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

13 July 2011

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

13 July 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.

**Security Council

The Security Council adopted resolution 1999 (2011), on the admission of the Republic of South Sudan as a UN Member State, without a vote this morning.  The request for South Sudan’s admission has now been transferred to the General Assembly for its consideration, with the recommendation of the members of the Security Council.

The Secretary-General congratulated the Security Council for its step, adding that he was proud to attend the Independence Day ceremony in Juba last weekend.  He said that, following fighting that had casualties that could be counted in the millions, South Sudan now needed help.  The Secretary-General reiterated that a viable South will need a viable North — and vice versa.  And he added that the role of the United Nations and of the Security Council will be crucial in the months and years ahead.

Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, added that the new State will face tremendous initial challenges, and promised that the new UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) will work with the Government to meet those challenges.  The transition to the new Mission is well under way, he said.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, which is known as UNAIDS, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have hailed the results of two new studies which show that a pill taken once daily can significantly reduce the transmission of HIV.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, voiced hope that the studies could help us to reach the tipping point in the HIV epidemic, while WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said they could have an enormous impact in preventing heterosexual transmission.  It is estimated that, at present, only half of the 33 million people living with HIV know their HIV status.  There is more information on this topic on the UNAIDS website.


I had been asked about this in recent weeks, and I can now confirm that a Sudanese staff member of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ms. Hawa Abdalla Mohamed, was released from detention yesterday in Khartoum.  She underwent a medical examination and appears to be in good health.  Ms. Mohamed was arrested on 6 May by national security personnel at her residence at the Abu Shouk internally displaced persons camp, near El Fasher, in North Darfur.

The senior leadership of the Darfur mission continues to press local authorities for the immediate release of another staff member, Mr. Idriss Abdelrahman, who has been in detention in Nyala since late April.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

I was also asked yesterday about the cholera outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that, as of 8 July, 3,245 cases have been reported and 192 people have died.  Since last March, cases were first reported in Kisangani, Province Orientale, and the outbreak then spread along the Congo River to Equateur and Bandundu Provinces and to the capital, Kinshasa.

To contain the outbreak, the World Health Organization and partners are helping the Government to organize hygiene promotion campaigns, to set up water chlorination points and to ensure that those affected by cholera get free treatment.

The request for funds mentioned in the question yesterday refers to the measles outbreak also in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The World Health Organization and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are seeking an additional $9 million to carry out two vaccination campaigns next September and early next year.

**Food Security

I just have a summary of a meeting of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security, which was held this morning.

The Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security met this morning to review the deteriorating situation in the Horn of Africa and to consider options for its overall global strategy.

In the Horn of Africa, ensuring people’s access to nutritious food is the number one priority.  The need is urgent but will continue for months, as the suffering is not likely to peak until September.  The 11 million people who are now affected and others at risk are also receiving social support, water and sanitation.  Pastoralist communities are especially vulnerable, and women and children are worst affected.  The High-Level Task Force concluded that short-term relief must be linked to building long-term sustainability and resilience through climate-smart agriculture, so an end can be put to the cycle of recurring crises.

The Horn of Africa is a flagrant example of food and nutrition insecurity.  The Secretary-General stressed that the global effort should be in synch with energy and climate change strategies, such as will be taken up next year in Rio de Janeiro.  The Task Force also emphasized the role of trade and commodity markets in helping with improved agricultural productivity and enterprise building among small-scale farmers, especially women, in the developing world.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Kimberly Prost, the Ombudsperson to the Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee, who will brief you on her recent activities.

And then at 2:15 p.m., there will be a press conference on the Ninth Plenary Session of the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia.  This particular event is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Singapore to the United Nations.

Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I heard that there were some issues with finding a seat for the South Sudanese delegation in the General Assembly.  So is that the case?  The same questions applied to the flag; are you going to fly the South Sudanese flag outside the UN?  And do you know if they have found yet accommodation in the building for their office for the Mission?

Spokesperson:  Well, just to start with the last question first, diplomatic missions are not housed inside the UN compound.  Countries find their own premises, typically near the UN Headquarters.  Then on the question of the flag and seating, obviously when a country becomes a member of the United Nations as a Member State, they’re entitled to exactly the same privileges and rights as other sovereign States that are Members of the United Nations.  The exact technicalities of how that works out with regard to the flag and the seating, I would need to check with my colleagues in the General Assembly.  And I am sure that Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, may be able to help you further with that.  Okay, yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Sudan and Libya.  There are these reports of continued bombing in Kadugli and South Kordofan.  It says the UN has reported, I guess to BBC, that these bombs are falling.  One, can you confirm that?  And two, is that… I mean that’s the… this would seem to indicate that the UN is at least in a position to report what they hear or see.  I am just trying to figure out what the UN presence in Kordofan is going to be between now and the end of August.  Is that… is there going to be some kind of at least visual observation and reporting or…?

Spokesperson:  Well, it depends on what you mean by the UN, Matthew, because there is a UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) which is now being liquidated, because that’s what has to happen.  And there are other members of the UN family, so to speak, who would also presumably be in the area, too.  That’s the first point.  The second is that I would need to check with my colleagues to see whether they have any further information on the bombings that you have referred to.  But we’ve made clear, I have made clear from here, that the UN Mission in Sudan is in now the phase of winding down.  It no longer has a mandate to operate.  It’s not what we wanted, but it is a fact.  And so, therefore, it is not possible for the Mission — the previous Mission — to be active in patrolling and so on.  I would need to find out if these reports are correct and where they emanate from.

Question:  Thanks, and I also wanted to ask you on Libya.  There is a report in the New York Times that the Libyan rebels are, according to the Times, responsible for looting and beating people in towns they have taken over in their drive towards Tripoli that… these are towns viewed as supporting [Muammar al‑]Qadhafi and so, and I just wanted to know whether there have been many UN statements obviously on abuses by the Qadhafi forces.  Who in… is… what’s the UN system’s response to these pretty well-documented reports of abuses going the other way?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would have to check with the relevant folks, for example in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and with our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs who have people on the ground in Benghazi.  I think it is self-evident that we would condemn abuses, human rights abuses from whichever quarter.  But I would want to add there that it is obviously important that the relevant people who would monitor these things — I am thinking of our colleagues who deal with human rights in particular — to be able to comment in detail on that.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, regarding the economic zone between Lebanon and Israel, did you receive the Israeli maps on that, with regard to the maritime areas and the oil and gas exploration in the region?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you just at the moment, but I would anticipate having something a little bit later.

Question:  Today, you mean?  Today or later on?

Spokesperson:  I would hope today.  Yeah.  Please, and then Masood.  No, please, first here.

Question:  Okay.  Is there any official position from the Secretary-General about the recent attacks that took place today; two explosions in Mumbai, India?  The latest information says that there are 13 people dead and 8 injured.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of these explosions and is obviously concerned about the loss of life.  We are expecting a statement a little bit later today.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  On this situation that you were just talking about in Libya, that I think Matthew asked you, about the rebels are now being accused by Human Rights Watch of perpetrating attacks against the civilians… I mean, is that what you were talking about earlier?  That Human Rights Watch has accused… have been saying that the rebel groups are now attacking civilians inside Libya and that is creating another problem.

Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, I have my work cut out being the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, but I am certainly not the spokesperson for Matthew Lee.  So you might want to check with him what he was asking me.  But the point that I was trying to make was that human rights abuses by anybody should be condemned and need to be investigated.  And it is for the relevant people within the United Nations, particularly those who deal with human rights, to look into this.

Question:  No, the reason why I was saying, I didn’t want another question to overlap, and you are telling me that you have already answered that question.  That’s the reason why I asked you that.  Otherwise there is nothing… that was the reason for that.  And so, what I am saying is these accusations are now coming.  Earlier, they were just in the air.  Now they’re coming out by Human Rights Watch, a credible organization and so forth.  Earlier it was being said by other people whom no… I mean, there was no heed to those things.  So what… how are you going to resolve these contradictions that are going on, that while there is condemnation of Qadhafi forces for doing the same thing that these guys are doing?

Spokesperson:  I think if you look back at what we have been saying, we’ve made it clear that this is about protecting civilians.  And of course, for the civilians who suffer, it is immaterial who is perpetrating the violence — they are suffering.  What we need to do if there are allegations made against the rebels, against Government forces, against anybody else, they need to be investigated.  And I am sure that our colleagues in the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights will be looking at this quite seriously from all angles.  Any other questions?  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  On the dialogue from Bahrain, how satisfied is the Secretary-General with what’s going on there?  Have you been following closely, the dialogue there?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we did say quite recently that we are aware that the dialogue has started, and that there is a need for it to be as inclusive as possible.  And I can probably, if you haven't seen what the Secretary-General said, I can provide that to you afterwards.

Question:  I have seen that, but is there any follow up on that because…?

Spokesperson:  No, we will continue to watch this, and to encourage the Bahraini Authorities to conduct it in a way which ensures that as many voices are heard.

Question: Am I to understand that you are not satisfied?  I mean, with the inclusivity of the dialogue?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think what the Secretary-General said recently on this topic still stands.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask on Myanmar.  There has been a report issued documenting the use by the military there of convicts pressed into service to… some people call it slave labour or definitely it’s human shields.  It’s a report issued by the Karen Human Rights Group as well as Human Rights Watch.  And I just wondered, it’s a pretty well-documented 70-page report, is it something that the UN system, particularly the good offices mandate, is aware of, and is it the type of thing that it would be raising to the Government to not be using convicts as human shields for its military?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would be confident that our colleagues who deal with this topic would be aware of any reports that come out and would want to study them carefully.  I don’t have any further details on what they may or may not do, having studied those reports.

Question:  Thanks a lot; the only thing… I just want… I am always trying to figure out what the scope of that good offices office is.  I understand, like in almost any country in the world, the Office of Human Rights, the Commissioner, that there is some UN monitoring process.  But this seems to be a country that there is a particular GA-mandated unit headed by the Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff.  So, that’s… I am sort of wondering, is there… is there… when you say “our colleagues”, is that the office you’re referring to, or is it a more general…?

Spokesperson:  As you yourself pointed out, there are different parts of the UN system that would be dealing with different aspects of what transpires in Myanmar, or indeed in any other country.  And as you well know, there is a country team in place in Myanmar.  And outside of Myanmar, there is indeed the good offices mandate and there are those, including in the Office of the High Commissioner, who would be looking at Myanmar through that particular prism of human rights.  And they of course coordinate with each other.  They don’t work in isolation.  If I have anything further on that, of course, I would let you know.

Okay, have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much.

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