11 June 2014
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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


** Iraq


I’ll start off with an update on the humanitarian situation in Mosul, in Iraq.  Iraqi authorities have informed the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) that thousands of families have fled Mosul to safe areas surrounding the Kurdistan region of Iraq.  Also as of 10 June, more than 2,500 families remain displaced inside Mosul, mostly living in schools and mosques.


An estimated 100,000 people, displaced people have entered Erbil, where UNHCR is mobilizing tents and distributing other essential relief items.  UNICEF and its partners are providing water and sanitation support in the area.  Another 200,000 people have fled to Dohuk, where UN agencies and humanitarian partners are preparing to deliver food, water and shelter. 


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the new wave of displacement from Mosul is making an already… making more complicated an already severe displacement crisis in the area.  Since January of this year, hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by months of unrest in the Anbar Province.  Aid organizations have been assisting displaced communities, but resources are extremely limited.  Donor funding for aid to the displaced families has so far reached only around 10 per cent of the required $103 million funding.


**Terrorism


Speaking at a General Assembly interactive dialogue this morning on addressing terrorism, the Secretary-General expressed his shock over the kidnapping of Turkish diplomats in the Iraqi town of Mosul.  Calling the incident totally unacceptable, he said that no such terrorist attack against diplomatic officers and civilians can be justified in any circumstances.


The Secretary-General urged the Government of Iraq, as well as the regional countries and the whole international community, to unite to bring the perpetrators to justice.  He said that nothing can justify terrorism, and that our shared challenge is to ensure that terrorists do not find fertile ground to promote hate and intolerance.  Any balanced and comprehensive strategy for combating terrorism must recognize that victims of terrorism are entitled to our support. 


The Secretary-General noted that the UN Victims of Terrorism Support Portal aims to promote understanding of the diverse needs of victims and to offer guidance for addressing those needs effectively and comprehensively.  His full remarks are upstairs. 


**Security Council


Before that, the Secretary-General spoke at a Security Council meeting, at its open debate on new trends in peacekeeping, and he said that this is a key moment in which the United Nations faces huge peacekeeping challenges.  He said that UN peacekeeping operations are increasingly mandated to operate where there is no peace to keep.  In some cases, UN peacekeeping operations are being authorized in the absence of clearly identifiable parties to the conflict or a viable political process.  And he added that, increasingly, UN peacekeeping operations are operating in a more complex environment that features asymmetric and unconventional threats.


The Secretary-General noted that it has been nearly 15 years since the Brahimi report on peacekeeping was published.  He said that it may be necessary to again take stock of evolving expectations of UN peacekeeping and how the Organization can work towards a shared view of the way forward.  To this end, he said, he has asked the Secretariat to initiate work on a review of UN peacekeeping.  His remarks are available online and in my office.


** Colombia


Also just to flag, yesterday evening, we issued a statement from the Secretary-General where he welcomed the start of peace talks between the Government of Colombia and representatives of the National Liberation Army, known by its Spanish acronym, ELN.


** Yemen


And we also have a statement in my office from Jamal Benomar, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Yemen, on the conclusion of a meeting he held in Rabat, Morocco.


**Sexual Violence


And earlier today, UN-Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched the Secretary-General’s Guidance Note on Reparations for Conflict-related Sexual Violence at the Global Summit in London, which we flagged for you yesterday.  The Guidance Note calls on the international community to usher in transformative reparations for affected individuals and communities.  And we have more information in my office on that.


**Journalists


And speaking at a Human Rights Council panel discussion in Geneva on the safety of journalists, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that sound, bold and independent journalism is vital in any democratic society.  Navi Pillay stressed that the safety of journalists is essential to the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of everyone, as well as the right to development.  Her remarks are available on the website.


**Forced Labour


Also today, the International Labour Organization (ILO) adopted a new Protocol on Forced Labour.  It aims at advancing prevention, protection and compensation measures against forced labour.  Its objective is to intensify efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery.  There are currently an estimated 21 million forced labour victims worldwide.  A recent ILO report estimates that $150 billion in illegal profits are made in the private economy each year through modern forms of slavery.  And we have more information on the ILO website.


**Questions from Yesterday


A couple of questions that were raised yesterday on the allegations of rapes in South Sudan:  Our colleagues at the UN Mission there (UNMISS) say that it has not received any complaints or reports from internally displaced persons in the Tomping site to confirm the allegations.  The Mission encourages victims and civilians under threat to report all incidents so that appropriate action can be taken.  It takes all allegations of rape in and around its camp seriously.


The UN Mission conducts patrols both in the vicinity of its camps and beyond, and interacts with internally displaced people, community leaders and locals to gather information relevant to its efforts to protect civilians more effectively.  As I had mentioned yesterday, some 93,000 people are displaced civilians around the country [that] the UN is protecting.


And you’ve just heard our humanitarian update on Iraq, which also had been asked about yesterday. And we also issued a readout of the Secretary-General’s meeting with the Prime Minister of Australia, yesterday afternoon.


And before I take any questions, I want to congratulate Oleg [Zelenin] on the birth of his daughter.  May you learn the joy of someone asking you questions every day and lots of questions.  Congratulations!  On that note, I’ll take some questions.  Mr. Abbadi?  Just speak loudly.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  In light of the number of terrorists in Syria, some Western countries are showing signs of change in positions, in their positions, these are the, the system there and are attempting to make contact with President [Bashar al-] Assad.  Would the Secretary-General be in favour of such contact? 


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General is in favour of any contacts that would lead to a peaceful political solution to Iraq.  Obviously, Member States are doing whatever they feel need to do.  It’s critical that the parties directly engaged around the table and that all Member States that have an influence on any of the parties in Iraq use that influence positively.  Evelyn?  No mic, just speak loudly.


Question:  As you are aware, today is the GA [General Assembly] election of the Ugandan Foreign Minister, and whether the SG has anything to do with it or not, it certainly casts a shadow on the majority of the world’s countries on the United Nations because of Uganda’s draconian anti-gay laws.  Do you have… can you produce, remind us of statements that the SG made in favour of gay rights?  And give us a list of them?


Spokesman:  I think we can give you a full list.  He has recorded video messages, he has spoken out in speeches, whether in this building, in African Union meetings, in Geneva at the Human Rights Council and at the Olympics, if you will remember in Sochi, he was very, very clear in his position and his call that all people, including LGBT [lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender] people, enjoy the same human rights and enjoy the same protection of the rule of law.  Yes, sir?


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Back to Iraq with the development of the situation on the ground, and now it’s Mosul and then Tikrit.  Would the UN consider using the drone planes to conduct any surveillance in the area, in order to prevent any further escalation of the situation on the ground or not?  And I wish to note the positive performance of UNICEF, based on the reports that we received, in helping and supporting the civilians fleeing Mosul.  Thank you.


Spokesman:  Okay, thank you for that; I’ll take note of your note.  On Iraq and the issue of unarmed aerial vehicles, I think Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General, spoke it about it at length here.  It’s obviously they are deployed in a mission right now.  It’s something that’s new.  They would be, if they are deployed, it’s within the context of a peacekeeping mission with its specific mandates.  There are no plans or discussions to use them at all in Iraq.  Yes?


Question:  In regards to the support of the Iraqi Government, of course, the Iraqi Government is facing a very big challenge.  Also, the Syrian Government, with regard to the Al-Qaida affiliated organizations, such as ISIL, ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] or [Jabhat al] Nusra.  Does the Secretary-General recommend an international action to help the Iraqi and the Syrian Governments in combating these terrorists?


Spokesman:  I think what we are seeing is a regional impact of the crisis in Syria.  I’d refer you to the remarks that he gave a little earlier today on the need to combat terrorism, on the need for an international response to combating terrorism.  On Iraq, we are in touch through the mission there.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov, is in touch with the Government, as well as the diplomatic community, and we hope to get an update from Baghdad very soon.  Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesman:  Obviously, the situation in Mosul is of concern to us, for the safety of our staff and, as always in these situations, we are keeping an hour-by-hour look at the situation and to make sure that they are safe, but there is UN personnel currently in that area.  Yes, sir?


Question:  Do you have more about the President of the General Assembly? [inaudible]


Spokesman:  As I said, the presidency of the General Assembly is a decision solely of the Member States.  The Secretary-General will speak at the event this afternoon, after the vote, but the role of the President and the election of the President is the purview of the Member States alone.  Yes?


Question:  Sorry, just to follow up, we know that and we will say that, but doesn’t it cast a shadow over the UN?


Spokesman:  As I said, it is the responsibility and is the right of the Member States to elect the President of the General Assembly.  I think on the issues that have been raised, notably on LGBT issues, the position of the Secretary-General has been more than clear and expressed more than once.


Question:  What will the Secretary-General say?


Spokesman:  I think you will… I will not preview his remarks, but they will be webcast, and they will be distributed and it will be for all to hear, see and read.  On that note, I wish you a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record