|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 Guests
I will be joined shortly by the Force Commanders from our missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Golan Heights, Lebanon, and South Sudan.
They are currently in the Security Council briefing, so once the Security Council breaks up they will come. If we finish the noon briefing before they have arrived, we will squawk you tell you when they are ready so you can come back.
**Day against Drug Abuse
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a special event on the occasion of the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, calling on Governments, the media and civil society to do everything possible to raise awareness of the harm caused by illicit drugs.
In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that all over the world, illegal drugs threaten individuals, families, communities and even the stability of nations. He said that the efforts to combat drug abuse and illicit trafficking must be diverse and coordinated within and among countries. He said that these efforts must include robust law enforcement, but also prevention and treatment approaches rooted in science, public health and human rights.
Earlier today, in Vienna, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) launched the World Drug Report 2013. The report shows that heroin and cocaine use is declining in some areas, but other threats are emerging, such as new psychoactive substances and prescription drug abuse. According to the report, Afghanistan has retained its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally, with 74 per cent of the world’s illicit opium production last year.
**Secretary-General on Entrepreneurship
This year, he said, some 73 million young people will be unemployed. To keep pace with the number of young women and men joining the labour force, the world will need about half a billion jobs between 2016 and 2030. To help meet this challenge, we should encourage, educate and empower young entrepreneurs. The Secretary-General said that this generation of youth is the largest in history. If we invest in their education and empowerment, we can transform our world. We have his remarks in my office and online.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Tarek Mitri, extended his warmest congratulations today to Nouri Ali Busahmin on his election as President of Libya’s General National Congress. Mr. Mitri reiterates the readiness of the United Nations in Libya to continue to offer advice and technical assistance to the new President, the General National Congress and the Government to support the building of the State’s legitimate institutions and the democratic transition according to Libyan national priorities.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia expressed concern today about the potential impact of the decision by Barclays Bank to terminate the accounts of Somali money service companies. Philippe Lazzarini said that, while we understand the banking industry’s motivation to be compliant in monitoring funds, this is part of a worrying trend that risks cutting a lifeline of essential services for Somali people.
He added that a huge number of Somalis rely on remittances from relatives in the diaspora to pay for basic needs such as food, education and health care. One third of recipients said that they would not be able to afford basic food if the remittances were stopped.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today that Madagascar risks a serious food crisis as locusts have already infested over half of the country’s cultivated land and pastures. By September, the UN agency expects that two thirds of the country will be infested by locusts. Some 13 million people’s food security and livelihoods are at stake, or nearly 60 per cent of the total population.
The UN agency said that a large-scale emergency control campaign urgently requires a minimum of $22 million in funding to start in time for the next crop-planting season in September. So far, its emergency appeals for Madagascar remain severely underfunded. FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said if we don’t act now, the locust plague could last years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Secretary-General has appointed Abdallah Wafy of Niger as his Deputy Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He will head the Rule of Law component of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO). Mr. Wafy replaces Leila Zerrougui of Algeria.
Mr. Wafy has been serving as Deputy Special Representative for the Rule of Law in MONUSCO ad interim since September 2012, in addition to his responsibilities as Police Commissioner and Head of MONUSCO’s police component.
We have more information on this appointment in our office.
And yesterday, I was asked about the response by the UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, to an incident near Nyala. According to information currently available to the mission, a commercial vehicle was attacked by an unidentified armed group north-east of Nyala, South Darfur. The incident is being handled by the law enforcement agencies of Sudan.
I was also recently asked about prosecutions for the rapes that took place in Minova, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, late last year. Our peacekeeping mission there says that, to date, 11 personnel of the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC) have been arrested in connection with the Minova incidents, which took place in November 2012. Among the arrested soldiers, two face rape charges, while the remainder are reportedly charged with indiscipline. Further, 12 Congolese Armed Forces commanders have been suspended pending judicial investigations to determine their role in the human rights violations, including rapes and looting, committed in Minova.
And tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be an end-of-term press conference by Ambassador Sir Mark Lyall Grant, the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of June.
We have time for a few questions. Please, Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Deputy Spokesperson: Microphone, please.
Question: [inaudible] the wildfires which are affecting Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, that people can’t even breathe. They started as a consequence of the fires in the Indonesian forests. Has the United Nations done any assessment of what climate damage this has done to the environment in that area at all? Or is it about to do that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to check, Masood. This is not something I have information on right away, but we will try and find out for you.
Question: The other question I wanted to ask you…
Deputy Spokesperson: Microphone.
Question: [inaudible] asked yesterday by some… one of our colleagues about this whether United Nations would welcome transition of power from one ruler to the other ruler. Basically, United Nations welcomes whenever there is democratic change and democratic power transfer. In… in Qatar, that has not happened. [inaudible]
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, what I said was we welcome the peaceful transition of power.
Question: Yeah, but [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Peaceful in the sense that it is important…
Question: …there is no democracy over there.
Deputy Spokesperson: …it is important for transitions of power, obviously different countries have different levels and different concepts of democracy. But what we look at is the fact that it was a peaceful transition. That was the only thing I said. We were not saying anything further than that.
Question: But obviously there is no democracy over there, handing over power from father to the son, that’s about it.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, what we said was we were pleased that it was a peaceful transition of power. There are other parts of the world where the transitions in power are not peaceful and people are dying, and people are being killed. So that is where… I’ll leave it at that.
Question: Thank you, Eduardo. There have been some reports that the United States and United Kingdom provided some information about 10 alleged chemical attacks by the Government forces against the Syrian opposition. Can you confirm that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to check with our people in DP… in ODA [Office for Disarmament Affairs] to find out if they have received anything from the United States and the United Kingdom. Yes?
Question: On this issue of entrepreneurship, I’m… you could have… you could have as many entrepreneurs as you want, but you still need workers with enough wages in their pocket to create demand for the goods and services that would then create new jobs. The Secretary-General referred to workers and… and the need for them to be paid well… for wages, minimum wages around the world. Is that part of his message today?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’d invite you to read his presentation, his speech, today.
Question: Okay, so are [inaudible]?
Deputy Spokesperson: Matthew?
Question: Sure, Eduardo. I had some other questions, but I wanted to… I… I did appreciate finally getting something in writing on this issue of Somalia and the UN Mine Action Service. But I have to say I am frust… I… I want to reformat my question rather than complain about the response, because the response is that DPKO doesn’t respond, doesn’t answer e-mails it has received, in this case a whistleblower. So forget the whistleblower, I want to ask and… and… and you could maybe ask them this question to not fall into this trap. What’s their response to a… to public allegations that the head of the Mine Action Service in Somalia… a David Bax, shares information with United States intelligence through Bancroft Global Services and also was seen and photographed entering the UN compound with armed private contractors?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to check on that for you, Matthew. I don’t have an answer to that right now.
Correspondent: But I mean, I think that was kind of what was asked on Monday, and then…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’re going to check and when we get the answer, that’s fine. As far as I know, UN contractors anywhere are not allowed to be armed.
Question: Okay. So look at… there are some photos that were taken that day, but could I ask you another question? This is a much easier kind of ligh… it’s not light, but it is… I don’t know if you will answer it, there is a… it’s reported in today’s New York Times about a… a… a charge of human trafficking against a UN diplomat here… here that works at the UN in the Peruvian Mission. And given the… the import…
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, excuse me…
Deputy Spokesperson: He does not work at the UN.
Correspondent: In the UN.
Deputy Spokesperson: He works for the Peruvian Mission.
Question: Okay, absolutely. He is a UN diplomat. I guess my question is just, given the important of this topic to the Secretary-General and the Secretariat in general, does he ta… Do they take any interest in this case? Do they see this as a proper use of the… if the allegations are true is this a proper use of the term human trafficking and is there some concern that… that given the… given that people work… that work in the building, not for the UN, have you know, immunity that this may be a loophole for human trafficking?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are not going to prejudge what happens until we have the information, Matthew.
Question: Right, but you will seek the information…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we are…
Question: I mean, at some point?
Deputy Spokesperson: …we are obviously monitoring…
Deputy Spokesperson: …the situation, but as I said at the beginning, this… the reports we’ve seen are of a Peruvian diplomat assigned to the Peruvian Mission at the United Nations…
Deputy Spokesperson: …not a United Nations staff member…
Correspondent: No, I understand.
Deputy Spokesperson: …not a member of the general Secretariat.
Deputy Spokesperson: Masood?
Correspondent: Yes, sir. Yes, sir, this is a question, which again, a repeat of two days ago, I had asked you a question about Kashmir, Martin had answered me on… on… on a different question, he talked to me about a clash taking place between India and Pakistani army at the border. But this is unrest going on in [inaudible] and other places where the Indian Prime Minister is now there and that is a… that particular area is a great concern also because there are United Nations resolutions on it. That is the reason why [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll try and find out from UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan] about that. Joe?
Question: Yeah, Syria’s Ambassador yesterday at the stakeout said that he has not yet received any response from either the Secretary-General or Peacekeeping of… to his request for an investigation of allegations of Qatar’s involvement in abductions in the Golan Heights area. And he went on to say that this indicates the UN is not being transparent and is not following what he characterized as normal protocol when, you know, a member of… the Permanent Representative of a UN Mission asks for an investigation and he doesn’t get any response. So could you comment on that and…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I can try to find out for you if we’ve in fact received the letter and what the situation is. We’ll try and get back to you on that.
Question: A follow-up? A follow-up on that? At the time that he did the letter I think that you… maybe that you confirmed receiving the… the request, because I… you… you ended up sending a response that I got saying that… that the United Nations has no evidence of any involvement by Member States or State actors in the abduction or detention of UN personnel in Syria. And what I wanted to know is, it seems like he was alleging it, and he alleged it actually in the General Assembly Hall, openly fla… you know, flapping around a piece of paper with a cell phone… he wasn’t… he wasn’t alleging that it is a Government actor, he is alleging that the Syrian opposition, which is given ambassador… embassy status in… in Doha by the Qatar Government was involved until, I couldn’t tell from the response that you sent if that… if that had been looked into, or if all you looked into was whether the Qatar Government itself kidnap people.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we’ll have to find out for you.
Question: Okay, I just wanted to…
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have that information with me right now, but you’ve made your point. I wish I had a laptop with me.
Correspondent: Sure. You’ve got something, you’ve a terminal, you got to… all you got to do is plug it in.
Deputy Spokesperson: I guess you are a lot further [inaudible] against me.
Correspondent: Plug it in, plug it in.
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay, we are gonna…
Question: [inaudible] do one more?
Deputy Spokesperson: One more question.
Question: Two? [inaudible] on the… on the…
Deputy Spokesperson: Microphone, please.
Correspondent: I need to get used to it. Thank you.
Deputy Spokesperson: You need to come more often.
Question: On the abduction of the two archbishops, Leba… a Syrian and Lebanese archbishop in Syria, what the United Nations is doing to help them to be released?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to check on that for you; I don’t have any information with me right now. But we’ll check on it and get back to you with an answer. Okay, ladies and gentlemen…
Question: [inaudible] last question?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, no, no, the last question was asked.
Correspondent: I thought I asked for it [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: No, no, no, no, no, no, not always. We’ll squawk you when the Force Commanders are available for their press conference. I don’t believe they’re here yet, no. Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record