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

16 June 2011

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

16 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, everybody, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest

My guest today is Anne-Marie Orler, who is the Police Adviser and Director of the Police Division for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

[Briefing by Ms. Anne-Marie Orler issued separately.]

So, just a few more items, and then some questions if you have them.

**Security Council

I have just been informed that the Security Council has just concluded consultations on its programme of work, and the Council President intends to speak to reporters at the stakeout.  That may be happening right now.

**Secretary-General in Brazil

The Secretary-General has arrived in Brazil, the last stop in his four-nation visit to Latin America.  In the next few hours, he will meet with President Dilma Rousseff and Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, and he will also meet with officials of Brazil’s Senate and Congress.

He arrived in Brasilia yesterday after leaving Uruguay, where he spoke to the Uruguayan Parliament in the afternoon.  He told the Parliament that Uruguay had lived through a dark period of dictatorship and human rights abuses, but had transformed pain into progress, tolerance and solidarity.

Similarly, he said, in the Middle East and North Africa, people are raising their voices in a once-in-a-generation moment for freedom and democracy and greater liberty and participatory democracy.  And he once more urged President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to protect his people, respect their rights, listen to their voices and create the conditions for refugees to return.  He said:  “Implement meaningful reform now before it is too late.”

** Sudan Statement

We issued a statement yesterday afternoon expressing the Secretary-General’s concern about the deterioration of the security situation and the escalation of fighting in Southern Kordofan, which has caused the death of many civilians and the displacement of tens of thousands, and put United Nations staff directly at risk.

The Secretary-General urges the parties to immediately cease all hostilities and allow unconditional air and ground access to all parts of Southern Kordofan to the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) and the humanitarian agencies, to provide vital assistance to the affected population, and to ensure the safety and security of United Nations staff.

The Secretary-General welcomes the efforts led by the African Union High-level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) to help the parties resolve their differences through peaceful political means, and encourages the parties to reach an agreement as soon as possible.

** Sudan

On the humanitarian front, the World Food Programme (WFP) has announced that it has been able to provide food to more than 26,500 people fleeing fighting in South Kordofan state.

Conflict continues to hinder efforts to reach more people uprooted by the violence, as the World Food Programme has been prevented from reaching its warehouse in Kadugli.

To meet the emergency food needs of the displaced people, the World Food Programme has routed five trucks carrying 300 tonnes of food from a warehouse in El Obeid to the UN Mission’s compound in Kadugli, where food distribution was organized for 8,500 people.  A copy of the latest WFP Operational Update is available in the Spokesperson’s Office.

** Chad

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has been in Chad and she witnessed the signing of an agreement this week between the Chadian Government and the United Nations to end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.

The action plan spells out concrete steps, which, when taken, will result in Chad being removed from the Secretary-General’s list of parties who recruit and use children.

As part of the agreement, the United Nations will be able to monitor compliance with the plan at Chad’s military installations.

Ms. Coomaraswamy commended the Chadian Government for signing the action plan and urged them to maintain their determination as they move forward to implement it.  A copy of the press release is available in my Office.

** Gaza

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) announced that this year’s Gaza Summer Games have officially opened with an Olympic-style torch relay through the Strip.

The annual Summer Games season is the largest recreational programme for about a quarter of a million children in Gaza.  Fifty-seven children took part in today’s relay, in five teams representing each of Gaza’s governorates.

**Press Conferences

Immediately after this briefing, in about 15 minutes, at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ms. Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and that’s to discuss South Africa’s hosting of COP 17 — the seventeenth session on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Questions?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I want to ask about Nigeria, where today 10 people have been killed in Abuja.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about the violence which is taking place?

Spokesperson:  We’re aware of the reports.  As you know, the Secretary-General was recently in Nigeria and spoke on various topics, including the political violence that there has been.  I don’t have anything specific on this particular incident at this point.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  The Security Council was supposed to meet this morning, and to make a recommendation regarding the election of the Secretary-General.  Is that what the President of the Council is talking about at the stakeout?

Spokesperson:  Well, I can’t read the mind of the Council President; so I think we’d have to wait to see what the President of the Council says.

Question:  Has the Council met on the recommendation?

Spokesperson:  To my knowledge they have, as I just mentioned, concluded consultations on the programme of work.  And I think that the Council President would elaborate and may be already has, I don’t know.

Question:  Can I ask a follow-up on that?

Spokesperson:  Certainly.

Question:  Okay, it was various diplomats early today said that it is because the GRULAC, the Latin American and Caribbean regional group, has not yet endorsed the Secretary-General for a second term, that it was postponed until tomorrow at 11 a.m.  Now, what I wanted to know is, is that the Secretariat’s understanding:  as of 7 June, five countries in GRULAC had said they hadn’t gotten instructions or weren’t, didn’t endorse.  Has the Secretary-General or the Secretariat spoken, do you believe, with those five countries on this topic?

Spokesperson:  I think anything to do with this matter needs to come from the Member States, and particularly anything related to the Council deliberations, and then indeed the General Assembly deliberations needs to come from the Member States.

Question:  But I guess it’s because sometimes we get readouts of the Secretary-General’s communications with, certainly, Heads of State, but sometimes even foreign ministers.  So I am asking really about the Secretary-General’s own communications with Heads of State.

Spokesperson:  As I have said, we’ve said from the outset and the Secretary-General announced it here that he was making himself available for a second term, should Member States so decide; then he would be honoured to be able to serve a second term.  And it is for the Council, in the first instance, to discuss and decide, and then for the General Assembly to follow up on that.  And I think that’s the process that needs to run its course, and any other comment at this point is really not for us to make.  Any other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I have a couple others; I will try and do them quick.  One is there was an arrest in Bahrain of these peaceful sit-in protesters at the UN office in Manama…

Spokesperson:  A UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] office in Manama.

Question:  All right, okay.  Well, somehow in many articles, including AFP, it is described as a UN office.  But, I guess what I want to know, is it in fact the UN kind of “delivering as one” compound or is it only UNDP there?  But also:  did they call the police?  That’s my main question: why were these people arrested if they were peaceful protesters and they said they had a letter to the Secretary-General, was it in fact delivered and is there any response to it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’d have to check on the letter.  You will have seen the statement, I believe, that was made by UNDP.  I don’t have anything to add to that.

Question:  They said that they called, they contacted the police to make sure that these three women were released.  But I wanted to know, did they call the police in first instance?

Spokesperson:  As I have said, Matthew, I don’t have anything to add to the statement.  And if UNDP does at a later stage, I am sure that they would let you know.  But I don’t have anything further on that at the moment.

Question:  And I wanted to, this is sort of a follow-up, I had asked you earlier this week about the son-in-law of the Secretary-General, and you told me to ask the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.  So I did, and they have confirmed that they hired him as the chief diplomatic officer.  So, I just wanted to ask you this:  they said that his work will, he will work with intergovernmental organizations to leverage the Red Cross and Red Crescent’s collective voice.  So, this… and the UN seems to be an intergovernmental agency, so, some… what I wanted to know is if under the leadership of Ban Ki-moon’s son-in-law, it’s reached out to the UN system, will he listen to him just as any other representative of an INGO [international non-governmental organization] trying to reach out, or is there, this is my, was my question, sort of about safeguards, because some would say clearly he’d be more willing to listen to a close family member than to another lobbyist.  So it’s sort of… this is my, I guess my question is what, what would you say to those that say that this is going to give inordinate access to one group and how are you going to avoid that?

Spokesperson:  Well, you started off asking a hypothetical question, which I won’t answer.  I already did say that there are ample ethical safeguards in place and guidelines.  And I don’t see that it would be any different in this case.  Additionally, the International Federation and the International Committee of the Red Cross are entirely separate from the UN system but work closely on the ground in many places – not in a competitive environment, but in a cooperative environment, and I would also see that in this light.  Okay, other questions?  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  The last I heard from you about the Secretary-General’s plans was that he planned to take a boat back to New York…

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  You said last time that the Secretary-General planned to take a boat back to New York…

Spokesperson:  I most certainly did not!  I don’t think so.  I think I said he would be taking a boat from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, which he did.

Question:  I see! [laughter]

Spokesperson:  Yeah, I don’t think he has enough time to take a boat all the way back to New York, pleasurable though that may be!  Right, okay, yes?

Question:  But has the ash cloud cleared now?

Spokesperson:  Well, presumably enough for the Secretary-General to be able to fly, as he did yesterday evening from Montevideo to Brasilia.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I want to, in Myanmar, there are these reports of clashes between the Government and the Kachin rebels, they say that dozens have been killed, 10,000 people have been displaced.  So, one, I wanted to know whether any part of the UN system is addressing these, especially displacees [sic] in this conflict and also whether Ban Ki-moon’s Chief of Staff, in his good offices role, is he aware of this fighting?  Has he communicated with the Government?  What does he say about this seeming deterioration in safety within the country?

Spokesperson:  Let me check.  Right, okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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