15 November 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Hello, good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.


**Guest


Today, we are very pleased to have with us John Ging, Operational Director at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Ted Chaiban, UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) Director of Emergency Programmes.  They are here to provide updates on the UN’s relief efforts in the Philippines.  They will speak first and then take your questions.  Mr. Ging, welcome.


[Press conference by John Ging and Ted Chaiban issued separately.]


I have just a few more things to read out, and then I can take a couple of questions.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General arrived in Estonia earlier today and has had meetings in Tallinn with the President and Prime Minister.


He spoke to reporters a short while ago, and we will provide a transcript as soon as we can.


The Secretary-General flew to Tallinn from Riga, where he wrapped up his official visit to Latvia with meetings with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.  He also spoke at a conference marking the ninety-fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Latvia.  You can find his remarks online, as well as details of his meetings in Latvia.


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will hold further meetings with Estonian leaders and will deliver a lecture at Tallinn University, before flying to Lithuania.


** Syria


Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the OPCW-UN Joint Mission, spoke this morning at the thirty-fourth Meeting of the Executive Council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on the work that the Joint Mission has been doing in Syria.


She said that the progress so far has been heartening, furthered by constructive cooperation with the Syrian authorities and strong support from the international community.  However, she added, substantial work remains to be done, and a number of challenges lie ahead.  Her remarks are available in our office and on the Joint Mission’s website.


** Cambodia


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that it is seriously concerned about violent clashes which took place in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, earlier this week.  It said that police were seen beating individuals and shooting live ammunition and rubber bullets at close range.


The Office is following up with authorities and urging them to launch a prompt and thorough investigation into these clashes, and to ensure full accountability for members of security forces found to have used disproportionate and excessive force.  The Office said that it urges protestors to ensure that the demonstrations remain peaceful.  It also called on the authorities to ensure that freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is fully respected.  And there is more information available on the Office’s website.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, will travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Sunday to assess the situation of children affected by armed conflict and the progress made in the implementation of the Action Plan signed by the Government to end the recruitment and use of children by the Congolese Armed Forces.


While in Kinshasa, Ms. Zerrougui will meet with Congolese Government authorities and the diplomatic community, as well as UN representatives and NGO (non-governmental organization) partners.


The Special Representative is also scheduled to travel to the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels


On Sunday, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Kuwait to participate in the Third African-Arab Summit on behalf of the Secretary-General and meet with Kuwaiti Government officials, as well as other Arab and African leaders participating in the Summit.


Then on Wednesday, 20 November, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Turkey for meetings with Turkish Government officials.  The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York the following day.


**Millennium Development Goals Advocates


The Secretary-General has named the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg, as Co-chair of his Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group — an eminent group of development professionals from the private sector, academia, philanthropy and civil society, all of whom form a central pillar in our collective development agenda by fostering a global partnership for development.


Prime Minister Solberg will now work with the other Co-chair, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, to continue to leverage their unique resources, networks and specialized skills to engage with Member States, civil society organizations and businesses on MDG acceleration efforts in the lead-up to 2015.


**Security Council


And last, the Security Council considered a resolution on Kenya this morning.  The resolution failed to pass, with seven votes in favour and eight abstentions.


That’s it from me.  Any questions?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Sure.  Just on, first on that, and I understand that… that in the run-up to the vote, the Secretariat’s position is that it is entirely up to… to Member States on the Council to vote.  Now that the vote has taken place with eight… and it failed, several of the ambassadors that spoke said that this is a watershed, it will change relations, not only between the African Union and the Security Council, but with the UN.  And I just wondered, is there… is there either any comment or any plan by the Secretariat to try to address the concerns that were raised by at least four African ambassadors inside and outside the Council this aftern… uh, just now?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have any real reaction to the comments made following the vote.  You are absolutely right that the vote was done by the members of the Security Council, and ultimately, that is a question for the Security Council members themselves to handle.  Regarding the treatment of Africa, of course the UN Secretariat has always tried to put Africa at the centre of its agenda.  The Secretary-General has made it very clear, the work he has done for Africa; you’ve seen that many times.  In fact, of course, he had visited the Sahel just last week, and he continues to push the agendas that are important for the people of Africa in all of the work that he does, whether it is political, development, peacekeeping or legal.  And he will continue to do that.


Question:  Would you look forward in the… in the… in the upcoming uh… uh… Assembly of State Parties (ASP), I under… and again I understand that he has his hands off, but I know that he did make calls before the AU (African Union) meeting about this matter; does he think that the ASP should take seriously the concerns raised by Kenya in terms of distraction and diversion of attention, uh, as they are fighting terrorism in Somalia?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Assemblies of State Parties will meet next Wednesday.  We should have a message from the Secretary-General for that meeting and we can draw your attention to that once that is out.  And if that’s it…


Question:  Can I ask one more?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, fine.


Question:  I just want, because it’s now, this, this, this Commonwealth Head of Governments [sic] Meeting has started, is… is… will be finished by the end of the weekend and there has been a lot of press freedom issues and also survivors or… or families of the disappeared being blocked from speaking with their Heads of State and… and the representatives in Colombo, and I wanted to know at this point and… and as sort of the… the… what is the UN, given that it has a presence in the country, given that they have just put out this Rights Up Front Plan, do you have any comment at all in the way in which the Government has been dealing in Sri Lanka with… with holding the Meeting and the rights of the people to demonstrate and… and speak their views and… and what’s the role of the UN with its presence there in this important meeting in the country?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, of course it’s a Commonwealth Meeting, and so we will leave the handling of the meeting to the Commonwealth Heads of Government themselves.  Of course we believe in the rights of all to demonstrate peacefully and we continue to do that in all countries, including in Sri Lanka.  As for the general concerns about the situation in Sri Lanka, I would just refer you to the statement that Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made when she visited in August.  And she was very clear about her concerns there, and those are concerns that need to be addressed.


Thanks very much and have a great weekend.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record