30 January 2013
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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Briefing Guest Today


Today, I am joined by UN Police Adviser, Ann-Marie Orler.  She is here to give an update on the UN Police Division’s work and accomplishments.  And this will be Ms. Orler’s final press conference as UN Police Adviser.


Ms. Orler, the floor is yours.


[Press conference by Ms. Orler issued separately]


Okay, ladies and gentlemen.


**Secretary-General in Kuwait


The Secretary-General is in Kuwait City, where he convened the Pledging Conference on Syria.  He told the gathered leaders that the situation in Syria is catastrophic and getting worse by the day, with at least 60,000 people killed and 4 million people in immediate need.  He urged the parties in Syria:  “In the name of humanity:  Stop the violence.”


At the conference, UN Member States and international partners pledged $1.5 billion in support of the Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan and the Refugee Response Plan for the next six months.  The Secretary-General said that, thanks to these contributions, humanitarian agencies and their partners will be able to reach more people — both inside and outside Syria — with life-saving aid.


On the sidelines of the Conference, the Secretary-General met with the King of Jordan, the President of Lebanon, and the Crown Prince of Bahrain, among others.  And we’ve been putting out readouts as we get them.


The Secretary-General returns to New York tomorrow afternoon.


**Security Council


The Deputy Secretary-General spoke at today’s Security Council meeting on the rule of law, and he discussed the recent steps taken to improve the UN’s work in that area.


At the field level, he said, the Secretary-General has enhanced United Nations field leadership, making those leaders responsible and accountable for guiding UN rule of law strategies, addressing local challenges and coordinating UN country support on the rule of law.


At Headquarters, meanwhile, the Secretary-General designated the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Development Programme as the joint Global Focal Point dealing with police, justice and corrections issues in post-conflict and crisis situations.  The aim is to link all relevant United Nations entities and coordinate our support to the field.


The Deputy Secretary-General said that the United Nations plans, later this year, to assess the impact of these institutional arrangements and we have his remarks in our Office.


** Somalia


The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, today visited the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where he held meetings with senior Somali officials, including the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Somali Parliament.  Under-Secretary-General Feltman also met with members of the United Nations Country Team and United Nations staff serving in Mogadishu.


Under-Secretary-General Feltman’s visit follows the Secretary-General’s announcement at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa that he would be proposing to the Security Council the establishment of a new UN peacebuilding presence in Somalia, as part of our efforts to strengthen the UN-African Union partnership on the ground.


“ Somalia is beginning to undergo profound transformation.  The United Nations will continue to assist, however possible, at this critical time,” Mr. Feltman said.  We will have a fuller statement on this, available shortly from the Department of Political Affairs.


** Mali


Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), announced today that UNESCO will do everything possible to rebuild and safeguard Mali’s extraordinary cultural heritage.  She appealed to all of UNESCO’s partners to support this effort as a matter of urgency.


Ms. Bokova said that she was deeply distressed by the wanton destruction of Mali’s heritage that the world has witnessed in recent months.  UNESCO, she said, will spare no effort in working with the people of Mali to recover what is rightfully theirs, and will help them rebuild the mausoleums of Timbuktu and the tomb of Askia in Gao.  We have a press release with more details.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


I was asked yesterday about a document, attributed to the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), which would confirm a cooperation between the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) and the Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC).


The Mission says that the document is a falsification and there is no doubt that the purpose of this venture is to discredit the Congolese Armed Forces.  The UN Mission strongly denounces this attempt at misinforming the public.  We have a press release with more details in our office.


**Unmanned Aerial Vehicles


I was also asked yesterday about the recent procurement process for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, and I have the following to say:


On 25 January 2013, the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo launched the procurement process for UAVs, issuing a request for proposals that called for interested vendors to submit their offers.


What was issued in November 2012 was a request for expressions of interest, a common practice by the procurement division to expand its register of equipment-specific vendors.  This practice helps ensure that, when the need for that particular equipment arises, the requirement is sent to the widest possible pool of vendors.


**Media Stakeout


Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, was due to speak to reporters at 12:15 p.m. today at the Security Council stakeout position after meeting with Representatives of both Parties here at UN headquarters.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


And tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., here in the auditorium, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Masood Khan, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan and the President of the Security Council for the month of January.


That’s it from me.  A few questions, please.  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure.  I want, I mean, thanks for… I have seen the MONUSCO press release and, and I guess my questions, I have a couple of questions.  Um, one, there is a real… a longer-standing, outstanding FARDC question, which is about these rapes that happened in Minova all the way back in November.  And I am wondering, I have gone back over what, even what Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous said at the stakeout.  He said that, by now, the probe would be finished, so what I wanted to know is:  where is the probe?  What, what findings were made of… which units of the FARDC were involved in the rapes?  Does MONUSCO still work with them, and it is interesting that they respond so quickly on… to defend the FARDC, but where is their finding about the rapes that they acknowledge took place when the FARDC controlled Minova?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, I think you will understand there is a slight difference in the amount of time it takes to investigate a major crime and the amount of time it takes to investigate a paper that has been falsified.  When I have the information on that, I will get back to you.  Hank?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  The Secretary-General in your opening remarks showed, I think, the appropriate amount of gratitude towards the donations in Syria.  Three of… the three largest donations, however, come from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who are, ironically enough, three of the biggest bankrollers of the civil war in Syria; one might even surmise that they created the situation that so many hundreds of thousands of refugees are currently suffering under.  Does he appreciate the irony in this, and did he make any comment to any of those States at all?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, there is no irony in it, and you know, I think, as the Secretary-General himself said at the press conference he had afterwards, the primary responsibility for ending the situation rests with President [Bashar al-] Assad.  He has to listen to the voices of his people; he has to listen to their requests and their demands for democratic rights and human rights.  The fact, you know, where the money came from, it came from Member States of the United Nations who are present in Kuwait at the donors’ meeting; and in that sense, the money is going to be used for humanitarian purposes.  As Mr. [John] Ging said here on Monday, the money does not go to any Government organization; it goes directly to people on the ground working on humanitarian issues.  Nizar?


Question:  If Assad has to listen to the people, why has the United Nations ignored totally the convention of the opposition, which took place in Geneva in the last couple of days?  Also, why were the visas denied to 60 of those members who wanted to go to that conference?  They are opposition and they are peaceful ones, unlike those which are supported widely internationally, which come with weapons from abroad and with terrorists, in many cases.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s position is that the President has to listen to all members of Syrian society.  Syrian society two years ago began a series of protests; peaceful protests aimed at obtaining democratic and basic human rights.  These protests were met by violence, violence begat violence, and you have violence on both sides.  The Secretary-General has been extremely clear over the past two years that the violence by both sides must stop and a dialogue must begin.   The only way that this [situation] is going to be resolved is not through military action, but through dialogue.  Masood?


Question:  But that does not answer my question:  Why was the United Nations absent from that conference in Geneva, and choosing only the militarized opposition?  The United Nations is always in such conventions or conferences.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the United Nations does not participate in all conventions and in all meetings that take place around the world, NizarMasood?


Question:  Yes, sir.  On this, the eh, this Israeli, Israel becoming the first nation to boycott this international review, I mean, the United Nations review of its human rights practices at Geneva, uh, yesterday.  Despite the exhortations by the United States and other countries to participate, it didn’t even give any reasons why it is not participating.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, on 29 January, at a meeting to assess the situation resulting from Israel’s absence at the scheduled UPR [Universal Periodic Review], the Human Rights Council took the decision to reschedule Israel’s Universal Periodic Review to later this year.


Among other things, the decision, which was adopted by consensus, calls on Israel to resume its cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, which has enjoyed 100 per cent participation from States since it began nearly five years ago.


The adopted text also calls on the President of the Council to “take all appropriate steps” to encourage Israel to resume this cooperation and asked him to report back to the Council on his efforts at the upcoming twenty-second session of February/March 2013.  Hank?


Question:  Thank you again, Eduardo.  The response to my question before seems to place all the responsibility on the Government of President Assad.  But, what I was asking about is the bankrollers of the opposition.  Wars don’t happen without guns and money.  And these three massive donors to the refugees have provided the guns and money that created this civil war.  Has the Secretary-General no reprimand or no words for these bankrollers of civil war?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has said repeatedly over the past two years that any militarization, any contribution of arms to this conflict is counter-productive and not in the interest of the Syrian people.  He has been very clear on that.  Now, you have to separate the humanitarian needs from whatever is happening in the arms.  Humanitarian needs are dire; you had John Ging here on Monday describing the situation in Syria as being dire for millions of people, both in Syria and refugees in the countries that border Syria.  Those people need the funds that are coming out of the Kuwait conference to be able to survive a very harsh winter and very harsh circumstances.  You have to divide both issues.  Stefano?


Question:  Yes, yesterday, I asked about the journalists arrested in Iran.  You mentioned like, maybe you can ask UNESCO, but my specific question was on the reaction of… if there is going be a reaction by the Secretary-General on the arrests in Iran in the last days, and now the number apparently is 15 journalists.  And, as I mentioned yesterday, article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights should be a guide about a reaction on this episode.  Is [there] going to be a reaction by the Secretary-General?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I told you when you asked the question, the Secretary-General stands for the rights of journalists to pursue their craft and their trade without fear of prosecution or persecution or any undue harm coming to them from any authorities.  That is his position, and that’s the way it stands.  The lady in the back?


Question:  Yes, just to repeat my question that Israel hit a target near the Lebanese-Israeli border:  Is the United Nations aware of this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, no such incident has been reported in UNIFIL’s [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] area of operations, and as such, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon is not in a position to comment on this matter.


The Force can certainly confirm that there were a high number of Israeli overflights that UNIFIL recorded yesterday.  But, that is all the information that the UN Force has, and these air violations have continued on an almost daily basis.  So we cannot draw any further conclusions at this stage.  Nizar?


Question:  Yes, a follow-up on that.  Well, Israelis have been talking for a few days now of the risk of chemical weapons being transferred to Lebanon.  Now, in such circumstances and if, hypothetically, I will assume that the targets were chemical weapons, is it not hazardous for the whole region to target such convoys if, if they are carrying such weapons?


Deputy Spokesperson: Well, Nizar, as I said, we have no further information that these bombings have taken place.  We’ll have to wait to see what UNIFIL says.


Question:  But, pre-emptively, shouldn’t you intervene?


Deputy SpokespersonMasood?  I’m sorry, MasoodMasood?


Question:  Yes, sir, about two weeks ago there was this, eh, I mean, about sort of a skirmish between India and Pakistan at the line of control in Kashmir, and Pakistan had complained to the UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan], the United Nations observer mission over there.  They were supposed to submit some sort of a report.  Have they submitted any report to you, and can you make it available to us?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen any report come in from UNMOGIP.  We’ll check with the powers that be.  Matthew, last question?


Question:  Sure, I want to, I want to ask about the staff union and also about Libya.  There is, there is this resolution that I have asked about on Thursday that was passed on the twenty-fourth by the staff union, 186 to 45, expressing no confidence in the Secretary-General, saying that there is waste in DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], DFS [Department of Field Support] and his travel and opposing the budget cuts.  And now that the resolution is out and has been widely distributed, I am sure that you have something to read.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I am glad you asked me that, Matthew.


In response to the resolution adopted last week by the New York Staff Union, Yukio Takasu, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, sent a letter emphasizing that the Secretary-General and his senior management team are committed to working closely with staff and Member States to strengthen the Organization at a time of global financial pressure.


Mr. Takasu noted that the General Assembly has imposed $100 million in unanticipated cuts, over and above the efficiencies the Secretary-General had already identified in his budget outline for the 2014-2015 biennium.


Addressing the Assembly last week, the Secretary-General said it is unrealistic to presume that these budget reductions will have no impact.


The United Nations cannot be immune to the prevailing global financial climate and the economic pressures facing Member States; the Secretariat itself needs to exercise greater budget discipline.


At the same time, the Secretary-General has reiterated to Heads of Department the importance of consultations with staff as budget proposals are developed.  We will also do our best to achieve the reductions through the elimination of vacant posts, thereby minimizing the impact on serving staff.


Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record