Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

7 August 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

7 August 2009
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Peacekeeping

We’re expecting our guests shortly.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations, DPKO, is launching a global effort to recruit more women police into the UN’s peacekeeping operations.  This recruitment drive is also aimed at encouraging national training programmes to support women to join national police services.

A key objective is to have Member States raise the number of female police officers serving in UN peacekeeping missions from the current 8 per cent to 20 per cent by 2014.

And, in connection with this subject, our guests at the noon briefing today will be Andrew Hughes, the UN Police Adviser, and Ann-Marie Orler, the Deputy UN Police Adviser.  UN police officers from peacekeeping missions, UNMIL in Liberia, UNMIS in Sudan and MINUSTAH in Haiti, will also be present at the briefing.  In fact they’re already here.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Security Council at its open meeting on “women, peace and security”, to warn about the horrific acts of sexual violence that continue to take place on a widespread and systematic basis around the world.

He said: “I have met victims of sexual violence.  I am haunted by their testimony.  And I will not relent in calling on States and non-State parties to prevent these terrible crimes.”  To that end, the Secretary-General urged the Security Council to immediately authorize the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry, supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The commission would be tasked to investigate and report on violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in ongoing conflict situations in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan.

The Secretary-General also drew the Council’s attention to the brutal, predatory and deliberate targeting of civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army, whose activities have destabilized civilians in Sudan, the Central African Republic, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  We have his speech upstairs.  The debate is continuing and, in total, 45 speakers are inscribed to speak.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR), meanwhile, says that an unprecedented 55 rebel attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have displaced some 12,500 civilians in the past month alone.  This is a spike from 23 LRA attacks in May and 34 in June.

UNHCR says that the Ugandan rebels have murdered 1,273 civilians and abducted 655 children and 1,427 adults.  A number of women were also raped and houses were looted and torched.  Fleeing civilians have found shelter in public buildings including schools and churches.  And the situation is made worse by a lack of basic medical supplies at local hospitals, while aid agencies have so far reached only half of the internally displaced persons.  And that’s due to widespread insecurity in the region.  You can read more about this upstairs.

Iraq

And earlier today, the Security Council unanimously approved a one-year extension of the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

** Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) fears that the recent massacre of 161 people in Southern Sudan’s Jonglei State might lead to a spate of deadly retaliatory attacks.  Some 700 people have been killed since March in the region while another 19,000 were displaced.  WFP and its partners have called on the Government to put an end to inter-tribal fighting, which is endangering the delivery of humanitarian aid.

** Chad

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Chad, the WFP-run Humanitarian Air Service has received no new funds for its work.  The agency says that, without new funds, it might have no choice but to cut some parts of its aid delivery programme by next week.  The costal region of West Africa could also be affected by the persistent lack of money for the Humanitarian Air Service.

** Somalia

The World Food Programme, WFP, has been able throughout July to deliver about 33,725 metric tons of food to 2.8 million beneficiaries in south and central Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland.  WFP’s plan for a more extensive distribution has been hampered by lack of access in some areas in the south of Somalia, including Mogadishu.

Together with the Danish Refugee Council, WFP also distributed food to a total of 112,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the urban poor in the coastal town of Bossasso and its environs.  The programme faces critical shortfalls as of the beginning of October and urgently requires 209,000 metric tons of food costing some $208 million to cover the current pipeline until the end March 2010.  And you can read more about that upstairs.

** Zimbabwe

And the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, reports that there have been no reported cases of cholera or cholera deaths since 3 July in Zimbabwe.  The latest cumulative figures for casualties and cases are 98,592 cases and 4,288 deaths.

Humanitarian agencies involved in combating the cholera outbreak have been establishing contingency measures in the event of another outbreak.  And you can read more about that upstairs, as well.

**Influenza A (H1N1)

And in Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) says it is seeing a decrease of H1N1 activity in the Southern Hemisphere -- probably due to the fact that winter is ending there.

Regarding H1N1 vaccines, WHO said the results of the first clinical trials will be available in early September.  The vaccines will probably then be cleared for human use in early winter.  But WHO added that it is still not known how many vaccines could be produced per week, or whether one or two doses would be needed.  There is more on that in the Geneva press briefing notes upstairs.

**AIDS

UNAIDS -- together with the World Health Organization and World Bank -- has put in place a system to monitor the effects of the economic crisis on the AIDS response.  UNAIDS says it is particularly concerned by how the economic crisis is affecting treatment and prevention programmes.

According to a series of surveys it conducted over the last few months, many countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, are running out of critical stocks of antiretroviral drugs.

In related news, UNAIDS has welcomed the Clinton Foundation’s agreement with Pfizer and Matrix Laboratories to reduce the prices of second-line drugs.  Those are the medicines required when people living with HIV fail to respond to standard treatments.

**Indigenous People Day

And Sunday it will be the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.  Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will lead the observance of the Day at the UN Headquarters on Monday.  This year the focus will be on indigenous peoples and HIV/AIDS.

In a message to mark the Day, the Secretary-General emphasizes the vulnerability of indigenous peoples to HIV/AIDS, noting that: “It is essential that indigenous peoples have access to the information and infrastructure necessary for detection, treatment and protection.”

The observance will include a welcoming ceremony, a cultural performance and a panel discussion on this year’s theme.  We have both the Secretary-General’s message and more information on the observance available upstairs.

**Secretary-General Travel

And just one more announcement and the Week Ahead for you.

The Secretary-General will be travelling to the Republic of Korea on his home leave starting this weekend.  He will be coming back to New York on 18 August.

Upon return to UN Headquarters, he will attend, on 19 August, the sixth anniversary of the Baghdad bombing and the first observance of the International Humanitarian Day.

In the course of his 10-day private visit, the Secretary-General will also take part in various UN-related events.

He will deliver keynote speeches at the thirty-ninth World Federation of UN Associations Plenary Assembly, the Global Environment Forum, the Jeju Peace Forum and the University Presidents’ Forum on climate change and sustainable development in Asia and Africa.

He will also attend the opening ceremony of the East Asia Office and Research Centre for the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, as well as an event for the Local Government Alliance for Disaster Risk Reduction.

During his stay, the Secretary-General will meet with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.  He will discuss issues of mutual interest, which include the UN-Republic of Korea partnership and climate change.

**The Week Ahead at the United Nations

And on the Week Ahead, which is available for you upstairs, in addition to what I already flagged for you, the guest at the noon briefing on Monday will be Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who will brief on her recent trip to the Central African Republic.

And otherwise the rest of the Week Ahead is upstairs.  And that’s what I have for you.  Our guests have arrived, so I’ll take a couple of questions before we move on to them.  Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  It’s reported that the President of Niger has won his contested referendum to extend his term in office.  Does the Secretariat now have any comment or response to that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond the comment that we already had issued on the concerns of these developments earlier.

Question:  Also, Myanmar has announced that they have arrested 15 people who they say were going to set off a bomb while the Secretary-General was in Myanmar.  Has that been communicated to the Secretariat?  Does he think he was a target?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware of any such reports.  I’ve only seen them in the press reports.

Question:  So Myanmar hasn’t communicated to the UN…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen anything.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  James.

Question:  Also on the Alan Doss story.  Alan Doss is now working for the Peacekeeping Department, I gather.  Since when has he been working for the Peacekeeping Department while with UNDP, and what was the reason for his contract to be moved from both [inaudible] from UNDP to the UN proper?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Alan Doss, as you know, is the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  My understanding is that he was transferred from being on loan from UNDP to the UN on 1 July 2009, and anything beyond that I don’t have any further information on this.

Question:  Is there any reason why he was transferred?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, 1 July was the date when there was a number of standardization of contractual arrangements that took place for UN staff around the world working in field operations.  But specifically this is it, factually, that’s the only information that I have.  Anything on this case, as you know, you just spoke to UNDP, they have said that they will be coming back to you when they have further comment.

Question:  I have another question.  Can you confirm that this woman, Maximova, was given a UN Secretariat contract to work for the Clinton office in the Secretariat?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not familiar with that name.

Question:  Can you check that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll check it for you, sure.

Question:  Can I just follow up on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  I have been raising it for about two weeks here.  What is the Secretariat’s response to Mr. Doss’s own e-mail, which said please show me leeway for the hiring of my daughter until my contract can be transferred to DPKO?  I mean, it seems like that’s… UNDP will have its answer, but what’s you guys’ answer?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re waiting, as UNDP has told you and James both that UNDP is currently in the process of looking into this matter.  The process through which she was hired is currently being investigated by UNDP’s Office of Audit and Investigation, and until that work is completed we will not have any further comment.

Question:  Just on the criminal case that’s followed out of this, is the UN intending to press charges against the UNDP contract worker who is accused of assaulting a UN security officer?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond what Michèle said on that matter when she last spoke on this.

Question:  Just one other question, to press the question that was asked the other day, did the UNDP… did the UN Security officer, which is obviously a Secretariat function, physically touch or pepper-spray the UN contract employee before the biting occurred?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any further information beyond what Michèle has already told you on that.  Okay, with that, we have our guests today.  Why don’t we invite them up here and then we’ll introduce them and the three…

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.