22 May 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.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


Earlier today, the Secretary-General arrived in Kinshasa, where he met with the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, at the start of the first joint UN-World Bank visit of its kind.  The Secretary-General and Dr. Kim have had meetings with the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila, and Government ministers.  They will also meet parliamentarians and representatives of civil society.


After their meeting with President Kabila, the Secretary-General and the World Bank President spoke to reporters.  Dr. Kim said that the World Bank would provide $1 billion in development funding to the region.  The Secretary-General said these new investments would directly support the implementation of the vital framework for peace, security and cooperation signed by President Kabila and 10 other African leaders.  In a couple of hours from now, the Secretary-General is expected to give a press conference along with the World Bank President.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) informs that fighting has continued for a third day around Goma between the M23 armed group and the Congolese national army.


MONUSCO reports that a rocket launched from an M23 position resulted in one dead and four injured among the civilian population in a neighbourhood of Goma.  Intermittent fighting is taking place in Mutaho, some 12 kilometres from the city.  The Mission adds that the clashes have created panic among displaced people in the IDP camps in Mugunga.


MONUSCO has launched a quick-reaction patrol to ensure that the civilians in those areas are protected.  The United Nations Mission is actively continuing its diplomatic and political efforts at all levels to contain and end these clashes.  MONUSCO is closely monitoring the situation and continues to call for restraint.


**Security Council


Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, told the Security Council that the region continues to undergo a period of great turmoil, with regional tensions mounting dangerously.  Ending the conflict in Syria is a matter of great urgency and must be a top priority of the international community, he said.


Mr. Serry said that the Secretary-General welcomes the US and Russian initiative to bring the Syrians to the negotiating table.  The weeks ahead will be crucial.  Mr. Serry also noted the renewed US efforts for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and strongly encouraged the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.


The Security Council also unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN office in Guinea-Bissau by 12 months.


** Syria


Further to what I just said about the situation in Syria, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, says that an estimated 6.8 million people, or almost a third of the Syrian population, now need humanitarian assistance.  More than half of them — 3.1 million — are children.  Since January 2013, the number of internally displaced people has more than doubled, from 2 million to 4.25 million.  According to the Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, more than 420,000  Palestine refugees hosted in Syria are now unable to meet basic food needs and require urgent assistance.  Humanitarian organizations warn that the rise in temperatures during summer, poor hygiene conditions and lack of clean water and sanitation services, such as waste collection and disposal, pose a major public health risk in several governorates.


** Jordan


The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $9.8 million to support the establishment of a new camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.  There are more than 500,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan since March 2011, according to the Government.  The Jordanian Government has requested support from the UN to establish and service a new camp in Azraq town to take pressure off the Za’atari camp, which has reached full capacity with over 100,000 people. The new camp is expected to accommodate up to 110,000 refugees by the end of the year.


** Sudan


The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, visited Darfur today.  She met with internally displaced people at the Zamzam camp, and held talks with authorities and the head of the joint African Union-United Nations mission, UNAMID, in El Fasher.


Ms. Amos said that, after 10 years of humanitarian operations in Darfur, it is disappointing that the humanitarian community has not been able to do more to help people become more self-sufficient.  She said that stronger bridges need to be built between humanitarian and development work.  Ms. Amos was told by representatives of non-governmental organizations in Darfur that they face a serious funding shortage and that they do not have the resources to meet growing humanitarian needs.


** Guinea


At the initiative of Said Djinnit, a consultative meeting was held today in Conakry between the opposition leaders and the Prime Minister of Guinea, who was accompanied by several ministers.  Mr. Djinnit is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, and is acting in his capacity as international facilitator in Guinea.


Mr. Djinnit congratulated the two parties for this initial promising step towards creating the conditions for the holding of free, transparent and peaceful legislative elections in Guinea.  Mr. Djinnit continues to urge the Guinean stakeholders to address their differences over the electoral process through peaceful means and to act in accordance with the “anti-violence declaration” signed by the Government and the political parties on 24 April.  He hopes that the situation will continue to remain calm in line with the spirit that prevailed during today’s consultative meeting.


**Press Conferences


Following this briefing, today at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Braulio de Souza Dias, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and Ambassador Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil, on the occasion of the International Day of Biodiversity.


And tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the mid-year update of the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects 2013, which includes new information and forecasts for different global economic issues, as well as updates to the economic outlooks for all regions of the world.


And then at 1:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on issues affecting indigenous peoples in Africa, as part of the ongoing twelfth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.


Questions, please?  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure.  Eduardo, I… I… yesterday I… I’ve been trying to ask you a question about Madagascar, so I… I want to be sure to get to that, but I want to ask you something first that has to do with just the ability to report here at the UN.  We… we have seen this draft — or… I mean, don’t even know if they are a draft — media access guidelines that would basically say that the Security Council stakeout area, including the Turkish Lounge, is not to be used as a permanent workspace for the media and the media is not supposed to stay there unless the Council is in formal session.  Since this would be a big reversal of access that was in the past there, and that we have apparently in the basement of the… the GA, I wanted to know who is behind these guidelines?  Is it DPI, a member of the Council, UNCA, whose name is on it?  What’s… what’s the status?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, as we have always said, we don’t comment on leaked documents…


Correspondent:  It’s not a leaked document; it was shown to the Free UN Coalition for Access to comment on it and I… although we have commented to Stéphane Dujarric, I learned today that the Council was moving this weekend, and so that’s the reason I am asking you now because there is only two more days.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you have to discuss it with Stéphane Dujarric, it is not the Spokesperson’s office.


Question:  I… I… it seems like… does Ban Ki-moon believe that there should be less access to cover the Security Council than was the case in the past?


Deputy Spokesperson:  It is not Ban Ki-moon believing or not believing, it is a question of you discussing this with Stéphane Dujarric…


Correspondent:  Right, who works for…


Deputy Spokesperson:  …and appropriate authorities in DPI.


Correspondent:  …who works for the Secretariat.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you.  Next question, please?


Question:  Madagascar?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?


Question:  Okay, good.  I’ll… the… so the… the… the… th… I saw the statement that you put out about this… the SAC’s… SADC road map and the three candidates stepping down.  What I wanted to know is, the… the… the head of the Electoral Commission is said to be in the United States, she was in D.C.; it was said she was coming to the UN to meet… so I had wanted to ask you yesterday, and I’ll ask you today — has she… has… her name is Beatrice Attalla — has she met with anyone in DPA or…?  I don’t know who she would meet with if the Secretary-General and the Deputy are away.  What’s the status of… of the UN following up on… on what it announced about [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out, I don’t have anything for you on that.


Question:  And who is in charge right now in the UN, with the Secretary-General and the DSG both away, who is the ultimate figure running the place?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Chef de Cabinet.


Question:  Okay.  Is that…? I mean… Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we live in a small world, Matthew…


Correspondent:  No, I know.


Deputy Spokesperson:  …and the Secretary-General…


Correspondent:  I don’t know what the…


Deputy Spokesperson:  …the Deputy Secretary-General are fully in contact with Headquarters on a 24-hour-day basis.  So it’s no longer the time when we used to send letters by ships.


So people are working in a [inaudible].


Correspondent:  That’s why I was asking you about the Secretary-General on this… this ability to cover the Security Council, because I am… it’s… it’s not a small issue.  You might think it is a small issue, but it… it’s not a small issue.


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, I didn’t say I thought it was a small issue, what I said was you have to discuss it with Stéphane Dujarric and find out from Stéphane Dujarric and the people in DPI what the situation is.  We don’t have… we don’t control that area.  Masood?


Question:  Sir, I… I’d like to ask the question about the drone strikes about a month ago, almost five weeks ago.  A United Nations official who was in Pakistan issued a statement saying that he believes that drone strikes inside Pakistan are illegal… could be deemed illegal.  And now, is there a follow-up on that?  That I would like to know, because Pakistan’s Government, of course, is more than concerned as to what is gonna happen.  Obama Administration seems to be changing the policy, so is there any change in the position taken by a UN official on these issues?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has been very clear in his statements on drones, or UAVs as they are called, and that the use of UAVs has to be done within the provisions of international humanitarian and human rights law.  That position hasn’t changed.


Question:  That is still the position?  So it has not evolved since then?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the position is not going to evolve; that’s the position of the Secretary-General; that’s what we have been saying all along.  One more question.  Matthew?


Question:  Do you have anything on this, the… South Sudan has announced that there are some… they had an agreement with Sudan to export their oil through the com… through the country and they have made an announcement, Salva Kiir did, that there is some problem with Sudan complying with it and that they may stop doing it.  Since the peace between the two countries seems predicated on getting this revenue issue correct, is Haile Menkerios… is there anyone in the UN system that is following this, and what… what is the… the… the… is South Sudan right that Sudan is breaking its agreement?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, of course the people in the region — Haile Menkerios and others — are following this very carefully.  If we have anything to say on it, I will get back to you on it, okay.


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


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For information media • not an official record