22 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, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.


[Briefing by Jean-Paul Laborde issued separately.]


**Press Conference


And just as a reminder at about 12:45 p.m., in about 15 minutes from now, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to brief on her recent visit to the Philippines. Before that, I will read out a few quick notes and take whatever questions you may have.


** Central African Republic


First of all, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said today that the situation in the Central African Republic is tragic and that the international community should address this crisis sooner rather than later.  UNICEF said that the entire population of 4.6 million people is either directly or indirectly affected by the crisis and that the Central African Republic is among the countries with the worst social indicators in the world, including maternal and infant mortality rates.  UNICEF delivers help to children and women across the country and is conducting immunization and back-to-school campaigns under very difficult circumstances.


In his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General says that he is increasingly concerned by the deepening crisis in the country and that there is an urgent and growing need to address the crisis before it spirals out of control.  The Secretary-General also says that he is particularly concerned by growing tensions between communities and that these tensions might lead to uncontrollable sectarian violence with untold consequences for the country, the subregion and beyond.


** Mali


In Mali, the first round of legislative elections will be held this Sunday, 24 November.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Mali, Bert Koenders, is engaging with political parties to promote a peaceful vote, encourage adherence to the electoral Code of Conduct and promote the participation of women.


The UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, and the UN Development Programme, UNDP, are providing technical and logistical assistance for the first and second round of legislative elections, as they did for the presidential elections this summer. Nearly 3 tons of electoral material was transported by mission aircraft to remote areas in Kayes, Mopti, Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

The Mission will support the Malian security authorities to secure main voting areas and will provide escorts to the transport of electoral material in Kidal.  In accordance with its mandate, MINUSMA’s Human Rights Division is also monitoring violations of human rights before, during and after the elections.  And a call centre was created to report allegations of human rights violations.


** Syria


The Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi and Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman will meet at the Palais des Nations in Geneva next Monday with Russian Deputy Foreign Ministers Mikhail Bogdanov and Gennady Gatilov and United States Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman.  They will discuss further preparations for an international conference on Syria.  Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that it has helped to assist 10,000 people who have recently fled the fighting in Syria and travelled into Lebanon by giving them food parcels for a month.


**Women


The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women today announced $8 million grants for 18 countries.  First-time grant recipients include organizations from Antigua and Barbuda, Mauritania, Myanmar and Kosovo.  These new grants are expected to reach 2.3 million beneficiaries between 2014 and 2017.  The Executive Director of UN-Women, Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, has said that the Fund can support concrete action towards a world free of violence.  There are more details on the UN-Women website.


On Monday, journalists are invited to the play Wounded to Death in commemoration of the International Day to End Violence Against Women.  The event will take place at 4 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council.  Wounded to Death is a series of monologues that give voice to women who have died as a result of murder based on gender.


**Press Conference Monday


And on that, on Monday morning at 11:15 a.m., there will be a press conference here by UN-Women and the Mission of Italy to mark the International Day to End Violence Against Women.  Speakers will include Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN-Women; Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy; and author Serena Dandini, who wrote Wounded to Death.


**John F. Kennedy


And last, 50 years ago today, US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The Secretary-General, in an opinion piece in USA Today, reflected on how important it was to have met President Kennedy while Ban Ki-moon was visiting the United States on a tour organized by the Red Cross.  He writes that nothing could remove the imprint the American President made on his life.  Meeting him was a turning point.  The Secretary-General writes that President Kennedy’s words sparked his decision to become a diplomat and dedicate himself to public service.  And he added that he hopes to continue to spread the messages of a man who held fast to high ideals and placed such faith in the United Nations.


That’s it for me. Any questions? Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question: Thanks, you mentioned this meeting on… on Monday between Mr. Feltman and the Russian and American side.  Can you… is… is… Foreign Minster [Sergey] Lavrov meeting with… with Brahimi in Geneva as reported?  And if so, what’s the… what are they going to discuss?


Associate Spokesperson: I was told by his team that a meeting might be scheduled, but there’s nothing to confirm at this time.


Question: Okay, can I ask… there’s also… there are reports that Jamal Benomar’s convoy was shot at or that there was an assassination attempt.  Do you have any information of whether it was sort of crossfire or he missed the target?


Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have any precise information from the Yemeni authorities at this stage about what the incident was about.  There were no injuries to the convoy.  Oleg, you had a question?  Oh okay, then we’re set.


[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the reports that Mr. Benomar’s convoy had been shot at were inaccurate.  There was firing elsewhere in the vicinity.]

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment about the Greenpeace activists?


Associate Spokesperson: Well, I assume you saw that in an interview he gave earlier this week.  The Secretary-General had hoped for some lenience on this case so that it’s good to see that has in fact happened.  Yes?


Question: I wanted to ask you, the Haitian Health Minister Florence Guillaume has been quoted… she said it yesterday but it was published today, saying that at this stage we have received…basically she was trying to say no money from the UN.  She said there has been $20 million from the World Bank and $5 million from UNICEF.  But she said… she cited a $238 million dollar pledge and said that none… that’s the way she’s quoted… came in.  Is there some way to know… how much was… because my impression was that there was more going on than that.  How much has the UN actually put forward into… into combating cholera in Haiti?  And why would the Health Minister believe that the number is zero?


Associate Spokesperson: Well, regarding that, we do have, if you look at the News Centre website, there’s a page for Haiti and there [are] actually some facts and figures about the contributions that the UN system as a whole has made in terms of the fight against cholera in Haiti, including the support we’ve made, for example, to different health centres, and the efforts by different agencies, funds and programmes in the UN system.  So there are some details there and if we have any further details on funding, we can share that at that time.  Yes, Tim?


Question: Thank you, Farhan.  On the meeting on Monday again, does this mean that the Secretary-General is now more optimistic that this conference will be convened?


Associate Spokesperson: Well, the point of the meeting on Monday is to take stock of where we stand.  We’ll see, at that point, what we can say about arrangements.  We have been working very hard.  The Secretary-General has been, Mr. Brahimi and others throughout the system have been working very hard with a variety of interlocutors trying to lock down a conference, and we’ll see what progress we can make.  I don’t have anything to say on that at this stage, however.  And with that, Valerie Amos is here so I believe we will cut this a bit short.


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For information media • not an official record