|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.
**Press Conferences Today
A couple of press conferences to announced today. At 12:45 p.m., as I mentioned yesterday, Rear Admiral Peter Hudson of EU Naval Force Operation Atalanta will hold a press conference to update correspondents on the operation to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia.
And then at 1:30 p.m., officials from the [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] Security Sector Reform Unit and the African Union will hold a press conference on security sector reform. We have the full list of participants in my office, and it is also on the website.
**Secretary-General on Piracy
The Secretary-General spoke this morning at the General Assembly’s informal meeting on piracy, saying that, though it may seem like something out of the past, piracy is very much with us. In some parts of the world, it is resurgent. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the global figure for pirate attacks for 2009 was 406 — an increase of 100 over 2008.
The Secretary-General said that the figures are alarming, and that we need to assess what is working, and what needs to be improved.
He laid out four key priorities: for international cooperation; for piracy to be dealt with on land as well as at sea; for piracy suspects to be brought to justice; and for piracy to be examined in the wider context of security at sea. We have copies of his remarks in my office.
And also, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Patricia O’Brien, spoke at the meeting. She noted the General Assembly’s continuing role in addressing piracy from a global perspective. She said the United Nations remains committed to supporting the efforts of States in the repression of piracy.
A Security Council mission led by French Ambassador Gérard Araud has arrived in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The mission says that they are scheduled to meet with President Joseph Kabila tomorrow, in the Bas-Congo Province. They met with the leadership of the UN peacekeeping mission today, and with the country’s Prime Minister.
**Lord’s Resistance Army
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today it was alarmed by reports of a dramatic rise in the frequency and brutality of attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against civilians in the Central African Republic.
In the Central African Republic, there were at least 10 LRA raids in southern province of Haut-Mbomou between 20 March and 6 May. UNHCR says 36 people were killed, houses were burned and 10,000 people were uprooted with 411 people fleeing across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The UN Task Force on internally displaced persons, of which UNHCR is a member, is making arrangements to quickly deliver water and sanitation and other provisions that are urgently required. An assessment mission is also on its way to the area.
**Human Rights — Japan
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that she had held encouraging discussions with the Japanese Government on a range of domestic and international human rights issues, including discrimination, treatment of migrants, methods to combat trafficking, the death penalty and maximizing Japan’s potential as an influential actor on the international stage. And you can read more about this in a press release in my office.
**Millennium Development Goals
Helen Clark, the Chair of the UN Development Group, launched a campaign song by eight of Africa’s best known musicians today. It calls for commitment to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The song is entitled “8 Goals for Africa”, and it was launched in Johannesburg.
The music video for the song will be screened throughout the World Cup, at fan parks and public viewing areas across South Africa. The song and video are available as a free download. And a press release is available in the Spokesperson’s Office with information about how media can obtain broadcast-quality versions of the song and video.
That’s it from me. I have some questions, I think. Yes, Erol?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Before I follow up on my yesterday’s questions, can we have the list who is following, who is in the mission to Congo? The list of the diplomats, who is…?
Spokesperson: The list is available. I don’t have it here, and I wouldn’t want to read it out here. But it’s available.
Correspondent: Okay, I will go to pick up.
Spokesperson: It’s available, it’s available.
Question: Okay. And number two, do we have any follow-up on the request of the gentleman that I mentioned his name yesterday — Hassan Mohammad is his name?
Spokesperson: Yes, you mentioned it, and I know that my colleagues are working on it — and started working on it as you spoke yesterday.
Question: And also I would like to say that I am… I would like to write a story about that, so I would appreciate [inaudible].
Spokesperson: As I said, they’re looking into it, and I am sure when they have something they will give it to you, Erol. All right? Yes?
Question: There was a closed briefing on 11 May by the UN Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends on the third annual Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations in Rio, which as you know is going be 27 to 29 May. Do you know exactly what this group does? And do you have any details on the plans of the Secretary-General, who obviously will speak there?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think I am going to give a long exposé of what the Alliance of Civilizations does or the support group, the Group of Friends. I think that they could speak for themselves. But, what I would say is that, as I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General believes that the Alliance of Civilizations is an extremely important undertaking and an important forum for both countries and regional groupings for people to be able to talk about culture and differences between different groups of people and cultures in a very positive way. And he believes that the meeting that is going to take place in Rio [de Janeiro] at the end of this month is a significant one. And I would also note that he is also encouraged by the news that the United States is going to join the Alliance of Civilizations. Other questions? Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure. There has been both you know, fighting and exchange of words between the Government of South Sudan and this renegade General Athor Deng. There are some reports that the UN or UNMIS is going to, has reached out and is committed to mediate between the two. Do you know, is that the case?
Spokesperson: Well, certainly we are concerned about the current situation in Jonglei State. That’s certainly the case. And the UNMIS leadership is indeed in close contact with the various parties, and trying to assist their own efforts to defuse the tension that there clearly is.
Question: Okay, okay, that is good. In terms of this fighting between JEM and the Government in Khartoum, JEM is now saying that the entire Doha process, including under Mr. Bassolé, has become, in their point of view, unfair and is using this new newly formed rebel group, the Liberation and Justice Movement, under the leadership of former UN staff, El Sesei Ateem, as sort of a more friendly, Khartoum-friendly, rebel constellation, which has been excluding them. What does the UN, particularly given this UN sort of… still kind of… I think kind of murky role in the formation of that group with a former UN staff member, what do they say to this criticism by JEM and what steps are being taken to try to get this fighting to stop?
Spokesperson: Well, UNAMID is obviously concerned about the tension — that there is the tense situation — not least because of the impact on internally displaced persons. And obviously they are aware, and keenly aware, of the reports of the build-up of tensions and forces involving JEM, the Justice and Equality Movement, and the Sudanese armed forces. And UNAMID has also clearly called on all parties to refrain from further acts of violence and is closely monitoring the situation. And also, I think it’s important for us to say that it’s crucial for the Government and for JEM to maintain their commitments to a ceasefire and to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible.
Question: And can you, I mean, I remember at an earlier stage [inaudible] asking if Mr. Bassolé has a spokesperson, how to get some response from that office, and I was told they would ask ECA about Mr. El Sesei. But I guess there is an overarching question that’s emerged, which is, what was the UN’s role in the formation of the Liberation and Justice Movement?
Spokesperson: No, the overarching question here is returning to the negotiating table as soon as possible, the Government and JEM to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, and for all parties to refrain from further acts of violence. That’s the most important point from where we are standing.
Spokesperson: Yes, Erol.
Question: I’m just looking at my e-mail here. Actually, I saw it before, but it’s from, just a second. Excuse me for this, just a second. There is a press release calling for the UN Security Council to stop mineral trade fuelling Congo war. Since…
Spokesperson: What’s the last bit?
Correspondent: Mineral trade fuelling Congo war.
Spokesperson: Press release from whom?
Question: I’ll tell you, it’s from… I don’t know by heart, but I’ll tell you. It seems to me that we have time, so I can tell you… Sorry for this. It’s from…
Spokesperson: Well, Erol this is a bit painful, isn’t it?
Correspondent: It is.
Spokesperson: So, why don’t we try to… I hear what you’re saying, there is some press release out and you want a comment.
Question: I’m sorry. Yes, I was asking you, so I only couldn’t give you immediately the source of this press release, but I [inaudible].
Spokesperson: Well, it’s good to know the source, because I can’t speak in isolation.
Question: So, my question is, what would be the reaction of the Secretary-General on this, since this is going for years now, and this is the main problem, one of the root causes of the conflict in Africa, especially in Congo? Since we have a mission of the Security Council now in Congo, does he have any reaction on that? Does he…?
Spokesperson: The Security Council is on the ground right now, and I am sure when they are back they will be speaking about the visit and what they have been discussing with the leadership there. You just heard me say that there are going to be talks. And that’s the key focus at the moment — that mission and what they say when they return.
Question: And this is from Global Witness.
Spokesperson: Right, okay. Right, but it’s useful for me to know, because there are many press releases out there.
Question: It’s Global Witness, and it’s very, very credible, I would say.
Spokesperson: I know who Global Witness are.
Question: Sure, I want to ask, in Myanmar, there are people whose land is being expropriated by the Government for development projects. They’ve written to both Than Shwe and to the UN system saying that it’s unjust and, so, I am wondering, within the UN system, I mean, is, does, is this… The good offices role currently filled by Vijay Nambiar, are they aware of this? Do they monitor this type of…? These people feel their rights are being violated and written to the UN about this.
Spokesperson: I don’t know exactly how the letter — open letter, or whatever it was — was addressed to whom exactly. I would assume that it will end up in due course, as you rightly point out, with the people who work day to day on the good offices role. But I am not aware of it having got there yet.
Question: And [inaudible] and then I heard [inaudible] the other day that the UN is concerned about this lack of outside observers. Is there some way to get to know, as the election gets closer, what is that good offices office of Mr. Nambiar, what’s being done? Is there any thought of a visit? Is there any thought of a visit? Is there any thought of a, beyond just, you know…?
Spokesperson: I think we have to separate things here. The good offices is obviously an important role and that continues. And that is, if you like, a constant track. On the election front, clearly any involvement of any international organization, or any bilateral involvement for that matter, would be at the result of a request from the Government. And there has been no request to us at this stage from the Government. So, they’re obviously two different things. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t overlap, but they’re two different things.
Question: Could I ask one more question, if you don’t mind?
Spokesperson: I don’t.
Question: A week ago, you’d said that the wheels were, are turning and fully, well-oiled for this visit by Mr. Pascoe to Sri Lanka. Has there been any progress on that? Because the most recent reporting from Colombo is that he won’t be going until June, and there seems to be a controversy of whether now Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General, will now await to see how this mechanism, late announced mechanism by the Rajapaksa Administration, how that works out before he moves forward and names his own panel. Is that, that seems to be inconsistent with this idea of no delay. Can you say if there is any relation between the mechanism announced last week by the Rajapaksa Administration and the Secretary-General’s 5 March stated goal to name his own panel?
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General remains committed to the panel of experts and setting it up without delay. That remains the case. And as for Mr. Pascoe’s visit, that’s being worked on. I can’t say exactly when it will be, because that’s still being worked on. But it’s in the works.
Question: And [inaudible] without delay is not changed by this announced mechanism? It’s not that it will be delayed until the mechanism is established?
Spokesperson: Obviously, that is an interesting development. But it doesn’t impinge on the Secretary-General’s own stated aim of setting up a panel of experts which would report to him. It’s a separate matter. But, obviously, it’s an interesting development, the news that we’ve heard from Sri Lanka in the last few days on this separate internal, if you like, domestic undertaking. But the Secretary-General’s is a separate matter, as we have said.
Okay, thanks very much. Thank you. Have a good weekend.
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