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

10 August 2010

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

10 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.

**Panel of Inquiry

The Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry on the flotilla incident of 31 May 2010.  We expect to provide a statement after that meeting has concluded, to give you some details.  And also, the Panel will hold its own first meeting this afternoon.

** Pakistan

As the Secretary-General told you yesterday, we will soon issue an emergency response plan and an appeal for several hundred million dollars to respond to immediate needs following the floods in Pakistan.  That appeal is expected to be launched in New York tomorrow by John Holmes, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and by representatives of the Government of Pakistan.

The UN relief agencies are concentrating on the 6 million people in direct need of humanitarian assistance.  According to initial estimates, more than 290,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed in the floods.  Priority needs include providing shelter to more than 2 million persons.  These are still very preliminary estimations, as the full extent of the destruction will be clear only after the waters have receded.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says that weather conditions improved slightly yesterday, allowing the agency to get its helicopters off the ground for the first time in three days to help the affected people in Pakistan.  We have details in the Geneva briefing notes.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) says that there was a 31 per cent increase in conflict-related Afghan civilian casualties in the first six months of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009.

From 1 January to 30 June this year, the UN Mission’s Human Rights Unit documented 3,268 civilian casualties, including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries.  Anti-Government elements were responsible for 76 per cent of all casualties, while 12 per cent of the casualties were attributed to activities by pro-Government forces.  Among those killed or injured by the Taliban and other anti-Government elements were 55 per cent more children than in 2009, along with 6 per cent more women.  Staffan de Mistura, the head of the UN Mission, said:  “Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict.  They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before.”

We have a press release, along with a transcript of a press conference by de Mistura, in my Office.

** Somalia

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, is hopeful that an increased representation from the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) inside the country will help advance the peace process there.  Mahiga said that the Political Office for Somalia, which he heads, will deploy some of its international staff to Puntland and Somaliland to join the local staff already in place.  This is expected to take place within the next few months.

Mahiga noted that it is crucial that his office ultimately be represented in the capital Mogadishu, where the World Food Programme is feeding 340,000 people every day and where much of Somalia’s vulnerable population is located.  He added that we will take a cautious approach for security reasons.

There are currently more than 60 international UN staff based inside Somalia, and some 800 national staff, from various UN agencies.  They are delivering humanitarian assistance and implementing recovery and development programs to benefit some 3.2 million Somalis.

**Security Council

The Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Central African Republic and Chad, Youssef Mahmoud, briefed the Security Council earlier this morning in an open meeting.  He said that peacekeepers in eastern Chad have ceased to conduct area security patrols and escorts, as the Mission implements the May 2010 Security Council resolution on its drawdown and termination.  He added that the Chadian Government has assumed full responsibility for the security and protection of civilians and aid workers in that region.

Meanwhile, despite some reported returns of internally displaced persons, there are still concerns about the humanitarian situation, as a new wave of Sudanese refugees reaches the Chadian border.

Council members are now in consultations on the same subject, and copies of the Acting Special Representative’s remarks are available.

** Kyrgyzstan Update

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the situation in Kyrgyzstan remains tense in the southern provinces of Osh and Jalalabad.  It says that there are concerns that immediate humanitarian concerns will go unmet because the revised flash appeal for $96 million is only 30 per cent funded.

** Cyprus — Downer on Talks

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Cyprus, Alexander Downer, spoke to the press in Nicosia today.  He told them that the leaders had had a long discussion on the property issue today, in their last meeting before a three-week break, after which they’ll meet again on 31 August.  We have copies of the full transcript available from my Office.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

There’s also going to be a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m. here.  Ambassador Pablo Salon of Bolivia will hold a press conference about the recent negotiations on climate change that took place in Bonn, from 2-6 August.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on China Landslides

I have two statements attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.  The first is on floods and landslides in China.

The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life and devastation caused by the severe flooding that has affected considerable portions of China.  He extends his deepest condolences to the families of those who have died or been injured or lost their homes and possessions.

The Secretary-General is aware of the tremendous efforts being undertaken by the Government of China to evacuate people out of harm’s way, to carry out search-and-rescue operations, and to respond to needs arising from this situation.  He reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to assist in any way in this effort should it be required.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Fires in Russian Federation

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on fires in the Russian Federation.  The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life and suffering caused by the fires that have affected the territory of the Russian Federation outside Moscow.  He extends his deepest condolences to the families of those who have died or been injured.

The Secretary-General is aware of the tremendous efforts being undertaken by the Government of the Russian Federation to bring the situation under control.  He reaffirms the commitment of the United Nations to assist in any way in this effort should it be required.

So, both of those statements are also available in my Office and I’m happy to take questions.  Yes, Edie?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, Israel has threatened to pull out of the UN inquiry on the flotilla raid, following the Secretary-General’s statement that there is no agreement that the Panel would refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify. Apparently, Israeli officials are saying the agreement to take part in the probe was conditional on the panel relying on reports from Israel’s own military inquiry, not testimony from soldiers.  Could you confirm the Secretary-General’s position on this issue?  Was there an agreement?  Was there no agreement?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as I mentioned at the start, the Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry.  That’s important to note.  To answer your question, the Panel is not designed to determine individual criminal responsibility, but to examine and identify the facts and circumstances, and the context of the incident, as well as to recommend ways of avoiding future incidents.  And for that purpose, the Panel will receive and review reports of national investigations into the incident, and request such clarifications and information as it may require from relevant national authorities.  For the conduct of its work, the Panel will decide what steps it will take and will work with the national authorities.  As repeatedly emphasized, the cooperation of the parties is crucial to the Panel’s work and today, the Secretary-General is renewing his call on the parties to fully cooperate with this panel.

Question:  But, that doesn’t really answer the question of whether there was an agreement or not that Israeli soldiers would not be called to testify.

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General spoke yesterday — and I don’t need to repeat what he said yesterday.  But what I can tell you is that, as we have repeatedly emphasized, the cooperation of the parties is crucial to the Panel’s work.  That’s one point.  And the other is that the Panel will decide what steps it will take and, of course, it will work with the national authorities.

Question:  Martin, could you…

Spokesperson:  Yes, Nizar?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Would that be considered as the international standard?  I mean, if it is supposed to be independent and impartial etcetera, and adhering to the international standards, would this, I mean if it’s left to each national State to decide what happened, would that be international in this case?

Spokesperson:  It’s within the framework of the presidential statement of the Security Council and that’s one point.  The other is, as we’ve said, this is about receiving and reviewing the national investigations and then following up on that to ask for any clarifications or for further information.  It’s really important to recognize that this will work by cooperating with the national authorities and for the national authorities — the parties — to cooperate with the Panel.  And, as I said, the Secretary-General is renewing his call on the parties to fully cooperate with the Panel.

Question:  So, the whole role of the Panel is to review the investigations of each country?

Spokesperson:  No, you’re not listening to what I said, Nizar.  I’ve said that’s the first part of it; it then continues from there.  It will review the national investigations from both parties, and then it will request further information as required and seek clarifications as necessary.  And then, as we’ve said repeatedly, after that, it will be able to recommend ways to avoid future incidents.  So, it goes well beyond simply reviewing reports, it goes well beyond that and we’ve said that repeatedly.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  That still does not answer the question.  Has the Israelis informed the Secretary-General it could not participate with that condition that they have made?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve just said, the Secretary-General has just begun a meeting with the four members of the Panel of Inquiry.  Okay.  Yes, Ali?

Question:  Yes, after what we heard yesterday from the Israeli Prime Minister about the cooperation with the Panel, would you call especially Israel to cooperate with the Panel?

Spokesperson:  No, not especially.  No.  It’s about the parties.  And the Panel is meeting, as I’ve said, for the first time this afternoon.  And they will need to decide how they conduct their work, what steps they need to take, and in doing so, they will, obviously, need to work and cooperate with the national authorities; plural, not singular.  Yes, Benedict?

Question:  So, the first thing they are going to do is look at the national investigations, but second, they can request clarifications and additional information.  What exactly does that mean, request clarifications?  Do they go back to the national investigative boards?  Can they do anything else besides that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve said, they’re meeting for the first time and they need to decide how they conduct their work.  But they, first of all, need to receive the reports and, as the Secretary-General said yesterday, those reports, of course, are in the works. They are not completed yet.  Both of those national investigations, domestic investigations, or inquiries, or whatever they happen to be called, are still en train.  The Panel can, in parallel, start its work — it does not have to wait for the completion because there is already a lot of information available.  That information they will be collating.  But the point is, obviously, they will then look at the material they are provided once those national investigations, inquiries, have been completed.  And then they will need to take a view and it’s for the Panel to decide and they haven’t met as a group yet.  They are just meeting the Secretary-General and then they will be meeting as a group this afternoon.  It will be for the Panel to decide how they work and what they ask for.

Question:  Are they determining that today or were there any ground rules set beforehand?

Spokesperson:  They need to sit down and consider how they work together and how they work with the national authorities.  Yes?  First, then I’m coming to you.  Yes.

Question:  Just related to that, is there any possibility…  There have been some reports that the Human Rights Council might not go forward with its flotilla probe as a result of this?  Is there any credence to those reports at all?

Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have to ask the Human Rights Council because it’s a distinct body, as you know, but that’s not my understanding.  But you should ask them.  Yes, I’m sorry.

Question:  Yes, uh, there…just to clarify this…  I’ll ask you four or five very quick, brief questions that might shed a lot of light on this.  First off, when is the first working meeting of this UN Panel?  They are meeting the Secretary-General today.  I assume that’s sort of a meet-and-greet, but when do they actually sit down to begin?

Spokesperson:  Later this afternoon.  I said the Panel will hold its first meeting this afternoon.

Question:  And that’s separate from the…

Spokesperson:  Yes, separate.  Yes.  They’re meeting with the Secretary-General right now and then they will be meeting as a foursome later this afternoon.  As I’ve also said, we’ll provide a statement — a readout to use the jargon — of the meeting with the Secretary-General.

Question:  Okay, secondly, this question about Israel.  Has Israel communicated to the United Nations, or to the Office of the Secretary-General, that it does not want to cooperate with this Panel?  Has Israel actually communicated that or is it simply that Israel has reiterated their Government policy that no Israeli citizens will ever be interviewed by an international inquiry?

Spokesperson:  Obviously, we’ve heard the same as you have, statements in the media.  I can tell you, as I’ve said, the Secretary-General is meeting right now with the four Panel members.

Question:  But can you rule out that Israel has communicated in any formal way a message that they will not cooperate with this Panel?  Has any such message been received?

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.

Question:  Okay, then to follow this up:  does this Panel have any power to compel people to speak before it?  Any sort of subpoena power?

Spokesperson:  Absolutely not.  This is not an individual — this is not a criminal investigation.  We’ve said that clearly and repeatedly.  It’s not a criminal investigation and it’s not looking into individual criminal responsibility.  That is not its role.

Question:  And are there any penalties for somebody not complying with a request from this Panel to be interviewed?  Let’s say…

Spokesperson:  I think I already answered that question.

Question:  Okay, so and the last question is about the specific mandate of the Panel.

Spokesperson:  Okay, I didn’t count, but I think it might be more than five.

Question:  This is five.  I’ve been counting.  This is the fifth one.  The mandate of the Panel hasn’t been publicly revealed.  Is that something that you could reveal so that we could put to rest this question about what are the terms of operation of the Panel?

Spokesperson:  That’s not normal practice.  I think what’s important is that the Panel is allowed to do its work and to provide its findings and its own report in due course.  Joe.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  You always have to go one better, right?

Question:  Can you tell us who on the UN side I can talk to about the Turks and the Israelis to set this up?

Spokesperson:  What do you mean?

Question:  Well, before this was announced there was a lot of discussions about sides…

Spokesperson:  Well, this is done through diplomatic channels in a normal way.  But in addition, as I’ve said very clearly and on the record, the Secretary-General has also spoken by telephone with both the Israeli and Turkish leaders in the run up to the announcement of the Panel.  And that’s…

Question:  Is DPA involved?

Spokesperson:  Well, the people who would obviously need to be involved, and that would, of course, include people from the Department of Political Affairs.

Question:  They’re going…  It’s still to be determined what methods they’re going to use to seek clarification?  Amongst those methods could there be a request to interview members of the Israeli military?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t want to get into hypotheticals because they’re only meeting for the first time today.  They need to sit and discuss how they are going to work.  And in conducting their work, it’s going to be something that, as they move along, they will need to decide what steps to take.  So, I can’t sit here now and say precisely what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it and when they’re going to do it.

Question:  Or what they can’t do.

Spokesperson:  That’s not something that I can say here now.  That’s for them to figure out in their meeting today.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.  And I’m coming to you then, Mercedes.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Obviously and clearly this Panel will have a lot of work to do and they probably will need some kind of assistance from the UN.  What staffing resources are available, or will be made available to it?  And which department will assist them?

Spokesperson:  That’s being worked on.  At the moment, they obviously do need assistance, they will need assistance.  That’s being worked on now to find out who, how and where.  Yes.

Question:  Would the Legal Department would be…

Spokesperson:  That’s still being looked at — and yes, it’s still being looked at.  Yes, Mercedes, yes.

Question:  Hi.  On Afghanistan, you mentioned there is a 31 per cent increase.  Out of that, 76 is attributed to the Taliban and 12 per cent to the American forces, correct?

Spokesperson:  Seventy six per cent of the casualties attributed to anti-Government elements.

Question:  Anti-Government, correct?

Spokesperson:  Seventy six per cent, which is up 53 per cent from 2009.  And 386 casualties.  So, for the anti-Government elements, the casualties that they were responsible for, according to UNAMA’s Human Rights report, was 2,477.  That’s 76 per cent of all of the casualties that were registered by UNAMA’s Human Rights team.  The total, if you like — they put out a press release, they have all the details but I’m very happy to give it now — 3,268 is the total for civilian casualties.  That includes 1,271 deaths; 1,997 injuries.  So, casualties is not the same as deaths, okay?  Three hundred and eighty six were attributed to pro-Government forces.  That’s 12 per cent and down 30 per cent from 2009.

Question:  Okay, 12 per cent down.

Spokesperson:  Mmm.

Question:  Okay, because my question was if 76 per cent…

Spokesperson:  No, 12 per cent, 30 per cent down.  Twelve per cent of the total; 30 per cent…

Question:  So, this is what they did.  So, 76 and 12 per cent makes 88 per cent. Who made the other 12 per cent?

Spokesperson:  Let me figure out the maths.  My colleagues from UNAMA will be able to give you the full breakdown of the figures.  I mean, I have those figures here.  I don’t have the full total here.

[The Spokesperson later added that on casualties for the first six months of this year in Afghanistan, UNAMA said it could not attribute 128 deaths to either party to the conflict.]

Question:  Okay, so the question will be about that 12 per cent left.  And I also understand that the pro-Government forces casualties were down, actually 30 per cent regarding last year.

Spokesperson:  Correct.  Yes.  That’s right.  Yes, Ali.

Question:  Thank you.  On Lebanon please.  Yesterday, Hizbullah Secretary-General charged the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is not as impartial as it should be.  And he showed photos and videos for Israeli [inaudible] following the movements of Prime Minister Hariri monitoring all the assassinated people in Lebanon in 2005 and 2006.  Do you think that those videos and photos should be sent to the Special Tribunal?  This is one.  Second, you used to say always that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is to stabilize the country — and there’s a lot of fears nowadays that this, the STL — might in fact destabilize the country.  Do you agree on that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t really have any comment on the second question, Ali.  On the first one, that’s really a matter for the Tribunal.  That’s not a question that I can answer here.  It’s a matter for the Tribunal.  Yes, Nizar.

Question:  A follow-up on the same…  Since the inception of the IIIC investigation into the assassination of Hariri in 2005.

Spokesperson:  Since the inception of?

Question:  The IIIC.  The International Independent Investigation [inaudible].  I don’t know if the IIIC is the correct…  Anyway, since then, there has been a lot of miscarriage of justice.  One of them is the jailing of four generals for four years, and then acquitting them without any charges.  There has been, of course, right from the beginning, Detlev Mehlis, the first investigator, accused Syria of [inaudible] and accused many parties in Lebanon, ruling out any involvement of other possible players in the area, those who may have interest in such an incident.  And then yesterday, we see a lot of evidence showing that Israel in particular was monitoring the situation, monitoring Hariri closely and monitoring other leaders who were assassinated and others who could have been assassinated later.  So, in this case, will the United Nations, shouldn’t the United Nations, make a review of what happened since then?  There’s a lot of resources invested in this.  There’s a lot of money put into this investigation and yet we haven’t seen any results.  To the contrary, we have seen a miscarriage of justice.  Should the United Nations make a review about that?

Spokesperson:  This again is a matter for the Tribunal.  This is not something I need to comment on.  Matthew.  Yes, Ali.

Question:  Should the so-called evidence be sent to the Tribunal?

Spokesperson:  I said it’s really a matter for the Tribunal.  It’s not a matter for me to comment on.  Matthew.

Question:  Sure, I have several questions.  One first four about Sudan.  On this, the Kalma camp, the Government of South Darfur has said that it intends to move the camp by saying that it’s a haven for criminals and rebels that are not part of the Doha process.  So, what’s the UN’s response to the idea of the forced movement of this camp?  Has there been any humanitarian access now since August 2 and has…can the UN confirm the shelling of the camp by militias and Government-owned vehicles, as has been reported?

Spokesperson:  Well, we can certainly say there have been reports of sporadic firing; what kind of firing, I can’t say right now, but certainly reports of sporadic firing.  And I can also tell you that the Force Commander visited the camp over the weekend and that was to discuss the situation with the teams on the ground.  And there are still several thousand displaced people taking refuge outside UNAMID’s Community Policing Centre, which is in the camp.  They’re seeking refuge around that Centre.  And many other people have gone to a nearby camp at Bileil and that’s obviously really stretching resources there, too.

It’s still the case that the humanitarian community has no access to Kalma, and there is believed to be still 50,000 internally displaced people there.  We are concerned about the shortages of food and fuel.  Deliveries have stopped and fuel for water pumps has run out.  And so, obviously, sanitation is a major concern, because it’s the middle of the rainy season.  So, to answer your question, the Government must resume full humanitarian access to Kalma and to surrounding areas where displaced people have fled.  And UNAMID continues to be engaged with the Government at all levels to peacefully resolve the situation and ensure protection for all IDPs and civilians.  UNAMID has also stepped up patrols in and around Kalma and is on high alert.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General himself, or I guess Mr. Holmes, has any sort of highest level of the UN — given that there’s 50,000 people now starved by a Government for a week — have they placed any calls to President Bashir or to any Sudanese authorities?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve just said to you, UNAMID continues to be engaged with the Government at all levels.  I can assure you that the Secretary-General and other senior officials in the UN are fully aware of what is happening.  The Secretary-General’s representative, Ibrahim Gambari, is in regular contact with the main interlocutors there.

Question:  I know I’d asked you before the election, I’d asked you about the Rwanda, whether the UN has any comment on the closure of 30 newspapers and the seemingly coincidental death of many opposition figures in the run-up to the election.  What is the UN statement on the election and those issues that have been raised?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the outcome, no statement yet.  What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General would hope for continued progress in the economic and democratic development of the country.  When he met President Kagame last month in Madrid, he stressed the importance of investigating crimes that were causing political tensions there.  And on the question of media freedom, he strongly feels that a free press is essential in a democracy and that you can see that a professional media can play a very constructive role in promoting moderation and discouraging the violence that has often characterized elections in Africa.

Question:  And on the beheading death of the Green Party candidate, he had said there should be…you know, there should be a credible investigation.  Human Rights Watch and others have said that the internal investigation was a white wash and essentially…

Spokesperson:  I just said, Matthew, that when the Secretary-General met President Kagame last month in Madrid, he stressed the importance of investigating crimes that were causing political tensions in the country.  What’s your next question?

Question:  Okay, I’ll…well, that’s fine.  I wanted to ask you about what…something the Secretary-General said yesterday, just because I don’t understand it.  And it has to do with his answer on the question of subordinate non-USG positions within the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).  And I say it because I’m looking at the transcript and it seems pretty clear…maybe you can explain the discrepancy in what’s read out afterwards, but he was asked about a South African candidate and he seemed to say that a person had come in second and was clearly meritorious and so had been offered another position.  Then later there was a squawk saying the investigation, the director of the investigative division was never offered.  And so the question is, is there any position in OIOS?  What was he referring to when he said someone that was vetted by the panel and came in second was offered a post?  What post were they offered?  And how is it consistent with the denial of the candidate?

Spokesperson:  He was, as I’ve said, he was confused by what the question was.  And the discussion was about the Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services.  There was confusion about what the question was and as we’ve said, the selection process has not even started.  The new Under-Secretary-General has not even taken up her post.  When she does so, she will be able to launch that recruitment process, which will be an open process and fully in accordance with the rules.

Question:  And you know, I don’t mean to, I under…I mean, cause things can in the heat of the moment, I’m just looking at literally, this is what he says.  He said:  there are certain cases when someone was applying for a certain post and where he or she was not successful for that post, and because of the excellent quality of the candidate, we really wanted to keep certain candidates in our system.  We offered a lower rank.  So I don’t think that was referring to the USG post.  What’s the lower rank that was offered?

Spokesperson:  As I said, that’s not specifically referring to the Director of the Investigations Division.  That’s a general statement.  It’s not specifically referring to one post, but a general statement.

Question:  There’s another D-2 post.  I know there’s another D-2 post in OIOS.

Spokesperson:  Matthew, a general statement of principle; not related specifically to OIOS.  Importantly, the Under-Secretary-General of the Office of Internal Oversight Services hasn’t even started her job yet and when she starts, she will want quite rightly to conduct the recruitment process for the Director of Investigations Division and any other posts that are vacant.  And that’s obviously what she’ll do.  And that will be fully in accordance with the rules and procedures.

Question:  Just one last thing on this, because I mean in their statement in the General Assembly, South Africa said we are supporting the Canadian candidate because we understand that either the OIOS USG post for the two consecutive terms that follow should go to the developing world, or subordinate posts in OIOS at this time.  So, something…it seems pretty clear that something was…

Spokesperson:  I think that’s a misrepresentation of what was said.  But any interpretive statements after a vote can be made.  It’s for any national Government, any Member State, to be able to make an interpretive statement after a vote.  Yes.  Yes.

Question:  You mentioned that, is it Mr. Holmes who will be here tomorrow on flooding in Pakistan?

Spokesperson:  I didn’t say he would be here tomorrow.  I said he would launch it tomorrow.  We need to find out where and when, but launching it tomorrow.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the Appeal would be launched by Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in Conference Room 1 of the North Lawn Building, at 10 a.m.]

Question:  [inaudible] Afghans affected by the flooding?

Spokesperson:  I would need to find out from Stephanie Bunker at OCHA.  I’m sure that they’re working on precisely the form that it takes.  Yes.

Question:  Right.  Also on the…with the reports coming out today on the civilian casualties, is the strategy for aid and assistance there going to be separate from what we’re talking about with Pakistan?

Spokesperson:  I don’t quite follow.  You mean…in Afghanistan?

Question:  Right.  Will they be under the broad appeal being made tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I don’t know precisely what the nature of the appeal for tomorrow will be.  Judging from what I’ve seen, it would appear that it’s focused on Pakistan.  That doesn’t mean that assistance is not being provided to Afghanistan, but this particular appeal, it looks as though that’s the focus.  But I’m sure that Mr. Holmes and his colleagues in OCHA will make that clear.  Yes, I think you want…

Question:  You had such a lively exchange yesterday, I’d like to keep it going as long as possible.  It seems to me that the essence of the dispute between Ms. Ahlenius and the Secretary-General was an interpretation of the General Assembly resolution that set up OIOS.  She gets chapter and verse, and she says it’s backed up by IAAC review that the Secretary-General has no role in the appointment of figures, of senior officials, in OIOS.  That is at the heart of the operational independence, the significance of that…  What is the legal basis on which the Secretary-General feels that those appointments should go to the review board that he refers to and that he has ultimate say over that before it’s sent to the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I think we’ve said quite a lot on that score.  Both Angela Kane and also Ms. Catherine Pollard and Vijay Nambiar, the Chef de Cabinet, have said quite a lot and I don’t really have anything further.

Question:  But I don’t remember them referring to the General Assembly, to any legal basis for…

Spokesperson:  They’ve set out quite clearly what they believe the position was on the recruitment process.  And I don’t really have anything further to add on that.  Not quite as lively as you wanted.

Question:  No, certainly not.  No.

Question:  I hope you allow me to ask a few questions.  I just wanted to know, there was a poll by the United Nations mission in India and Pakistan [inaudible] last month, with talk about skirmishes across the border and also about growing unrest in India.  Now, there has been no acknowledgement from the Secretary-General’s Office about this.  And about this situation, which is still going on in India, there is no statement as yet.  There was a statement but it was withdrawn.  What is the position of the Secretary-General now?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything to say on this, Masood.  I don’t.  No.

Question:  I mean, it’s an ongoing…it’s not that it’s a small thing going on.  It’s a big issue, I mean, that is going on.  And the United Nations mission in Afghanistan has yesterday, last month, sent a report to the Security Council, as well as to the Secretary-General’s Office, saying about this…

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything to say, Masood, on this question.

Question:  Okay, now let me switch gears about something.  Oxfam, they said, about this United Nations aid, said that the United Nations is making an effort, but it’s not enough.  It’s not enough, that effort, which is why Pakistan is concerned.  I mean, it is the response of the community, or the effort, to other crises, like in Haiti and so forth, that’s far less than what is required in Pakistan.  Now, there’s a mega-disaster.  What…I know that you issued something earlier in the month, but where is this guy now?  Because the Secretary-General yesterday in his statement said that he would make a major appeal to the donors for Pakistan.  Where does it stand now?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ve just said, first of all, you’re right, the Secretary-General did call attention to the need for donors to respond and they already are.  And he also said that there would be an emergency response plan announced shortly and I’ve just said that John Holmes will be launching that tomorrow.  So that’s clearly already there.  I’ve already said that.  But, I think everybody understands that the disaster’s impact is huge.  And it’s one of the most difficult natural disasters that the international community has had to respond to in recent years.  It’s the geographic scale of it, as well as the amount of flood waters, the amount of people affected.  But it’s just the geographic reach, the spread of this.

And obviously, we recognize that the domestic and international response to the needs is not perfect, but it’s the best it can be, given the suddenness and severity of this crisis.  And also, as I’ve just said, the huge scale of the affected area and the number of people who require assistance.  The two big challenges are the fact that the flooded areas — it’s very difficult to get in.  The roads are inundated.  Bridges are gone.  There have been landslides.  And the other big challenge is the increasingly constrained supply of resources that are needed.  The donor response has been strong, but we need an even bigger response.  And that’s what Mr. Holmes will talk about tomorrow, I’m sure.

Question:  The sheer scale of disaster has now surpassed 80.  That’s what Oxfam people said.  It’s surpassed 80 in the sheer scale and sheer enormity…

Spokesperson:  Again, I know that my colleagues on the spot have been giving extensive briefings about the nature of this disaster, the scale of the disaster and comparisons.  What’s really important is that there are many, many thousands, millions of people in distress and they need assistance.  And I don’t think that they are comparing it with another disaster.  What they want is help and help fast.  And that’s what both the domestic authorities and the international community is trying to do — to provide that assistance, because there are so many people in need.  Okay, alright.  Thanks very much.

Question:  Can I just ask one more question…

Spokesperson:  No, I think that it’s been quite a long session.  Tomorrow’s another day.  Okay.  Thanks.

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