21 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.


So, good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Guest


Today, I am joined by Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba, who is the Senior Vice-President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations.  And he will be briefing you on the forthcoming Ministerial meeting, entitled “Building the Future We Want”.


And let me also just at this point welcome a group of journalists participating in the 2012 United Nations Foundation Global Issues Press Fellowship programme.  This fellowship, I understand, brings together a group of world-class journalists to explore a broad range of global topics, from disaster relief to infectious diseases, with experts who work on these challenges every day.  And I also understand that the Fellowship takes place ahead of the UN General Assembly and during the 2012 Social Good Summit.


Welcome to you.  And welcome again to Ambassador de Alba from Mexico, also Vice-President of the United Nations Economic and Social Council; welcome.  Please, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Mr. Luis Alfonso de Alba is issued separately.]


So, I have a few other items, and I am happy to take some questions.


**Peace Bell Ceremony


The Secretary-General, flanked by UN Goodwill Ambassadors, rang the Peace Bell this morning, in a ceremony held just before the start of the sixty-seventh session of the General Assembly.  He noted that the theme of this year’s observance is “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future”, adding that armed conflicts attack the pillars of sustainable development.


**Daw Aung San Suu Kyi


The Secretary-General met this morning with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar.  As you will have seen, I’m sure, they spoke to reporters afterwards.  The Secretary-General expressed hope that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will continue to help the people of Myanmar and many others around the world who have experienced the same hardships as she has.  The full transcript of that press stakeout is available online and in my office.


**Security Council Press Statement on Sahel


In a press statement issued today by the President of the Security Council, the members of the Council reiterated their grave concern about the continuing deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the north of Mali.


The Security Council urged all Malian rebel groups to cut off all ties to Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and affiliated groups.  In their statement, the members of the Security Council took note of the Interim Malian Government request for assistance to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).  And they also took note of the strategic planning efforts of ECOWAS to prepare detailed options regarding the deployment of a regional force in Mali.  They expressed their readiness to consider a feasible and actionable proposal from ECOWAS to address such a request.  And the full statement is available in my office.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The World Food Programme (WFP) has expressed concern about the dramatic increase of displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the dire need that those people have for humanitarian support, including food assistance.  Martin Ohlsen, the World Food Programme representative in the country, says that, in most cases, people have left behind their homes, their fields and livestock, which are their sole source of food and income.


** Somalia


Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, said he was appalled by the suicide bomb attacks that took place in Mogadishu yesterday.  Initial reports indicate that numerous people were killed and wounded, including prominent members of the media community.


And meanwhile, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is closely following the situation around the Somali port city of Kismayo as thousands of the city’s residents are fleeing in anticipation of military activities and new clashes.  So far this month, more than 10,000 people have fled from Kismayo, fearing the resumption of fighting.  And some 7,500 people have fled the area in the past four days alone.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Mark Bowden of the United Kingdom as his Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.  Mr. Bowden will also serve as Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.  He succeeds Michael Keating, also from the United Kingdom.  And we have more information on that appointment in my office.


**Events Next Week


On Monday, 24 September, at a high-level event at United Nations Headquarters, the Secretary-General will announce new leadership and implementation arrangements for his Sustainable Energy for All initiative.  The event will bring together world leaders, international organizations, the private sector and civil society.


**Press Conferences


Following this briefing, which I realize is running a little late, there will be a press conference on the annual treaty event and also on the 24 September high-level meeting on the rule of law.


And then after that at around 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference to launch a UN platform for exchanging experiences in post-conflict transitions, and that press conference was rescheduled from this morning.


There are a number of other press stakeouts and conferences, including on Sunday and Monday.  I would urge you to check with my Office for further details.


I am happy to take a couple of questions now.  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure, Martin, I wanted to know, I saw the… the statement, obviously the Secretary-General made after he met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  I wanted to know if you could… did this issue of the Rohingya, which has been a pretty big issue in terms of Myanmar, uh, was it… was it raised at all either by the Secretary-General or by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi?


Spokesperson:  Of course.  Next question?


Question:  In what way?  Can you say…?


Spokesperson:  They discussed it, yes.


[The Spokesperson added later that the Secretary-General hopes that the recently formed 27-member Commission will carry out an independent, impartial and fair assessment of the situation, and will come up with practical recommendations for the future.]


Question:  Okay, and I… okay, great. I wanted to ask you, yesterday, there has been a lot of discussion in the last two days about the Secretary-General’s statement about freedom of expression and when it should be, you know, permitted or supported.  The French, I mean, Interior Ministry, has said that it will not allow any form of demonstrations against the cartoons against, about Prophet Muhammad, whether or not they are violent — simply, demonstrations will not be permitted.  And I wanted to know if the Secretary-General or the UN, which has said that people have a right to protest peaceably, have any comment on this French policy.


Spokesperson:  No, no specific comment on individual instances or cases.  I mean, I think there are a couple of points.  One is that if you were at the briefing yesterday, and I think you were, I did have some additional comments made at that point.  And I don’t really have anything further to add to that:  simply that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are basic human rights, and that these rights are in no way questioned when the Secretary-General expresses his dismay at these recent provocations and the subsequent blind violence, which simply feeds a vicious circle of hatred in an already tense international climate.  And so, the Secretary-General strongly urges all to react responsibly, peacefully and in a manner not injurious to anyone’s beliefs and faith. 


I’d also urge you to take a look at the remarks the Secretary-General made during the Peace Bell ceremony and at subsequent events, including the youth event this morning.  He will be speaking this afternoon at another event.  Please listen to what he has to say then.  I’d also point you to what Ms. Navi Pillay has said today, that she fully understands why people wish to protest against the malicious and provocative film and cartoons in recent days.  And it is their right to do so, but peacefully.  And the High Commissioner said that the best way to deal with such provocations was to ignore them, as deliberate and obnoxious acts of this type should be deprived of the oxygen of publicity.  Okay, any other questions?  Yes, Masood? 


Question:  Yeah, a follow-up on the same question.  When the French Government takes it upon itself to ban demonstrations or any expression at all on this issue, that means it is pre-empting what is going on, the dialogue at this point in time, and it is as a matter of inhibiting any freedom of expression.  Has the Secretary-General noticed that?


Spokesperson:  Look, I think I have just answered that question, really.


Question:  Okay, another thing, and in the same context, being that there are so many demonstrations, violent demonstrations going on, this Alliance of Civilization that the Secretary-General has… can he activate that, you know, to create some sort of dialogue amongst these…?


Spokesperson:  Well, actually I don’t think it needs activating; it’s working quite actively already…


Correspondent:  It’s not working.


Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?


Correspondent:  It’s not working, I mean, it is working, quite right, but not working.


Spokesperson:  It’s activated and many other players, international organizations are certainly mobilized and keen to work on this very closely.  Everybody recognizes that what has been happening in recent days is very troubling and people are concerned and people are voicing that concern in appropriate ways.  The Alliance of Civilizations — I know that the High Representative, Special Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations has written recently an op-ed piece; you might want to check that out.  I think that that’s quite an interesting take on these events.  Okay, last question.  Yes?


Question:  Martin, do you have any information about this shooting death of a Rwandan peacekeeper in Haiti?  Has it been determined how that took place and… and…?


Spokesperson:  We are aware of the incident.  The incident is being investigated and at this point I don’t have any further details.  I will be able to give you a couple of other details afterwards, but I don’t have any further details on the circumstances, because they are being investigated.  But I can give you some more details after this. 


[The Spokesperson added later that the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) had reported that a uniformed police unit officer had died after suffering a gunshot wound to the head on the evening of 19 September while on duty at the former MINUSTAH military compound in Jérémie (in the Grand Anse Department).]


Okay, thanks very much indeed.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record