Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
|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.
As you heard, the Secretary-General announced today that he has appointed Michelle Bachelet, the former President of Chile, as the head of UN Women, the newly created UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. UN Women, you will recall, was established on 2 July by the General Assembly resolution which merged the various bodies in the UN system dealing with women and gender.
The Secretary-General said that Ms. Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic global leadership, highly honed political skills and an uncommon ability to create consensus and focus among UN agencies and many partners in both the public and private sector. He expressed his confidence that under her strong leadership, we can improve the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world.
We have his remarks and more details on Ms. Bachelet in my office.
**Sixty-Fifth General Assembly
The opening of the sixty-fifth regular session of the General Assembly is taking place in the General Assembly Hall at 3 p.m. today. And, an hour later in this same briefing room, the President of the sixty-fifth General Assembly session, Joseph Deiss, will be here to speak with you about the session. We have embargoed copies of Mr. Deiss’ opening statement to the General Assembly available from my office.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that large parts of Pakistan’s Sindh province are still under water, with 12 per cent of the province being shown by satellite imagery to still be flooded. In Balochistan, authorities estimate that there are currently 400,000 flood-displaced people in the division — approximately half are from Sindh. It is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of the displaced population in the division has yet to be reached with humanitarian assistance.
The Humanitarian Affairs Office adds that floodwaters in affected districts of Punjab continue to recede, but pools of stagnant water remain, posing major health risks. As of today the Pakistan Floods Emergency Response Plan is 67 per cent funded. The appeal has received $308.9 million out of the $459.7 million requested. A revised appeal will be launched on 17 September in New York, that’s this coming Friday.
I am also pleased to say that our guest tomorrow at noon will be Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will be here for the first time to brief the UN press corps. As you know, she just returned from Pakistan last week.
Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, today discussed the arrangements in place for the forthcoming legislative elections in the country. He said that the elections are not going to be perfect, but, based on all the preparations that the Afghan authorities have been taking, we feel that they are going to be much better than the previous ones.
He noted the placement of some 292,000 national candidate and party agents and observers who will be watching out for any signs of fraud, as well as the efforts put in place by the Afghan electoral bodies. De Mistura said that, in particular by announcing the polling centres publicly one month in advance, the electoral authorities have given all Afghans a chance to exercise their vote in order to push for democracy. We have his press briefing transcript from Kabul in my office.
Officers from the Southern Sudan Police Service (SSPS) have arrived in the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba for the start of a five-day course to teach prospective trainers about security issues related to the 2011 Southern Sudan self-determination referendum.
Ann-Marie Orler, Police Adviser and Director in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, underscored the UN’s commitment to support the SSPS before, during, and after the referendum. Ms. Orler began a three-day visit to Southern Sudan on 12 September. She said that one of the biggest challenges facing many members of the Southern Sudanese police force was their lack of experience and instruction in law enforcement before joining its ranks.
**Food and Agriculture Organization
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) today said that the number of hungry people in the world remains unacceptably high despite expected recent gains that have pushed the figure below 1 billion.
The new estimate of the number of people who will suffer chronic hunger this year is 925 million — that’s 98 million fewer people from 1.023 billion in 2009. The FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf, said: “This is absolutely unacceptable.” He warned that the continuing high global hunger level “makes it extremely difficult to achieve not only the first Millennium Development Goal but also the rest of the MDGs.”
**Press Conference Tomorrow
And finally, tomorrow at 11 a.m., here in this room, the UN Office for Partnerships will hold a press conference about the annual Louis Blouin Creative Leadership Summit, which will take place from 22 to 23 September in New York.
Questions, please. Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Martin, on Pakistan, do we have a summit planned during the GA work here at the UN? Do we have final…?
Spokesperson: There will be a high-level meeting this coming Sunday here in New York that will bring together key players to look at where we are, of course, to take a snapshot of how the relief efforts are going on. And also to take a look at the recovery efforts that will be required. And I am sure that Ms. Amos tomorrow will be able to give you a little bit more detail about that. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin. As you know, I have been raising the questions about the inactivity of the Alliance of Civilizations given the fact that we have had some manifestation of intolerance recently. And the answer given to me was that it was domestic issues and they will not interfere. Now, as you know, the Secretary-General has announced a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations to take place soon on this issue of intolerance. Do you think the Secretary-General will be in favour of more regular active meetings of the Alliance?
Spokesperson: Well, as you heard the Secretary-General say at the press conference on Monday, the Alliance of Civilizations meeting will be taking place at a high-level here in New York on the margins of the General Assembly. One meeting on its own at whatever level is not going to solve everything. It’s important not just to have the meetings, but to follow up. And there is a lot of follow-up, particularly on education for young people, which is absolutely crucial in this question. So, I think that what the Secretary-General would like to see is not only the meetings taking place, but for the follow-up to continue. There is a real groundswell of support for the Alliance of Civilizations, a growing number of countries — as you heard the Secretary-General say — is now more than 120 out of the UN membership of 192. This is encouraging; and in addition to the meetings, let’s have the follow-through. Masood?
Question: Martin, it is considered that the Secretary-General is the moral voice of the international community. I mean, as such, the United Nations doesn’t have a force and so forth to enforce certain things that [inaudible]. In case of what has happened in India in the last, since June, and what has happened in the last two days; people have been killed, the Secretary-General still refuses to say anything or to comment on the situation in Kashmir.
Question: I would like to understand why. What has happened?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, the Secretary-General is well aware of the reports coming from India. And secondly, even when we have something to say, I will let you know.
Question: Martin, I mean, there was something said and then withdrawn. What I am saying is, what we can’t understand, not that that anybody has one way or another — it’s just that, I mean the Secretary-General is not harming anything by just lending his [inaudible] or harming his relationship with India or what have you, you know [inaudible].
Spokesperson: I really do — I am sorry to interrupt you. I really do hear what you are saying, Masood, and as I mentioned to you, the Secretary-General is very well aware of what’s happening in the last couple of days and indeed in the previous weeks. If I have something to tell you, I will. I don’t at the moment. That could change. But I do not have something right now. Okay. I hear what you are saying and I am hoping that my colleagues who help me on this are also hearing what you’re saying. Thank you very much. Ali?
Question: Yes, just to follow up on Mr. Abbadi’s question. Is the Secretary-General planning to host any kind of meeting between the Arab or the Turkish with the Israelis during the high-level meeting on the Alliance of Civilizations?
Spokesperson: As you heard the Secretary-General say, there will be a bewildering array of bilateral and multilateral meetings during the course of the General Assembly. To my knowledge — it could change — but to my knowledge there is no specific meeting in the format that you have mentioned. Clearly there is a strong focus on the Middle East peace process. The Secretary-General mentioned about the Quartet principals’ meeting that will be followed immediately by a meeting with the League of Arab States leaders. There will be other, as I say, bilateral meetings that will take into account undoubtedly the countries you mention. And that will probably be the way that it’s handled. If that changes, I will obviously let you know. Yes, James?
Question: Thank you, Martin. It’s a diary question.
Spokesperson: A diary question?
Question: Yeah. And I think tomorrow is the date that we were told the panel of inquiry into the Gaza flotilla produces its interim report.
Question: Can you just let us know if it’s going to be available to the SG tomorrow or available to us and what kind of time we might get it?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, it’s something that would be submitted to the Secretary-General. I would suggest to you that it is extremely technical in nature, as I understand it. And I also would suggest to you that it’s unlikely to be published; in other words, made publicly available. The interim report, because of its technical nature - it’s not looking at the full substance, because we’re still in a preliminary stage. But if I have more, I will let you know. But… yes.
Question: Is it a procedural report or, what do you mean by technical?
Spokesperson: Procedural, yes. So, but if that changes, I will let you know and certainly we would be able to advise that it’s reached the Secretary-General’s desk. Okay? Yes, Matthew?
Question: Some questions about Sudan and then something about an event hat took place here yesterday. On Sudan, the Joint Mediator, Mr. Bassolé, has said in a number of places that he intends or desires to bring Khalil Ibrahim, the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) into Darfur as part of his peace mediation role. The Sudanese Government has said that they haven’t been asked for permission and the quote from their statement is “the UN cannot take such action without the knowledge and consent of the Sudanese Government”. So, I guess I wanted to… it’s also… the same article says that Ban Ki-moon is in favour of this bringing of Khalil Ibrahim from Libya back to Darfur. One, is Ban in favour of that? Is he aware of that? And two, has the UN sought the Sudanese Government’s permission to do so?
Spokesperson: Let me find out.
Question: I also wanted, on Thursday when I asked the Secretary-General about the inaction of the UN peacekeepers in Tawilla to go to the Tarbat market where some 50 people were killed. He said that Mr. Gambari had come to the meeting in Austria and they had some discussions. I guess, can you say whether… has UNAMID changed its policies at all in terms of awaiting permission from the Government before going out? There has now been a call for an investigation for those killings, and I just wonder, I just wanted to know a little bit more about what - also JEM has asked for Mr. Gambari to resign based on the inaction of UNAMID in the death of civilians. What, can you say a little bit more about what was said in Austria or what the Secretary-General is telling UNAMID to do when he gets reports of civilians being killed [inaudible] peacekeepers?
Spokesperson: Well, Matthew, you asked the Secretary-General the question and he gave you an answer, and indeed volunteered that Mr. Gambari had come to Vienna specifically to brief him on conditions on the ground. I don’t have any further details on what was discussed there. That’s the first thing. The second thing is on the other matters that you have raised, I will certainly see what I can find out.
Question: And one more on Sudan. There is [inaudible] this response. Humanitarian groups have for some time complained that the UN stopped producing something called the Darfur Humanitarian Report, they believe at the request of the Government. But on a specific piece of information that used to be in the report, which was malnutrition information about Darfur, I asked the spokesman for UNAMID a month ago, where is the information? Their response was, a limited amount of information of malnutrition data for Darfur has been verified which will be available in the next one to two days. Remaining data is still in the process of verification and will be released once verification is complete. Nothing has been released and I haven’t received any further information from UNAMID. And I’m, just wondering, I’m not assuming you have it in your folders there, but it strikes me as something that either OCHA or UNAMID, you know, should come forward with. Can you… Is there some way to access such information?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s a weighty folder indeed.
Spokesperson: But that is not in there.
Spokesperson: And given that you’ve been in direct contact, which is not a bad idea, with UNAMID…
Question: …the contact has run dry, apparently, once…
Spokesperson: You mean you don’t get a response any more?
Correspondent: That’s correct.
Spokesperson: Right. Okay, let’s see if we can.
Question: And in response to [inaudible] I can wait.
Spokesperson: No, you started it, so why not finish it?
Question: Okay, it will be very brief. There was an event in this room yesterday evening. It was apparently, it seemed to be sponsored by the Kazakh Mission. It had a speaker from DPKO called Norman Atkins. There was cheese cubes and white wine outside. But the programme of the event says at the bottom of it “sponsored by the Trump Group”. And on the back of the programme there is an advertisement for Miami Beach real estate. So, I wanted to know what are the UN’s rules in terms of commercial, or in this case, real estate interests sponsoring events in the UN or in this room? And were the rules violated in this instance, and if so what will be done about it?
Spokesperson: Go back to the beginning. Whose event was it?
Question: It was… I’ll say it lists on it, it does… actually, it’s kind of strange. I only ask because I asked and they said the Kazakh Mission has asked for the space. But the whole thing was run, not only did it have Aramark, it had Facilities Management Services coordinating it. I actually asked Ms. Kane this question, but I wasn’t really clear on her answer, which is why I wanted to ask you. It’s not, it was in the UN and the Kazakh Mission asked permission of the UN to use the space. But it was a UN-sponsored, the flags were up. And I just wondered, I mean maybe there is some variation of events. I mean, of different kinds of events. But an event, even if sponsored by a Mission - is it appropriate to have the thing sponsored by a commercial entity? And is there a review of these entities that could sponsor. Could an arms manufacturer sponsor an event in this room? Could, I mean, a pornography company? [inaudible] just asking?
Spokesperson: Let me find out, Matthew.
Spokesperson: Yeah. I think we go right to the back first. Yes?
Question: Guinea’s electoral commission is now saying that it’s very improbable that the second round of elections is going to take place on Sunday. So, I guess I have two questions. First, it’s a very controversial decision because the frontrunner is accusing the Government of doing this as a way to boost the man who is running behind. So, I am wondering if the UN has a position on this. But I am also wondering what kind of presence the UN has in terms of helping prepare for the election? The commission is saying that the reason it’s being delayed is just technical issues.
Spokesperson: Yeah, I’ve seen those reports. We’ve seen those reports and I will see if I can get some more for you on the second question. On the first, I do understand from what I have seen that this is of a technical nature, and it’s not yet clear to us that the vote will be postponed. That there’s a delay and suspension of the campaigning, but whether that will lead to a postponement of the actual vote is not clear to us. So, we need to look into that. As I say, on the second question, I will see if we can get some more for you on that. Yes, Masood? Now I am coming to you, Nadia. [The Spokesperson later said that the UN Office for West Africa has said that it is not for the UN to comment on press speculations that it could be postponed.]
Question: [inaudible] Ms. Valerie Amos’s visit to Pakistan, which she expressed her horror at the situation going on over there, and lack of funding for the United Nations own people who are helping people over there. Can you give us an idea or we have to wait until she comes here? So, how much of an upgrade she is going to ask for in the appeal? Is it going to be 1 billion? What’s the situation?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think you’d really expect me, Masood, to steal Ms. Amos’s thunder, particularly as it would be her first briefing. Clearly, the needs are enormous. How enormous I think Ms. Amos will be in a position to sketch out to you tomorrow. But, as I also mentioned right at the beginning, there will be this high-level meeting on Sunday. And clearly there will be more detail that’s either flowing from that or discussed there.
Question: [inaudible] to steal the thunder, no. I just wanted to find out so that — people out there are desperate. That’s the only reason.
Spokesperson: Yeah, of course, of course. And Ms. Amos is a true expert, and she is also, as you know, her first day officially in the job was in Pakistan. I think that is a clear indication of her commitment to helping the people of Pakistan and to also to ensuring that the humanitarian community, both UN and NGO, is supported to the best possible extent. An appeal and then a follow-up appeal in both cases, you know, this is hugely important. What is arguably more important is that once the appeal is made that the pledges come in. So, that’s what senior officials from the Secretary-General on down have repeatedly said. Thank you very much for the generosity so far, and we look forward to even greater generosity for this existing emergency response plan and then for the follow-up appeal, which will be announced on Friday.
Question: [inaudible] meeting that’s taking place on the 19th in Pakistan? Is this part of the process?
Spokesperson: It’s one of a number of meetings. If you want to describe it as a process, right. There a number of meetings with the aim of looking at the immediate relief efforts. And as we have heard today and there is quite a lot of really good detail in the UN briefing in Geneva today. I would urge you take a look at that. Some very, very interesting and disturbing statistics and detail. So, please do take a look at that. This is, as I say, the relief effort we need to be able to take stock of that. But also, in parallel, various UN and other agencies — and not the least the Pakistani Government - are looking at the medium- and longer-term picture. How do you recover from a disaster of this scale? And that’s why these meetings, including the one on Sunday are an important part of that process. Nadia, I think you had a question?
Question: Yes, I had a question about Guinea.
Question: I have met the Guinea community in New York [inaudible] UN position in their actual crisis. So, they told me the UN is for the [inaudible] no matter what. But the post-conflict, the post-election has made one die, the violence, and the what, the Djinni, the person who supervised the election has died. Actually is a big problem. I want to know the UN position - if you encouraged to go to the second round of the election, no matter what will happen after the violence post-election. We have, I think if you know the actuality you will see what has happened before. It has been more than 100 persons dead for the violence, when this man has been pushed out. So, now I want to know the UN position, because yesterday you were protecting the UN position in their conflict.
Spokesperson: Okay. Well, as I mentioned in response to the earlier question, we’re aware of the reports from Guinea on the suspension of the campaigning in the run-up to the vote. It isn’t clear whether the vote itself would be postponed. So, let’s see if we can find out some more, indeed, also to answer your specific question. Okay, yes, please?
Question: Martin, two short questions. One about the Secretary-General’s involvement into the direct negotiations in Washington. How involved is he directly? Does he speak with the parties directly during these direct talks? That’s the first question. The second is that there are reports in the Middle East, in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, saying that actually the Secretary-General is going to bring [a] new perspective for a solution on the island. He is going to come up with a new formulation and it’s kind of very mysterious to us. Can you…?
Spokesperson: And mysterious to me, too. As you know, just to answer your second question first, the Secretary-General and his Special Adviser Alexander Downer have been extremely, I would say, extremely involved and committed to finding a solution to this long-running question. This obviously requires the leaders and the people of both communities to work in a spirit of compromise, which they have indeed been doing. If there is anything further along the lines you have suggested, then we’ll let you know. To my knowledge the series of meetings — and as you know, the focus has been on property — most recently they continue. As to the first question about Washington, or rather the direct talks; as the Secretary-General has mentioned to you himself most recently at the press conference here, he plays a role where appropriate. In the run up to the talks that did involve his direct contact with leaders, not just on that topic, but on other topics too. As you know, he is a principal in the Quartet. We would see his involvement in that context and obviously wherever — and the Secretary-General said that himself on Monday — wherever he can be useful and helpful, he most certainly will be. Yes.
Question: [inaudible] yesterday that there were going to be three meetings on nuclear disarmament which is going to be on 24th. Can I ask the dates of the meeting on terrorism and [inaudible]? And also my second question is about this interim report of the flotilla commission. When Secretary-General receives the report, is he going to submit it to the Security Council and are they going to have a meeting about it?
Spokesperson: On the first, we will find out the dates. They are available. I don’t have them right in front of me. Obviously, they are available. And I will be happy to share those with you and with others. On the flotilla panel, the interim report goes to the Secretary-General and then he would decide what happens next. Yes.
Question: I am a journalist from Nepal. I am one of the Dag Hammarskjöld fellows.
Spokesperson: I remember, yeah.
Question: My name is Mohesh. I have one question related to my country itself. Nepal has been going through very tough times these days. The peace process is in critical condition and there has been controversy going on over the United Nations Mission in Nepal. The Secretary-General and his Special Representative have also mentioned about the critical condition of Nepal’s peace process in different regards. Along with this, the United Nations has been dragged into a controversy by the political parties in Nepal; a question about its clear role. So, what is [the] UN’s formal position on Nepal’s critical peace process and its parties questioning United Nations impartiality?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you will have seen the Secretary-General’s report on the Mission and I think that speaks for itself. If we have anything further on that, I will be happy to provide it to you. Okay. I am going to take… [The Spokesperson later confirmed that letters had been received from the Government of Nepal and the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, and the letters were transmitted to the Security Council.]
Question: Did you get the letters sent by the Government and certain Maoists this morning?
Spokesperson: Say again?
Question: Did you get the letters that were sent by…
Spokesperson: I have seen reports about letters. We would need to check whether they have been received. When a Government or an NGO or a political party says that it has sent a letter, it hasn’t necessarily dropped into the inbox or to the in-tray at that point here at United Nations Headquarters. So, we’ll need to check to see what the status is. Yeah, I’m going to take, okay, two questions. Erol and then Sylvia and then okay, and then that’s it for today.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Why is it… I have a question about Sri Lanka, and I would like to ask it.
Spokesperson: Yeah, you had a lot of questions, Matthew. I am very happy to take a question on Sri Lanka, but you gave me a laundry list of questions.
Question: [inaudible] is there something I am missing here? There wasn’t a noon briefing yesterday.
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, Matthew; first of all, there wasn’t a briefing yesterday and you know why there wasn’t a briefing - because the Secretary-General gave a press conference. And if you say you didn’t get to ask a question, you got to ask a question at the stakeout, as you mentioned yourself. You know, swings and roundabouts. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. You’re very welcome to ask a question about Sri Lanka, but let’s get to it and then. To answer your question, do we, is there a time limit? We could sit here all day if you wanted. But I think that it makes sense for it to be in a concentrated doses. Most productive in that way, I think.
Question: [inaudible] it’s the UN that actually, on many of these countries, that doesn’t get enough coverage. So, I think you would welcome questions about Nepal, Sri Lanka and other countries.
Spokesperson: As I have just said, Matthew, I am very happy to answer a question on Sri Lanka, but let me go to some other people first. You did ask a long series of questions about Sudan and other things, and Kazakhstan hosting an event here yesterday with cheese cubes. So I think you’ve had quite a wide range of questions and let’s get there. Let’s get there, okay? Right, Erol?
Question: Thank you, Martin. Just to, if I can follow up on yesterday’s question, which I partly used the answer of the Secretary-General. But my question was also whether the Secretary-General, as he somehow expressed does he fear that this issue on the Macedonia name, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, can become a frozen issue, since it is going on for 17 years. And I also put it, if I may repeat it, whether the Secretary-General thinks that it is going to be solved during his mandate, his first mandate or his mandate.
Spokesperson: Well, you asked the very same question here yesterday, I know, I have got it right in front of me, and I can see the answers that the Secretary-General gave. And I don’t think that I am going to go beyond what the Secretary-General said. He has repeatedly called for the necessity of addressing this issue with a sense of flexibility and mutual understanding, and he will continue to do that. And I don’t think that I would go beyond what he said yesterday. I think he gave a fairly detailed answer there. Yes, Sylvia?
Question: Thank you. There is a high-level meeting on disarmament and border control. Is it on the agenda next week?
Spokesperson: The high-level meeting in support of the Conference on Disarmament is on the 24th.
Question: The question is how many countries will be taking part?
Spokesperson: How many countries taking part? Let me check. I think it’s quite a long list at this point. But we will let you know.
Question: And do we know if the disarmament of Hizbullah will be on the agenda? And also, any update on the border control commission in the Lebanon and Syria, between Lebanon and Syria?
Spokesperson: Let’s see what we can find out. I am sure that my colleagues can help with the number of participants. The other two, we will need to see. All right. Okay, Matthew?
Spokesperson: Sri Lanka.
Question: On Sri Lanka, I wanted to ask this, since, recently there has been a removal of term limits on the president Mahendra Rajapaksa, saying that he can run forever, and The Economist magazine said that Rajapaksa has “preferred to put the consolidation of his family’s power ahead of solely needed national reconciliation.” The Government has now banned The Economist, this edition from the country. Since the Secretary-General, you know, has referred a lot to his May 2009 joint statement with Mr. Rajapaksa that includes references to accountability for war crimes and reconciliation, one — does he have any comment either on the extent that the elimination of term limits or on the banning of a publication? Two — the panel that he announced in March and that sort of convened once in July has it yet begun? Has the four-month clock begun? And just relatedly, two questions, can you describe the personal relationship of the Secretary-General with Mr. Rajapaksa, including prior to becoming Secretary-General? And, can you confirm that the Secretary-General’s son-in-law served in the Indian peacekeeping force that occupied Tamil areas of Sri Lanka during previous peace negotiations? Just as a factual matter to know what the Secretary-General’s connections to Sri Lanka are?
Spokesperson: On the term limits, that’s an internal matter for Sri Lanka. I don’t have any comment on that. On publications and the banning thereof or the difficulty of receiving in any place, our general view would be that freedom of the media is an essential part of, an essential ingredient for democracy in any country. You ask about the panel of experts — the panel members and support staff have been conducting intensive preparatory work, and indeed the panel will meet with the Secretary-General this week, marking the formal commencement of its activities. And as the final two questions, I will get back to you. All right, thank you. Good afternoon. Thank you.
* *** *