongly urges the Government of Sudan to remove its forces from the area. And that’s in accordance with the agreement from 20 June last year. And both Governments need to establish the Abyei Area Administration. And again, the Secretary-General is also calling upon both Governments — Sudan and South Sudan — to activate the Joint Border Verification Monitoring Mechanism to help ensure the security of their common borders. So, no change, basically.
Question: Okay. And also, would… also on Sudan if you don’t mind, there is a… refugees in Darfur who are saying that the Government has issued an edict to… to non-Sudanese NGOs [non-governmental organizations] to leave the El Geneina refugee camp and stop serving them relatively shortly, in June. And so the refugees there have said, you know, what’s the UN going to do to, and what… Is there a UN position by either Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari or UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] on this edict to non-Sudanese aid groups?
Spokesperson: I’ll have to check on that, Matthew. Other questions, please? Okay, yes?
Question: Okay, I’ve got some more. I wanted to ask you, there was, you probably are aware of this, in Sunday’s New York Times had an editorial, official editorial about cholera in Haiti and stated just, you know, as a straight fact that the UN introduced it and… and said that it bears much responsibility. It talked about the possibility of rebuilding the water system, it put this $800 million figure on it, which is one I had asked you about in terms of that seems to be the budget of… of the MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] peacekeepers. So what is the UN’s… I mean, I… I have heard what you have said before, you… is there any update on the studying of the cholera claim, and what does the UN make of a major newspaper like The New York Times now simply stating as a fact that the UN brought it in? Do you still dispute it?
Spokesperson: Well, with regard to the claims, the situation remains the same, that we’re studying the claims, the United Nations is studying the claims. And as I have mentioned to you before, this is a highly complex matter, which will require thorough consideration. And also, given the unique nature of the claim, this will take some time. And as you can appreciate, that’s not unusual. The UN has advised the claimant that it is looking into the matter. So that’s the claims side of things. I mean, I don’t have any specific response to the editorial that you mention, except to say that the UN obviously remains engaged in its efforts to stem the epidemic and to help those affected by the cholera outbreak.
I am very happy to give you some more details afterwards. I won’t go through all of them at the moment, but there is a number of things that the United Nations, in close coordination with the entire UN family, has been doing and will continue to do in its efforts to help stem the epidemic and to support prevention, for example on water supplies, hygiene promotion and the building and operation of a human-waste-treatment centre that is near the capital. So I have some more details on that, which I am happy to provide to you after the briefing. Other questions, please?
Question: Is… is… so Ján Kubiš, I saw… is… has… has said publicly that he is attending the NATO’s, NATO summit in Chicago. Is he the highest or highest UN official, and is there any other UN presence there? And what… what… in what… it’s sort of… what can you say about his participation in the NATO conference?
Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Kubiš, as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, has an obvious role to play there, given that one of the topics on the agenda is this transition period that involves the NATO troops. And, obviously, the Mission in Afghanistan of the United Nations has its role in dealing with the civilian component of any transition, and the UN’s role remains crucial in that regard on the civilian side. And it is entirely appropriate that he would be there for that meeting. If and when I have any further details about other representation at that meeting, I will let you know.
Okay, thanks very much. Have a good afternoon.
* *** *For information media • not an official record