|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.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General noted that there are many strong and opposing opinions being expressed in Egypt. He strongly encourages Egyptians to remain committed to the universal principles of peaceful dialogue and non-violence. The Secretary-General stresses the right of people to demonstrate peacefully and calls on all parties to respect this right and to uphold the law.
The Secretary-General recognizes the need for the continued strengthening of democratic processes and an inclusive environment in which the Egyptian people can discuss and resolve their differences. The international community has a duty to accompany this transition with sustained interest and meaningful contributions in the interest of all Egyptians.
The United Nations Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos will visit Lebanon from 1 to 2 July 2013, to look at the impact of the crisis in Syria on people who have fled the conflict and the communities hosting them in Lebanon. Ms. Amos is expected to meet key Government officials and representatives from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to discuss the humanitarian challenges and response in Lebanon.
Since the start of the crisis in March 2011, more than half a million people have fled to Lebanon. The UN refugee agency estimates that the number could reach 1 million by the end of the year if the situation in Syria does not improve. The humanitarian community and local authorities in Lebanon need more support to respond to the growing needs of refugees and host communities. The Syria Refugee Response Plan for Lebanon, which seeks $1.7 billion for 2013, is only 15 per cent funded so far.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that it is strengthening its role in helping neighbouring countries deal with out-of-country voting for Malian refugees before the 28 July presidential elections in Mali. Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania together host 175,000 Malian refugees from the recent conflict there.
The UN refugee agency is supporting the participation of refugees in these elections, although its role is limited to a strictly humanitarian and non-political one. It is providing refugees with practical information on their right to participate in the elections and it is also providing some transportation. UNHCR has previously facilitated out-of-country voting by refugees in South Sudan in 2011, in Iraq in 2010, and in Afghanistan in 2004.
The Secretary-General will speak at a high-level event on the death penalty this afternoon, in which he will say that the taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process. He will say that the General Assembly’s call for a global moratorium on executions is a crucial stepping stone in the natural progression towards a full worldwide abolition.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, warned today that recent appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission compromise its independence and effectiveness and undermine its high standing with the public and international partners.
Under the Commission’s founding law, Commissioners are required to have a good reputation, demonstrate independence, enjoy popular trust and have a commitment to human rights. Commissioners should also not belong to any political party during their term of office. Ms. Pillay said that serious concerns have been raised whether the new commissioners meet these important eligibility standards. There is more information on the High Commissioner’s website.
Questions, please? Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure. Hi, Eduardo, I want to… first of all I wanted to… the… the… the shooting down of the Russia… UN helicopter in… in South Sudan in December 2012, it’s now June and earlier today, the Russian Foreign Ministry said no, still no one has been held to account for the death of four of their pilots in that incident. Do you… and they noted that, or it is noted, that there is this new report on South Sudan out, but it has no sort of follow-through on that issue. Since it has been six months since it took place, where… where do things stand?
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll have to find out for you, Matthew. I don’t have that with me right now. We will find out and get back to you on that. One more question.
Question: How about two? It seems like it two [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: Two more questions. No more, nobody else has questions? Good, it’s a good Friday.
Question: All right, I want to ask…
Deputy Spokesperson: Hold on a second, Pam?
Question: There are some questions about UN agencies are functioning in North Korea; there is some cash shortage; there have been some reports on it. Do you have any information about that?
Deputy Spokesperson: We can get you some.
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll get you some.
Question: And has the Secretary-General commented on the North Korea press conference that was held here?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, not at all.
Question: And will he?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t think so.
Question: Can you get a comment?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t think he will.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Sure, Eduardo. Eduardo, the… the… the… they announced… the UN Appeals Tribunal announced a series of decisions this morning, and one thing that I wanted to ask you about… one is on the case of Mr. Appleton, so… I don’t know if you have… do you have any kind of readout on… on these decisions that were read out?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, I don’t.
Question: I have a general question, which is that in one of the decisions, they… they noted that the Secretary-General, as part of his Appeal Tri… had asked for the “reduction” of recommendations made in a UN Dispute Tribunal decision. And it sort of struck me as strange. One, I didn’t know that the Secretary-General could sort of, you know, black out or redact parts of decisions. And two, why would he… if… if… you know, given that this is a new justice system that’s supposed to bring more transparency, is there some… can you get…?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I’ll have to find out about that, Matthew. We’ll have to see what we can say.
Question: Okay. And the other thing, it’s a follow-up to… thanks for… I did get yesterday afternoon this answer on… on the question of a… of the… the audiovisual engineers. But, since this may be the last day for many of them, and not… that’s not… not only for that reason, but I understand the answer seems to be saying that it’s entirely up to the contractor how they hire people and what they do, and I… first I just want to ask, is that really the UN position, given that, like, the Global Compact tells people that make clothes, like the Gap, that they should take a look at what their contractors do? And my… my other question that I have is, isn’t there some requirement in the contract of a basic level of service, because it seems to be that they are going to have substantially fewer employees beginning on Monday than they currently have and invariably it seems like this is going to result in a la… at… at a minimum, just as one example, no boom mike, therefore you can’t hear questions that were asked, therefore when you try to write a story about it, all you have is the answer and not the question.
Deputy Spokesperson: No, there won’t be any impact on service, Matthew. What I can say is that the Broadcast and Conference Support Section (BCSS) was reorganised in 2010 and 2011. A total of 17 new staff positions were created to manage and maintain the new systems. These new staff have been instrumental in creating training materials and a certification of training for the operators, i.e., sound technicians, camera operators and studio technicians. Most of the contractual technicians currently working at the UN have availed themselves of the opportunity to be trained and certified on the new technology. However, it is the sole responsibility of the contractor to hire and provide the contractual workforce.
Question: But just… okay, and… and thanks a lot, that’s all going to be… I’ll digest that one, but in the interim, it seems like there was 47 people that were going to be impacted by this, and as of yesterday evening, six of them had been offered to… to continue working on Monday. So it seemed like… that’s why I am asking about a reduction, it’s not… I am not sort of… it just… I just don’t see how it can be done, how the same work can be done by six people that was done by 47 this week.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as far as I have been told by the people who run the systems, there will be no change in service.
Question: And if there is, we will be back.
Deputy Spokesperson: I am sure you will.
Deputy Spokesperson: Have a good weekend everyone. Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record