18 October 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.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Secretary-General in Iowa


The Secretary-General is on his way to Des Moines, in Iowa.  As we told you earlier this week, he will speak at the laureate award ceremony for the World Food Prize tonight.  He will pay tribute to the scientist Daniel Hillel for his work helping millions of farmers grow more crops per drop of water in some of the driest places on earth.


In his keynote address, the Secretary-General is expected to say that 870 million people are under-nourished — a number lower than previous estimates, but still unconscionably high.  He will say that the right to food is a matter of fundamental human rights.  While in Des Moines, the Secretary-General will also meet with Senator Tom Harkin and Governor Terry Branstad.  And tomorrow, he will speak at Drake University.


**Secretary-General at Freedoms Park


The Secretary-General spoke this morning at an event to celebrate of the opening of the Four Freedoms Park, the memorial to American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in New York.  He said that no single person was more instrumental in the founding of the United Nations than President Roosevelt and that his words guide us every day as we seek to advance peace and security, promote development, and uphold human rights around the world.


The park celebrates the “four freedoms” that President Roosevelt articulated in a speech in 1941.  He proposed four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy:  freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.  The Secretary-General’s full remarks are available online.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels


The Deputy Secretary-General is travelling to Mali, where he will attend the high-level meeting on the country taking place in the capital, Bamako, on Friday.  He will lead a UN delegation that includes the new Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, and the Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit.  The Deputy Secretary-General will meet with attending ministers and civil society, and he is expected to hold a press conference on Friday while in Bamako.


From Mali, the Deputy Secretary-General will then travel to Geneva, where he will chair a meeting of the Economic Commission for Europe’s Regional Coordination Mechanism.  He will meet with Member States and the host country authorities.  He will also meet with the heads of the UN system in Geneva and hold a press conference with the media there before returning to New York at the end of next week.


** Sudan and South Sudan


In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General congratulated the Parliaments of South Sudan and Sudan for ratifying the cooperation agreements signed by Presidents Salva Kiir and Omer al-Bashir in Addis Ababa on 27 September.


The Secretary-General urges both countries to implement all the agreements they have signed and to proceed immediately with their operationalization, particularly of their Joint Border Verification and Monitoring Mechanism.  The Secretary-General calls on both parties to continue their constructive engagement with the African Union High-level Implementation Panel, and notably to agree on a process to settle the question of remaining disputed and claimed areas and the determination of the final status of Abyei.  The full statement is online.


** Darfur


And in a separate statement yesterday, the Secretary-General condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the latest attack on peacekeepers in Darfur.  One South African peacekeeper was killed and three were wounded in that attack.  The Secretary-General urged the Government of Sudan to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.


And in a separate press statement, the members of the Security Council also called on the Government of Sudan to swiftly investigate the incident.  Council members reiterated their full support for the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and called on all parties in Darfur to cooperate with the Mission.  And again, both of those statements are online.


**Human Rights


Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave a press conference in Geneva today, saying that, as her Office approaches its twentieth anniversary, the UN human rights system is at a pivotal moment in its history.  She said that human rights are so wide-ranging and all-encompassing, and, sadly, still so commonly abused, that the human rights system needs to become bigger, better, faster, and stronger.


The High Commissioner said that the situation in Syria is dire, with no end in sight, and no solutions within easy grasp, but she added that we cannot simply shrug and turn away.  She said that the memories of what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be sufficiently fresh to warn us all of the danger of allowing Syria to descend into all-out sectarian conflict.  Her opening remarks are available online.


** Libya


Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Libya, has taken up his post in Tripoli to lead UN efforts to assist Libya’s democratic transition.  We have a press release available with more details on that.


**UN4U


UN officials will visit and speak at more than 60 high schools in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island this week and next week.  This is an annual event to mark UN Day which is on 24 October.


Among the senior officials participating in the UN4U programme this year is Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN-Women, who will speak at a school in Manhattan tomorrow at 11:45 in the morning.  Any journalists interested in covering Ms. Bachelet’s visit are welcome to do so, and they should contact the Department of Public Information’s Visitors Service or my Office for more information.


**Press Conferences


Tomorrow the guest at the briefing will be Yukio Takasu, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, and he will be here to brief on the financial situation of the Organization.


Any questions?  Yes, Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted to know, the… this meeting, I think… I believe it is tomorrow in Bamako, about the possibility of an ECOWAS and AU force to train the Malian army to “re-conquer the north”, the resolution called for there to be some UN involvement, who from the UN is… is attending that meeting?


Spokesperson:  Well, as I just read out at the start of the briefing…


Correspondent:  I’m sorry…


Spokesperson:  …as you were running over from the General Assembly, I did mention that the Deputy Secretary-General is on his way to Mali, and he will be heading the delegation, which also includes Romano Prodi, who is, as you well know, the newly appointed Special Envoy for the Sahel, and also Said Djinnit, the Special Representative for West Africa.  So, those three, plus, of course, other officials from different parts of the UN system covering the whole range of topics that are included in this matter dealing with Mali and, of course, more broadly with the Sahel.


Question:  No, no, thanks a lot.  And do you… I don’t know if you have read something here, and I am sorry if I missed this running, but there are these talks between Colombia and the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], and I just wonder, I understand the UN is not central to them, is there any UN involvement?  Is there any DPA…?  What… do you have any comment on them and is the UN involved in any way?


Spokesperson:  I don’t believe that there is any UN involvement.  I do recall that I’d checked with my colleagues on this to see if we have anything to say and I will let you know what that is after this.


[The Spokesperson later added that there has been no request for United Nations good offices and that the following guidance had been shared with reporters in August:


“The Secretary-General was very pleased to learn that the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has confirmed exploratory talks between his Government and representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).  The Secretary-General hopes that this will be the start of a productive dialogue to address and resolve a conflict which has afflicted the Colombian people for almost five decades.  As the Secretary-General has stated in the past, his good offices are available should they be deemed useful.”]


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Okay.


Question:  And can I ask one… there is… I just wanted to… I understand that the senior advisory group on peacekeeping operations has completed its work and is soon to, or may be has transmitted a report on the compensation of peacekeepers to the Secretary-General.  I wanted to know, has it been transmitted?  And an issue has arisen about whether… it might seem kind of minor, but whether it is going to list the various members of this sad… given the controversy around Shavendra Silva, some of… have indicated that he will not be listed, and I would like to know, like, what is your expectation of the report and are you going… is the report going to be made, you know, public with including the names or not the names?


Spokesperson:  Well, I am aware that something is in the works, but I don’t know the full details at this point.  So I would have to check, okay.  All right, any other questions?


Okay, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record