15 February 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Security Council


The Security Council plans to hold an open meeting on the Middle East this afternoon, starting at 2:45.  I understand that is in connection with the presidential statement on Yemen.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels


The Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Asia from 20 February to 2 March, visiting China, the Republic of Korea and Japan.  During his visit, he will hold bilateral meetings with senior Government officials and with other interlocutors.  He will also make visits outside the capitals.  The Deputy Secretary-General will meet with the United Nations staff in each country.  On 25 February, he will attend the inauguration of the new President of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye.


** Sahel


The Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, and Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, are in Niger today, on the last day on their joint mission to the subregion.


The two envoys took part in an international seminar on security and development in the Sahel-Sahara, which was held in Niamey.  They also met with the President of Niger and talked about the need for stability and development in the Sahel.  This afternoon, Mr. Prodi is meeting with representatives of civil society to listen to their concerns and ideas.


In Rome, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, met the Malian Minister for Agriculture, Baba Berthé, today.  Mr. Graziano da Silva said that there is an urgent need to help displaced farmers return to their lands and resume food production when and where possible.  He said that Mali simply cannot afford to write off the next growing season.


And in Geneva, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said today that it is deploying human rights experts in Mali to monitor the situation on the ground.  Three experts have already arrived in Bamako and a four-person team will be deployed to Mali on Sunday.  A two-week fact-finding mission will investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including allegations of retaliatory violence.


** Syria


The World Food Programme (WFP) is increasing food assistance inside Syria to reach 2.5 million people in the coming months.  With that expansion, the agency will need nearly $160 million to cover the cost of its Syria operation up to June this year.


On Wednesday, the World Food Programme dispatched an additional load of 62 tons of food — enough for 10,000 people — to Al-Hassakeh city and Al-Shaddadi District in north-east Syria.  That delivery followed reports of new waves of displacement, which brought hundreds of families to the area after intense fighting.  There are more details on this on the World Food Programme website.


**South Sudan


More than 4.5 million people in South Sudan are in need of assistance, according to the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the country.  Nearly $60 million was earmarked today to provide immediate food, health, education, water and other help for up to 1.5 million people, and to pre-position emergency stocks before the start of the rainy season.  Aid organizations were not able to reach all of those in need during last year’s rains, which made much of the country inaccessible.


Also in South Sudan, the UN refugee agency reports that it is seeing a large number of hepatitis E cases in refugee camps near the border with Sudan.  The disease has led to more than 100 deaths since July of last year, according to figures compiled by the agency, the South Sudanese Government and the World Health Organization (WHO).  The refugee agency said that emergency measures are being taken, including the construction of latrines and the distribution of soap.  There is more information available online on this.


** Central African Republic


The World Food Programme (WFP) said today that the recent political and military crisis in the Central African Republic could in turn trigger a food crisis in the country.  According to an assessment by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, trade has been interrupted since December last year between the area held by the Seleka rebel coalition and the rest of the country, bringing transactions to a halt and leading to sharp price increases.  The cost of food has increased by 40 per cent in the area under the control of the Central African armed forces.  And some of the zones under the control of the Seleka rebel coalition are experiencing food deficits due to price increases.


**Disasters


Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, is in Arusha, in Tanzania, to attend a meeting bringing together representatives from dozens of African countries to promote resilience and to protect development gains.  Consultations have begun in Africa for the 2015 successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action, which is the current international agreement on disaster risk reduction.  There is more information available on the website of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.


**Youth


In his five-year action agenda, the Secretary-General identified “working with and for women and young people” as a major focus.  After a rigorous selection process, he then identified and appointed 29-year-old Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan as his Envoy on Youth. 


At Mr. Alhendawi’s swearing-in ceremony this morning, the Secretary-General said that what we do for youth will be very important for our sustainable development – helping to provide equal opportunities and decent jobs.  The Secretary-General described Mr. Alhendawi as a very distinguished young leader among billions of young people, and one who will bring new and fresh and creative ideas and visions for youth.  If you missed the event earlier today, you can catch it on webcast.


**Press Conference


Today at 1:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Marshall Islands on the question of climate change and security.


Questions, please? Joe?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I might be mispronouncing this, but the Amazigh, or Berber, people in Libya are claiming that they’re still facing discrimination from the Government despite the key role they played in ousting [Muammar al-]Qadhafi. They issued a communiqué on 8 February 2013, indicating that they’d used every peaceful means to demand their rights and they’re getting to the point that they might “resort to the use of force in response to these racist and odious discriminatory practices”.  I am wondering whether there are any efforts being made by the United Nations to try to facilitate more talks between the Berber representatives and the Libyan central Government, and to try to integrate the Berber people on a more equitable basis, so that they do not follow through with their threat to possibly resort to violence?


Spokesperson:  Thanks for the question, Joe.  I certainly think that everyone recognizes that reconciliation is crucial in Libya, and is not yet fully there, for obvious reasons. I am going to check with our Mission there to see if they have any further details on this.  And if that’s the case, I will get back to you.  I think it will be, but let me check.


Spokesperson:  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Yes, sir.  Martin, I’d like to know, did the Secretary-General, in an interview with the Washington Post, suggest that Iran could use new UN talks as a cover to build the nuclear bomb?  Did he say that?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General had a long interview or meeting with the editorial board and some other reporters at the Washington Post yesterday, and he made a number of remarks, including those that you have referred to.


Question:  Because the one that is being reported, that suggests that the Secretary-General is going beyond and thinking that this could happen.  In that case, did the Secretary-General question the 200 nuclear weapons that Israel has?  Did he at any point in time?  And that oil also in the Middle East region?


Spokesperson:  I think there was an exchange specifically related to Iran’s nuclear programme, and there was an exchange also related to the nuclear programme, the nuclear weapons test, that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea…


Correspondent:  I understand that, but what I am saying is, when the Secretary-General goes this far, that means that he has some information that us mortal souls don’t have, because Iran has been saying it under edict that it will not produce a bomb, whereas the Secretary-General believes otherwise.


Spokesperson:  I think the point that the Secretary-General feels that there needs to be a faster pace in the talks, in trying to allay the concerns that there are in the international community about Iran’s nuclear programme.  And he has said repeatedly — and he said so again yesterday — that it is for the Iranian authorities to prove the peaceful nature of their nuclear programme.  And so far they have not; [they] failed to convince the international community of that.


Correspondent:  Let’s say you are right, you are right, he has been saying that; but this time when he made this statement, it sounds very ominous, that when he suggests that it could use talks as a cover and produce, it is very ominous.  Either he has some information that we are not privy to, it is very, very ominous.  It is not the North Korean who was saying that yes, we will build the bomb…


Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, I wouldn’t over-interpret that.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Martin, I wanted to ask you, there is reports from in Darfur of serious clashes in South Darfur between the… the army and the SLA-[Sudanese Liberation Army] Minni Menawi; it said that… that… you know, many people are killed, battle wagons taken, towns taken over… so obviously, since there is UNAMID [United Nations-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur] there, I am kind of wondering, are they aware of this fighting?  You know, who… what… what’s the outcome, and sort of, what’s… how is… what’s their mandate when… in… in… in… when this type of fighting takes place and people are displaced, what are they doing about it?


Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, I am wondering, too.  And I am going to try to find out.  As to the mandate, obviously they have a mandate that relates to protection of civilians, and also as part of their role, they do try to find out more information to investigate when there are allegations or reports of fighting and displacements.  It is their job, then, to try to find out more.  They cannot be everywhere at once.  I think you understand the size of the territory we are talking about.  But let me check with our colleagues to see what they have on that.  Okay, yes, please, Carla?


Correspondent:  I was just reading a report this morning that there is now a large pro-Nazi movement in Kazakhstan.  This is the first I have heard about it; I don’t know what their position was in World War II.


Spokesperson:  And what kind of movement?


Question:  Nazi.  And as you know, there are Government-sanctioned Nazi movements in the Baltics, and I was wondering if the UN has any position, has any comment about this, especially since the UN was created following the defeat of Nazism in World War II?  And also the adoption of the resolution on the inadmissibility of the glorification of Nazism.  I mean, it’s been in the Baltics, but Kazakhstan is a new, what can I say, a new expansion of this.


Spokesperson:  I’d have to check into that; I am not aware about that.  More generally speaking, it is obvious that there is plenty said already in the United Nations through different methods about the need for there to be a fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia — I think that’s well recorded and documented.  But if I have anything further on this particular instance that you are referring to, I will let you know.  Yes, Matthew, and then Masood, yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, it’s… this may be similar to the… to the… to this… to the question of what the Secretary-General said in… in Washington.  In this case, the… the… the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, upon his return to Kinshasa, has been quoted as saying that the… these MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] drones may be deployed as early as June.  So some people say that this was never said as such, you know, any timeline was set publicly here at the UN.  So it made some people believe maybe this was conveyed to… to… to… to the Prime Minister by the, either in his meeting with the Secretary-General or in some other way.  When does… was it conveyed or separately, factually, when are these drones going to be deployed?


Spokesperson:  On the first part, not to my knowledge; on the second part, as I think we have mentioned before, the procurement process is under way, so plainly put, we do not have these Unmanned Aerial Vehicles at this point, so it is probably premature to talk about a deployment.  But let me check.


Question:  And can I just… this is related to that; I… I had asked you, and… and the… the… an answer that… that Under-Secretary-General [Hervé] Ladsous gave when he gave his press conference was that, you know, the information in the first instance would be for the Force Commander of MONUSCO, but that he would be willing to share it with the regional groups, ICGLR [International Conference on the Great Lakes Region] or SADC [Southern African Development Community], or I guess whoever is going to run that force.  Now just, I… I think I sent it to you in writing as well, but I just wanted to know, is it totally in DPKO’s [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] discretion who they give the information to, because it sounded sort of like he personally would be willing to share it, or is there some… does… did they need some either guidance or approval from the Security Council in terms of who they give the… the… the… the information feed from the UAV to?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check, Matthew.  I am not absolutely sure that that particular operational aspect would be under the Security Council, but I need to check.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Yes, sir.  Martin, again on this Indian-Pakistan along, I mean, along the border, the so-called line of control, another Pakistani soldier was killed, and one report, that is still being prepared by the UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan], has not been released; as you said last time, “it will take as long as it takes”.  I mean, you are still waiting for it.  So what now?  Tensions have risen again.  Does the Secretary-General has anything to say about that?


Spokesperson:  Well, we are obviously aware of the latest media reports that you are referring to, and the Secretary-General has repeatedly called on all concerned to exercise restraint and solve issues peacefully.  Yes, Matthew, last question?


Question:  Okay.  And this… this is about the… the… the… the… the event or… or ceremony for the compact signing and related issues, I wanted to ask you the following:  one is the Secretary-General; he spoke to his senior advisers and said, this is a commitment from you to the UN and to the world’s people; therefore, we are putting the compacts on iSeek.  So there, it gives rise to a question of why not put it on, you know, the UN’s website so that the people of the world, and not just UN staff, could see it?  And I also have this related question of… on this of the public financial disclosure, which I know the Secretary-General encourages all the senior officials to not only file with the UN, but to make it public; in going over it, it seems like some pretty major USGs [Under-Secretaries-General] have declined to make public, including DPKO, including some other ones, and I wanted to know, what… how does he encourage them?  Does he… I know that he said in March that maybe there would be a new round, is there some mechanism that when he interviews people for incoming USGs, like Office of Legal Affairs, is… is this issue of disclosure a part of… of the… of the… of the… of the criteria?  How does it work?


Spokesperson:  I think the key distinction here that people need to understand is that all of the senior officials are making the financial disclosure.  The question is whether that financial disclosure is then publicly available on the website in the way that you described.  So, there is not a question of senior officials filing a disclosure; it is simply whether that is then in the public domain or not.


And that is for each of the senior advisers, Under-Secretaries-General for the most part, to decide.  It is at their discretion.  And it is, therefore, not really for me here to question why some do and some don’t.  It is at their discretion whether they do or not.  And I think the point about March is that this is, it is, a regular occurrence, and so this is the next cycle.  And of course there would be some senior officials who are re-submitting previous and potentially updated financial disclosures, and there will be some who are new, who are submitting those disclosures for the first time.


Question:  And in iSeek, just a few… thanks for that… for the… this question of the compacts themselves being published not on the extra, external website of the UN, but only within the UN, is there, is there a reason, is there… did somebody request that they not be public or…?


Spokesperson:  I understand the distinction, and let me check.  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, and a good weekend.


[The Spokesperson later said the senior managers’ compacts and end-of-year performance assessments together form unique management tools at the disposal of the Secretary-General and senior managers themselves.  Their publication on iSeek is an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability for public-sector institutions.  These tools are a work in progress; the Secretariat continues to improve and fine-tune them each year.  The Secretariat will use lessons learned from this experience to determine the pros and cons, and whether and how to publish them externally in the future.]


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