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

9 June 2011

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

9 June 2011
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.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

Roger Meece, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, briefed the Security Council this morning on the latest developments in the country.

He said that there has been significant progress in recent years regarding security in the east of the country, although there is still much to be done, including dealing with the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north-east.  He also noted the security challenges in the Kivus area, including the incomplete integration of combatants into the Congolese army.

Mr. Meece emphasized the critical importance of the forthcoming elections, and he called on all parties to take the necessary steps to ensure that the elections are conducted in a peaceful, democratic and successful manner.  His remarks are available in my office, and Mr. Meece intends to speak to you at the stakeout once consultations have finished.

** Libya

The Special Envoy for Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, attended the meeting of the International Contact Group for Libya in Abu Dhabi today, along with the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe.  Mr. Al-Khatib is expected to brief the Security Council on his recent meetings, including in Tripoli and Benghazi, this afternoon at 12:45 p.m.  That meeting will be by video conference.

** Syria

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has condemned the Syrian authorities’ unrelenting violent crackdown on peaceful protestors across the country.  In a statement today, she called on the Government to respond to her repeated requests to allow a fact-finding mission to visit Syria, as required by the Human Rights Council.

She expressed particular concern about reports of civilians fleeing the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour in the wake of recent threatening statements by Government officials.  She said:  “It is utterly deplorable for any Government to attempt to bludgeon its population into submission, using tanks, artillery and snipers.”

Ms. Pillay noted reports that the number of people killed since the protests began in March has exceeded 1,100, with up to 10,000 or more detained.  Regarding the proposed visit by a fact-finding team, she added that, so far, her office has not received any official reply from Syria — either positive or negative.  The High Commissioner added that this would not prevent her team from issuing a preliminary report on Syria to the Human Rights Council on 15 June.  I can also tell you the Secretary-General shares this concern about developments in Syria and I would hope to have something more on that later.

** Somalia

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, has expressed his satisfaction over the agreement signed by the President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and the Speaker of Parliament, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.

Under the agreement, known as the Kampala Accord, the terms of both the Presidency and the Parliament have been extended for one year, while a new Prime Minister should be appointed within the next 30 days.

The Special Representative said it was a breakthrough in resolving the five-month-long political impasse in Mogadishu.  I can also tell you the Secretary-General spoke by telephone yesterday afternoon with President [Yoweri] Museveni of Uganda to encourage his efforts to have the Somali leaders reach agreement on the Kampala Accord.

** Sudan

Following several clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and the Sudanese Armed Forces in Southern Kordofan State, the situation remains extremely tense, according to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).  While shooting and looting is still going on in Kadugli, the population has left the town in large numbers.

To date there is no confirmed number of people who have been displaced by the violence, but up to 3,000 people are now gathered near the UN Mission compound outside of Kadugli town.  The UN Mission had pre-positioned safe areas for nearly 1,500 people, and a humanitarian assessment will take place today to evaluate the needs of the displaced people.  UN peacekeepers are patrolling in Kadugli and the Mission has also reinforced its military presence with a Bangladeshi troop company from Juba.

**Disabilities

The first World Report on Disability, produced jointly by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, will be launched at 1:15 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.  The report reviews evidence about the situation of disabled people and includes the first global disability prevalence estimates since the 1970s.  It also provides the best available scientific evidence to support policies and programmes that can improve the lives of people with disabilities.  It will also support the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference organized by the Department of Public Information, to introduce the student leaders of the 2011 Global Model UN Conference, which will take place in Incheon, in the Republic of Korea, from 10 to 14 August.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to ask some questions about the Secretary-General’s re-election or reappointment.  I wanted to ask you first about, in this South Kordofan, where you were saying the fighting that, the Government has been quoted as saying that their soldiers have a free hand to put down what they call a mutiny in South Kordofan.  So I am just wondering, I understood you gave a readout that the fighting is going on, there is concern.  Has the UN, for example, spoken with the Governor of South Kordofan, Ahmed Haroun, who was previously described as being an integral player in avoiding violence?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that.  As you have mentioned, I did just provide a readout that is giving an update from the Mission on what the latest position is.

Question:  I guess I just, it made me think back to when there was this controversial flying of the Governor of South Kordofan State to the Kadugli agreements, quote unquote.  It was said that this was, it was essential that it was… can have a good result.  Does the UN see any connection between the violence that’s now broken out, and does it, has it re-thought its decision of the centrality of Mr. Haroun or…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think so, Matthew.  I think the point here is that there have been a number of developments, as you know, in recent weeks, not just in Southern Kordofan State but also in Abyei.  And this is tension that clearly we need to try to end.  It is something that really, as you know, has changed the picture from the successful outcome of the referendum.  And we would be very keen to see events back on a political track as quickly as possible.  And that could be what the UN would be trying to achieve on the ground.

Question:  Do you, and then just this factual question, before, unless, if I understood it correctly, this has to do with another Sudan conflict in Darfur, that Mr. Djibril Bassolé was described as stepping down as the joint AU/UN mediator.  But he has since been quoted as saying he remains a mediator.  And he did go to these Doha talks.  So, is he the UN’s mediator or not?  It’s unclear.  He says that he is, but it was said here that he is not.  Which is it?

Spokesperson:  I think it was also said here that he has a split role at the moment and will continue to — was continuing, I should say — was continuing to serve as one of the mediators in the run-up to the meeting that you spoke about.  But there will be a change in that status, and I think I’ll be able to give you precisely what that change is after this.  All right. Yes, Masood?

[The Spokesperson’s Office later said that Djibril Bassole’s contract as a United Nations-African Union envoy ended Wednesday, 8 June.]

Question:  Yeah, on this continuing settlement activity by the Israelis razing buildings in Occupied Palestine, which is affecting the hundreds of Palestinian children, which is reported also by United Nations itself on your website.  Has the Secretary-General spoken to anybody in the Israeli Government to stop this or how to mitigate the suffering of the Palestinian children?

Spokesperson:  I think the topic of settlements is raised frequently, regularly when the Secretary-General speaks with Israeli leaders and indeed when he speaks with the Palestinian leaders, who obviously have something to say about that.  And, obviously, precisely at the moment when we have seen tensions with regard to a couple of incidents in the last couple of weeks, it is really important that we avoid the unnecessary raising of tension wherever possible.

Question:  But so far the Secretary-General has not spoken to anybody?  I mean, it is an ongoing situation, what you are saying, but he has not; in light of this report, he has not?

Spokesperson:  On this particular topic that you have mentioned very specifically, not directly.  But as I say, this is a broader subject and he continues to raise this topic more generally with the Israeli authorities when he has a chance to do so.  Okay?  Yes?

Question:  Can I ask… I guess, one is a question that I know that earlier this week the Secretary-General met with the various regional groups.  And I just, maybe you will confirm it or not, I’d heard that five members of the GRULAC [Group of Latin American and Caribbean States] said that they still need to get instructions from their capitals.  Is that, is it, I guess I am asking you, is that your understanding of that meeting or can you give some, what’s your readout, what’s the Secretary-General’s readout of that meeting with GRULAC?

Spokesperson:  Well, all of these meetings with the regional groups were at the suggestion of the Secretary-General, as a way for him to speak to them directly and underscore what he said sitting right here on Monday.  That it is for the Member States to decide; and that he is humbly putting himself forward and it is for the Member States to decide.  He was obviously there to speak to them, but very much in listening mode, to hear what they had to say in those five regional groups.  He has had meetings with other groupings; different formats, if you like.  Obviously those five groups cover the 192 Member States.  But there are other groups; for example, the Forum of Small States.  The Secretary-General was able to meet with them as a group.  He had a lunch with the permanent representatives of the European Union in a pre-arranged meeting.  So this was simply a way to be able to listen to what they had to say.  And, ultimately, it really is for the Member States to decide.  And it is also for Member States to say whether they have instructions or do not have instructions, and not for me.

But what I can say is that the Secretary-General found all of these regional group meetings and the other meetings he has been having extremely helpful and rewarding, in the sense that he was able to speak to them, but, importantly, to hear from them.  And that’s what it is all about.  Okay?

Question:  Does he expect to give some kind of a speech in the General Assembly, kind of a public speech?  There is, I have heard from some Member States that, I mean, obviously they have to… there is a longer process of trying to reform the process, but the idea of sort of, not campaigning, but sort of making a more public… those were closed meetings… apart from that, is he thinking of doing that?

Spokesperson:  Well, how much more public does the Secretary-General need to be than announcing it, sitting right here?  And he also then spoke, as I just mentioned and you did, too, to the regional groups.  Yeah?

Question:  I have one question about the budget, but go ahead…

Spokesperson:  I will.  I am going to come back to you.  Yes?

Question:  It was just a follow-up on what you were saying.  I just want to know, on these travels that the Secretary-General, he is obviously receiving with the Heads of… meeting with the Heads of Government and Heads of State, so he has a pretty good idea as to what the Member States want, basically.  I want to know whether the Secretary-General will now seek a vote much earlier than October, which is basically scheduled for October.  But will he seek it earlier than Kofi, in the case of Kofi Annan, who got the vote in April?

Spokesperson:  It’s not, with respect, it’s not for him to seek it, but for the Member States to do it if they so wish.  And I think you are aware of the process as well as I am, and, in fact, I am sure you’re far better acquainted with it than I am, given the amount of time that you have been here and I have been here.  So it starts at the Security Council and moves to the General Assembly.  It’s for the Member States – 15 and 192 – to decide on the timing.  And the format is largely predetermined.  The timing is not.  And so it’s for them to decide on that, and not for the Secretary-General.  Okay?

Question:  On the second term that the Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi, that I remember, although I was not here at that time, but I remember that in the second term that Kofi Annan sought – that was second term in case of Mr. Ban Ki-moon, too – that he hastened the process and sought election, I think, in April; he was confirmed by both the General Assembly and the Security Council.

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that is correct.  I think it was actually in June.  But the point here is that the Secretary-General has made a very clear announcement that he is available and would be honoured to serve, should the Member States decide that they would like him to serve a second term.  As I say, the format of how that happens is largely pre-determined; the timing is not.  And it is really for them to decide.

Question:  But is he sure that he has the support of most of the 192 Member States?

Spokesperson:  I think that you, just the same as I, can read public statements that have been made by countries and groupings.  But, ultimately, it is for the Member States to decide at the General Assembly and, obviously, before that, in the Security Council.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask this, a budget question.  It was announced here that the Secretary-General is seeking a 3 percentage cut.  I thought it was across the board, but it, this is what I wanted to ask, from, it seems that, I know he made a presentation to the ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] of his preliminary budget, and what I am hearing is that the cuts are 3.7 per cent.  But it is not across the board, that there are some divisions of the Secretariat that have no cuts at all, and some don’t.  So, I want, I guess I am asking, is he in fact seeking cuts beyond 3 per cent and are they not across the board, but in fact are there some departments that are untouched by the cuts?  Is that true?

Spokesperson:  Well, two things:  the submission does call for a figure above 3 per cent — and I would ask for my colleagues to provide the exact figure.  That’s the first thing.  The second is that some parts of the UN Secretariat, some departments, some units, some sections, whatever you wish to call them, are relatively small and it is not really realistic or feasible for them to be able to cut to the same extent that some larger departments or divisions may be able to do.  And that’s the logic behind it.  But the overall figure is — the overall aim, I should say — is indeed to reduce by, in excess of 3 per cent, the budget figure, the submission.  But again, it is for the Member States to decide.  This is a submission to them.

All right.  Okay, thank you.  Have a very good afternoon, thank you.

* *** *

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