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

15 September 2010

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

15 September 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, everyone.

**Noon Guest

I am very pleased to have Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, with us as the guest at today’s briefing.  This is her first briefing since taking up her post, and she will also talk to you about her visit last week to the flood-affected areas in Pakistan.

And just on that topic, we also have a joint press release available in our Office, from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP), on their work to address urgent food security challenges in Pakistan.  An estimated 10 million people there are vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition.  There’s also a press release on the millions of Pakistanis who remain without proper sanitation.

[Press Conference by Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, issued separately]

Just a couple of items for you.

**Security Council

The Security Council voted unanimously this morning to extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) by one year, until the end of September 2011, and then the Council then went into consultations.  Council members first discussed non-proliferation and then they talked about the terms of reference for a proposed Security Council trip to Sudan.

The Council President is expected to read a press statement on Sudan once today’s consultations are over. 

Later, the Security Council held consultations to discuss the extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN); the present mandate expires at the end of today.  They’re expected to go into formal meetings soon to vote on the mandate.  And as we informed you yesterday after the briefing, we received letters yesterday on the Mission’s mandate from both the Government of Nepal and the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist; both of those letters have been transmitted to the Security Council.

**Maternal Health

The number of women dying because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth has decreased by 34 per cent, down from an estimated 546,000 in 1990 to 358,000 in 2008.  But while the progress is notable, the annual rate of decline is less than half than what’s needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the maternal mortality ration by 75 per cent between 1990 and 2015. 

That’s one of the key findings highlighted in a new report from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank.  The report is called Trends in Maternal Mortality and you can find out more about this, more on this in my Office and online.

**Secretary-General and Millennium Development Goals Swimmer

And in just a couple of hours from now, the Secretary-General will be on the other side of the East River — almost directly across from the UN Headquarters — where he’ll meet Marcos Diaz, a Dominican swimmer who’s swum across five continents to build global awareness and support for the Millennium Development Goals.

Mr. Diaz will be swimming from the Statue of Liberty to Gantry Park, which, as I say, is on the other side of the East River from UN Headquarters, where he’ll end his epic swim and present the Secretary-General with messages of support for the Millennium Development Goals that he’s collected from people around the world.  We have more details on this in a press release.

**Internet Governance

Some 1,000 experts have been discussing managing critical Internet resources and issues of access and diversity today, at the fifth meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), which is being held in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week.  There is also a Millennium Development Goals theme to this event this year. 

The Forum brings together representatives of Governments, international organizations, the Internet community, the private sector, civil society and the media to discuss Internet-related public policy and governance matters.  And you’re able to follow the proceedings live by webcast, and it’s also possible to participate remotely.

I’m happy to take questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can you tell us if the flotilla panel has handed its preliminary report into the Secretary-General and if so, can you tell us anything about the report, what will happen now, any details?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I do know is that the report has been delivered, this interim report has been delivered to the Secretary General’s Office.  He hasn’t personally read it himself yet; we’re waiting for further information about the report right now and then I’ll be able to share that with you once it’s ready.  I can also tell you that the panel met for a second time, I think you may well be aware, in New York on 2 and 3 September and that meeting continued the constructive tone that characterized its first meeting.  I would also say that I think you can anticipate hearing something further from my Office later in the day about the flotilla report.

Question:  Do you know if it will be made public, aside from your comments this afternoon?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said to you before, collectively, not personally, I would suggest that this is a rather technical report, procedural interim report, and so we need to wait to see whether the Secretary-General believes that that should be published or not.

Question:  Is the information we were waiting for later related to whether the SG will transfer that report to the Security Council?  Is this what we’re expected to get?

Spokesperson:  I think we need to wait until a little bit later to be able to answer that part of your question.

Question:  I was wondering, in view of what is happening in India, of Kashmir, especially in today’s report in all the newspapers that there’s a 24-hour curfew and seven days a week.  Do you have any statement on that?

Spokesperson:  As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General is aware of what’s happening and is closely following what’s happening.  I don’t have anything for you at the moment.  If and when I do, I would be keen to share that with you, but I don’t have anything at the moment.

Question:  Is he engaged in some type of quiet diplomacy in trying to defuse this crisis in Kashmir?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think by definition, if he was, I wouldn’t say.  I think that this is something that I would need to wait if there is something further to say in general on this topic, which I know you’re very interested in.  I fully appreciate your interest in this, but I don’t have anything for you on it right now.

Question:  I want to know if the Secretary-General is likely to talk to the press about the interim report at any time.

Spokesperson:  I think, as I’ve said, this report is an interim one.  It’s been put together by the panel of inquiry.  They met earlier this month for the second time; this is part of a work in progress.  I think this is something the Secretary-General is closely monitoring.  That’s why he wanted an interim report.  I don’t think that it’s likely that he will necessarily come out and speak publicly about that specifically, but there are plenty of occasions coming up in the coming days when the Secretary-General will be publicly available to journalists, and so I think that may well answer your question.

Question:  On Myanmar and something about MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] promotion, promotions by the UN.   On Myanmar, the National League, the NLD [National League for Democracy] has been dissolved by the Government.  They had previously voluntarily chosen to boycott the election, and I think the UN had said, well it’s up to parties what they want to do.  But now the Government has dissolved them and the party.  The NLD has said that this is an illegal move by the Government, that they’re protesting the dissolution of their political party by the Government.  So I’m wondering, given the good offices role, given the run-up now to this election, what’s the UN where it previously it sort of said, “well, the NLD can boycott if they choose”, what about the Government dissolving this historic force for democracy in Myanmar?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General notes with some concern the decision by the Union Election Commission to dissolve 10 political parties prior to the general election, including the National League for Democracy and four others for failing to renew their registration, and he further notes that the Union Election Commission has issued campaigning guidelines for the remaining 37 parties to register to contest the elections.  The Secretary-General once again urges the Myanmar authorities to ensure conditions conducive for a fully inclusive and participatory electoral process.

Question:  Thanks a lot for that.  What’s the involvement of Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar in the good offices and what does the Secretary-General hope to come out of the meeting of the Secretary-General’s Friends on Myanmar in the upcoming general debate?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’re fully familiar with Mr. Nambiar’s good offices role related to Myanmar.  The Group of Friends meeting, which would be at ministerial level, is likely to be on 27 [September].  Further details are being worked out on that, including press availability, and I think at that point, after the meeting, you’ll be able to find out the content of the meeting.

Question:  Just about Mr. Nambiar, because I’m actually not clear on what the office does.  I wanted to know, on something like this, did they know in advance that this decision was being made by the Government?  Had they spoken to the NLD about these concerns or are they just reacting to the stories about it?  I don’t meant that insultingly, I just mean, I’m just trying to get a sense, did that office try to forestall this decision by the Government, or are they as mystified as everyone else?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are a couple of things here.  Mr. Nambiar has support, people who are obviously able to help him, who are monitoring this daily, the whole time.  Therefore, they will clearly have been aware of movements.  What the diplomatic process might entail, I’m not in a position to say.  I would reiterate what the Secretary-General himself has said.  He’s expressed his frustration here on the access to the Myanmar authorities to talk about these kinds of things, so I think that might answer your question.

Question:  Martin, do you have a schedule for the second or final report of the flotilla? 

Spokesperson:  We said that would be approaching in February, if I remember correctly.  But we’ve also said that it’s for the panel to be able to decide that based on the work they are doing and as the work progresses.

Question:  Regarding the meeting on the MDGs, is there at this stage a preliminary list of representatives, including the level?  And if not, when would that be available?

Spokesperson:  Well, as the Secretary-General mentioned on Monday, already approaching 140, I think 139, Heads of State or Heads of Government will be attending, which is a rather large number, as you know.  The exact list of participants is being put together to be made available to you and to others, and I would be able to come back to you on that.  It’s clearly extremely encouraging that such a large number of Heads of State and Government believe that it is important to come together at this time to look at how to push forward in the last five years to help us to achieve those Millennium Development Goals.

Question:  Is there a date set for the next flotilla meeting?

Spokesperson:  This is up to the panel members as and when they meet and wish to communicate their meeting to me and to you, I’d be happy to tell you.  I’m not aware at the moment of the meeting date.

Question:  There is a UN, seemingly UN-funded, definitely UN website called weekendinpoverty.eu with all the UN logo, et cetera.  It held a competition of photographs about, to promote the MDGs, the Millennium campaign about the MDGs.  Kiyotaka Akasaka was one of the jurors, Philip [inaudible] is one of the supporters.  And among the finalists was a photograph chosen, which shows the head of President [Barack] Obama superimposed on the head of a starving African child.  Some have said this is in bad taste.  A number of people that actually raised it to me said it was sort of surprising that this would be on a UN website.  So I’m wondering — I don’t expect you to give artistic judgment and I’m all for free expression, etc.  But I’m wondering, what is the UN’s role — maybe you’ll be able to find this out — what’s the UN’s role, both in this website, in the competition, what was Mr. Akasaka’s role in selecting this particular photograph of Obama is imposed on a starving child?  I guess that’s my question.

Spokesperson:  I’m aware of the websites.  I don’t have an answer for you at the moment.  I’d be happy to find one for you.

Alright, thank you very much.  Good afternoon, everyone.  Thank you.

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