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


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


**Stock Exchange


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will travel to the New York Stock Exchange and ring the bell to mark the close of the day’s trading.


While he is there, he will welcome New York Stock Exchange Euronext to the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative.  Since the Secretary-General opened the first Sustainable Stock Exchanges meeting in 2009, eight exchanges have joined, with nearly 13,000 listed companies in developed and emerging markets.


He will say that the addition of the world’s largest stock exchange to this group is a significant step forward, signalling the importance and relevance of sustainability to the private sector around the world.  We’ll put out his remarks later today.


** Syria


The High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane, and Professor Åke Sellström, Head of the United Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic, arrived in Damascus today.  Discussions will focus on completing the consultations on the modalities of cooperation required for the proper, safe and efficient conduct of the Mission.


**Security Council


The Security Council heard a briefing this morning by Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the African Union–United Nations Special Representative for the joint Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.


He said that the steady rise in inter-ethnic violence throughout Darfur states in the first half of 2013 was very worrying.  Increased militarization and proliferation of arms among civilians, accompanied by the deterioration of humanitarian conditions, has meant that inter-ethnic violence has brought more death, injury and displacement so far this year than the fighting between the Government and non-signatories of the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.


Mr. Chambas said that UNAMID continued to do its utmost to protect civilians, including through logistic and technical support to local mediation and increased patrolling in affected areas.


On the Doha Document, he said the signatories were working towards its implementation, “even if at an unacceptably slow pace”.  He called for honouring pledges in a timely manner.


Mr. Chambas also said he counted on the Government of Sudan to investigate the most recent attack on UNAMID, on 13 July, in which seven peacekeepers were killed.


Also this morning, the Security Council decided to extend the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) until 31 July 2014.


It also extended the mandate of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group until 25 November 2014.


** Central African Republic


The United Nations political mission in the Central African Republic (BINUCA) is concerned about information on human rights violations in the country.


Yesterday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Babacar Gaye, met with local human rights NGOs [non-governmental organizations] , who informed him of violations perpetrated by Seleka soldiers, including the systematic killings of civilians and rape.


They also informed the Special Representative that human rights defenders were targeted and threatened by Seleka, and reported several attempts to remove evidence of abuses, looting and destruction of public property, occupation of schools and recruitment of children.


Last week, the mission condemned violations, including extrajudicial executions and torture, which occurred in Bangui.  The mission called for these violations to stop and for the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice and to accelerate measures to improve security.


We have that statement available in our Office.


** Mali


A new nutrition and mortality survey conducted by Mali’s Ministry of Health and its partners, including UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], revealed that over 13 per cent of children under five are suffering from malnutrition in Gao, northern Mali.  The Humanitarian Coordinator David Gressly said that action must be taken now, so that children can be saved and are not left to die and so that new cases can be prevented.


According to the survey, 13.5 per cent of children in the region suffer from malnutrition.  The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency threshold is 15 per cent.  During the next six months, 22,730 children are expected to be at risk.


There is more on this in a press release.


**Sanitation


This morning, the General Assembly adopted a resolution officially designating 19 November as World Toilet Day.  In a statement, the Deputy Secretary-General said that this new annual observance will go a long way towards raising awareness about the need for all human beings to have access to sanitation.


He said that, despite progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, one in three people do not have a basic toilet.  Almost 2,000 children die every day from preventable diarrhoeal diseases.


The Deputy Secretary-General urges every country to accelerate progress towards a world in which everyone enjoys this most basic of rights and looks forward to working with all partners to make Sanitation for All a reality.  We have his full statement in our Office and online.


**Secretary-General Media


Tomorrow, at 9:20 a.m., the Secretary-General will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry here at United Nations Headquarters.  Both gentlemen are expected to make some short remarks before their meeting, and these will be televised live.  Accredited photographers are invited to cover this event in the thirty-eighth floor conference room.


That’s it. Questions, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Eduardo, two questions.  One is about members of the opposition from Syria who are coming here on Friday.  I know this question came to you before.  Will the Secretary General meet with them and, do you know, do you have anything on that?  And my second question is about this ongoing case in Turkey… the [Working] Group on Arbitrary Detention came out with an opinion to Human Rights Council.  Does that opinion represent the UN?  Is that the UN’s view?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t think that the Secretary-General will be meeting with them, in answer to your first question.  In answer to your second question, that group that does not speak on behalf of the Secretary-General and reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.  Next question?  Tim?


Question:  Sorry, took me by surprise.  On the discussions in Damascus today, have the discussions started?  You just said they’d arrived, but they’d been there several hours now, and who have they met or who… who will they meet?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything further than what I’ve said.  We’ll try to check into it and we’ll try to get a reading of what’s going on in Damascus.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, Eduardo.  Thanks.  I wanted to ask you there… there… reports and photographs in the Congo of the Congolese army attacking by air a place called Rumangabo, and there are pictures of kids… of… of civilians killed and actually kids killed; and so what I’m wondering is, since MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] works so close with the FARDC [Congolese Armed Forces]… were they aware of… one, can they state which units of the Congolese army are carrying out this attack, and two, were they aware of it and did they support it and work with it in any way, and do they have any comment on… on the impact of civilians of this attack?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that.  I will have to find that for you.  The attack took place when?


Correspondent:  Yes, it’s taking place.  It began today, right during MONUSCO’s weekly press conference in Kinshasa.


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to get the information for you.  Obviously, I don’t have any information right now.  We’re aware of it, but we don’t have any information right now.  Back there.  Microphone, please?


Question:  Thank you. I… I wanted to get a reaction from the Secretariat.  Nigerian Government officials are alleging that the DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and its leadership is particularly not recognizing Nigeria’s peacekeeping support and participation, and that they have denied Nigeria several appointments to key peacekeeping roles, including in Mali.  So, I wanted to know:  does the Secretariat consider Nigeria’s candidate in recent times, and how do you respond to this allegation that the DPKO is actually unfair to Nigeria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’m not going to comment on the process of selecting candidates.  What I am going to say is that Nigeria’s contribution has been highly valued and is something we continue to value.  We hope to continue working with the Nigerians in peacekeeping operations.


Question:  Yes, Eduardo, it’s regarding many things… technical things at the United Nations.  Is the audio library still working?  Because yesterday, the Security Council meeting was not put on the website until midnight, even after midnight, I could not find anything about that.  Another thing:  the electric supply in the Security Council booths seems, is not well done, after all this investment in the Capital Master Plan, we still suffer a lot inference coming from the power supply, is very serious and really jeopardize all our work.  Of course, we still cannot view the United Nations television in our rooms, one month or more after we have moved into the new building.  Are there any inspections or oversight on how this has been conducted?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, this is being reviewed by the proper authorities, and once they have a system in place… obviously, it is new technology we are using in a lot of the systems and it’s a shake-down period and the shake-down period is now.  So, we’re going to have to wait and see how they rectify them, and hopefully things are progressing along as they should.


Correspondent:  But, I mean, new technologies are supposed to be much easier, more efficient.


Deputy Spokesperson:  New technology requires a tremendous amount of training, shiftover.  What kind of computer do you use?  A PC?


Correspondent:  Well, I have a PC and Apple.  And I have three, four computers, all of them have the same…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Try shifting over to a Linux system and you will see how it takes time for you to master the Linux system.  The same thing is happening.  We have new technology.  People are being trained.  They are learning how to use the technology and we are getting them up to speed.  But, there is a shake-down period for any move, and, unfortunately it’s taking place now.


Correspondent:  I’m talking about power supply.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, power supply is the first I’ve heard of it and I don’t think it was raised with Martin [Nesirky] in the past, so we’ll have to check with the powers that be about power supply.  Okay?  Tim?


Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  Russia recently announced that it handed over a report to the Secretariat about an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.  Has the Secretariat asked Russia for more information about this, or did it get the whole…the complete report?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the report went to Dr. Sellström and his team, and they are looking at the report.  If they have any further questions, I’m sure they’ll ask.  But, I don’t have any further information on that, other than the fact that it’s been sent to the appropriate people.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask… actually two follow-ups and then about South Sudan and one is on… on Nigeria.  Is… it continues to be reported that Nigeria has notified DPKO that it intends to pull some or all of its troops out of MINUSMA [United Nations Stabilization Mission] in Mali.  Is that… is this totally… these reports are all false or what are we missing?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We have received nothing from the Nigerian authorities yet.


Question:  Okay.  And then to follow up on Nizar’s question… I wanted to ask also, as regards to covering the Security Council for the Free UN Coalition for Access, we’ve been asking about Internet connectivity there.  Often, it goes down, making it very difficult to actually see what’s happening in an open meeting and remain there in order to ask questions, so I’m wondering, can it be assured… maybe that’s some kind of a walking steps thing, but it seems important that there be actually WiFi, and I’d also like to reiterate the request that there be a table to type on there, maybe some electrical outlets… some way to make it actually easier to cover the Council.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think DPI [Department for Public Information] commented on that with you.  We will check on the Internet supply in the Security Council.  Your question on South Sudan?


Question:  Yeah, sure.  As I’m sure you’ve seen the… yesterday, President [Salva] Kiir dismissed the Vice-President and… and all ministers, basically a clean sweep of the Government.  And I’ve been trying to see whether Hilde Johnson, as the envoy, or any other in the UN, had said anything.  It seems like it’s a major…it’s led many countries to tell their people to stay in the building.  What is… what is… what is the UN’s… did they know this was going to take place… and what did they say about this pretty extreme Governmental move in South Sudan?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re aware of the decision that was taken by President Salva Kiir.  The Mission knows that Vice-President Riek Machar has publicly stated that he recognizes the President’s right to dissolve the Government and that he is willing to launch opposition through the electoral process.  The Mission also notes that no actor has challenged the constitutionality of the steps taken by the President, and UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] is very closely monitoring the situation.


Question:  Right… right… what about Pagan Amum?  He has said it’s a… it’s a political and it’s a… many people are saying… this is cause… it is leading to ethnic strife between Nuer, Dinka and others.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ve said what we have to say right now.  It is the Mission’s understanding that, under Party rules, the President of the Party has the authority to suspend Party functionaries and launch investigations against them for violations of their rules.  So, that’s as far as the ouster of Mr. Pagan Amum; that is what we have.


Question:  And just one more thing on rules… is there an answer yet on whether Alexander Downer can be, at the same time, a UN envoy on Cyprus and also run for political… to head a political party in his country simultaneously?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll find out for you.  Last question, Iftikhar?


Question:  Eduardo, the Committee to Protect Journalists is reporting that the communications have been shut down in Indian-controlled Kashmir, including cell phone service, as the Government tries to put down demonstrators seeking freedom.  So, is there any comment on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to find out.  The Secretary-General’s comment on the situation is that all sides should act in a peaceful and non-provocative manner, and that continues to be his position.


Okay, thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record