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

10 August 2011

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

10 August 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Hello, everyone.  Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General in Republic of Korea


The Secretary-General met South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul today.  In remarks at a dinner at the Presidential Blue House, the Secretary-General thanked the Government for helping to fund United Nations food relief operations in the Horn of Africa.  He said that, because of the country’s economic development and democratization, the international community was increasingly looking to the Republic of Korea’s capacity and experience in addressing global challenges.


Earlier, the Secretary-General spoke at a Global Compact event, thanking the Korean business community for their work in support of the United Nations and encouraging them to be even more engaged in promoting social justice and sustainable development.


The Secretary-General also spoke at a UN Academic Impact forum.  He told the audience that the initiative to harness academic power to tackle global challenges has grown since it was launched just last year.


And he also spoke at the Yonhap International Press Photo Awards on the Millennium Development Goals, where the Secretary-General called for an accelerated push to meet the targets.


** Somalia


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, and the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, briefed the Security Council on Somalia this morning.  And Ambassador Mahiga may speak to you by videoconference fairly soon, once he’s finished his discussions in the Security Council.  That is still happening, so it may take a while.  I’ll let you know when his briefing to you might happen.


Regarding the Somalia peace process, Mahiga said that the signing on 9 June of the Kampala Accord ended a five-month political stalemate by deferring the elections for one year and providing for the establishment of a road map with clear benchmarks.  He said that a road map would be adopted at a Consultative Meeting on Ending the Transition in Somalia, which will be held in Mogadishu from 4 to 6 September.  The Special Representative also noted that the recent withdrawal of the Al-Shabaab insurgent group from Mogadishu was a significant event that could expedite political gains, as well as the delivery of humanitarian assistance.


On the humanitarian front, Catherine Bragg warned that the peak of the crisis was still to come, given the high levels of both severe acute malnutrition and under-five mortality, in combination with an expectation of a continued increase in local cereal prices and a below-average rainy season harvest.  She added that it is expected that assistance needs will continue for the rest of this year, if not longer.


**Security Council


The Security Council will hold consultations at 3 p.m. this afternoon on the Middle East.  Council members will receive a report from the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, on the situation in Syria.  You’ll recall that, in its presidential statement last week, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to provide an update on Syria within seven days, and today’s briefing will be the response to that request.


**United Republic of Tanzania


A pioneering survey, led by the Government of Tanzania and funded by UNICEF, reveals an urgent need to address violence against children, particularly in their homes, communities and schools.  The Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, participated in the launch of the survey in Tanzania yesterday.


She commended the report and the plan as an important initiative in confronting a painful problem.  She called for greater collaboration among law enforcement organs, including the police and the judiciary, in dealing with the needs of the victims.


Ms. Migiro also called on civil society, faith-based organizations and the mass media to assist in building awareness of the problem and in fostering a safe environment for children, free from all forms of violence and abuse.  And there’s more information on this survey in a press release from UNICEF.


And as I mentioned, following this briefing, we expect Augustine Mahiga, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia to join us by video conference.  We don’t know when that will happen precisely, because the Council is still going on.  But when that ends, we will inform you and it will take place in this room, again by video conference.


Any questions?  Yes, please?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  In Mauritania, the Government has arrested nine persons who have been opposing the institution of slavery.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that arrest?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We have no specific reaction to the arrest just yet.  I will check whether we can get that.  Of course, you know the position of the Secretary-General and the United Nations as a whole against the institution of slavery and the various resolutions we’ve passed on that regard, and of course the relevant language in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Yes?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about Sudan and Syria.  On Sudan, it’s the Government of Sudan has said that it has delivered to Special Representative [Ibrahim] Gambari a series of its critique of UNAMID’s [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] mandate and… and I guess some idea of trying to curtail its functions in Darfur.  And I wanted to know, what’s the response to it, has Mr. Gambari transmitted to Headquarters, is the Secretariat aware of this critique and what does it say to it?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re certainly aware of the recent remarks and comments that officials from the Government have been making about UNAMID.  As you know, the mandate of the UN-African Union mission in Darfur is one that has been approved by the Security Council, and UNAMID continues to go about its mandated tasks as stipulated in the Council resolutions, and they will continue to do so.


Question:  Does Gambari… I guess what I am saying is some journalists over there have said that it is actually a physical, written critique, and I just wondered what the logistics are.  Does Gambari then transmit it to DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], does he take it to the Council, what’s the… has that happened?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll check whether there is anything regarding a physical document in terms of the transmission.  But certainly from our standpoint, we’ve been made aware of a number of criticisms about UNAMID and its functions.  Those functions, as you know, are approved by the Security Council.  We do have a status-of-forces agreement for UNAMID, and we will continue our tasks in accordance with those.  Yes?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  As you know, yesterday was the Day, the International Day of Indigenous Peoples.  I have been looking for the declaration in French and have not been able to locate it.  Can someone please let me have this declaration in French as soon as possible so I can complete…?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I believe if you deal with our colleagues in the documents counter, they should have it in French.  And also, I believe there is our website, which would have the same information in French as it has in English.  So we do have our website in French that has got the relevant information.


Question:  I am not in front of the computer. But I just came from the counter, they do not have this in French.  I just checked with them.


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll also press on them to make sure that they get that.  But if you can get online, they should also have the relevant language in French, as well as in English.  Yes?


Question:  I wanted to ask, in… in connection with, I guess, today’s… this afternoon’s Council meeting, but more generally, there is discussion of whether the Secretary-General will or should appoint some kind of Special Envoy to Syria.  I know that hasn’t happened yet, but I wanted… just logistically, some have said that he can’t do it without a Security Council mandate, some have said that he can… or the GA’s [General Assembly]… is it within… I don’t want… I mean, I am trying to structure it so it’s not a hypothetical question.  Can the Secretary-General…


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Which it is!


Question:  No, does he have the legal power to appoint a Special Envoy to a country without the consent of the country?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that there have been different people who have been advisers to different countries.  As you know, Jamal Benomar has been a Special Adviser advising the new Government of Tunisia.  And now, in recent weeks, he has been in place in Yemen.  So, there are people the Secretary-General is able to deploy in different countries and has been doing so over the course of the “Arab Spring”.  Whether he will do that in Syria is a decision that would need still to be made.  The Secretary-General has not, as of now, decided to have a Special Envoy for Syria, although that’s something that could continue to be discussed further.


Question:  And on another post, did you… were you able to find out what the… this post that was given out of Commissioner-General of the UN to Samuel Koo, who used to be a correspondent here, I’ve learned.  But, what was that post and is it a paid post and…?


Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I believe that this is something that was announced by UNEP, the UN Environment Programme.  So you can follow up with them.  I think it’s something having to do with a UNEP event, a specific event that the Environment Programme is staging.  Beyond that, I’d check with Martin [Nesirky], who is travelling with the Secretary-General.  And if I have anything further from him, I will let you know.


And as I thought, Mr. Mahiga is still tied up in the Council.  So, hold that thought, we’ll inform you by the intercom when he is ready to come, and then he’ll will come back here.  But we’ll still have a briefing by him, and I expect we’ll be able to announce that to you once that’s ready.  Thanks very much.


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