|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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the Security Council in its closed consultations this morning on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).
He told the Council that the arrangements put in place by resolution 1701 (2006) have allowed the longest period of stability between the parties since the 1970s. Williams emphasised to the Council that the cooperation between the UN Interim Force, UNIFIL, and the Lebanese Armed Forces is very important, and that the full and unimpeded freedom of movement for UNIFIL in its area of operations is indispensable for the discharge of its mandate.
We expect that Mr Williams will talk to reporters at the Council stakeout once consultations have finished. That may happen fairly soon.
On Sudan, the UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur, UNAMID, reports that yesterday, Sudanese Armed Forces clashed with Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) fighters near the Adola Mountains and near Kuma, in North Darfur. The number of possible casualties has yet to be determined.
UNAMID is also currently investigating reports of similar fighting in Daba Tago, which is also in North Darfur.
Meanwhile, UNAMID continues to face restrictions in its movements. In South Darfur, a UNAMID convoy conducting a routine patrol was denied access to Changi village, 20 km east of Nyala, by authorities for the second time in 10 days, with no reasons given. Flight restrictions on aircraft in South Darfur are still in place, limiting the efforts of many aid groups, which cannot travel by road due to security concerns and rain-damaged roads.
A statement we issued last night expressed the Secretary-General’s sadness at the death of Marrack Goulding of the United Kingdom, the first Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations of the United Nations. Marrack Goulding played a decisive role in shaping the new Department for Peacekeeping Operations when it was created.
The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to Mr. Goulding's family and to the Government of the United Kingdom, as he joins colleagues and friends around the world in paying tribute to a pioneer among international civil servants. And we have the full statement in the Spokesperson’s Office and online.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
We do have a press conference tomorrow: At 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, here in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, Thomas Mayr-Harting, Chairman of the 1267 Committee and Permanent Representative of Austria, will present the new Ombudsperson for the 1267 Committee, Kimberly Prost. The Ombudsperson will assist the Committee in its consideration of delisting requests received from individuals and entities subject to the Security Council’s relevant sanctions measures against Al-Qaida and the Taliban, who seek removal from the Committee’s Consolidated List.
That’s from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Farhan, has Mrs. [Inga-Britt] Ahlenius submitted her end-of-assignment report to the Secretary-General yet?
Associate Spokesperson: I am not aware that she has done that. Certainly that is what she can do now at the end of her term. As you are aware, when Inga-Britt Ahlenius was appointed, she was appointed to a five-year non-renewable term, and that now expires.
Question: Why hasn’t a replacement been found for her yet? The General Assembly had instructed the Secretary-General to make sure that a replacement was found in a timely manner, which I think any reasonable person would interpret as being before she steps down, to ensure that there is no lapse.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes, and the Secretary-General is in fact dealing with candidates and trying to find a replacement in a timely manner, in accordance with the General Assembly’s request. We do not have an appointment to make today, but certainly he is trying to fill that post as soon as he can.
Question: Can you say who might any of the candidates be?
Associate Spokesperson: No, no, no. We’ll certainly announce it once we’re ready.
Question: Farhan, does the Secretary-General intend to take summer vacation, and does he plan to hold his monthly press conference before that?
Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have a date to announce yet for his next press conference. Certainly we’ll try to announce that as soon as we can. As I think I informed you earlier this week, he will be travelling to Madrid and Geneva later this week, however. So it will be some time after he returns. In terms of summer vacation, certainly he would love to take some time off if he can. That depends on what time is available. We’ll let you know if he is able to take any time off later in the summer, possibly in August.
Question: I wanted to ask on OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], I wanted to ask about a particular OIOS report that’s been sitting on the Secretary-General’s desk, apparently for some time, having to do with Alan Doss, the final report which Mr. Doss was given two opportunities to respond to. What action has the Secretary-General taken, or will he take, on this OIOS report?
Associate Spokesperson: At this stage we don’t have anything to say about it in response to the question of Mr. Doss. Once a decision is taken, certainly we will announce it.
Question: Can you confirm that in MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission] in the Democratic Republic of Congo, an Indian peacekeeper, Mr. Ghumman, is under investigation? It’s been reported by the Indian authorities that they’re investigating him for hiring sex workers on 6 July in the Congo. Is that something that MONUSCO is aware of, and what action will be taken?
Associate Spokesperson: We will have to check with MONUSCO what they’re doing on that.
[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the United Nations confirms that the Office of Internal Oversight Services has received an allegation of sexual exploitation against two military personnel serving with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An investigation is currently being conducted. As due process must be respected, once the investigation process has concluded, we will be in a position to provide more information.]
Question: Any reaction, any news from the Department of Political Affairs concerning any meetings with [Daniel] Bellemare?
Associate Spokesperson: No, I am checking with them. I don’t have any word from them on who, if anyone, met with Bellemare. I do know that Daniel Bellemare while he was here, did meet with the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Mr. [Peter] Taksøe-Jensen.
Question: To discuss…?
Associate Spokesperson: To discuss the work programme of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Question: And why isn’t the Department of Political Affairs telling us if they met with him or not? I am sure they’re watching these briefings.
Associate Spokesperson: I think they’re simply trying to find out. You know, this was a couple of weeks ago, so whoever is following up on this — we’ll just need to find who was the person…
Correspondent: Mr. Bellemare is a very high official and the situation in Lebanon is very precarious, and…
Associate Spokesperson: As soon as we get the response we’ll give it to you.
Question: A coalition of NGOs has put out a report saying that — raising troubling questions about the referendum on the independence of Southern Sudan — preparations were not sufficient, raising various possibilities of both violence and a [inaudible] of the timeline. I wonder if UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] or DPA [Department of Political Affairs] here is aware of that report and what they think of it? They agreed that things are not on track and that those dangers are in fact posed and what UNMIS will be doing about it.
Associate Spokesperson: Well, without commenting on the report per se, what I can tell you is that, here at the United Nations Headquarters and also at the UN Mission in Sudan, we’ve been examining what the needs are on the ground to make sure that we can have both a successful referendum process and a safe environment on the ground in the aftermath of the referendum. And certainly we’re trying to provide all the resources to the UN Mission in Sudan that it needs in order to ensure a successful outcome. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.
Question: And also on Sudan, yesterday after the briefing, you’d said that UNAMID is endeavouring to go and check these, the effects of the fighting, right?
Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, I just gave you the update on UNAMID just now; the part I just read.
Question: Can I ask you… Also I wanted to ask this… UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund], it was reported today, has signed a 15-year lease for property on Third Avenue, 605 Third Avenue. What I wonder is how this relates to UN Women, the new agency that was created and it was said that it was going to consolidate all of the existing women’s work of the UN. Why would UNFPA be signing a 15-year lease if…?
Associate Spokesperson: Well, why don’t you check with our colleagues in UNFPA? I’m sure Mr. [Abubakar] Dungus can help you on that.
Question: Who could be in charge of UN Women? Is it the Secretariat? Who speaks for this new entity?
Associate Spokesperson: There will be a person appointed to be the head of UN Women. We’re looking for an appointment right now. In the meantime, until that full-time position is filled, Asha-Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary-General, will deal with all the various entities that are being brought together under UN Women.
Question: UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] has raised a question about the Legal Department here at the United Nations being more open in the past and more accommodating to journalists, and we had more briefings from Nicolas Michel than we have from the present Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs. Yesterday there was a question raised about the finances of the Special Tribunal [for Lebanon]. Is there any chance of a briefing given by the Legal Department, by Patricia O’Brien, or anybody else there, because we used to get them regularly?
Associate Spokesperson: Ms. O’Brien has made it very clear that the nature of her work as Legal Counsel is such that a lot of what she is working on cannot be shared with the public. However, that said, she did talk to the press just a few weeks ago. I believe she was part of a group briefing, along with Angela Kane and several others. And I think that she will do a briefing just before the UN treaty event, which is a yearly event that the Legal Office coordinates.
Correspondent: Answer my question. With all due respect to Ms. O’Brien, Nicolas Michel was much more forthcoming, much more open to the press, and he didn’t have to divulge any secrets of the United Nations. Everybody has his own way, okay.
Associate Spokesperson: Every head of every department has their policies. Hans Corell, for example, had very few briefings, almost none.
Correspondent: Still, we need to have some information about the finance of… I don’t think these are weapons, finances of the special tribunals, how they are, and where we are from there, and this was asked…
Associate Spokesperson: Certainly, I have asked that question to the Special Tribunal, and I’ll see what answer they have on that.
Question: Even from the Legal Department here, please?
Associate Spokesperson: Yeah, although a question about the running of the Special Tribunal is for the Special Tribunal. I have asked them that.
Correspondent: The finances are something that the Legal Department here and the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs are very aware of, and we need to be briefed here since we’re reporting here from the United Nations. We don’t have to go to the Tribunal every time I ask you a question, Farhan.
Correspondent: Since Ms. O’Brien will be taking over OIOS on a caretaker status, I guess as of tomorrow, it would be helpful to have a briefing from her on that.
Associate Spokesperson: We’ll see whether that is possible or not.
Question: This morning, reports indicate that there is still urgent need for food in Haiti, while at the same time a great deal of food is being stocked in storage rooms. Is the UN aware of the problem of distribution of food?
Associate Spokesperson: Hold on just one second. Bear with me just a second. The basic point there is we’re trying to provide, and have been providing, as much food as quickly as we can in Haiti. The point I’d like to underscore is that, compared with other disasters, coordination systems in Haiti have actually functioned reasonably well. Part of the challenge of coordination is that it is largely a voluntary process: there is no formal requirement for organizations coming to Haiti to engage with the existing coordination mechanisms, even though it is to their advantage to do so. But within that constraint, what we have been trying to do is coordinate the aid response as best as we can and we are trying to provide food as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Question: There was a question I was trying to ask you that was related to my UN Women’s question — it is whether you can confirm that Qatar offered $100 million to have the headquarters of UN Women be in the State of Qatar? Maybe you can ask Ms. Migiro, and you could also ask Ms. Migiro if there is any update on the closure on two days’ notice of the UN’s after-school programme, whether any alternate space has been found?
Associate Spokesperson: I think we have already shared with you the information that we have on that particular programme.
Question: What did you share? That it be closed?
Associate Spokesperson: We had provided the information about that and our basic concerns having to do with safety in construction zones.
Correspondent: And in her briefing she said alternative space is being sought.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: I’m just asking, has it been found?
Associate Spokesperson: No, not so far, no. Have a good afternoon.
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