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

22 October 2010

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

22 October 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Thanks for your patience.  Good morning.


**Guest


We are about to have shortly with us, as the guest at the noon briefing, Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will brief you on her recent trip to Haiti.  That will be in just a few minutes.


First, I’ll just quickly go through a few notes.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General spoke to the Security Council today and discussed his recent report updating the work of the United Nations to support the African Union in peacekeeping.


In the past few years, he noted, the United Nations and the African Union have entered into a broad range of partnerships — from early warning and conflict prevention to peacekeeping and peacebuilding.  In July, the United Nations established its Office to the African Union in Addis Ababa, which the Secretary-General hopes will facilitate a consistent, coherent and strategic approach to the UN’s work with the African Union.


The Secretary-General said that AU peacekeeping operations should receive the same support as all UN peacekeepers, including reimbursement.  By the same token, he said, AU peacekeepers should uphold the same professional standards as UN personnel.  In the months ahead, the Secretary-General will submit a report that will help to define a strategic vision for UN-AU cooperation on peace and security.  And we have his remarks on today’s Council briefing.


We also would like to point out that the Secretary-General will have his monthly luncheon with the members of the Security Council this afternoon.


**Secretary-General at General Assembly


The Secretary-General will speak to an informal plenary session of the General Assembly at 4:15 this afternoon, and he will discuss the key priorities that he believes should be dealt with at the forthcoming Group of 20 summit in Seoul.


The Secretary-General will inform the General Assembly of the three areas that he believes should feature strongly at that summit:  preserving and sustaining economic recovery; addressing vulnerabilities as soon as they emerge; and financing for climate change and investing in renewable energy.  And we intend to make his remarks available this afternoon.


** Darfur


In his latest report on the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the Secretary-General says that, while clashes between parties to the conflict have substantially reduced, fighting between communities continues to result in fatalities.  The 2 September attack on Tabarat and clashes in Kalma and Hamidiya camps, which the Secretary-General condemns, are indicative of the continuing fragility of the security situation.


With regard to the peace process, the Secretary-General is encouraged by the progress made by the Joint Chief Mediator, the Joint Mediation Team and UNAMID towards facilitating an agreement between the Government and the Liberation and Justice Movement.  He urges the parties to work diligently towards producing a peace agreement that addresses the root causes of the conflict and contributes positively to stability in Darfur.


He also urges all the parties to enter into negotiations in good faith, without delay, and calls upon those Member States that have influence over them to strongly encourage them to do so.  Only a comprehensive and inclusive negotiated political settlement can bring about a credible cessation of hostilities and address the root causes of conflict in Darfur.  And the report is out as a document and will be discussed in the Security Council next Monday.


** Guinea


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is deeply concerned by the manner in which Guinea’s security forces used excessive force and resorted to live fire in their efforts to quell a series of demonstrations that took place in Conakry earlier this week.  One person was killed and at least 62 others injured.


The Human Right Office appreciates that the authorities had a difficult task dealing with the 18-20 October demonstrations, which in some cases degenerated into acts of violence.  Nevertheless, the Office believes the security forces committed serious human rights violations by indiscriminatingly shooting at unarmed civilians, sometimes at point-blank range, and by breaking into and ransacking private homes and severely beating young men who were not offering resistance.  They also illegally and arbitrarily detained an unknown number of people, held them in undisclosed places and prevented them from having access to lawyers.


** Benin


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has allocated an Emergency Cash Grant for purchasing tents and supporting logistics operations in Benin, where the estimated number of people affected by floods has increased to some 680,000.  According to the latest assessments, 55 of the country's 77 municipalities are affected.  The flooding is mainly caused by intensive rainfall, aggravated by flooding of the Niger and Ouémé rivers and their tributaries.  And a humanitarian appeal is under way.


**Nigeria


UNICEF says that the Nigerian authorities are reporting the country’s highest incidents of cholera in recent years.  Estimates place the number of affected persons at more than 38,000, with 1,555 deaths reported since January.  UNICEF cites Red Cross figures denoting that women and children accounted for 80 per cent of those affected.  While the spread appears to have relented in much of the country, north-east Nigeria is still reporting several new cases.  The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, has blamed this outbreak on seasonal factors, as well as poor hygiene conditions and population movements in the area, which contributed to this unusually high incidence of cholera.  WHO and its partners are providing technical support to Nigeria’s Minister of Health.  And we have more in the Geneva briefing notes in our Office.


**Previous Questions


I was asked yesterday about the participation by women’s groups in the Doha peace process concerning Darfur.  I can confirm that women's groups were strongly represented during the first and second civil society fora in Doha.  In devising the final agreement, Djibril Bassolé will be looking to the discussions and formal outcomes of these two events for inputs, alongside the positions of the negotiating parties, past agreements, and best practice from other contexts.


I’d also like to correct reports in the Arab media earlier this week, attributing positions to the UN Secretariat following our 18 October briefing to the Security Council [on the Middle East] that are not accurate.  The Secretary-General continues to strongly support a negotiated two-State solution, as called for in Security Council resolutions, which remains the stated preferred goal of the parties.  Neither the Secretary-General nor the Secretariat has expressed any position regarding the future engagement of the Security Council, which is, of course, the prerogative of the Security Council itself.


**Press Conferences This Afternoon


After this press conference and the briefing by our guest, Catherine Bragg, at 1:15 p.m. there will be a press conference by Mr. Abdelhamid El Jamri, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and Ms. Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living.


And at 3:15 p.m., there will be a press conference by Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on Internally Displaced Persons.


Also, next Monday, at noon, our guest will be Choi Young-jin, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, who will be the guest, joining us from Côte d’Ivoire by video teleconference.


**The Week Ahead


We’ll also have The Week Ahead document available in the Spokesperson’s Office, and will provide details, among other things, of the Secretary-General’s visit next week to Asia.


Are there any questions for me before we get to Catherine Bragg?  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Regarding the Secretary-General’s telephone talks with the leaders in Cyprus, there are some news reports from Cyprus saying that Ban Ki-moon has invited the two leaders for a meeting in New York, and the Turkish Cypriot leader has accepted the invitation.  What is the purpose of this invitation and what are they going to talk here if the Greek Cypriot side accepts the invitation?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Just to let you know, at this stage there are no plans for a tripartite meeting between the Secretary-General and the Cypriot leaders, whether in New York or elsewhere.  In fact, as you know, the Secretary-General is leaving next week for Asia, and he will have quite a number of travels during the coming three weeks.  So, no, there is no plan for that.  And beyond that, I’d just refer you to the readout that we put out of his phone calls.  Yes?


Question:  Farhan, could you give any more information on these people who have been arrested in Darfur after speaking to members of the Security Council there?  I understand that the UN is involved in negotiating to try and get their release and will brief the Council on Monday.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, right now, at this stage, I’d just refer you to our report on Darfur, which is out as a document; and there will be a further briefing, like you mentioned, on Monday, on this.  As for these reports of arrests, we’re looking into the reports.  Certainly any arrests of people who had spoken to the Security Council delegation would be a source of great concern for us.  And beyond that, we’re trying to get some more details.


Question:  Also on Sudan — and I want to ask about Myanmar and Central African Republic — you just said… Thanks for that answer about Mr. Bassolé, about the civil society component.  But yesterday, what the individual, Safah Adam,that was here for the 1325 briefing, was talking about was the lack of women representation in the actual negotiation between Khartoum and, in this case, the LJM.  She said that there is, within LJM, there are no, none of the committee people are women, and that it’s all sort of ghettoized into this civil society component.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, no, the question yesterday was clear; and the answer I have for you is what I just read.


Question:  Well, I also wanted to ask you whether the comment, it appears you’d mentioned that the Secretary-General’s report on Darfur — he either deplores or is concerned by this violence in Kalma camp.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  He does.  He condemned the violence in the report.


Question:  It now appears that the Government has disassembled the Kalma camp, that there are very few people left in it and that, as they had threatened and as the UN had said, it would have to be voluntary; in fact they’d gone forward closing it down.  Can you, I guess, either get confirmation or have some…?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have confirmation on that.  I’d refer you to the language in the report that’s out today, which has an update on the situation in Kalma camp and does not characterize it quite the same way as you have done.  But like I said, there will be a further report also on Monday.


Question:  I want to ask on Myanmar.  There was yesterday a briefing here by Mr. [Tomas Ojea] Quintana, who is the Special Rapporteur, and he described a meeting with Vijay Nambiar of the good offices, but also acknowledged that in the Secretary-General’s report, which is called report on human rights in Myanmar of the Secretary-General, didn’t mention at all Quintana’s call for a commission of inquiry into possible crimes against humanity in Myanmar.  I wonder, it seems strange to some that there is a very public call that many Member States have joined on to.  One, why, I mean just factually, why isn’t it in the Secretary-General’s report, even a mention of it?  And two, what is the Secretary, given what was said here yesterday, I know you’ve previously… he doesn’t have to comment on that, but since this is the Special Rapporteur on the same topic he wrote a report on, what is the Secretary-General’s view of the call for a commission of inquiry by the UN into Myanmar?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned in the past, the Special Rapporteur’s call has been one that he has brought up in venues, including in the Human Rights Council, and it’s really at this stage, a matter for the Member States on that body to determine their reaction.


Question:  But why wasn’t it in the Secretary-General’s report?  And I guess what’s the… Generally, he tries to, at least, note things that are out there that are of import.  Is it not of import?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t characterize why things are in or are not in the reports.  The reports are written by a team of professionals who put in what is regarded as the most relevant information.


Question:  [inaudible] Mr. Quintana, in putting a report together on the topic of human rights in Myanmar, since he is the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe some of the content in that report reflects also the work that has been done by Mr. Quintana, and I think that, I believe that, he’s mentioned in that report.  Okay, last question and then we’ll go to our guest.  Yes?


Question:  I was struck by the fact that the Secretary-General fairly felt moved to remind peacekeepers that they should perform to the same high level as other UN staffers, because, I guess, there has been some criticism of certain peacekeepers along the way?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We have fairly strict rules of conduct for peacekeepers, and we do have conduct and discipline units deployed in all our peacekeeping missions to report back and make sure that those rules of conduct are upheld.  As you know, peacekeeping, peacekeepers are under the [legal] authority of their national Governments, not actually of the United Nations as a whole, but even within that context, we do try to make sure that they uphold high standards of conduct.  And with that, I would like to welcome our guest, Catherine Bragg.


[Press Conference by Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, is issued separately.]


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