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

30 August 2010

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

30 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 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

As you will have seen, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on his having received the InterAcademy Council Review of the IPCC has been issued.

And in it, the Secretary-General welcomes the independent review of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) conducted by the InterAcademy Council (IAC).  And that independent review was released this morning.  

The Secretary-General has expressed his gratitude to the InterAcademy Council for conducting this fully independent review of the working practices of the IPCC, which he co-commissioned with the Chairman of the IPCC in March. 

The Secretary-General firmly maintains that the fundamental science on climate change remains sound.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will begin a week-long visit to Liechtenstein and Austria.

He will first travel to Liechtenstein for an official visit.  He will meet with senior officials there, including Prince Hans-Adam II, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  He will deliver a speech on global governance to parliamentarians, politicians, business leaders and members of civil society.

The Secretary-General will then travel to Vienna, in Austria, where he will also meet with senior officials.  He will give opening remarks at the Conference “From Vision to Reality:  A New and Holistic Approach to Fighting Corruption”.

In Alpbach, also in Austria, the Secretary-General will address the European Forum 2010 as well as the Security Council Retreat.  He will then host the annual retreat for UN senior officials.

**Security Council

At 3:00 p.m., the Security Council will hold consultations, followed by a formal meeting, on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

The Secretary-General, in a letter to the President of the Security Council, recommended that the Force’s mandate be extended by one year, until the end of August 2011.

In that letter, the Secretary-General also expressed his deep concern at the exchange of fire that took place in the vicinity of El Adeisse earlier this month.  That exchange of fire, he wrote, shows how quickly the relatively stable and secure environment in southern Lebanon that UNIFIL has helped to establish, in cooperation with the Lebanese Armed Forces, can change.

** Afghanistan

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has condemned the killing of a fourth parliamentary election candidate in Herat on Saturday.  It also condemned the killing of five men supporting the electoral campaign of a female candidate, also in Herat province.  At this stage it is not clear who is responsible for the separate killings.

But these killings constitute violent intimidation of all electoral candidates and their supporters and this is unacceptable.  The UN Mission calls upon the Afghan security forces to be on heightened vigilance over the coming weeks leading to the parliamentary elections.

** Pakistan

In the month since floods began to devastate Pakistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has reached more than 2.5 million people with life-saving rations.   The Food Programme says that it will begin delivering 1,500 metric tonnes of rice per day this week.

At the same time, the World Food Programme says that it needs about an additional 40 helicopters to move food and other relief items into areas that have been cut off by flooding.  It also needs at least 30 cargo flights to move nutrition supplements into Pakistan over the next two months.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the $459 million response plan for Pakistan has now received $291 million in commitments and an additional $21 million in pledges.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There was no response to the appeal for more helicopters, because you give the same figure as last time?

Spokesperson:  That’s right.  I’ve given the same figure and the need remains the same.  I don’t have any update at the moment on that figure.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  The international community is still very concerned about the situation in Pakistan, especially regards to the possible death of children as a result of malnourishment.  There are indications that some efforts are being made to have another high-level meeting on the situation in Pakistan and the date of 19 September has been mentioned.  Is the United Nations engaged in a discussion towards holding such a meeting?

Spokesperson:  I think it’s likely that there will be a meeting on the margins of or just before the General Assembly begins its work during the General Debate week.  The details are still being worked out, but I think that that is likely.  It would be an important moment and one of a number of other meetings, not just in New York looking at the requirements, not just the immediate requirements — which are enormous — but the future requirements.  That is the next phase, of course, that one needs to look that. Yes, further questions?

Question:  With the situation of the miners in Chile, will there be any statement from the Secretary-General?  They’re trapped already and they are 33 of them.  Any mention is a ray of hope for them.

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is the Secretary-General has been closely following this dramatic story and he’s been deeply moved by it.  Like many people, not least the families, the Secretary-General was amazed and delighted when he heard that all 33 miners were safe.  But clearly their ordeal is far from over.  But he wants the miners to know that his thoughts will be with them during the difficult time ahead.  He’s confident that they will endure and keep their hearts strong.  He also notes that the Chilean authorities are doing all they can to support the miners and rescue them.  He remembers from his own trip to Chile in March, just days after the earthquake, that the Chilean people are indeed strong and resourceful.  With the rest of the world, he is looking forward to the day when he hears that the men are all reunited once again with their families and their loved ones.

Question:  There’s a report which says that there are about 100,000 pregnant women in danger by the waterborne diseases because of a lack of medical supplies.  Can you corroborate that report at all?  That report has been circulated by another agency working in Pakistan on this.  Can OCHA say something about that?

Spokesperson:  I will ask.  I don’t have any guidance on that here now.  What I can tell you is clearly many health centres and clinics were hit by the flood waters and it’s going to be many months before those kinds of buildings and other official public buildings that provide services to the community can be rebuilt or refurbished.  The reason I mention that is obviously a large number of pregnant women without proper medical care — that is clearly a major concern.  I will ask my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and from the World Health Organization if they have any further details on that.

Question:  Two things.  What does the UN know about these Russian pilots that have been reportedly taken hostage in Darfur?  [The Russian Federation] says that the Sudanese Government seems well-acquainted with those who took them.  So, I’m just wondering what UNAMID is doing.  Also, I see that the Secretary-General met with Margot Wallström today at 10:30 a.m.  I’m wondering if we can get both a read out of that meeting, and/or better yet, have Ms. Wallström, while she’s in New York, have some media availability about the issue on which she’s the main advocate, about rapes in the Congo.

Spokesperson:  On the first question on the Russian pilots, this was a crew working for a private Sudanese aviation company and they were abducted yesterday by unknown armed assailants at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon near their accommodation in Nyala in South Darfur.  We understand that the Government of Sudan is investigating the incident.  You asked about UNAMID’s role — UNAMID is of course ready to provide advice and assistance in this case, if requested.

Question: I thought that Mr. Margelov had said that they were performing duties for UNAMID.  But you’re saying they were working for a private company.  Was that company in turn doing work for UNAMID?

Spokesperson:  As I understand it, this was a private Sudanese aviation company that was under contract, indirectly, to provide food supplies.  But I would need to find out more details.  At the moment, what I can tell is what I just said.  On Ms. Wallström, that meeting is actually taking place this afternoon now.  There was a slight rescheduling of meetings and that will be taking place this afternoon.  Typically, as I’ve mentioned before, we don’t give read outs of internal consultations.  I will see, given the circumstances and the obvious interest in this story, whether we can get something.  And as for her media availability, I believe we will be able to arrange something for tomorrow.   

Question:  Last week at the [inaudible] UN Human Rights Council, [inaudible] from the United States was submitted praising many of [United States President Barack] Obama’s domestic reforms.  I was wondering if there will come a UN response to this.  Is [inaudible] planning on commenting on this report?

Spokesperson:  Not really.  This is a Human Rights Council matter.  In any case, where it involves an individual country, it’s for an individual country to respond if it wishes.  But it’s not for us to comment on.

Question:  A question that I’m asking for a personal reason because the Dag Hammarskjold Scholarship Fund, which I chaired, quite often calls on Goodwill Ambassadors.  The World Health Organization terminated an ambassador who has helped us a lot and has now joined the European Union in another capacity.  They terminated a Goodwill Ambassador whose work they praised and said this was because of the Secretary-General’s guidelines.  I’ve checked on the guidelines.  The only guidelines I could find — I assume they’re from the Secretary-General — said that all contracts are terminated after two years, but are subject to renewal with agreement on both sides.  We know that you accept them.  With Angelina Jolie and Mia Farrow, it’s not been a two-year project.  I’m just curious of why, maybe you can check on it, why the WHO hides behind the Secretary-General’s rather general guidelines, rather than give a reason for terminating Goodwill Ambassadors.

Spokesperson:  Ok, this is one case.

Question:  This is one case.  I don’t know if there are others.  I’ll give you the letter.

Spokesperson:  Alright, let’s see what we can find out.

Question:  There are these reports over the weekend of Ethiopian troops crossing into Somalia.  I guess, that I sense, that Mr. [Augustine P.] Mahiga that’s covering the country, and also because that would be obviously sort of a threat or a least be relevant to international peace and security.  Does the UN have any knowledge or is it tracking whether in fact these crossings of the border by hundreds, or some say thousands, of Ethiopian troops have taken place?

Spokesperson: I’m aware of the reports.  We’re trying to find out. 

Question: I saw the statement, but I’m wondering, one of the IAC people says they briefed the Secretary-General for 15 minutes.  They said they had a real back-and-forth discussion.  On a particular point in their suggestions, they talk about the lack of a conflict of interest in the disclosure policy of the IPCC.  There was controversy around Mr. Pachauri, although he himself didn’t take money from these outside engagements.  But it was never disclosed how much was being taken.  So they propose that there be a policy, that there be disclosure.  I just wonder if that’s something that the Secretary-General took note of and if he thinks that the disclosure should be public, as he said, within the United Nations system, i.e. some form available not only to Member States but to the public at large.

Spokesperson:  You will have seen the statement that says that the Secretary-General believes it’s vital that the world receives the best possible climate assessments through an IPCC that operates at the highest levels of professionalism, objectivity, responsiveness and transparency.  He looks forward to reading the review’s recommendations.  You have it in your hands there.  It’s an important document.  He has not read it yet.  He was just given it this morning.  But as you can also see, not only does he look forward to reading the review’s recommendations, but he’s also urging the 194 member Governments of the IPCC to study the InterAcademy Council review carefully and to take appropriate action as soon as possible — the point being that it’s in the hands of those member Governments who are part of the IPCC.

Question:  On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as you know President Obama is hosting a meeting between the parties to the conflict plus the President of Egypt, [Mohamed Hosni] Mubarek, and King of Jordan, King Abdullah [Bin Al Hussein], and the representative of the Quartet, Mr. Tony Blair.  Is the Secretary-General playing any role at all in this initial meeting in Washington?

Spokesperson:  No, as I mentioned to you, he is travelling to Liechtenstein and Austria.  As you mentioned yourself there, the Quartet envoy will be there.  That’s the shape it’s taking at the moment.  As you well know, in the run up to these important, direct talks, the Secretary-General and others were involved in helping to bring that together.  This is something that’s taking place in Washington with the help of the United States authorities. 

Question:  When is the new humanitarian coordinator taking over to replace Mr. [John] Holmes and is she going to be travelling to Pakistan also? 

Spokesperson:  I believe Ms. [Valerie] Amos is starting in September.  I don’t know exactly when, because obviously September is on us in the space of just another day.  I’m sure that we can get you that date.  As for her travel plans, one would assume that she would want to establish herself here in New York.  But I can’t speak for her at this point.  Clearly, she has plenty of advice from people on the ground who can tell her what’s going on and let’s see what happens.  Yes?  [The Spokesperson later added that the Valerie Amos will start as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs on 6 September.]

Question:  Mr. Jean-Maurice Ripert… we work with him.  How does it work in the field?  What is his exact role?

Spokesperson:  His role is as Special Envoy for Assistance to Pakistan.  His role is to work with all the United Nations players on the ground and to be able to advise the Secretary-General on the shape of those developments.  As you know, first of all he visited — at the Secretary-General’s request — Pakistan.  Immediately it became apparent the extent of the floods, which, as we’ve said, is something that built up over time.  As soon as it became clear how drastic the situation was, the Secretary-General asked Mr. Ripert to go there and to report back.  This he did firstly with an initial report from on the ground and then a longer assessment on leaving Pakistan.  It was based on those assessments, the Secretary-General then visited himself and Mr. Ripert joined him for that visit.  He is closely involved in this.  His deputy is actually based in Pakistan and is able to brief him the whole time on what’s happening.  Yes?

Question:  Is he in Pakistan now or is he at home?

Spokesperson:  Where he is at the moment, I’m not sure.  We can find out.  But as I can say, he has been actively on the ground repeatedly and briefed repeatedly.  His role as an advisor to the Secretary-General is obviously an important one.  He is fully up to speed on what’s happening.  Yes, final question/

Question:  I guess it was Friday, there was this discussion as to whether Rwanda had made a threat to the UN to withdraw its support for peacekeeping in light of the report.  There, over the weekend, emerged a description of a 3 August letter from the Foreign Minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, to the Secretary-General saying that attempts to take action on this report either through the release or leaks to the media will force us to withdraw Rwanda’s various commitments to the UN, especially in the area of peacekeeping.  One, can you confirm that… You said it was improper.  But now this letter seems to be out.  Was that threat made and what is the UN’s response — whether you call it a threat or not — to the statement that Rwanda would pull its peacekeepers, particularly from the UNAMID mission?  

Spokesperson:  Two things, I said already that I can confirm that there was correspondence.  But I would not want to characterize the contents of the letter or letters that were received by the United Nations.  That would not be appropriate.  United Nations peacekeeping operations very much appreciate Rwanda’s troop contribution as well as their performance under UN command.  As you know, Rwanda has, as I understand it, as of 31 July, 3,485 soldiers in Darfur and 143 police officers and 24 staff officers there and in other locations.  That’s what I can tell you.

Question:  The problem is if the report comes out without the word genocide in it, some are going to wonder whether the report wasn’t true or whether it was because of this threat.

Spokesperson:  We’ve all seen the leaked draft report that regrettably found its way into the public domain before being finalized.  The final version is going to be published in due course quite soon.  You and others will be able to compare the two and you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions at that point.    

Question:  This is a wild card of a threat.  That’s what it seems.  This is the last thing I’ll say on it.  It was said that Ban Ki-moon had some concern that the word genocide might not be the right word for what took place in the Congo in that timeframe.  So, that’s one concern.  The problem with not sort of addressing whether this threat was made or not is that it’s unclear if there is a change.  I mean, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it…  

Spokesperson:  A change in what?

Question:  If the final report is different.  We’ll see if it happens.

Spokesperson:  Exactly.  I think that’s probably the best thing, to take a look.

Question:  If Rwanda releases this letter, would you then comment on it?

Spokesperson:  Again, you seem to be on a hypothetical strand today.  Let’s not go down that road.

Alright, thank you very much.

Question:  Do you have a date for the release?

Spokesperson: As I said, quite soon.  No date yet.

* *** *

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