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

2 August 2010

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

2 August 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, everybody.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Panel of Inquiry

The Secretary-General, as you heard, announced this morning that he has set up a Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident of 31 May.  He called the launch of the Panel “an unprecedented development”.

He thanked the leaders of Israel and Turkey, with whom he engaged in last minute consultations over the weekend, for their spirit of compromise and forward looking cooperation.

The Panel will be led by the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Geoffrey Palmer, as Chair, and the outgoing President of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe, as Vice-Chair.  The Panel will have two additional members, one each from Israel and Turkey.  It will begin its work on 10 August and submit the first progress report by mid-September.

The Secretary-General hopes that the Panel will fulfil its mandate based on the Presidential Statement of the Security Council and with the fullest cooperation of the relevant national authorities of the two countries.  It will also provide recommendations for the prevention of similar incidents in the future.  The Secretary-General also hopes that today's agreement will positively affect the relationship between Turkey and Israel, as well as the overall situation in the Middle East.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General left UN Headquarters just a short while ago, on his way to Japan.  His activities there include meeting with Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.  He will also visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima to draw attention to the urgent need to achieve global nuclear disarmament.  He’ll be attending the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima; and this is the first time a Secretary-General has done so.

** Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the worst floods to hit Pakistan since 1929 have left more than 1 million people in need of emergency assistance.  In addition to a rising number of deaths, injuries and displacements, there is major damage to housing, roads, bridges, infrastructure in general, and livelihoods.  In north-western Pakistan, the estimated number of those who have died now exceeds 1,110.

Over the weekend, a rapid assessment mission headed by Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan, visited two north-western districts by helicopter, as there is no road accessibility to the districts.  The mission confirmed widespread damage and urgent humanitarian needs.

Access continues to be the main problem hampering relief efforts.  Floods have damaged roads and bridges, and communications and utilities have also been damaged.  The initial estimates are that 150,000 people will require emergency assistance.

The Pakistan Emergency Fund, managed by OCHA, which currently contains $8 million, has been activated to provide funding to partners.  In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General announced that up to $10 million can be provided by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

The statement also expressed the Secretary-General’s deep sadness at the significant loss of lives, livelihoods and infrastructure in Pakistan.  He reiterated the UN’s full commitment to supporting the national and provincial authorities in meeting the humanitarian needs of the people who have been affected.

** Afghanistan

Relief aid provided by various United Nations agencies and Afghan partners has started to reach the nearly 4,000 families affected by last week’s flooding in eastern Afghanistan.  We have a press release with more details available.

**Security Council

Russia has assumed the rotating Presidency of the Security Council for the month of August.  Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the Council President for the coming month, is holding bilateral consultations today with other Council members on the programme of work for the month ahead.  He will talk to you about that programme of work tomorrow, in this room, at 11 a.m.

** Bonn Talks

The third round of UN climate change negotiations this year started this morning in Bonn, Germany.

The new Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, said that Governments have a responsibility this year to take the next step in the battle against climate change.  “How Governments achieve the next essential step is up to them,” she said.  “But it’s politically possible.  In Cancún, the job of Governments is to turn the politically possible into the politically irreversible.”

The talks are designed to prepare the outcomes of the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún in November and December.  The talks will last all this week.  And we have a press release in my Office with more information.

**Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week — and as part of the week’s activities, UNICEF and its partners are asking health professionals to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their children.  UNICEF says breast milk is the best food a baby can have, and breastfeeding gives a child the best possible start in life.  We have more on this in a press release from UNICEF, available from my office.

So, that’s it, and I’m happy to take questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, on the panellists, why were the panellists from Turkey and Israel not named?  And will videos, such as the one shown here in this room, be allowed as information for the probe?

Spokesperson:  First of all, on the panel members.  You can expect an announcement in the next few days on the Turkish and Israeli panel members, and the Secretary-General will make that announcement in the next few days.  On the information that the panellists will want to look at — they will be reviewing and receiving the reports of the national investigations and they will also be able to request clarifications and additional information.  So, I think that probably covers your question.

Question:  A follow-up on that.  Just wondering — and I know you’re going to offer me an answer that in these days of video communications, everything is possible, but still — we have Mr. Uribe at one side of the planet and [the former] Prime Minister of New Zealand at the other side, and the only neighbours are really Turks and Israelis.  Would it be more practical that, again, if you can refer who really proposed the names, if somebody from the region would have been involved?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General appointed both Sir Geoffrey Palmer and the outgoing President, Alvaro Uribe, as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the panel.  That’s the first thing.  The second thing is that, broadly speaking, the panel will be based at UN Headquarters here in New York, bringing together those two, and, as you know, the two panel members — one each from Israel and Turkey.

Question:  To stay here?

Spokesperson:  They won’t necessarily stay here, but, broadly speaking, they will be based here; the work will be based from here.  That’s an important point.  The other is, of course, that they will be meeting for the first time on 10 August, and at that point, they will be able to look at exactly how they are going to work.  As you also know, it’s a tight timeframe and, therefore, they will need to talk quickly once here on 10 August about some of these details, of the kind that you’ve referred to.  Yes?

Question:  Is this an investigative body or is it a review body?  It’s unclear what you’re saying.  What I really need is whether they’re going to be able to call witnesses, Israeli witnesses, in particular, Israeli soldiers?

Spokesperson: Well, first of all, it is not a criminal investigation.  It has been tasked with making findings about the facts and circumstances and the context of the incident, as well as recommending ways of avoiding similar incidents in the future.

What I can also say is that it will be for the Panel to decide exactly how they will operate and decide what steps may need to be taken in order to obtain the clarifications and the information from the national authorities that I’ve mentioned.

Question:  Just a follow-up:  wouldn’t it be better to be called a review panel, rather than a panel of inquiry, because they’re not going to be looking at new, fresh evidence, only looking at the national reports and asking for clarification?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the second bit that you mentioned answers this point.  It’s a panel of inquiry; it’s the Secretary-General acting in line with the statement of the President of the Security Council from 1 June, as you recall. I could read it directly from the statement:

“The Security Council takes note of the statement of the UN Secretary-General on the need to have a full investigation into the matter, and he calls for a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.”  And, clearly, that’s the key aspect.

Question:  So the investigation is a review of the national investigations?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are four aspects here, four points.  One is that it will, as your rightly pointed out, it will receive and review reports of national investigations.  But, secondly, and importantly — and this addresses the point you’ve made — it can request clarifications and additional information.  The third point is that it will examine and identify the facts, circumstances, and context of the incident.  And the final point is that it will consider and recommend ways of avoiding similar incidents in the future.

Question:  Will it have the power to ask either country to reopen their investigation?

Spokesperson:  They will be able to ask for clarifications and additional information.

Question:  Will it be staffed beyond the four individuals?  And, on outgoing President Uribe, I know the Secretary-General met just last week with Venezuelan Ambassador Valero [Briceño], who, in a letter, raised claims, saying Mr. Uribe caused a grave threat to international peace and security by saying that Venezuela had FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] rebels.  And I just wondered, did the Secretary-General speak to Mr. Uribe to get his consent to serve, and was this outstanding peace and security issue raised at the time?  What’s the relation between the two?  And does this signify somehow the Secretary-General dismissing the Venezuelan claims?  How should we read this?

Spokesperson:  You should read it simply that the Secretary-General has full confidence in Sir Geoffrey Palmer and the outgoing President of Colombia to discharge their duties, both as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, in an impartial way, and that’s what they’ve been asked to do, and he has every confidence in their ability to do that.  It has nothing to do with anything else.  What was the first part of your question?

Question:  How it can be staffed so quickly, as compared to other outstanding panels?

Spokesperson:  It will be assisted by experts in the fields that are relevant to its work.  That’s what I can tell you at this point.

Question:  There are four individuals, are they going to type it themselves?  How’s it going to work?

Spokesperson:  Did you hear what I said?  The panel will be assisted by experts in the fields that are relevant to its work.

Question:  Will they choose, or who chooses the people?

Spokesperson:  They are meeting on 10 August, and I’m sure that in advance of that, they’ll be in touch with each other about some of these specifics.

Question:  How is it funded?

Spokesperson:  This is something that I can get back to you on, but my understanding is that this falls under funding for unexpected developments.  Yes?

Question:  Speaking of unprecedented, the Secretary-General chose a rather curious way to announce the panel, and he left a distinct impression that he doesn’t want to talk to us about it.  But, are they going to go to either country?  Because in the past, Israel has been reluctant to allow UN teams on its soil.

Spokesperson:  Two things.  One is that panel, as I’ve said, will decide the steps that it needs to take to carry out the work that it is mandated to do, for example, to obtain the clarifications it requires.  And, I think that’s the main point.

Question:  Did the Secretary-General discuss this with the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister when he met with him, and get approval from him to go ahead?

Spokesperson:  Well, you will have seen the sequence of events, including the meeting of Israeli Cabinet Ministers this morning.  And, the Secretary-General had a series of phone calls over the weekend, including with [Israeli] Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Mr. [Ahmet] Davotoğlu.  And the Secretary-General also spoke earlier this morning with the Israeli Prime Minister [Binyamin] Netanyahu.

Question:  You recently described the panel’s work as not a criminal investigation.  Is it not a family court or something; nine people were killed, and there is no criminality in this?

Spokesperson:  That’s not the point.  This is in light of the statement of the President of the Security Council, which talked, as we’ve already said about — I read it out just now — a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.  As you know, there are domestic national inquiries going on in both Turkey and Israel.  It’s the job of this panel of inquiry to look at those two national inquiries and then to ask for any clarification that may be needed; it’s trying to find out the facts and the circumstances and, importantly, trying to avoid similar incidents in future by making recommendations on how to avoid that.  But, it’s not a criminal investigation.  Yes?

Question:  Is someone jumping to a conclusion that there is no criminal case?  But what if one of the panel members, let’s say Mr. Palmer or his deputy, would have found there is criminality involved in this, then could someone change, say, “We made a mistake by describing it that way?”

Spokesperson:  The point here is that this is looking at existing national inquiries that are under way already in Turkey and in Israel, and it’s to review their reports and, then, if necessary, and one assumes it will be necessary, to ask for clarifications and for more information.  There are four panel members, as you know, and they will be working closely together and then they will submit, as we’ve said, an initial progress report already by the middle of September and they would aim and strive to submit their final report within six months, by February.  Yes?

Question:  The Secretary-General said this is an unprecedented development, which gives lots of importance to this panel’s happening.  I’m a journalist for a daily.  If I were working for an encyclopaedia, it was okay that I have gotten in touch with you now, two or three hours late; I have been waiting, I called several times to your office, and I didn’t get beyond your secretary or assistant. You have a large team of co-workers with you; this is important.  The Secretary-General gives the situation the highest importance.  Why, maybe you can do something about it, when we call to get some information about something, to ask a few questions, that you’re not in a meeting, and your deputy is not in a meeting all the time…

Spokesperson:  Needless to say, there were quite a few phone calls on this topic, and people were contacting us in other ways.  We do our best to answer all the questions we get as quickly as we can.  If it wasn’t fast enough for you, all I can do is say sorry, but we try to do it as fast as we can.  Yes?

Question:  Israel had previously refused to cooperate with the United Nations on any kind of investigation.  Can you give us any insight into what led to a change of mind and concessions or conditions that may have been laid out in order for them to cooperate this time?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Israelis can speak for themselves, and, indeed, they have done so in Israel today.  What the Secretary-General has made clear is that this would be impartial and credible, and that it would conform to international standards.  And, crucially, of course, it has a panel member from Israel and a panel member from Turkey.  Yes?

Question:  Is there any sense of how the panel will make its own decisions — will it be a majority vote, is it going to be a consensus vote, or will that be something for them to decide when they meet, as well?

Spokesperson:  Well, they’re certainly expected to work together, with each other, and to reach consensus, where possible.

Question:  Let’s say three panel members thought that requesting additional information stretched to being able to invite in witnesses, and one panel member did not think that.  Is there any way to resolve that dispute?

Spokesperson:  I think that the panel members will be meeting, as I said, on 10 August, and they will be able to decide some of these factors.

Question:  Would you describe this as international management of the two inquiries?

Spokesperson:  No, it does what it says on the tin:  it’s a panel of inquiry.

Question:  I don’t think you’ve convinced a lot of people in this room that this is in inquiry.

Spokesperson:  It’s not for me to convince or otherwise, in that sense.  It is called a panel of inquiry.  I’ve set out the four points.  It isn’t just receiving and reviewing the reports, important though that is.  But, if the panel is empowered and has the mandate to ask for clarifications and additional information, that goes well beyond simply reviewing the national… beyond supervision.  But, importantly, this is done with the full backing of Israel and Turkey, and they, as the Secretary-General has said, will provide full cooperation. 

Question:  Looking forward procedurally — so let’s say the probe is complete, the national investigations are complete, there has been, at some point, criminal activities found — what happens after, for the sake of accountability?

Spokesperson:  We should not prejudge the outcome…

Question: This is strictly procedural, not about prejudging at all.

Spokesperson:  No, no.  I’m getting there.  The first thing is that there will be an interim report, already in the middle of September, a progress report on the way that this panel of inquiry has been set up and the steps that have been taken.  Then, when you get, as the panel members hope, to February, six months down the track — they hope, at that point, the final report to the Secretary-General.  It will be then for the Secretary-General to decide what the next steps are.  It’s important also to note that, of course, because, as Joe has mentioned a number of times, this is importantly about the national inquiries, the domestic inquiries that are already under way, we need to ensure that we have the final reports from both of these national inquiries to be able to build the final report and to seek the clarifications and any further explanations that we need.  So, to get to the point, the procedural outcome, it’s going to be six months down the track, and it’s going to be for the Secretary-General at that point to decide what the next steps are.

Question:  Martin, going back to Joe’s question, it’s a matter of conviction, obviously.  It also seems to be the Secretary-General, the way you present the statement, is really basing great hope in this panel.  But, I don’t like to be ironic, but just as a matter of conviction again:  how do you explain this, what he says a compromise?  Two members of the panel — Turks and Israelis — sitting together in one room, or compromise on principles…

Spokesperson:  I’m not really following you, Erol.

Question:  I’d really like to see the philosophy behind the statements, when he says, “in the best spirit of compromise” — compromise on what, what is a compromise that was reached or should be reached?  That shouldn’t be reached on truth obviously, on facts?

Spokesperson:  That’s obviously not the point here.  As you well know, today is 2 August.  The incident that this is about took place on 31 May.  In the intervening two months, and, as you know, the Secretary-General said right from the outset there needed to be an investigation — in the intervening two months, the Secretary-General has been working extremely hard, behind the scenes and publicly in the sense that he’s mentioned these things publicly, to find a formula, to find a way for this panel to be able to work.  And, that’s what compromise is about.  Turkey and Israel have both agreed to the nature of this panel of inquiry, and as you can see, they’re both on board; that’s what compromise means.  And, it’s also thanks to the Israeli and Turkish leaders really actively engaging in a spirit of cooperation with the Secretary-General.  Yes?

Question:  This panel sounds something like the Benazir Bhutto panel, the board of inquiry.  That panel did not identify culprits.  Will this panel be in a position to identify the guilty party?

Spokesperson:  Again, what I can tell you is it’s not a criminal investigation.  Its job is to review the two national inquiries that are already under way and then, based on that, to be able to go back and seek further information and clarifications, if necessary.  And, importantly, it’s about what you then do with that information.  And the key factor here is to try to avoid incidents of this kind in the future.  Yes?

Question:  I didn’t know we were going to get into comparative panels.  But following up on the Bhutto discussion, some have wondered about comparing panels, comparing this to the Sir Lanka panel, which is three people instead of four.

Spokesperson:  Why did I think you were going to go there?

Question:  Yeah, yeah.  The question is, I guess, it hasn’t started yet, due to staffing, I’m told.  And so I wonder how can you explain the difference of the speed — I mean, the speed should be, in all cases, I would assume — what would you say that to those who say it took a year to name one in Sri Lanka and it still hasn’t begun due to some staffing issues, whereas this one you’ve said when it’ll start, when it’ll report…

Spokesperson:  You’re saying there are staffing issues; I have not.  And, that’s the first… [talkover].  The first thing is, as you know, they [the Sri Lanka panel] have already met, and they are looking at exactly how they will work.  They have a Chief of Staff, we’ve already named him, as you know.  That person is already working with the three experts.  So, that’s the first thing.  The second thing is, in all of these cases, where you’re setting up an inquiry, a panel of experts, or whatever else you want to call it, this involves careful groundwork and diplomacy.  And, this can take, in some cases, a long time; in some cases, it can take less time.  You can’t compare one to another.  This is how diplomacy works.

Question:  But has the four months, because the staffing quote, I believe it was actually from Choi Soung-ah on the record to the Sri Lankan media — saying the staff is not yet in place for the panel.  So my question is, you’ve said it’s already begun, he’s working with them; has the four-month clock started?  When did it start?

Spokesperson:  As we’ve said, you have the experts and you have the support team.  The support team is working in the background.  The experts will be meeting again in the coming weeks, and that is part of the process, part of their work as they’ve been mandated to do so by the Secretary-General.

Question:  When does the four-month clock start?

Spokesperson:  I’ll let you know.  So, I’m happy to take any other questions on this, but is this on the panel?  Yes?

Question:  One last question, hopefully. You said it’s not a criminal investigation, which we understand, but is it an investigation; not every investigation is criminal?  In other words, will they actually be having an opportunity to review evidence as opposed to somebody else’s investigation?  Will they be interviewing witnesses?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said, it will be for the panel to decide what steps to take on such questions, and they will be meeting on 10 August, and as I‘ve said, doubtless they will be in contact with each other even before that.  And it’s important to note precisely what the Security Council said, and the Secretary-General’s naming of the panel is in light of that statement from 1 June.

Question:  You say it’s up to the panel to decide what steps to take, whether they’ll interview witnesses, but it’ll be up to the Israeli Defense Force whether to make them available, so it is not their decision.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you know what I mean.  It’s for them to decide whether to ask.  I think that that’s evident.  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask you a question about Pakistan; maybe I did not hear you properly.  You said an office had already been set up over there, and $8 million had already been given to it, in addition to $10 million authorized by the Secretary-General from CERF [Central Emergency Response Fund]?  Is that what it is?

Spokesperson:  The Pakistan Emergency Fund, which is managed by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs — that contains $8 million, and that fund, the Pakistan Emergency Fund, has been activated to provide the funding that’s needed by partners in the field.  Separately, and additionally, the Secretary-General announced yesterday evening that up to $10 million can be provided from the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Question:  Up to $10 million?

Spokesperson:  Up to $10 million is there and available, should it be required.

Question:  So, I want to clarify that, $8 million here and $10 million there, that’s $18 million, basically?

Spokesperson:  That’s right.  These are separate funds.  Anything else?

Question:  Just one on Pakistan, just a quick follow-up.  Where’s Mr. [Jean-Maurice] Ripert in all this?  I mean, he’s the humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan.  What’s been his role, particularly in light of the floods?

Spokesperson:  I think you’ll find the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan is Martin Mogwanja. 

Question:  I guess I’m just trying to understand more his role as special envoy — is it a full-time job, and what’s he been doing since the floods?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out, but you can see and hear there’s a lot of activity going on.

Question:  I wanted to ask about Sudan, a couple of things [talkover]…

Question:  Mr. Ripert, is he leaving now, his post?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  We’re kind of focused on less on an individual and more on up to a million people who are displaced and in need of assistance.  Yes?

Question:  Not to be overly focused on one, but since the UN does have this humanitarian role, I think we both want to know…

Spokesperson:  Yes, and I said I’ll find out.

Question:  On Sudan.  After last week’s meetings about UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] and violence in the Kalma camp, the Government of Sudan has said that it’s now restricting UNAMID’s peacekeepers from travelling, even by road, without giving prior notice and that their bags will be searched in airports, etcetera.  What’s the UN’s response to that?

Spokesperson:  If implemented, then those restrictions of movements would not be consistent with the status of forces agreement. 

Question:  So the UN will oppose that?  They will not give prior consent for road travel?

Spokesperson:  You heard what I said, and we’re working with the local authorities in South Darfur to ensure that the conditions are in place for the implementation of UNAMID’s mandate.

Question:  I also want to know, now that the Russian pilot was released, I think as of Friday, it was said, he’s just been released, he was resting, he would later be asked by UNAMID as to who had beaten him and held him hostage.  Some people say it’s Government-controlled militia, Janjaweed.  But what I’m wondering is:  what can UNAMID say about that incident and who actually held the pilot hostage?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you heard Ms. [Susana] Malcorra say on Friday, if I’m not mistaken, they’re looking into it, and once we have details, we’ll let you know.  I don’t have them now.

Question:  And can you also, on Friday it was decided that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] will come to a full understanding of the facts about the violence in the Kalma camp, which some are blaming on the Abdul Wahid Nur group, and some, I guess, are not.  What’s, that was the outcome of the Council’s meeting, so I’m just wondering from DPKO’s side, how soon, have they made any progress on that, have they found out any — the Government of Sudan is asking for individuals to be turned over to be arrested.  So, I’m wondering what DPKO is doing on the investigation, for full understanding?

Spokesperson:  First of all, as you know, Mr. [Alain] Le Roy will be here on Wednesday, so you’ll be able to ask him some details about that.  But in the meantime, what I can tell you is that the situation in Kalma has improved but remains tense.  And no casualties were reported yesterday.  UNAMID continues to patrol areas of the camp's interior and exterior.  There are still many internally displaced persons camped around the UNAMID base there. 

And I can also tell you that UNAMID is working with local authorities to try to restore peace and stability in and around the camp.  As you know, the Deputy Joint Special Representative visited Nyala on Sunday, where he met with the Wali of South Darfur and with UNAMID staff and sheikhs and leaders of both groups in Kalma.  And the most important thing he’s calling for is for both sides to eschew violence and exercise restraint.  But to answer your very specific point, I will check with DPKO. 

Question:  On casualties, there are these reports of three, and some say, four, UN peacekeepers dying in a crash in Nyala transporting the very same Mr. [Mohamed] Yonis.  Are those reports true?

Spokesperson:  I think DPKO and UNAMID will be providing a statement on that.  There was an accident, as I understand it, and I believe it was correct that there were three people killed.  But I think there’s a statement in the works, which will provide more details on that.  [The statement was later issued separately.]

Question:  It’s not a criminal investigation, but could it be a civil investigation, in the sense that, leaving open the possibility that they may ask one side to pay compensation, for example?  Will they make a judgement of some sort?

Spokesperson:  What I can tell you is that they will be making recommendations to the Secretary-General; they will consider and recommend ways of avoiding similar incidents in future.

Question:  That’s the future.  But the past, we’re talking about the past, right?

Spokesperson:  That’s right, and there are final reports, which they will strive to provide in February.  So, six months from now, it will go to the Secretary-General, and he will decide what steps need to be taken after that, if any.

Question:  Leaving open the possibility of a criminal….

Spokesperson:  What I’m saying is that the panel, they haven’t yet met.  We’ve announced the panel today.  They have not yet met; they will do so on 10 August, and I’m sure they will be talking about the various aspects of this.  The important point here is to carry out the mandates given to them by the Secretary-General in the light of the statement from the President of the Security Council, and that’s for it to be impartial and credible and transparent, and in conformity with international standards.

Question:   With the Secretary-General travelling to Japan and the Deputy Secretary-General on annual leave, who’s in charge of the UN, in this case?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is in charge of the UN, Matthew, and it doesn’t matter where he is; he’s in charge, believe me. 

Question:  So when he leaves, he’s constantly in charge — in the air, there’s nobody put in charge while he’s away from Headquarters?

Spokesperson:  It’s entirely possible for the Secretary-General to be contacted and, frequently, just to give you an example, while travelling around Africa in June — Burundi, Benin and other places — he was constantly, in between meetings, on the phone with New York and other places, Moscow, about Kyrgyzstan, which, obviously, at that point, was a big, big topic.  And so it’s entirely possible for the Secretary-General to be in touch while he’s on the road.  And he’s in charge.

Question:  I don’t dispute that he makes those calls.  I’m just wondering, is there a procedure to name somebody to be actually in charge of Headquarters or at Headquarters?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me ask about that, but I think it’s pretty obvious that the Secretary-General is in charge.

Question:  I know that for a department, if the Under-Secretary-General travels, even on official travel, they name somebody to be in charge of the department while they’re away. 

Spokesperson:  Well, let me see.  I can see somebody right at the back who hasn’t asked a question.  Yes?

Question:  Another panel question:  does the panel have to wait until the national investigations are concluded before it can start its work, or can it make inquiries concurrent with the national investigations?

Spokesperson:  I think it will be for the panel members to decide precisely how that works, but it’s also clear that if they’re going to provide an interim progress report in the middle of September, they will already be starting to set out some of the groundwork before the national inquiries’ report.  And that’s why it’s important also that the timing of the final report will depend obviously on the pace of the work, the progress that the panel makes, and also on the progress in the national inquiries on which they will be depending for a lot of their information.  Yes?

Question:  Is the Secretary-General launching a flash appeal to raise funds for Pakistan?

Spokesperson:  As you’ve heard, there is the Pakistan Emergency Fund and there is the Central Emergency Relief Fund, if I’ve got the term right — there’s funding there.  And, obviously, our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, with the other relief agencies within the UN system, they will be looking at this very closely and will then decide what is necessary.  But, obviously, they’re in very close touch with the Pakistani authorities, and it is self-evident that this is a major catastrophe and the United Nations is working very closely with the authorities on tackling this so that the people can be helped as quickly as possible.

Question:  You yourself have described this as a major catastrophe. Is any senior top UN official going to visit Pakistan to take an on-the-spot look?

Spokesperson:  I think the important initial point here is for our experts, for our humanitarian relief workers, the people who really know how to assess on the spot, it’s for them to do their work in the first instance; that has to be the priority.  But, obviously, as I’ve said, I already said on Friday, and we’ve reiterated that the Secretary-General is distressed and deeply saddened by the major loss of life, and obviously, not just the loss of life, which is tragic in itself, but also the many, many thousands of people that have been displaced and livelihoods ruined.

Okay, thank you very much.  Thank you.

* *** *

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