18 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


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


**Arms Trade Treaty


The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the opening session of the Final UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty.  He said that, after a very long journey, our final destination is in sight: a robust arms trade treaty.  The Secretary-General said that poorly regulated international arms deals directly affect every dimension of the UN’s work — undermining sustainable development, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and humanitarian efforts.


He told Member States that now is the time to overcome past setbacks in the arms trade treaty process and deliver.  He added that we owe this landmark UN treaty to those who have fallen victim to armed conflict and violence, to all the children deprived of a better future, and to all those risking their lives to build peace and make this a better world.


**Security Council


The Security Council held consultations this morning on Mali and was briefed by Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.


**MONUSCO


The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) reports that, following clashes over the weekend between rival factions of the M23 in North Kivu, the faction led by Sultani Makenga routed the Bosco Ntaganda faction out of its stronghold of Kibumba, which led between 200 and 600 individuals — combatants and civilians — to cross into Rwanda, where they were reportedly disarmed and detained.


On Friday, 15 March, following the clashes opposing the two M23 factions in Rugari, 35 kilometres north-east of Goma, 15 civilians were killed, 23 injured and 70 houses burnt.  More than 2,000 families were displaced in that same area.  MONUSCO is closely monitoring the situation and has reinforced its positions around Goma.


**Mali


The Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, said today that the people of Mali continue to suffer the impact of mass displacement and that they urgently need food and other humanitarian assistance.


Ms. Cousin made these comments on her return from a five-day trip to Mali and Burkina Faso.  She said that the international community must intensify its efforts to help vulnerable and displaced Malians and that continued support is needed for communities still feeling the effects of last year’s emergency caused by drought in the Sahel — the third major drought in seven years. 


The World Food Programme plans to reach more than 1 million people in Mali this year and a further 1 million in Burkina Faso, with a variety of programmes, including assistance to displaced people, school feeding, training and cash and voucher programmes that help people buy locally produced food and nutrition for mothers and young children.  There are more details in the press release available online.


**Somalia


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia has expressed his shock and sadness at today’s car bombing in the capital, Mogadishu, calling the attack unacceptable.  Initial reports indicate several people have been killed and many more wounded.


Augustine Mahiga said that Somalia has made great strides forward on the path of progress and stabilization, and these terrorist attacks will only reinforce the determination of the Somali people to persevere.


**Kosovo


I have a statement from the Secretary-General on Kosovo.


The Secretary-General is encouraged by the commitment and determination of the leaderships in Belgrade and Pristina to achieve substantial progress in the context of the dialogue facilitated by the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.


The Secretary-General calls upon both parties to remain committed to reaching agreements through mutually acceptable solutions.  He stresses the importance of a successful outcome to achieve a stable and prosperous European future for the Western Balkans.  He also urges both parties to conduct the remaining stage of the negotiations with the courage to compromise and the determination to bring about lasting stability in the region.


The Secretary-General looks forward to discussing the progress with the parties in New York in the margins of the Security Council discussion on Kosovo, following the important next round of talks in Brussels on 20 March.


**South Asia


Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, departs today for a week-long visit to South Asia, including stops in Nepal, India and Pakistan, at the invitation of the respective Governments.


He will be in Nepal from 19 to 21 March, where he will meet with senior officials of the Government and political parties, and representatives of the diplomatic corps and civil society to discuss the peace process.


In India (21-23 March) and Pakistan (24-25 March), he will meet with senior Government officials and other interlocutors to discuss the countries’ wide-ranging cooperation with the United Nations and issues of international concern.


Under-Secretary-General Feltman will then travel to Doha, Qatar, on 26‑27 March to lead the United Nations delegation to the Summit of the League of Arab States.


**Syria


At a press conference today in Damascus, Radhouane Nouicer, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator, said that Syria is being destroyed.  Homes, industries, phone networks, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, the electricity and oil sectors and agriculture have all been damaged.


Despite efforts to improve the situation, he said, the humanitarian situation is worsening by the day.  In addition to the challenges posed by serious insecurity, he highlighted the significant shortage in funding for humanitarian operations.  Because of funding shortages, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator said, relief programmes fail to feed all those who require food and to treat all the sick and wounded.


**Iraq


Over the last two decades, slow but sustained progress has been made in improving maternal health in Iraq, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.


The World Health Organization says that Iraq’s maternal mortality ratio fell by 29 per cent between 1990 and 2010.  The proportion of deliveries attended by skilled health personnel rose considerably, from 50 per cent in 1990 to 88.5 per cent in 2011.  Meanwhile, institutional deliveries increased from 62 per cent in 2006 to 75 per cent in 2011.


However, this progress will still not be enough for Iraq to meet the planned Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio by 75 per cent by 2015.  We have a press release with more details in our office.


**Senior Appointments


We have two appointments today by the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, has appointed Mrs. Mary Robinson of Ireland as his Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa.  Mrs. Robinson will play a key role in supporting the implementation of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes Region of Africa by the signatories.


The Secretary-General has also appointed Ms. Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea as Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  She will replace Ms. Catherine Bragg of Canada.  Since 2007, Ms. Kang has served as Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights.  We have more information on both appointments in our office.


**Noon Briefing Guest Tomorrow


And tomorrow, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, will be the guest.  He will brief by videolink from Senegal, and he will discuss his trip there, as well as his role as Envoy on Youth.


Questions, please?  Erol?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you.  I was just on time, and I appreciate your statement, I mean of the Secretary-General.  But anyhow, I wanted to ask, since the Secretary-General is mentioning in his comments that he is looking forward to seeing the further… how will I put it, having more discussion by Serbia and Kosovo here in New York.  Who is coming?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information.  All I have is the statement that I read out, Erol; that’s all I have for the time being.


Question:  Okay.  Just one more, then.  I asked before whether the Secretary-General is going to attend that General Assembly discussion on the former criminal court… I mean on the ICTY [International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia] at the General Assembly, organized by Mr. Vuk Jeremić, President of the General Assembly.  It’s on 10 April.  So whether he is one of the participants?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the information I have is that if the Secretary-General is in New York, he will attend.


Question:  If he is in New York, he will attend?


Deputy Spokesperson:  If he is in New York, he will attend.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure.  A number of questions, and see how far we can go.  I wanted to ask you on the DRC.  The… the… the M23 fighters who reportedly turned themselves in to MONUSCO, what is the status and what is going to be done with them?  And also, there is reported fighting between the FARDC, the Congolese army, and Raïa Mutomboki in Wale Kale, and I wanted to know whether the UN is supporting that offensive by FARDC and if its human rights due diligence policy applies.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out on both of them for you, Matthew.


Question:  Okay, can I ask you another one?  There is a lot of… of hoopla on the Fifth Committee about air travel costs, with the US Ambassador, Joe Torsella, saying that… that most of the flights are by business class, interns are flying business class, but I wanted to ask you a question that arose in the staff union general meeting, which is how much the Secretary-General’s travel cost is in a year, in the last year, either calendar year or maybe you could just provide it for 2012 what those costs are, given that this is an issue live… you know, a live issue…


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information…


Question:  I think you don’t have it, but I can…


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to find out for you.


Question:  How quickly do you think you could… I can…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t promise; I’ll have to find out how…


Question:  Okay.  How about UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force]?  There is… the… the… the… the Defence Minister of Austria… of Austria, Gerald Klug, has said publicly, reported out of Vienna, that he is demanding that the UN guarantee that the Austrian remaining peacekeepers in UNDOF can be rotated out through Syria and also that the Croatians who are leaving be replaced.  It seems to… since he said that he is demanding that, it seems like Austria might pull out if these two requests aren’t made.  What… what… can UNDOF make the first commitment and are the Croatians going to be replaced?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, you know, we all see these reports in the media, but to the best of my knowledge, we haven’t received anything officially yet from either side.  So we’ll have to let you know when we receive something.


Question:  He says “I am demanding”.  I don’t know if you… I guess you are saying if he says it publicly?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the way Member States, Governments, and the Secretariat work is that the Member States inform officially the Secretariat what its requests are, and then we respond.  I will have to check and see if such a request has come in.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much.  One last question?


Question:  Yeah.  About the Italy-India standoff, the Supreme Court of India has decided to waive the diplomatic immunity to the Italian ambassador to… in New Delhi.  Do you have any comments on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General hopes and expects Italy and India to resolve this matter constructively, and in compliance with their international obligations.


Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good weekend… not weekend!


Question:  Is Mary Robinson going to have an Africa deputy?  This is something that several Security Council members have raised.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t know, Matthew.  I just got the announcement now.  Let’s see how it plays out.  Have a good day everybody.  Happy Monday!


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For information media • not an official record