12 December 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; 12 o’clock on the 12th of the 12th of the 12th.


**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea


In a statement issued last night, the Secretary-General deplored the rocket launch announced by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It is all the more regrettable because it defies the unified and strong call from the international community.  It is a clear violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009), in which the Council demanded that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea not conduct any launch using ballistic missile technology.


The Secretary-General has been urging the leadership in Pyongyang not to carry out such a launch and instead to build confidence with its neighbours while taking steps to improve the lives of its people.  The Secretary-General is concerned about the negative consequences that this provocative act may have on peace and stability in the region.


The Secretary-General is in close touch with the Governments concerned.  He takes this opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to working for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.


The Security Council began consultations on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea this morning.  Council members received a briefing on the latest developments from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Taye-Brook Zerihoun.


** Mali


And we issued a statement yesterday afternoon, saying that the Secretary-General is troubled by the circumstances leading to the resignation of Mali's Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra.  The Secretary-General called again for a cessation of military interference in politics, and urged the Malian leadership to resolve any issues through peaceful means.  These latest developments underscore the importance of sustained national and international efforts to address the political crisis in Bamako.


In a separate statement, the members of the Security Council expressed their readiness to consider appropriate measures, including targeted sanctions, against those who prevent the restoration of the constitutional order and take actions that undermine stability in Mali.


** Syria


On Syria, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that the number of Syrian refugees registered in neighbouring countries — which now stands at more than half a million – could increase to 700,000 by the end of the year.  Inside the country, the agency reports about 250,000 internally displaced people in Homs urgently need winter supplies and access to basic health services.  The agency delivered urgent winter aid, including quilts, sleeping mats, blankets, mattresses and sanitary supplies to thousands of displaced people over the last two weeks.


Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that food insecurity is on the rise in Syria and that the distribution of its monthly food rations has been affected by lack of funds.  In November, the World Food Programme dispatched food rations for more than 1.3 million people in all governorates, and they hope to reach 1.5 million people in December.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that nationwide electricity cuts and fuel shortages have affected people’s access to cooking, heating and telecommunications.  The delivery of humanitarian aid has also been affected as fuel shortages have caused delays to aid convoys.


**Security Council


This afternoon, starting at 3 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled three formal meetings.  First, the Council will hear about the work of its sanctions committee regarding Liberia.  Then it will hold a meeting on the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  And it will then hold an open meeting on UN peacekeeping operations.


**Human Rights


In an event against homophobia at Union Nations Headquarters yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General said that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are entitled to the same rights as everyone else.  He again denounced violence against LGBT people and demanded action for true equality.  He said that he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them in their struggle for human rights.  He said that the United Nations should lead by example and that he recently reiterated to all senior managers that discrimination against staff on the basis of sexual orientation will not be tolerated.


**Preventative Diplomacy


Marking the fifth anniversary of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, stressed the key role of regional cooperation in promoting stability.


He delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General yesterday in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where the Regional Centre is based.  Mr. Felt noted that prevention — one of the priorities of the Secretary-General’s five-year action agenda — can advance security and stability, save lives and promote sustainable development.  The full remarks are available online.


That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Hank?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Thank you.  The United States recognized foreign-backed opposition groups in Syria yesterday.  The Secretary-General has been very clear about how he feels about further militarization of that conflict; what is his understanding of what impact that endorsement will have and what is also his understanding of exactly which opposition group the US endorsed?


Spokesperson:  The recognition of groups in this fashion is a matter for individual Member States, and so I don’t have any specific comment on this latest development.  I would note that the Deputy Joint Special Representative, Mr. Al-Kidwa, is present in Marrakech.  He has a message there from the Secretary-General, and I would hope that we can make that available a little bit later.  And I think it would address some of the points that you have just raised.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Martin, I want to ask you about yesterday’s announcement of the… the programme to eliminate cholera in Haiti.  The… the… Nigel Fisher did a stakeout and he was very… he in turn… he answered everything that he could and he said he could only answer some questions and not others.  So one thing he couldn’t answer was whether DPKO has… has instituted any reforms since that… given that the… the… the… the alleg… you know, we’ll call… we’ll call it an allegation, but many people seem… seem that it is true that cholera was introduced by the… inadvertently by peacekeepers coming to Haiti, whether any steps have been taken by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations to ensure that… that in areas where… where cholera was endemic that peacekeepers are tested or not taken to environments where there is no cholera.  Has… have such steps been taken, and can you describe them?


Spokesperson:  I will ask my colleagues in DPKO if they have anything specific on that.  I think that what you will have heard us say, and what you would have heard again yesterday, is that the key to this is going to be a really concerted effort on clean drinking water, on sanitation and on education.  And this initiative which was announced yesterday and launched yesterday in support of an existing initiative, as you know, on the island of Hispaniola that really does have a focus on funding to invest in clean drinking water and sanitation systems.  And that’s going to be crucial.  In addition, as you will have heard, the funding will also be used to ensure vaccines, and particularly for those Haitians who live in high-risk areas.  So really, that is where we are at the moment.  If DPKO has anything more on that first part of your question, then I will let you know.


Question:  And even on… and this is the other one.  I… I… I wasn’t sure what his answer meant, but… but Mr. Fi… you know, Nigel Fisher, was asked whether this $23.5 million, whether any of it involves some sort of either redress or attempts to… to… to… to… to help, you know, victims or either people that are sick or people who have had family members die.  He said this money will all go to Haitians, but it wasn’t… there seems to be… there is a… there is a… is it all forward-looking sanitation work or is there anything being done for those who have actually, you know, suffered already the blow of this cholera?


Spokesperson:  I think it would be most improper and inappropriate of me to try to parse what Nigel Fisher said yesterday.  He is, after all, a key official on the ground there, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, and his focus, as has been the focus of the United Nations, is on how you deal with the sanitation, how you deal with ensuring that those people in Haiti can receive the assistance to avoid further spread of cholera beyond what we have at the moment.  And I think that I would leave it there.  Other questions, please?  Stefano?


Question:  Yes.  Do you have any report of today that the Syrians forces have fired a scud missile… missiles at insurgents?  Do you have any news about that, because there is a report coming out of the US source The New York Times that they said that they used scud missiles?


Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen anything on that beyond media reports.  If that changes, we’ll let you know.  But I haven’t heard anything on that score.  Yes?


Question:  I want to ask a couple of questions about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  One is, yesterday, there was a hearing in… in the House Foreign Affairs Committee and… and the State Department’s Johnny Carson said that the… the… the… it was just… he said that the US supports the idea that new UN envoy on this particular issue of the M23 and the… and the… and the bordering countries, and he said the US is speaking to the Secretary-General about that.  So wha… I… I… I… I guess I wanted to know, has the Secretary-General spoken to the US, if you can say that, and what’s his thought about this call that a new… beyond Roger Meese that somebody specifically on this issue of the… of the cross-border disputes be… be assigned?


Spokesperson:  I think a number of Member States have raised the question or the possibility of a Special Envoy for the DRC, and notably what is happening in eastern DRC.  The Secretary-General and other senior advisers within the United Nations Secretariat are aware of those suggestions, those ideas, and are looking at them very closely.


Question:  There… and then these are just kind of very specific ones you may have something on those.  There are reports that a lot of people who were released from jail in Goma during this… this con… and some of them are being… you know, are being hung and subjected to a kind of street justice.  So I wonder, is… is… is this something that MONUSCO is… is looking on…?  What is the solution to this?  It is a pretty big number of people I think, over 1,000.  And the other one is, some… some people have been captured and are… are being said to be M23 people that are captured, but they are being paraded in a way that some people believe, you know, violates the Geneva Conventions of the parading of… of war prisoners.  So, since these seem to fall into the kind of human rights or protection of civilians mandate of MONUSCO, are they aware of it and… and what are they doing about it?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check with my colleagues to see what they have to say.  Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record