20 September 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, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Food Security


The UN system High-level Task Force on Food Security met today.  It was chaired by the Secretary-General, with the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as the Vice-Chair.  The Task Force discussed food prices in the context of the current world food security situation.  The High-level Task Force concluded that Governments and the international community have the opportunity to prevent rising food prices creating additional hardship.


The Task Force said that Governments will need to do three things:  firstly, increase investment in safety nets to protect the poorest people and improve nutrition, especially in countries dependent on food imports; second, avoid imposing restrictions on trade in food, because they reduce people's ability to access the food they need; third, ramp up investments in sustainable agriculture — particularly for smallholder farmers — to increase productivity and enable them to withstand the increasingly frequent shocks that are now the new norm.


**Security Council


The Security Council received a briefing this morning concerning sanctions on Iran, delivered by the Chairman of the Council’s relevant sanctions committee, Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia.


Council members then moved into consultations to discuss the work of the Sudan sanctions committee and the situation between Sudan and South Sudan.


This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council will hold a formal meeting on Afghanistan.


** Pakistan


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that it has received information from the Government of Pakistan that floods have affected nearly 4.5 million people there, causing 370 deaths and injuring some 1,200 people.  Priority needs are food, emergency shelter, drinking water and health services.


The World Food Programme (WFP) is set to distribute food to 10,000 households in the province of Balochistan and 10,000 households in Sindh. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also provided essential medicines to nearly 300,000 people.


**Press Conferences


This afternoon at 3 p.m., here in the Auditorium, there will be a press conference entitled “Energy and climate change solutions to be showcased at the Global South-South Development Expo”.  Speakers will be Ambassador John W. Ashe, the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda and President of the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, along with Kandeh K. Yumkella, who is the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and Yiping Zhou, the Director of the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation.


And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference to launch UN CAPMATCH, an online platform for exchanging experience in post-conflict transitions.  Speakers will include Sarah Cliffe, the Special Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Civilian Capacities to the United Nations.


And then at 12 p.m., I will be joined by Miloš Koterec, the President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  He will brief you on the forthcoming ministerial meeting, entitled “Building the Future We Want”.


And then at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on the annual treaty event and a high-level meeting on the Rule of Law that will be taking place on 24 September.


That’s what I have, and I am happy to take questions.  Yes, Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, I am… thanks.  The… the… I want to ask you a couple of questions about Darfur.  There is a… there’s been a report of renewed fighting between the Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minawi and the Government in Jebel Marra in Darfur, and I wanted to know whether the UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] mission is aware of it, whether they can confirm it; and I guess, relatedly, the US Special Envoy on Darfur, Mr. [Dean] Smith, has said in an interview that the security situation in Darfur has deteriorated in the last few… you know, over the last 12 months.  And since it’s not something that… I mean, does the UN… does… does the UN system agree with that, and… and is there a reason that they are not reporting on… on clashes that take place within their zone of protection?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you hear from me periodically when I have the information available, either sitting right here, or subsequently, once we have that information on clashes or other incidents and developments in Darfur.  So I am sure that if there have been further developments that UNAMID — the United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur — can let us know about, then I am sure that we will be able to do that.  So that’s the first point.  The second is that nobody is suggesting that everything is going in the right direction it needs to.  And there has been progress, but obviously not enough.  So again, if UNAMID have anything further, then we’ll let you know.


Question:  Can I just add this, thanks a lot, I appreciate that.  The… the… with… the other thing I wanted to know is whether this… this… sum… mini-summit or summit on Su… on Sudan, South Sudan will in any way, or any of the events, I guess, taking place in the… in the coming week, you know, involving the Secretary-General, is going to address Darfur; and is there any… what’s the progress of replacing Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari?  I know the… the current head of UNAMID is in an acting role.  Is there some deadline for that?  Is there going to be any movement on that in the week that all these AU [African Union] and other Heads of State are here?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware at the moment when an announcement will be made on a successor to Mr. Gambari.  But the mission is obviously in capable hands at the moment, as always.  And I am sure that the meetings that you refer to — both the bilateral meetings in this context and the important high-level meetings that will take place on this topic — they will form a key part of what is happening during the general debate period.  It is obvious that there is strong international attention on the need to resolve the differences between Sudan and South Sudan, and also to handle the real difficulties that there are with access in the Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile States, and obviously also to deal with refugee flows from there into South Sudan.  So these are all topics that the international community is concerned about, and it is precisely why the General Assembly at this period becomes an extremely important venue to be able to tackle these matters at the highest possible level and try to move things forward.  Okay, other questions?  Masood?


Question:  Sir, yesterday, on this report that was presented to the Security Council on children in armed conflict, the Secretary-General’s report, Pakistan’s Ambassador protested only because he said this report was… whatever it was saying about the terrorist group was misleading, insofar as basically when it says those things, sometimes it seems that the Pakistani Government is the one that is doing this.  What is it that the Secretary-General can do to correct this misinformation and, what do you call, to satisfy the Pakistani Government?  Because basically, I am sure that the report was not aimed at the Pakistani Government.  It was accusing the terrorists of using children in an armed conflict.


Spokesperson:  Well, I would simply say that the Secretary-General stands by the report, naturally, that he provided to the Council.  He fully supports the work of his Special Representative on this topic, on Children and Armed Conflict.  As you know, although this is the first time that the Council was unable to reach consensus on the question of children and armed conflict, there was no vote against the resolution, and it was co-sponsored by 26 Member States, and it enjoys wide support.  And I think that there is a strong message there.


Correspondent:  Yeah, but the thing is, of course, there were four Security Council abstentions; does the, I wanted simply this… what he was trying to say is that the vote should have clarified that basically it is not the Government which is using the children in armed conflict.  It is the terrorist group, and the blurred lined between the terrorist group and the Pakistani Government is… is what he is basically resenting.


Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, the Secretary-General has presented a report, and he stands by the report that he has presented.  I believe you had a question, Stefano?


Question:  Yes, thank you, Martin.  Yesterday, at the press conference of the Secretary-General, he was asked about freedom of expression, about his… his opinion on that, and he answered that it is a fundamental right, but he also said that this freedom of expression should not be abused by individuals.  And then he has also said, when some people use this freedom of expression to provoke or humiliate some others’ values and beliefs, then this cannot be protected in such way.  So my question to you is that freedom of expression, while it is a fundamental right and privilege, should not be abused by such people.  So, I understand that the Secretary-General was talking upon… on the specifics of what happened recently in the Middle East, but more generally I am talking about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and it is Article 19.  What are these limitations?  I mean, just to make sure, what is the thought of the Secretary-General about the limitation of the freedom of expression, because you know, I want to make sure they understood clearly what the Secretary-General meant.


Spokesperson:  Well, what you didn’t read out was what he said right before that, which is that all human beings have the inalienable right to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and these are very fundamental rights.  But he said, at the same time, this freedom of expression should not be abused by any individual, as you pointed out.


So he also said in his introductory remarks that “the opening of this new session of the General Assembly is taking place against a backdrop of widespread violence that is linked to intolerance”.  And he said he once again condemns those who deliberately provoke others with hatred and bigotry.  And he joins with others in speaking out against those who, in response to such provocations, fan those flames further still; and there is a time for calm, restraint, and a responsible political and community leadership.


So I think he has made it clear that these kinds of freedoms are there to be guaranteed and protected.  And as he has made clear in his recent remarks, freedom of speech and freedom of expression are indeed basic human rights.  And these rights are obviously in no way questioned when the Secretary-General expresses his dismay at provocations and subsequent blind violence, which feed a vicious circle of hatred in an already tense international climate.  The Secretary-General strongly urges all to act responsibly, peacefully and in a manner not injurious to anyone's beliefs and faith.  Okay?  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I just wanted to ask you, this is again, I guess, a question to some degree about the coming week.  Guinea-Bissau, early this year, had what was pretty much everyone says was a coup d'état, but there are some countries that now recognize the interim leaders as the, you know, de facto authorities and there are some in the… particularly in the CPOP of… of… of, you know, Brazil, Angola, Portugal, that are not recognizing the current Government.  Is the Secretary-General going to meet with interim President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo, and does the… I understand there is a new Perm[anent] Rep[resentative] representing them that is in the country, but has not yet presented his credentials; is the UN… do… do they recognize this Government and will they be meeting with them?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, recognition is a matter for Member States; recognition or non-recognition is a matter for Member States.  And credentials for Permanent Representatives would be a matter for the Credentials Committee, so I think we would need to see where that goes.  I am not familiar right now with where things stand on that particular question of credentials, so I would need to check.  But it would be a matter for them.


Question:  But would there be a… no, that I… I… under… I appreciate that, but I could say is… is the current… the current sort of de facto Government, if they came to New York for the general debate, would their meeting with DPA [Department of Political Affairs], would that signi… would be… would that be of any significance or could… could that be possible without any ruling by the Credentials Committee?  Because, I mean, I don’t know if you are going to answer that now or as part of the…


Spokesperson:  Well, more broadly speaking, and I am not saying that it would apply specifically in this case, but more broadly speaking, the Secretary-General and other UN officials will meet with a wide range of individuals and representatives, and not necessarily from elected Governments, Heads of State, ministers, but other officials and individuals, too, depending on the subject matter.  And I think you will be familiar with cases where that has happened in the past, for very good reasons, because these are topics and matters of international concern.  But I am speaking broadly here, in general, and not on that specific case.  I’d need to check, as I think you are aware; in any given general debate period, the Secretary-General will have dozens, in fact beyond one hundred and something bilateral meetings.  I don’t have them all to hand or in my head, unfortunately.  I wish I could do that.


Correspondent:  That’s why I thought I’d ask this one now, before it all starts.


Spokesperson:  Okay, all right, all right.  Any other questions?  Okay?


Question:  Could I ask one more?


Spokesperson:  Yes, yes, please.


Question:  This is not a political question, it’s more of a… it’s in… it’s an Internet question.  The… the… there is the Young Professionals Programme that’s run by OHRM [Office for Human Resources Management] and the Inspira system and there were, at least I have heard of a number of complaints by people that they have extend… the deadline for application was extended because the computer system wasn’t taking any applications, but in the final analysis, it wasn’t extended any further, and there seems to be a concern that… that… that this left people, particularly in countries with low bandwidth, unable to submit their applications.  And I wanted to know, I don’t expect you necessarily to have it with you, but if there is a response from your… from the UN system to what were the… what were the… the… what were the problems with accepting the applications and especially what… what do they make of this criticism that… can’t people in the countries where they don’t have, you know, broadband, as some others might, couldn’t apply equally to work for the UN?


Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I am aware, as I think many people in the UN system are, that there was a difficulty with Inspira recently that was tackled and addressed.  There was an extension of deadlines; I am also aware of that.  I would need to check with our human resources colleagues how widely that extended deadline applied and what provision, if any, has been made for those who might have had difficulties because of low bandwidth or because of the technical problems that I just mentioned.  But let me check.


All right, thank you.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.


For information media • not an official record