|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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon everybody.
As you can see, the video link is not up. We’ve cancelled the video link with Port-au-Prince for today. But we will be coming back on track and I’ve got some details about other events that will be coming up in the next couple of days.
**Secretary-General at Security Council
What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General will brief the Security Council at 3 p.m. today, in closed consultations, and this is to discuss his recent travels. He expects to talk to Council members about Afghanistan, the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, his visit to Cyprus, and also about Haiti.
Once those consultations are over, the Secretary-General will speak to you at the Security Council stakeout. And that will be at approximately 4:30 p.m.
**Secretary-General and Bill Clinton
This morning the Secretary-General had a good meeting with President Bill Clinton. And this was to talk about Haiti and President Clinton’s role as Special Envoy for Haiti of the United Nations. And at that meeting, the Secretary-General specifically asked President Clinton to assume a leadership role in coordinating international aid efforts from emergency response to the reconstruction of Haiti. The Secretary-General said this would require extraordinary leadership; and he said he couldn’t think of a better-suited leader than President Clinton and he knew that President Clinton would work very closely with the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and with the Special Representative on the ground in Haiti. And the aim of this is to provide strategic guidance to the United Nations involvement at an international level.
And as you may already have seen, there is UN-TV footage available of those remarks. The Secretary-General will be able to answer questions about this, this afternoon.
Just a little bit more on Haiti, the provision of shelter remains an urgent need. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which coordinates the provision of shelter materials, estimates that 1.1 million people are displaced. And there is an overwhelming need to provide shelter quickly ahead of Haiti’s rainy season -- which could start as soon as the end of this month.
The International Organization for Migration says that aid agencies have already distributed 10,000 family tents and more than 11,000 tarpaulins. A further 15,000 tents are in stock and more than 40,000 should arrive in the coming days and weeks.
On food distribution, the World Food Programme (WFP) has scaled up its operation with the first systematic food distribution programme, which started this weekend. And the World Food Programme says it has now reached almost 1 million people since the earthquake struck. And more than 300,000 have been reached through the new distribution system in the last 72 hours.
The UN Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, says that the security situation remains calm, despite isolated incidents in the past few days. Following the attack on a food convoy in Jérémie this weekend, 14 suspects were arrested by the Haitian National Police, assisted by MINUSTAH Police and Uruguayan peacekeepers stationed in the area.
And finally, the head of UNICEF, Ann Veneman, will visit Haiti tomorrow for the launch of a massive immunization campaign aimed at reaching 500,000 children under the age of seven.
**Press Conference and Stakeout Today
Today at 1:15 p.m., Leslie Kojo Christian, Chairman of the Commission for Social Development, will brief you on the expected outcome of the forty-eighth session of the Commission. And Ambassador Leslie Kojo Christian of Ghana and Professor Jimi Adesina of Nigeria will be participating in that briefing.
And at 4:30 p.m., as I’ve mentioned to you, there will be the stakeout by the Secretary-General. He will appear at the stakeout after he has spoken at the Council.
**Press Conferences and Stakeout Tomorrow
I mentioned that we will be returning to the subject of Haiti. Tomorrow, our guest at the noon briefing will be Jordan Ryan, the Assistant Administrator of UNDP, and he will brief you on the “cash-for-work” programme, which UNDP is running in Haiti.
At 1 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference to announce the launch of the 2010 Global Model United Nations that will take place in Malaysia, this coming August, in partnership with the Malaysian Government, and the Alliance of Civilizations. Kiyotaka Akasaka, the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Public Information, and Ambassador Hamidon Ali, the Permanent Representative of Malaysia, along with Marc Scheuer, who is Director of the Office of the Alliance of Civilizations, will be here to brief you.
And at 3:45 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a stakeout opportunity. This is with the Alternate Foreign Minister of Greece, Mr. Dimitris Droutsas. That will take place on the first floor of the Temporary North Lawn Building, at what is becoming our traditional stakeout position, if you like.
So, questions, please. Please.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you. President Clinton now assumes the role of leadership in coordinating the emergency response to Haiti. The special director, Mr. Mulet was coordinating the same thing until now. How can the two mandates and the roles of the two be coordinated?
Spokesperson: Well, there are some terms of reference which have been put together clearly, and agreed. And the idea is, very specifically, to ensure that there is coherence at the policy level and also so that there is coherence internationally. As you know, President Clinton is United Nations Special Envoy for Haiti. So, he already has a long-standing involvement with Haiti, and a good understanding of it. And the Secretary-General was extremely complimentary about the role that President Clinton has played in the past with Haiti, and then specifically in relation to the earthquake. And it’s precisely because President Clinton can, not only mobilize people, the business community, other leaders, to help with this immediate crisis, but also mobilize and coordinate efforts that will be looking further down the track at rebuilding, recovery and what is looming, as you heard from John Holmes, as the next big challenge, which is shelter ahead of the hurricane season.
Clearly, a coordinating role is already being undertaken on the ground. This is, if you like, to help coordinate at an international level; not simply on the ground where, as you correctly said, Mr. Mulet is working with the Haitian authorities, with the Haitian government, but this is to bring in the other partners at an international level. Yes.
Question: Martin, isn’t that what President Clinton is doing right now? What’s the difference between the new role and the one he has now? He spent last year bringing in international partners [inaudible] and so forth?
Spokesperson: There is a clear difference regarding what he was doing last year was before the earthquake. Recovery, we’re talking about how you build back from the earthquake and how, as the expression goes, you build back better. And this is clearly something that he is well suited to doing; to mobilize people and to coordinate how the different folks out there -- whether it’s the business community, whether it’s governments, and government leaders, whether it’s the NGO community -- there is an awful lot of goodwill out there, an unprecedented flow of aids and good intentions and cash. And the idea is to ensure that that comes together in the right way. The difference between that and the role as the Special Envoy is that it’s more of a coordinating function, specifically aimed at the recovery efforts as we come out of the immediate crisis.
Question: Last year he was doing the recovery efforts [inaudible] from the hurricane, which is the same, I mean, it’s quite similar.
Spokesperson: Similar, but the challenges I think are, obvious to everybody, are of a far greater magnitude.
Question: Excuse me, the title is still Special Envoy or different?
Spokesperson: That’s right. Year, that’s right. That’s right.
Question: Still a follow up. I understood that Clinton was in charge for the new plans, for the reconstruction of the country to decide what to give and what to do. And the UN and Mulet or the others were the people there on the ground doing the day by day and you know, and even taking care of these matters? I didn’t realize that Clinton is gonna take care of shelter?
Spokesperson: Look, as you know, the International Office for Migration looks after the cluster that deals with shelter materials and shelter. But, you need to have an overarching coordinator who can really help to mobilize, internationally, efforts to come up with shelter. And this was part of the conversation this morning: looking at very concrete ways that you can do that very quickly. And no one is suggesting that President Clinton on his own is the person who will make these things suddenly materialize. He is the person who can help to galvanize the public efforts and ensure that they are kept together.
Question: But if people want to donate tents to Haiti do they have to call Clinton and to tell Mulet that they’re coming or they are gonna call [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Well, I’ll give you his number later. And I think that there will be the opportunity to ask the Secretary-General a little a bit more about his thinking on this. You know, clearly he has given it a lot of thought, and a lot of thinking has gone into why this is a good idea. And it plainly is a good idea to have an internationally-renowned, highly-visible, high-profile individual out there showing, having a leadership role on this particular aspect of the UN’s vital work to help the people of Haiti. Richard.
Question: Martin, a couple of quick questions. I mean, has the UN ever done nation-building on this big a scale? I know, you haven’t been here as long, but if you could, for broadcast purposes, assess where we are. Is Bill Clinton also kind of a de facto president, which the Haitian people would kind of love? Why, I mean, something is clearly different here. How much is he going to be on the ground? I mean, he was, as Evelyn is pointing out, he has been doing all of this. Is it a confidence-building boost? I know, you have said the rights words, but how big an involvement is Bill Clinton now going to be in administering the future of Haiti, and what is the UN’s big nation building role there?
Spokesperson: President Clinton has said that he would be doing the best that he can on the ground. And in fact, he’s going back down to Haiti at the end of this week. So, I think that there will be an opportunity there in Haiti and we all know that CNN has a lot of people on the ground, there will be the chance to ask him precisely how he sees it working out in practice. He will certainly be liaising with the Haitian government’s President [René] Préval and the Prime Minister, and others. He has also good contacts with the parliamentarians. This is an important aspect of trying to help the country to re-group and to recover.
Question: Would you say this is the biggest nation building role for the United Nations in its history, Haiti?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s certainly one of the biggest operations of that kind, certainly. But whether it’s the biggest or not, in all the years I worked as a journalist I was told to steer clear of hyperbole and superlatives, and I think I’ll do the same from here. Okay, I’m going to go over this way. I’m just going to go over this way first, so as not to look as if I can only look this way. Yes, Matthew.
Question: Médecins Sans Frontières has called on not only Al-Shabaab but also the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia to be more careful with civilians, and it’s reported that last month 200, more than 250 civilians have been killed. I’m wondering whether the UN has any sense… are all of the killings by Al-Shabaab, and what safeguards are being taken by the African Union troops that the UN is providing logistic support to?
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of the specific details that you’re referring to. And you’re quite right that the UN does liaise very closely with the African Union on the way that that mission operates. But I can’t give you any more details than that at the moment. I’ll see if I can get something more for you.
Question: Also, there is a case pending in the… not pending; it’s been decided, in the UN dispute tribunal involving Under-Secretary-General Shaaban Shaaban. Basically, making a finding that the Secretariat should pay a spurned job seeker $20,000 and calling for a hearing on whether Shaaban himself should pay it personally. I’m wondering if… it’s a pretty… I’m wondering if the Secretariat, what its response is to this pretty damning indictment of one of its Under-Secretaries-General?
Spokesperson: I’m aware of the tribunal, but not of the details yet. So, I’ll need to get back to you on that as well, okay. But, clearly we’re aware of what’s been going on. I need to simply understand, given the nature of this, precisely what there is that we can say on that. Yes.
Question: Thank you, Martin. Just to put a little bit more light since it seems that the court, ball, is on the court of the Secretary-General regarding the Goldstone report. What is going to happen on Friday? What will be the timing then there, and can we expect, can you share with us something what the Secretary-General is preparing to say?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, and as we have said, the Secretary-General has received communications from the Israeli government and from the Palestinian Authority. Those communications have been received. They need to be looked at and the material needs to be pulled together for the report, which the Secretary-General has promised to provide under the General Assembly resolution that was agreed on 5 November. That is still in the works. The precise mechanics of how this will work and precisely when, I don’t think that that has yet been fixed, so…
Question: Friday is still, he’s hopeful that…
Spokesperson: Let me find out. I was trying to find out before coming here, and I don’t yet have a clear answer. That’s, I’m being very honest with you. I also would like to know precisely when it is going to be. I anticipated your question, but I was not able to get the answer that I wanted yet. But we will try to get it. As you can imagine, the report itself and then the responses to communications that have been received needed and need very careful study and analysis before the material is then collated as a report by the Secretary-General. And I’m not absolutely certain where we’re with that right now. Okay. Yes.
Question: Anything on any reaction on The Hague’s ruling today about the genocide charges on President Bashir, and will this in any way change how you’ve been dealing with President Bashir, the secretariat has been dealing with him?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Appeal Court ruling referred things back to the pre-trial chamber. And, as you know, the International Criminal Court is an independent judicial body with its own distinct mandate. We’re obviously aware, and take note of what’s happened today in The Hague and will see how that further develops. It’s been referred back to the pre-trial chamber. Yes, James.
Question: Thank you, Martin. Was I right in thinking that we would have Mr. Mulet, or Ms. Bolduc via link up today? And if that’s cancelled, when will we next have them?
Spokesperson: You were right that there was going to be video link, but for various reasons, that isn’t taking place today. As you know, the rhythm is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Today is Wednesday, I think, and so, we’ll try for Friday.
Question: Okay, okay. It would be appreciated, because they’re really useful to get straight and know what’s happening in Port-au-Prince.
Question: The actual question was, you mentioned Anne Veneman’s visit to Haiti. You said it was billed as, like, part of an immunization programme. But, I mean, there have been slightly, perhaps as important, equally pressing issues relating to children in Haiti. The orphans, the flights leaving the airport with children and, you know, other very important issues. I was wondering if Ms. Veneman was going to be dealing with those, too. And if not, why not?
Spokesperson: Well, firstly, I’m sure that you could ask UNICEF themselves about precisely what else is on her agenda when she’s there. UNICEF, clearly, has been extremely vocal on all of the things that you’ve mentioned. And the fact that Ms. Veneman would be there for the start of this immunization programme of course, does not preclude that she will be talking about a lot of other things, too. You’re absolutely right, there are many challenges for children in those kinds of disasters, and this is, as we’ve said, on an enormous scale, as you yourself know, you were there, children are very often the most vulnerable in these circumstances. UNICEF takes that very seriously. I’m going right to the back; into the darkness!
Question: Thank you. I hope I’m not speaking from the dark!
Spokesperson: You’ll see.
Question: You mentioned that the Secretary-General has received assessments on the Goldstone report from the Israelis and from the Palestinian Authority. Of course the PA is not in power in the Gaza; Hamas is. Have there been any contributions direct or indirect that could be construed to be actually coming from the, whatever authorities on the ground in Gaza? And how would you describe the situation therein?
Spokesperson: Of course. Of course, first of all we need to study exactly what has been submitted. But, of course, the idea is that they’re providing direct information on what they perceived to have happened on the ground in response to the General Assembly resolution and the Secretary-General’s request for that information. Yes, Richard.
Question: Excuse me, just following up. Is this included in the submission by the PA? Or is there some separate report? Or how is it being conveyed to the UN authorities?
Spokesperson: I’ll find out.
Question: Thank you.
Question: My question has probably been answered, so, tell me if I don’t deserve an answer, I would understand. Lynn Pascoe going to North Korea. Is that also included in his agenda for an upcoming visit, or a request for the Secretary-General to visit North Korea?
Spokesperson: I think the main focus here is to re-establish a high level dialogue, which has been in abeyance for some time. And what I can tell you is that Mr. Pascoe will be able to brief you on his return. And this is an important visit, and you’re quite right to home in on it. On the way to Pyongyang and on the way back, Mr. Pascoe and the other members of the delegation, the other three members of the delegation, will be in Beijing and Seoul, and also in Tokyo. On his return he will be able to brief you on what he can say about those talks.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to the Olympics in Vancouver?
Spokesperson: This is a long way from North Korea!
Question: But just as potentially sensitive, depending on the luge; if you’ve ever seen that competition. [laughter] Is he? Or that will be announced at a future time after he lights the flame or…?
Spokesperson: Let me find out. I’m not aware of that.
Question: [inaudible] You said the other three members; who are the other three members of Mr. Pascoe’s team?
Spokesperson: Kim Won-soo, the Deputy Chef de Cabinet is one of them, and two other members of staff.
Question: Of DPA or of the Executive Office of…?
Spokesperson: One of each.
Question: Okay. I had asked earlier about when it was first announced that Kim Won-soo was quoted in Joong Ang Daily, describing the trip, saying it may have a nuclear component, as well as humanitarian. So, I was wondering, I mean, those are his quotes, right? That he spoke on the record Joong Ang?
Spokesperson: Well, you have to ask Kim Won-soo.
Question: That’s why I asked. When it first came up, I actually asked whether he could be a part of the briefing with Lynn Pascoe, since I don’t think he’s ever briefed the media on the record, but he seems to have a pretty important role within the Executive Office of the Secretariat, and obviously he is willing to speak on the record to at least some media. Is that possible to convey that request?
Spokesperson: I will certainly convey it.
Question: You’re unable to confirm whether those quotes are accurate? And that…
Spokesperson: Well, I didn’t listen to him speaking to the Joong Ang Daily. I haven’t heard him say that they were not true. But, let me find out. Yes.
Question: [inaudible] imminently, within the next two or three weeks, Canadian troops, which is quite sizable too, is going to be pulled out of Haiti. So, this is Leogane and Jacmel. What is your reaction?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General asked for reinforcements; three and a half thousand troops, police reinforcements, and got a really swift and positive response from the Security Council. Those additional forces will start to be deployed in the coming weeks. And that would allow a rotation out of other components, for example, like the Canadians who’ve been on the ground. With specific regard to the Canadians, if they are going to be withdrawing or drawing down, I don’t know the exact details. I think that that’s something that our people on the ground in our mission would be better placed to respond to. I’m sure that my colleagues are listening to this now, and will ask that MINUSTAH give us some feedback. Yes.
Question: Thank you. Maybe you touched on this before, but Michèle Montas, the former Spokesperson, is reportedly working with the United Nations again. What is her responsibility? And secondly, what kind of contract does she have? If she has, for what duration?
Spokesperson: The first question I can answer; and that is that Michèle is working as Special Adviser to Mr. Mulet, who is the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General. The other two points are not really something that should be spoken about at a briefing, I think, contractual arrangements for an individual. Any other questions? Last question, Matthew.
Question: There has been a lot of controversy around the finding of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) about the Himalayan glaciers, and they have essentially back-tracked and said that they apologized; it was unverified information. Mr. Pachauri has said he won’t apologize. But, I wonder what, given the importance of climate change and the IPCC to the Secretary-General’s agenda, what does he make of this controversy and how can the IPCC process be reformed to not create this kind of controversy on the issue?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is obviously aware of these reports and what’s been happening in the last few days and weeks. But, you know, ultimately it’s for the IPCC to address this. It’s for the IPCC to talk about this, and they have talked about this in some detail. They have said that they regret what happened, and reaffirming their strong commitment to a high level of performance in their reporting and so on. So, therefore, it’s not really for the Secretary-General to weigh in on this specific report. There are many reports, there are many other aspects to the work on climate change, which is absolutely vital, as you’ve mentioned; it’s one of his priorities. So, I think that the most important thing is to focus on the road to Mexico and how you can improve the prospects for that meeting and what needs to be done between now and then.
Question: [inaudible] because… in the last 24 hours… Mr. Pachauri….
Spokesperson: IPCC regrets, Matthew, IPCC regrets.
Question: So, I mean, Mr. Pachauri says he wasn’t responsible for it. So, I guess what I’m saying is, who is in charge of the agency on which Ban Ki-moon rests his, you know, the case has been made by that agency [inaudible].
Spokesperson: No, no, Matthew, the Secretary-General does not rest his case purely on the IPCC. There is an enormous body of evidence and information out there from various different sources, not just from the IPCC, however important that may be. And an error in one report does not undermine the entire science that is clearly proven. Okay, anything else? Last question, then.
Question: Just a quick follow on that. Got a press release yesterday, I guess from the ranking Republican member of the House Committee on Science, subcommittee on investigations, who said he had written a letter to the Secretary-General calling for an independent investigation into the IPCC; calling on the Secretary-General to set up some sort of independent investigation into this. I’m wondering, has the letter been received? Is….
Spokesperson: I’m not aware. I’ll find out, I’ll find out if the letter has been received. But do remember that the IPCC is an intergovernmental body. It’s not a UN body; it’s an intergovernmental body. Okay. All right, thank you.
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