12 July 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.


So, good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Malala Day


This morning the Secretary-General welcomed Malala Yousafzai and her family to the United Nations.  UNTV will replay that press encounter right after this briefing.


And after that initial encounter, together with Special Envoy on Global Education Gordon Brown, the Secretary-General addressed the Youth Assembly.  In his speech, the Secretary-General noted that Malala had chosen to spend her sixteenth birthday at the United Nations.  He praised her courage, humanity and resilience, and said that on her special day, she is calling on us to keep our promises — invest in young people – and put education first.


The Secretary-General said that no child should have to die for going to school, and nowhere should teachers fear to teach or children fear to learn.  By targeting Malala, extremists had shown what they feared the most:  a girl with a book.  He told the Youth Assembly that they are leaders in education, and he urged them to keep speaking out, to keep raising the pressure and to keep making a difference.


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will meet with Malala again and also a number of youth advocates, and that’s for a round-table discussion.


**Secretary-General’s Appointment


The Secretary-General has appointed Jennifer Welsh of Canada as his Special Adviser at the Assistant Secretary-General level.  She will succeed Edward Luck of the United States of America, who left the position in June 2012.  Ms. Welsh will work under the overall guidance of Adama Dieng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide.  Ms. Welsh is currently Professor of International Relations and Co-Director of the Oxford Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict at the University of Oxford.  And we have more information on that appointment in my office.


**South Sudan


The UN Mission in South Sudan, UNMISS, is deeply concerned about reports of a major mobilization of armed youth moving towards Pibor County in Jonglei State, as well as reported clashes.


The Mission calls on the leaders of all Jonglei communities and their youth, as well as on national and State authorities, to exercise maximum restraint and urgently engage in reconciliation efforts.  UNMISS is trying to verify the information and assess population movements, including through the use of aerial reconnaissance flights.  Its mobility continues to be hampered by inadequate air assets, which severely limits its capability to detect violence in inaccessible rural areas.  As a result, the Mission is not in an immediate position to confirm details about numbers or locations of the mobilized youth and associated clashes.


The Mission is reinforcing its military presence in Gumuruk and Pibor, with contingency plans in place should there be attacks and civilians seek protection.


The Mission is in constant contact with the Government of South Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and officials in Jonglei.  It is calling on them to take urgent action to prevent an escalation of the violence.


** Central African Republic


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Babacar Gaye, held his first meetings with Government officials yesterday, after taking up his functions earlier this week.


The UN envoy exchanged views with Michel Djotodia, the Head of State of the Transition, and other senior officials on subjects including the security situation, humanitarian assistance, human rights and the establishment of political institutions.


And, as you know, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, is wrapping up today her joint visit to the Central African Republic with European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva.  We expect to have a press release for you on this a little later.


**World Food Programme


The Head of the UN World Food Programme, WFP, will begin a visit to three African countries tomorrow to focus on challenges posed by hunger.  During her travels to South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Ertharin Cousin will also spotlight local initiatives supported by WFP that are helping to address under-nutrition and build sustainable food security.


**Tropical Cyclone Soulik


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the Tropical Cyclone Soulik is expected to make landfall this evening in Taiwan.  The Global Disaster Alert Coordination System estimates more than 11 million people will be affected.  The storm is expected to make landfall in Fujian Province by tomorrow and weaken to a category 1 storm.  The Global Disaster Alert Coordination System estimates that more than 17 million people may be affected.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Bangkok is monitoring the situation closely.


**Questions from Yesterday


In answer to a question from yesterday, I can tell you that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations confirms that Nepal has agreed to deploy a company to the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) this month.


And regarding another question from yesterday on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I have the following:  The United Nations has no say in security measures employed by [non-governmental organizations]. UN humanitarian agencies use armed escorts in insecure areas in eastern [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] only as a last resort.  The decision to use escorts in specific areas is taken by the UN-wide security management team.


The large-scale humanitarian response in the eastern [Democratic Republic of the Congo] faces serious challenges in the efforts to deliver life-saving assistance to people in need due to lack of access caused by the ongoing conflict and poor infrastructure.  Some 212 security incidents against humanitarian actors were reported in the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] last year, while there were 181 registered the year before.


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


**Questions and Answers


Correspondent:  I saw some reports [inaudible].


Spokesperson:  Good.  Well done.


Question:  I saw a report saying that the UN refuge agency has granted Snowden a status of a person seeking asylum.  Can you confirm this?


Spokesperson:  No, I can’t.  I haven’t seen that.  I’d need to check.  Okay, other questions.  Matthew, then Tim, yes?


Question:  Sure, thanks, Martin. I, I wanted to ask, I, I and, and thanks for the, the, the answer on the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] for, for uh, uh, but I want to ask another question about the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo]. There is reported fighting by the ADF, the U… the Uganda or Uganda-directed rebel group uh, and said that you know, that 18,000 people have been displaced.  I wanted to know if MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is, is aware of it, if they are there and what they are doing to protect civilians.  I also wanted to know whether there is any [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] response yesterday; there was a very long consultation about MONUSCO, and afterwards the Rwandan Permanent Representative, said basically that, in consultations, Mr. Ladsous had acknowledged that, that his reporting on outside support to the [23 March Movement] was based on rumours; that’s that was what Mr. Gasana said.  So I wanted to know is that…, what, what, what’s the response of [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]?  I wish I had been able to ask Mr. Ladsous at a stakeout or otherwise.  So those are the two questions.


Spokesperson:  On the second question, I don’t have any response on that. If that changes, I will let you know.  On the first part of your question, the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, is aware of reports about an attack attributed to an armed group known as ADF Nalu in the village of Kamongo and its surroundings in the north-east of North Kivu Province.  And as a result of these attacks, the Mission is telling us a number of civilians are reported to have fled their villages, including across the border into Uganda.  And the Mission adds that, according to some sources, some local figures have been abducted by the assailants.  And the Mission is closely monitoring the situation.  As and when we get more on that, I will let you know.  Other questions after Tim?  Tim first.


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Is there any indication yet when Ms. Kane and Dr. Sellström will go to Damascus for the talks with the Government, and will… are they ready to make any concessions to get a UN team into Syria?


Spokesperson:  Well, what we’ve said is that the Secretary-General hopes that this visit will occur as soon as possible.  And that’s really where we are at the moment.  And we’ve said that the purpose of the visit will be to complete consultations on the modalities of cooperation required for the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the mission.  So this is about consultations.  An important thing here is that there can be no substitute for an on-site investigation at all relevant locations in the Syrian Arab Republic, and this is something that we have said a number of times.  Yes, Alieck, and then Carla, okay.  First of all, Alieck.


Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I know you have been asked this a couple of times before, but in the light that the Security Council yesterday once again condemned the attacks on the peacekeepers in South Sudan and asked for bringing the perpetrators to justice, what is the UN and the Secretary-General’s assessment of the investigations started by Sudanese authorities of the downing of the helicopters in the beginning of the year?


Spokesperson:  Well, and when we have more on that, I will let you know. I don’t have anything fresh for you on that.  Obviously, it is something that is being investigated; it is obviously an incident that we have condemned, the Security Council has condemned, and as soon as I have anything more, I would be more than willing to share that with you.  Carla?


Question:  This question is a week or two late, but at the Security Council meeting on sexual violence in armed conflict, the South Korean ambassador brought up the issue of reparations for victims of that violence.  And I was wondering whether that is something that is being considered on a larger scale as something that might curtail the, the, what can I say, popularity of, of use of sexual violence?  I realize the issue that the South Korean ambassador was referring to probably relates to something 50 years ago, but it still rankles.  So is this being considered on a wide scale?  The only precedent I can think of is when the State Department — and that was under the, the, it was Stuart Eizenstat who was techica… — you’re probably familiar with the reparations for the victims of the Holocaust which had occurred 60 years prior to the action that took place over a period of two or three years.  Would there be anything similar going on now and not?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any such moves.  And that would certainly be something for Member States to consider.  Right, other questions?  Yes, Matthew?


Question:  Okay, great, thanks a lot.  I have two, uh, I guess, money questions and then something about Cambodia.  But, one is just the, the announcement that you, you made of Ms. Welsh and, and the responsibility to protect.  There is… there was always this controversy in, in the General Assembly about whether the, the mandate had been approved and whether it should be, or, or was funded and Mr. Luck used to say that he was a, you know, a dollar-a-year, um, is, is, is Ms. Welsh gonna be paid, and how is that, how is the, the dispute with a, I mean, I don’t mean to, to, to, what I mean is how is the dispute about the funding of the R2P mandate been resolved in, in light of this announcement?


Spokesperson:  The announcement made, I would urge you to look at in its entirety.  I have read a part of it and not all of it.  And so, I think you will find the answer to your question there.


Question:  Is it, is it the under, under the overall guidance?  Is it the idea that this is a subsidiary of the genocide prevention office?


Spokesperson:  I would urge you to read…


Correspondent:  Okay, all right, all right.


Spokesperson:  …what it says.


Question:  Sorry.  The other, the other one, if you don’t mind, was, and I am sorry to, it’s, it has to do with today’s eve, event.  Um, one is kind of a media access thing, like, we, there, there ended up being no tickets available through [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit] to attend it.  But, in, in, in trying to pursue tickets, we were referred to something called, to the uh, A World at School and also to the office of the UN Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown.  And I just, I could really figure out in looking at it, the, it seems like, so, I’m gonna ask you this:  is, is, what is the connection between A World at School and the United Nations?  Is it a UN body?  And the office of Gordon Brown, it, it says at the bottom of it, “copyright Gordon and Sarah Brown and the reds”, website was registered by this World at School, so I wanted to know, is it a UN office, is it funded out of the UN’s budget and sort of it just seems kind of like, I mean it’s a, it’s a very, obviously, the goals of, of both entities are, are laudable, but it seems a little bit blurry like, is, is, is this a UN entity or not, or, or what’s, Gordon Brown is a UN official, but why is his website not a UN website?


Spokesperson:  Gordon Brown has a very specific role given to him by the Secretary-General as the Special Envoy for Global Education and for, as the leading champion of Global Education First, the initiative that the Secretary-General launched.  And of course, the presence of Malala here today on her birthday — and after all, that is what this should be about — was extremely powerful.  Anybody who listened to her speech, I imagine could not fail to be moved by it and to feel inspired and motivated by it, too.


As for your question about access, tickets were available.  Ten tickets were indeed available and were distributed.  It was first-come, first-served.  And as you will have seen, and as I think people around the world saw, it was being broadcast, and therefore, people who did not get into the room — and it was not only journalists who could not get into the room — believe me, there are many who would have wished to have been there.  It was possible to cover this, and I think many people did cover it, even if they were not in the room.


Question:  I just wanted to, and then, thanks a lot, I mean, the, the World a, a, a, a, at School, it seems like a lot, I mean, I guess, I, I, not only would I say it is laudable, the speech was great.  I am just trying to figure out what the sort of, if the Gordon Brown, what relationship is the UN…?


Spokesperson:  Listen, Matthew…


Question:  Yeah?


Spokesperson:  I think, I am happy to take this up with you…


Correspondent:  Sure.


Spokesperson:  …but I truly believe that the focus today should be on Malala and the work that she has done, the symbolism of her visit here.  And I think that anybody who has been listening to that, and indeed followed the Youth Assembly that has followed, there are many, many extremely courageous, bright and eloquent young people who are advocating strongly for what is fundamental rights.  And I think that’s where the focus should be today.  Other questions, please.  Yes?


Question:  But, Martin, that’s all very well about Malala, but why should some outside body be controlling the access to the General Assembly Hall and not the United Nations itself?


Spokesperson:  Well, it’s the Trusteeship Council Chamber, and as I have said, the tickets were available, and…


Correspondent:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Well, initia…, there, there was simply some confusion at a certain point this morning.  And I can tell you, I am an early riser, and I sought to throw light onto this and to bring an end to that confusion.  The result was that the 10 tickets, which were to be made available, were indeed made available and therefore, 10 journalists were able to cover inside the room.  This was webcast, broadcast, and therefore, journalists were able to cover the event as it was happening.  Yes, Stefano?


Question:  Thank you.  I have to ask again, especially today, because on this today of Malala now with children didn’t go to school who had problems because they are attacked by extremists.  Is the Secretary-General, probably today, will have been a great day to release his official statement on the attacks that have been going on in Nige… Nigeria.  I know that UNICEF did it, but is the Secretary-General going to do?


Spokesperson:  It was the perfect day to do it, and he did it.  I listened to his speech.  Yes, Ivan.


Question:  Sorry.  Thank you.  Two questions, first on Nepalese peacekeepers.  Can you give us the number, exactly how many?


Spokesperson:  Well, a company is 100-plus.  We don’t have the precise figures at this point, but a company is 100-plus.


Question:  Thank you.  And the second one, uh, did the Secretary-General see the Russian report on chemical weapons in Syria and did he discuss it, eh, this issue with Mr. Sellström?


Spokesperson:  Well, he not only saw it, it was handed to him by Ambassador Churkin.  And that document, which Ambassador Churkin has said is a weighty document and I have concurred with that view, is also technical in nature, as the Russian Permanent Representative has also said, and it is being studied by those experts who need to look at it.  So the Secretary-General has obviously seen it, received it and handed it to those who need to be looking at it.  In other words, Dr. Sellström’s team.  And of course, when the Secretary-General met Dr. Sellström a couple of days ago, the discussion was an update on the story so far; and part of that story was, of course, that the Russian Federation had provided this technical analysis.  But, as we have said, given the technical nature and the length of the document, I think it is far too early to say anything further about it.  And in any case, it forms part of a bigger picture, and as I have said in answer to other questions, we are not going to get into details about individual submissions.  Okay, yes, please?


Question:  Thank you.  I attended the commemoration yesterday of Srebrenica at the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, as well as down in Washington Square Park.  A lot of the, the common motif was that there was inaction by the UN in 1995, and I was just curious what action has being taken and resolutions being drafted since then?


Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General was in Srebrenica a year ago — on 26 July to be precise, last year.  And he made it very clear that this was a location that was a place of profound sadness and loss.  And he said that there is perhaps nowhere in the world more difficult, more painful, than here for the United Nations Secretary-General to visit.  And he made it clear that we have to learn from the lessons of Srebrenica, and that the United Nations is doing and will continue to do all that it can to ensure that there are no further Srebrenicas any time anywhere and to anyone.  And he said that the international community failed to provide the necessary protection to many people who were killed at that time when they needed our support.  And he noted that, in 2005 — and this comes back to something that Matthew was mentioning a little earlier — he noted that in 2005 world leaders came up with the principle of the responsibility to protect.  And in some places, for example in Côte d'Ivoire, it has been possible to apply this.  But, in other places, that has not been the case.  So there is obviously work still to be done.  Yes, Carla?  And then… Tim, did you have a question?  Then the last question to Matthew after Carla, okay?


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  I’ve just answered that question, Carla, okay?  Yes?


Question:  Sure, thanks, yeah, I want to ask you about Cambodia, wha… I do have…, additional questions about this the World at School and the media access, but I, if you say it’s not the right day, I will ask them another day.


Spokesperson:  What I am saying is that I am happy to help you, but I think that the focus here is properly on what Malala has been saying.  And in addition to that, the entire Education First Initiative that everybody I think supports.  Bu,t on the specific questions that you have raised, I am happy to help you right afterwards.


Question:  And on Camb… I am thinking you may have something on this; the, the; uh, Hun Sen in, in Cambodia has, you know, either issued or “engineered” a pardon for, for long-time opponent Sam Rainsi’s return to the country, and it said that this is — I am not sure if he is going to run for office — but this is related to, to the way in which the upcoming election will be perceived.  Does the UN, which I know has had an interest in, and the Secretary-General himself, in Cambodia in this situation, do they have any comment on this pardon?


Spokesperson:  Seen the reports; I don’t have anything at the moment.  All right, thanks.  Have a good afternoon and a good weekend.


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