12 March 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 everyone, and welcome to the briefing.


**Noon Guest


I am joined today by Olav Kjørven, who is the Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Policy at UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]; Claire Melamed, who is Head of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI); and Corinne Woods, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign.  And they are here to brief you on MY World, which is the United Nations global survey to engage global citizens in shaping the Post-2015 agenda.  Once they have made their introductory remarks, I know that they will be available for questions and provide answers, and then after their briefing, I will also have a few more items, and will be happy to take some questions, too.  But, first of all, please, welcome, and we look forward to hearing from you about this initiative.


[Press conference on “MY World” initiative is issued separately.]


So, I have a couple more items for you, and then I am happy to take any questions that there may be.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The Secretary-General has learnt with deep sorrow of the death of four Russian air crew members, following the crash of a UN-contracted cargo helicopter on 9 March, twenty kilometres west of Bukavu, South Kivu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The Secretary-General offers his sincerest condolences and sympathy to the families and friends of the victims, and to the Government of the Russian Federation.


The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) immediately launched a search and rescue operation.  Due to severe weather conditions, the Mission could not access the crash site until 12 March.  MONUSCO has launched an immediate investigation into the cause of the crash.


So, that’s a statement attributable to the Spokesperson on this air crash in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and it is available online and in my office.


** Syria


UNICEF, the UN Children’s Fund, says in a report today that the Syrian conflict risks leaving an entire generation of children scarred for life.  And this is because of the unrelenting violence, massive population displacement, and the damage to infrastructure and essential services.


The report — marking the two-year point in the Syrian crisis — says that in areas where the fighting is most intense, access to water has fallen by two thirds, resulting in increased skin and respiratory diseases.  Meanwhile, one fifth of Syria’s schools have been destroyed, damaged, or are being used to shelter displaced families.  The report adds that children are suffering the trauma of seeing family members and friends killed, while being terrified by the sounds and scenes of conflict.


Also, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, is in the region around Syria this week.  Over the past couple of days, he has been in Turkey, where he has visited urban and camp refugees in the Gazantiep region and met Government officials.  Tomorrow, he is travelling to Jordan, and will be visiting the Za'atri camp and a registration site in Irbid, before heading to Lebanon on Thursday and Friday.


Finally on Syria, I understand the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, will also be in the region this week, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, I am sure, can provide more details on that visit to the region.


**Security Council


This morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, briefed the Security Council in closed consultations on Sudan and South Sudan.  The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the two countries, Haile Menkerios, also spoke to the Council via videoconference.  The Council also discussed sanctions on Somalia and Eritrea.


** Mali


The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, said today that the preliminary findings of the mission sent to Mali suggest that the recent military intervention in the North of the country was followed by a serious escalation of retaliatory violence by Government soldiers.


In her address to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ms. Kang said that Government soldiers appeared to be targeting members of the Peuhl, Tuareg, and Arab ethnic groups who are perceived to be supportive of the armed groups.  Ms. Kang acknowledged the public commitments made by the Government of Mali to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law and to fighting impunity.  She said that these commitments are, however, not yet sufficiently translated into concrete actions.


She called on the Malian authorities to protect the communities at risk and to ensure that their troops act in accordance with human rights law and international humanitarian law.


She said that the civilian population should be protected and suspected rebels who have been arrested should be treated humanely and their due process rights respected.  Allegations of involvement of members the Malian army in acts of reprisals against civilians should be investigated and those responsible should be brought to justice.  The full remarks are available online.


** Sahel


The World Food Programme Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, will travel to Burkina Faso tomorrow to highlight the continuing needs in the Sahel region.  Her visit comes one year after humanitarian agencies, including the World Food Programme, increased assistance in response to the food and nutrition emergency in the Sahel.  During her three-day visit, Ms. Cousin will meet Government representatives and representatives from other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam of Ethiopia as the Head of Mission and Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).  Major General Tesfamariam succeeds Lieutenant General Tadesse Werede Tesfay of Ethiopia, who completed his assignment on 24 January this year.  And we have more information on that appointment in my office.


That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, sir; last week, I had asked you a question about… you said you’d get back to us later on about this statement… I mean, this incident that happened in a Mosque, Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where the Israeli soldiers were operating there, desecrated Koran and also harassed the women who were praying over there.  Has… has anybody taken a look at that, as to what really happened over there?


Spokesperson:  We certainly did ask for some feedback on that; let me check where we are with that, okay?


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Yes?  It’s not forgotten, we’ll come back to you.  Do you have another question?


Correspondent:  Nothing, thank you.


Spokesperson:  Okay.  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Martin.  Jus… just now in front of the Security Council stakeout, Ambassador [Susan] Rice of the United States said that… that Hervé Ladsous of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] had described to the Council aerial bombardment.  She didn’t say, it seems… she didn’t say where, but I’m… I’m… I wanted to, I guess… maybe you can… can find out, I know that I had asked you yesterday about the bombing in Darfur.  I don’t know if this is the same bombing or if he is describing a bombing of South Sudan or possibly of Southern Kordofan, is there some way to find out what… what… what bombing he is… DPKO is aware of and is describing in the Council?


Spokesperson:  I’ll certainly ask, Matthew.


Question:  And the… I also wanted to ask you, and maybe it’s a follow-up day, but about the… the… the editor in Mali that I had asked about last week that was detained for publishing information that Captain [Amadou] Sanogo, the coup leader, is getting paid $8,000 a month.  Now there is like a… a… a… a countrywide, or at least Bamako-wide, media strike and I am wondering, what’s the UN’s response to… to… to… to… to this attack on… on freedom of the press and investigative journalism?


Spokesperson:  Well, I did answer this last week in the context of journalists being… that they should have the right to be able to operate independently without any fear of intimidation or consequences for what they do write, if they are operating within the law.  I don’t have anything further at the moment, but should that change, I would certainly come back to you.  I would, more broadly, refer you to the report that Kang Kyung-wha did deliver to the Human Rights Council today in Geneva.


Question:  In a… and if you don’t mind, just one thing…?


Spokesperson:  No, please.


Question:  On… on that, is… is… I’ve… I’ve heard… I mean I have heard a number of sort of names for that position, but I wanted to know, can you… is that… is that position becoming open, the Deputy High Commissioner position, and just factually, is it becoming open?  And then I’ll ask you about a name which you may or may not confirm of… of Franz Baumann… I’ve heard that Mr. Franz Baumann, ASG [Assistant Secretary-General], is being offered the post, but…


Spokesperson:  Look, you know our standard position on this.  If and when we have appointments to announce, we will announce them.  We are not going to get into speculation.  That’s not fair on people involved, and it is part of a process of appointing people, which is carried out in the right way and not through a briefing room.


Question:  But is the… is… is the position, I don’t want to say it’s open, I’m not, I am saying is it… is the recruitment begun for that position?  That seems to be something that could be…


Spokesperson:  I have said that if we have an appointment to announce, there will be an announcement, okay?


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  I think that answers your question.  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