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

4 November 2010

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

4 November 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.

So, good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest — Human Development Report

My guests today are Jeni Klugman, author of the 2010 Human Development Report, and Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in Economics and one of the people who created the Human Development Index 20 years ago.  And they are here to talk about the latest Human Development Report, which as you know was launched just a little earlier today.

And speaking at that launch, the Secretary-General said that, 20 years ago, the first Human Development Report stunned the international community with the simple premise that people are the true measure of a nation’s wealth.  It was a radical concept at the time.  And it overturned conventional thinking.

We have his remarks in my Office.  And I know that Ms. Klugman has a few introductory remarks, and then it’s over for questions.  And I think we have about 20 minutes for that.  And I will brief you then after that on other matters.  Thank you very much.  Okay.

[Press conference by Ms. Klugman and Mr. Sen issued separately.]

Just very briefly to add a couple of other items.

**Secretary-General’s Remarks

Earlier today, the Secretary-General spoke to donors for the UN Peacebuilding Fund, and he told them that the Peacebuilding Fund helps the United Nations system respond in real time with fast, focused and flexible resources.  Today, he said, it is making a real difference for people through more than 140 projects in 16 countries.

Later today, he will address an event to mark World Food Day, noting that the number of hungry people had fallen since it reached more than 1 billion a year ago.  That is progress, he is to say, but not nearly enough, since there are still 925 million chronically undernourished people in our world.

And he will also speak on human trafficking this afternoon, to say that almost every country is affected by this crime, whether as a place of origin, transit or destination for victims.  And we’ll have those remarks available for you later today.

** Haiti

In Haiti, preparations to respond to Tropical Storm Tomas are being stepped up.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, according to working projections, the storm could affect up to half a million people.

The UN and its humanitarian partners have pre-positioned emergency supplies and equipment, including trucks, water and sanitation materials, shelter, food and non-food items in the areas most likely to be hit by the storm.  All available stocks of tarpaulins and ropes are being used to help people in camps secure their shelters.

But even with the existing pre-positioned stocks, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Haiti, Nigel Fisher, says that the potential magnitude of this disaster urgently calls for additional emergency supplies and equipment.

Priorities include emergency shelter kits, hygiene kits, water tanks, water treatment units and 200 field tents to serve as emergency cholera treatment centres, as well as logistics equipment and radios to help provide public information about cholera and hurricane warnings.  We have more information in a press release in my Office.

** Iraq

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, strongly condemned this week’s attacks targeting religious communities in Iraq, in a statement we issued today.  She urged the Iraqi Government to do more to protect civilians in an effort to prevent a deadly upsurge in sectarian violence.

Pillay said that the blasts were deliberately targeting locations where civilians congregate, such as markets and banks, and the attacks appear once again to have been sectarian in nature.  She urged the Government to take immediate concrete measures to provide better protection for vulnerable groups and minorities.

And, we also issued a statement yesterday in which the Secretary-General strongly condemned the recent spate of terrorist attacks in Iraq, in which scores of civilians lost their lives and hundreds more were wounded.  He appealed to the people of Iraq to remain steadfast in the wake of such brutal violence and united in their commitment to a path of national reconciliation.

**Kosovo

In his latest report on Kosovo, the Secretary-General welcomes the European Union’s readiness to facilitate a process of dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade.

This dialogue, he notes, is expected to open a new phase and lead to the resolution of issues important for the consolidation of peace, stability and reconciliation in Kosovo and in the region.

The Secretary-General emphasizes that it is in the interest of both sides to start this process rapidly and take advantage of the positive momentum created in the past months.  The report is now available as a document.

** Sudan

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, has arrived in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum.  During her week-long visit, she will also visit South Sudan and Darfur, and will meet with representatives from the Government, donors and aid agencies.

**Press Conference Today

Also today at 2:30 p.m., here in this Auditorium, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will hold a press conference on the launch of the UN Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking.  And participating in the press conference will be the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And tomorrow, at 9 a.m., here in the Library Auditorium, the co-chairs of the High-Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing will hold a press conference to launch the Advisory Group’s report.  And participating in the press conference will be the Secretary-General, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions?  Khaled, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, yesterday you got a question about the official reaction from the SG to the US decision to pay $10 million for the [Special Tribunal for Lebanon], and you said that the SG hadn’t seen the statement at that time.  Is there any official reaction now?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think what I said yesterday remains the same.

Question:  Okay.  There is a statement issued by Hizbullah in Lebanon yesterday, criticizing the SG’s report on [resolution] 1701 (2006).  And I am just quoting that the statement by Hizbullah says that the report is written “in Israeli ink”, and that this makes the United Nations join the enemies of Lebanon, according to the statement.  Any reaction from the United Nations to that?

Spokesperson:  I can tell you the Secretary-General stands by the report that has been submitted to the Security Council.  Other questions?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I have a couple of questions about Sudan and one about climate change.  The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has put out a press release saying, describing in its terms its engagement in fighting with Government authorities in South Darfur outside Nyala; it’s a pretty heavy, they list a pretty high number of Government casualties and I am just two… I guess two things on that.  One, can UNAMID confirm this fighting and does it have any sense of how serious the fighting is, and also how it may relate to the Doha process now being suspended until December?  What steps are being taken either to get JEM in the Abdel Wahid Nur segment there, or are things, as it appears, getting worse in Darfur?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the political track, the talks, the Doha talks, I will come back to you on that.  And clearly, there is an interplay between what happens on the ground and what happens in the talks.  That’s obvious and of concern.  What we were able to tell you yesterday after the briefing was that we are aware of the reports of action on the ground and are investigating them, and that UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] is concerned about these heightened military tensions on the ground and that there have been other incidents; not just the ones you were referring to yesterday.  And UNAMID is calling on all parties to refrain from the use of force.  What I can tell you on one specific incident is that on 1 November, unknown gunmen ambushed two civilian vehicles near Tawilla, about 14 kilometres west of Tawilla, reportedly resulting in two deaths and some 28 people being wounded.  And UNAMID reacted promptly and went to the scene and was able to assist local efforts to evacuate the wounded people to a clinic run by Médicine sans Frontières in Tawilla.  Eight among them were reported to be seriously wounded and were later transferred to El Fasher hospital.  And I can also tell you that DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is telling us that UNAMID is intensifying patrols in the area.

That’s what I have for you now.  We’re obviously, with the help of our colleagues in UNAMID, trying to provide up-to-date information as we get it.

Question:  Just one other thing on Sudan.  The newspaper there, Al-Sahafa daily, the editor said… which is a pretty well-known daily, said that their main reporter on Darfur, Jaafar al-Sibki, has been arrested by the Government.  And they have said it’s part of this trend of… there is the radio station, now this is a separate incident where a high-profile reporter has been arrested.  Is that something… I don’t want it to become to… but is that… what steps is the UN system taking, as what appears to be a pretty systematic and accelerating lockdown, closing down of radio stations and now arresting of reporters?

Spokesperson:  Well, UNAMID, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur, did state quite clearly its views, and I think I also stated similar views from here on the need for journalists to be able to carry out their job without being impeded in any way.  And I would repeat that call also in relation to this particular case that you’ve just mentioned.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Ahead of [ United States] President [Barack] Obama’s visit to India, there have been mass arrests in Kashmir and of also six Indians in Punjab.  Seven people were killed in Kashmir yesterday.  Does the Secretary-General have any comments on that?

Spokesperson:  Not beyond what we’ve said on the matter.  Yes, please?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General made any comment on the presidential election in Brazil on Sunday?

Spokesperson:  What I said before is that we would expect that the Secretary-General would, at the very least, be writing to the President-elect.  As you know, he has been on the road, and I am sure that he will be turning to that.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  There are reports now that the Iraqi Parliament is meeting on Monday, possibly to speed up the process of forming a Government.  Again, I was wondering whether there is any effort by the UN helping this and the same question about the Saudi initiative…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we did come back to you on the Saudi initiative.  What I can tell you is that the UN has repeatedly called for an inclusive and broadly participatory process in the formation of a new Government and continues to encourage developments along these lines.  That’s what I can tell you.  Okay?

Question:  But nothing in particular in reference to the Saudi King’s call?

Spokesperson:  No.  Well, what I have just told you is that the UN is repeatedly calling for an inclusive and broadly participatory process.  And obviously we have, and our colleagues in Baghdad have said this quite often.  Okay, one last question.

Question:  Will the Secretary-General’s letter to the President-elect of Brazil be made public?

Spokesperson:  Usually the content of specific letters is not necessarily made public.  But the sentiments may well be.  So, let me see what happens then.  Yes, you did want to ask about climate change?

Question:  Sure, yeah.  On climate change, there are various people saying that, in light of the elections that took place on Tuesday, and Obama, President Obama’s comments yesterday afternoon at a press conference that this makes the passage of climate change legislation less likely in the United States, that this will impact not only the Cancun process, but even this report that the Secretary-General is getting tomorrow.  Some that have seen the report say that it assumes a median price of carbon of $25 a tonne by 2020, and if there is no US legislation that will not be accurate.  So, I am just wondering what, it’s not so much a comment directly on the elections of what, what does this, what is the Secretariat, and it… the global goods team of the UN, does the results bode well for this report tomorrow and for the process that he is involved in?  And, if not, what’s the plan to stay on track with the report that he is getting tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  Well, two things.  First of all, the key word there is process.  It is a process that involves all the countries in the world in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  That is an enormous undertaking, as you know.  And it involves all countries.  The second point is that the report is being launched tomorrow.  And I think it would be better to wait until then.  You will have an opportunity to see the report tomorrow.

Question:  Well, I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

Spokesperson:  You’ll find out.  And there are other ways to address it, even if it isn’t at the press conference, because of the shortage of time or whatever, but there are always [ways] to address these things.

Question:  And I just wanted to ask — this is something I didn’t want more days to go by — earlier this week there was, or maybe it was even on Friday, anyway, I missed it, but there was a presentation by the Appeals Tribunal of the various cases and they made some statements of the internal justice system of the UN.  And Judge Mark Painter in his presentation made what people are seeing as a pretty strong critique of lack of resources.  They said we need help having paperwork processed.  If staffing doesn’t substantially improve, we will not be able to continue to progress in the future.  Not to mention the issue of judicial independence.  So, I am wondering what does the Secretariat think of this cry for help from its Appeals Tribunal and what is it going to do about it?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  Yeah.  All right, thank you very much.

Question:  Is Mrs. Patricia O’Brien, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, presenting a briefing to the Security Council tomorrow on Lebanon on the…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know about that, Khaled.  I don’t know about that.

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