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

12 February 2010

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

12 February 2010
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.  Apologies for the slight delay.

**Haiti

As you know, today is one month since the Haiti earthquake.  And we’re going to start the briefing with a video by David Ohana, who is from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who was in Port-au-Prince in the aftermath of the earthquake.  And this doesn’t represent an exhaustive account of the relief efforts.  It’s David’s rendering of what he saw in Haiti, and it’s our way of marking the day.  It’s short, it’s very poignant and we’ll be posting this on the web as well.  So, please, David.

[To mark the one-month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, the Spokesperson opened the briefing with the broadcast of a video produced by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The short film captures the difficult first few days of the United Nations-led rescue and recovery operations.  It can be viewed on the United Nations website].

Spokesperson:  Great job, David.  Thank you very much indeed for that.  And as I said, we’ll be putting that on the website, and we’ll be making sure that it is widely viewed.

And just to give you a very quick update on the situation in Haiti, as you know, John Holmes and Rebeca Grynspan will brief you at 3 p.m.  There are a couple of other things to flag.

From Geneva, the Offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OCHCR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are urging countries to suspend all involuntary returns to Haiti, due to the continuing humanitarian crisis.  And the two offices say that, while the international response to the disaster is well under way, assistance efforts and services have still to reach a significant portion of the affected population.

And from Rome, the World Food Programme (WFP) is today hosting a high-level meeting to discuss Haiti’s medium and long-term agricultural development, food security and nutrition planning process.  A task force, to be jointly led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and WFP, was announced at the meeting.  The task force will support the Haitian Government as it strives to implement immediate and long-term food security strategies that integrate agricultural production and social safety nets.

And as you know, a day of mourning is being observed today in Haiti, one month after the earthquake struck.

**Haiti Donations

The Secretary-General is encouraging all UN staff to make a voluntary donation to assist UN personnel affected by the earthquake in Haiti and their families.  And this will complement the benefits provided by UN regulations to staff who have perished as a result of the natural disaster.  And the Fund will be administered by the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management.

**Yemen

I have a couple of statements attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

One on Yemen:  The Secretary-General is encouraged by the news that a ceasefire agreement has been reached in the north of Yemen.  He hopes that the ceasefire will hold and that it will provide an opportunity to fully resolve this conflict.  The UN continues to call for full access for humanitarian assistance to be provided to the affected civilian population.

**Lebanon

And the second statement is on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.

As Lebanon marks the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attack that took the lives of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others, the Secretary-General stands with the people of Lebanon in commemorating the life and achievements of Mr. Hariri and renews his condolences to the families of the victims of this terrible crime.

The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to the efforts of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to uncover the truth, so as to bring those responsible to justice and end impunity in Lebanon.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General this morning addressed an open debate in the Security Council on peacekeeping issues, saying that the United Nations has learned many valuable lessons about how best to ensure a transition from peacekeeping to peacebuilding.  He said that peacekeeping activities must pave the way for what comes next.

For peace to be sustained, the Secretary-General said, there must be an overarching strategy that unites the efforts of all UN actors and the international community, and strengthens national capacity.  And he added that peacekeeping missions should not stay longer than necessary, but we should also be wary of withdrawing prematurely, only to have to return because of renewed violence.

Under-Secretaries-General Alain Le Roy and Susana Malcorra also discussed ways to move from peacekeeping to peacebuilding during the Security Council’s open debate.

**Iraq

The Secretary-General says that Iraq’s national elections, scheduled for 7 March, will be an important milestone, so it is essential to ensure that they are as broadly participatory and as inclusive as possible.

In his latest report to the Security Council on Iraq, the Secretary-General says that it is imperative that the electorate is able to vote in an environment that is largely free of intimidation and violence.

And he encourages a transparent and non-discriminatory review of candidates who appealed the decision of the Accountability and Justice Commission, in line with Iraqi law and international standards.  The Secretary-General appeals to all political blocs and leaders to demonstrate true statesmanship during the election campaigns and to use the mechanisms in place to submit formal complaints.

The head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ad Melkert, will brief the Security Council on the report next Tuesday.  And he will also brief the press at noon here next Tuesday.

Coming up shortly, as you know, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Lebanon [Elias Murr] will speak to reporters at the stakeout position on the second floor of the North Lawn Building.  And as I have mentioned, at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference here with Rebeca Grynspan, the Assistant Administrator and Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean for UNDP [United Nations Development Programme]; and John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He will be joining by video conference from Haiti.  And they will be updating you on what’s happening in Haiti.

**UN Headquarters Closed on Monday

And as you also know, the UN Headquarters will be closed on Monday.  And so the briefings will resume on Tuesday.

So, questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have any statement by the Secretary-General over the protests in Jerusalem by the Palestinian families who are saying that a museum is being built on a cemetery of the Muslims and their Muslim ancestors?  And there was also an incident in which the Israeli Army, or IDF [Israel Defense Forces], shot at two Palestinians; killed two Palestinians.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you on that.  Let’s see what we can find out. 

Question:  On the museum, you don’t have anything, also?

Spokesperson:  I don’t, no.  But I’ll see what I can find out.

Question:  I want to ask you about Côte d'Ivoire and about these compacts -- separately, that were signed today.  On Côte d'Ivoire, it’s been announced that the registration has been indefinitely suspended; what does that mean, number one, was UNOCI [the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire] or Mr. Choi [Yong-jin] involved in any of the discussions that led to that announcement?  And whether or not he was involved, how does this impact on the peacekeeping mission, given that its main goal was to have this election and now it’s postponed indefinitely?

Spokesperson:  Well, as far as I know, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General has intensified his consultations with the stakeholders in the Ivorian peace process and he is intending to meet with the leaders of the major political parties to try to forge a solution to this controversy.  And of course, the Mission is closely following what’s unfolding in Côte d'Ivoire on the political front, if you like, and also the violence that we have seen in some parts of the country.  And that’s clearly a cause for serious concern.  And the Mission has called upon the population to remain calm as a solution to the problems encountered by the electoral process is being sought.  And the Mission, as I think you probably imagine, is also on alert, and ready to assist the Ivorian authorities to try to contain any violent incidents.

And on the compacts…

Question:  Yeah, yeah, on the compacts, I wanted to ask; I attended it, and the Secretary-General said that he wanted to make this as public as possible and as transparent as possible.  I’m wondering if you could state then why the compacts are only made available on the intranet rather than on the internet, where we the people or the public could see the compacts.  And also, I noticed that an Assistant Secretary-General, Mr. Choi [Soon-hong], a different Mr. Choi, was among the compact signers as an Assistant Secretary-General.  But I think Alan Doss, for example, was in the building today for the Council.  He is an Under-Secretary-General.  So, what’s the rationale of who signs and who doesn’t?  And is it possible to get some stakeout by Mr. Doss, given issues around MONUC [the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and this still-pending investigation that’s eight months old now of alleged nepotism?

Spokesperson:  Okay.  Well, on the compacts and where they are made available, let me find out.  But they are certainly available on iSeek, as you rightly say.  Let me find out the reason why it doesn’t go beyond that.  As to why a different Mr. Choi, the Assistant Secretary-General, was signing and other ASGs were not, frankly, no idea.  But I’ll try to find out.  [He later added that two ASGs who do not have a USG to report to signed the compact today.]

And finally, on Mr. Doss, as I understand it, he won’t be available for the media on this trip.

Question:  It is possible, then, given that part of, at least partially, the investigation of this e-mail that he wrote to UNDP to get his daughter a job; what’s the status of that investigation?  Can you explain why it’s taken eight months to investigate a six-line e-mail?

Spokesperson:  I have heard that question before, and I have the same answer:  that I’ll see what I can find out.  I don’t have anything further for you, and as I said, he’s not available at this time for the media.  We clearly did ask whether that would be possible.

Question:  I have a question about Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe’s visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  He is back in Beijing, and if he made a report to the Secretary-General, could you tell us about the report and message for Kim Jong-il?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you are right that Mr. Pascoe and the other members of his delegation did leave Pyongyang and arrived in Beijing.  They gave a briefing to journalists.  I understand there were quite a few journalists there.  We don’t yet have our own read-out of that press conference, so it could well be that you have more information from what you’ve seen in the Japanese media than perhaps we have so far.  We’re waiting for a full read-out.  The Secretary-General has had a brief telephone conversation with Mr. Pascoe.  But I don’t yet have the details of that for you.

As for the message that was relayed to the leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, this was not a written message.  This was a verbal message that was relayed to the interlocutors with the aim of it being passed on to Kim Jong-il.  I have no idea at this point whether there was any response.  But as I’ve also mentioned to you, Mr. Pascoe will be coming via Seoul and Tokyo to New York, and he will be briefing journalists on his return.

Question:  Can you provide us with anything related to the possible trip of Human Rights envoy to Myanmar, based on some several reports?

Spokesperson:  I was asked about this in a similar fashion yesterday.  This is a Special Rapporteur, and the Special Rapporteurs, as you know, do not report directly to the Secretary-General; indeed they’re not appointed by the Secretary-General.  And so, we don’t necessarily know in advance where the Special Rapporteurs are going and when they’re going.  So, we don’t have any details on that for you.  Okay.

Question:  I wanted to ask the same thing that I had wanted to ask during the environmental press conference this morning.  Given that the Secretary-General is setting up this high level Advisory Group on climate change financing; the International Monetary Fund, Dominic Strauss-Kahn, he has announced a plan, something planned for a Green Fund to use special drawing rights to go this hundred billion dollar number.  I’m just wondering if that’s something.  Is there any inter-relation between the Secretary-General’s work and that of the UN-affiliated IMF [International Monetary Fund]?  What’s the relation between the two?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to find out.  I’m not aware of this specific point that you’re making.  I’d simply say that efforts involving the IMF or the World Bank on different matters, not just on this, are well-coordinated, and so I would think that that’s the case here.  But I would need to dig a little bit deeper.

Question:  And I wanted to ask just one last thing.  There is some controversy among the staff union about a plan either proposed or implemented by ASG Franz Baumann to have time clocks, have people log in, and as they log in to Lotus Notes, have this be the way in which their time is calculated, and they have them sign out to go to lunch or even to go to the bathroom; that’s according to the staff union.  Is that something, they’ve called a general meeting about this topic -- but is that something, does this come from the Office of the Secretary-General?  Is this a new, to your understanding, is this sort of being on the clock at the UN, something new and is it something that the Secretary-General supports?

Spokesperson:  First of all, I’d need to look into it because I haven’t heard about this.  And once I know something about it, we can get back to you.  All right, thank you very much.  Thank you.

* *** *

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