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

28 October 2011

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

28 October 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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General addressed the Security Council’s open meeting on women, peace and security today, and he said that women’s participation in conflict prevention and resolution remains low.  This has to change, he said, adding that he is determined that the UN system should lead by example.  In the past year, the Secretary-General noted, the number of women leading UN peacekeeping, political and peacebuilding missions has gone up to six in 33 missions.

The Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern about the persistence of serious abuses of women’s rights.  We must respond swiftly and effectively to such crimes wherever and whenever they occur and hold those responsible to account, he said.

Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN-Women, added that the UN system is working to increase post-conflict spending on women’s empowerment and gender equality.  The UN wants that spending to reach a level of at least 15 per cent of post-conflict financing within a few years.  We have those remarks in our office.

** Niger

Around 1 million people are in urgent need of food after a poor harvest in drought-hit Niger.  The figure is likely to rise as the country moves towards the April-September lean season.  Crop-assessment results confirm a national cereal deficit of around 500,000 metric tons, worse figures than for the crisis years of 2005 and 2010.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is planning to scale up its operations in Niger urgently, increasing the numbers of people reached by cash and food-for-work projects, and boosting nutrition for children under age 2, pregnant women and nursing mothers.  The Programme already reaches an average of 500,000 vulnerable people per month.

The increasing frequency of droughts in the Sahel means that communities have not had time to recover from the last food crisis.  Vulnerable families have had no time to replenish their household food stocks and build up their herds of livestock.  The return of around 200,000 migrant workers who used to send remittances to their families from Libya and Côte d’Ivoire has not only hit the local economy, but has created an additional burden on communities already struggling to find food.

The World Food Programme estimates it needs an additional $60 million to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable groups for the next six months.  It is closely monitoring the situation in other countries in the region, and is concerned about the situation in Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.  In Mauritania, it estimates that some 700,000 people are facing severe food insecurity, compared to 500,000 in previous years.

** Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that some 1.8 million people have been provided with food since the beginning of the floods in Pakistan.  Another 700,000 people have received essential medicines, 870,000 people have received clean water and 375,000 people have obtained emergency shelter.

The Rapid Response Plan, which was launched on 18 September, is only 23 per cent funded so far, with only $80 million received by now.  If additional funding is not found, UN agencies estimate that most relief stocks will run out soon.

** Nicaragua

Today the United Nations and the Government of Nicaragua announced a flash appeal of $14.3 million to assist 134,000 people affected by the floods over the next six months.  Priority projects are in water and sanitation, shelter, health, food aid, agricultural and early recovery.  Those projects will complement and support national efforts.  Access to remote and heavily affected areas in Estreli and Chinandega is still limited due to blocked roads or landslides.

** Cyprus

The Secretary-General will be meeting with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities this weekend in Greentree, Long Island.  The two-day meeting will begin on Sunday morning and end in the evening of Monday, 31 October.

**Press Conferences

Press conferences for Monday:  at 10:30 a.m., there will be a press conference here to mark the day that the world’s population is projected to reach 7 billion.  Speakers will include the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly.  More details are available in “The Week Ahead”.

And then our noon guests will be Yuri Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  They will brief you on the launch of a joint plan of action between UNODC and UNHCR.

At 2 p.m., there will be a press conference on the “Financial Crisis and Cooperative Banks”.  Speakers will include Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

That’s it from me.  A few questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yesterday, the Syrian Ambassador at the UN sent a letter to Mr. Ban Ki-moon and the President of the Security Council regarding the 1559 report.  And he said that the Secretary-General or his report included lies and it tried to mislead the Security Council on the 1559 implementation.  So what’s Mr. Ban’s position on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t know if Mr. Ban Ki-moon has received the letter.  We will check and get back to you.

Question:  I think he did; I asked yesterday and I was told that he already received it.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to check and get back to you on that.  Matthew?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Office had in fact received the letter.  It would not be appropriate to comment on its contents.  The Deputy Spokesperson added that the Secretary-General stands by his report on the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004).]

Question:  Sure, thanks.  It seems like there is… is… there is continued fighting in Blue Nile State of Sudan, and previously I’ve asked, the… the SPLA-North has alleged that Janjaweed fighters, the same militia that occupy… that… that have been active in Darfur are being flown there, and was told that there was no way they can monitor it, and I have become aware of the… that in the… in the mission… in the mandate of UNAMID, they’re supposed to promote efforts to disarm the Janjaweed and other militias.  So I wanted to know how this doesn’t include ensuring that armed Janjaweed militias are not flown elsewhere in Sudan to aid the Government in fighting rebels.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, have you checked with DPKO now?

Question:  They… I… I’ve hit a bla… while Mr. Ladsous himself has said they’re not going to do it, and what I wanted to know is… is that… is… is… how can that be?  How can they ignore their mandate when people are being killed in Blue Nile State?  That’s my question to you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think Mr. Ladsous has answered that question to you.

Question:  How… also… then my question to Ban Ki-moon is how is it acceptable that the Head of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations either hasn’t read the mandate or refuses to enforce it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to check and see…

Question:  There are allegations that the Syrian army are… is conducting some incursions inside the Lebanese territories.  I wonder whether you have any proof on that or it is just some allegations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No; as Martin said earlier in the week, when we have something we’ll get back to you on it.  Yes?

Question:  You mentioned the Secretary-General this weekend is going to be conducting some… some talks on the Cyprus situation.  Does he have any current plans to do something similar on the Western Sahara involving Morocco and the other parties to that continuing conflict?  I know he has given his report, it’s pretty much the same every year — the Security Council has just deliberated on it, Morocco is going to be sitting on the Security Council next year. Does the Secretary-General have any plans to be proactive in trying to use maybe the opportunity, with Morocco on the Security Council, to push this issue forward and get it resolved?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I haven't seen any plans yet, but if we have something we will let you know.

Question:  Well, is there any reason why that hasn’t been pursued?  I mean, this has been going on for decades, and Morocco is now being given a seat on the Security Council although they said this isn’t one of their priorities.  So I am wondering, the Secretary-General has been in the… has written reports every year, you know, discussing the situation there, the human rights violations, even though there is no human rights component, I believe, in the UN mission there; it has been blocked.  Is the Secretary-General going to try to, you know, take some constructive steps in the near term, as he is presumably doing on Cyprus to bring the parties together, and [inaudible] Morocco towards a more constructive resolution?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to get back to you on that; I’ve got nothing here today on that situation.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, has been coming up with new and innovative steps, including those which he has presented in the Security Council.  The Personal Envoy is doing everything he can to bring the parties together.]

Question:  Do you have something you can [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We can check for you and get back, yes.

Question:  Would you please tell us when are you going to get us… back to us regarding all these questions?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, when we get the responses we put them in the verbatim transcripts.  So if you follow the verbatim transcripts, you will see that in most cases we answer the questions the same day or the day afterwards.

Question:  Can you try and do this even if there is no plan that you’ve checked with whoever you have to check with — the Secretary-General, his deputies — on this question and insert into the transcript that there is, even no plans for mediation or UN role or if there are [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, we’ll do it when we get the information.

Question:  I have a couple of questions, but I… actually, just based on this and with all… with all due respect, maybe it’s useful if you have these “if asked”, maybe we should just read those out.  Do you see what I mean?  Like if there are prepared answers to questions that none of us are asking, and these are the things that the UN is prepared to say today, maybe you should just… we can just read them out and then we’ll learn something?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, the thing is, you know, when you ask questions that we don’t have a line on, we try and get back to you as soon as possible with the proper information.

Correspondent:  But maybe you’ve prepared lines for questions that we’re not asking, and then the world never knows what the UN thinks.  So we might just read the lines out.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re answering the questions as they are asked and as they are asked we try and get the information, and as I said, we put the information on the website in the verbatim Spokesperson’s transcript, and that’s where we… that’s the way we operate.

Question:  The Cypriot high-level meeting is going to take place as you said, Sunday and Monday in Greenstate…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Greentree.

Question: …in Long Island.  I was told there is a very private area.  And then if you are not going to be in attending anything, you are not supposed to be that end.  How do they… the Greek/Turkish Cypriots and the other press is going to watch… watch the… this? Some tweeting?

Deputy Spokesperson: I believe that the Secretary-General will be reading a statement at the end of the meetings, and that’s the media component.  This is a meeting that we want to hold away from the city precisely so that they have time to discuss these issues in…

Question:  And SG is going to make a statement at the set, okay, after the meeting?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe he will probably make a statement at the end, yes.

Question:  And then the press will be allowed in [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to check on that and get back to you.  I’ll check on the logistics for that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that we did indeed share this information with the media on Thursday morning.]

Question:  I have questions on Libya and the budget, but I want to see whether you have lines on these two things.  There has been… there are reports of… of… of several, you know, many people killed in Syria with firing on demonstrations.  Is that something on which you do have an answer?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the…

Question:  Or the UN Mission?

Deputy Spokesperson:  In Syria, the Secretary-General has been quite straight here.  He’s said that it is… the Syrian Government has to stop violence against the people.

Question:  Okay.  And two ICC questions.  One is, although I know you may say that the… the UN is separate than the ICC, there are reports of…that Saif al-Islam is in contact to turn himself in to the ICC in The Hague.  Would the… would the Secretary-General welcome that? Is there any line on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have to check with the ICC on what’s happening with that.

Question:  Okay.  This is more… this is more [inaudible].  It is my understanding that Ian Martin has told the… the Security Council, or some members of the Security Council, that they need a roll-over; that he hasn’t been able to accomplish his mission in three months, and that they also want to meet with ACABQ and get more money.  Is that something that we can get a… just a clear answer on what Mr. Martin’s current prognosis of his budgetary needs, and what’s been accomplished in the one month of… of UNSMIL?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’d have to check on that for you and get back to you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that mandate extensions are up to the members of the Security Council.  He noted that the Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, told the Security Council on Wednesday that “it seems likely that we will have to request an extension of the initial three-month UNSMIL mandate for a further few months to have time for this assessment”.]

Question:  Okay.  And finally, just on the budget, since the Secretary-General himself personally was in the budget hearings yesterday, and there was a pretty… it seemed there was criticism on a number of fronts.  One was about his failure to name a Special Adviser on Africa.  The African Group said that, G-77 said that, and I have never heard an answer of why the Secretary-General has not filled that post.  Is it… I mean, what’s the… I’m not… I mean, maybe that will go into the transcript, but it’s… they asked it and there was no answer.  He left the hearing during CARICOM’s testimony.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, like I said, we will have to check — we’re not really doing too well today, but we will have…

Correspondent:  Yeah, I know, I know, I mean…

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re going to have to check on that also.

Correspondent:  I think this idea of reading the lines out, may… may take us to a new place.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the thing is that’s not the way we operate, Matthew.

Question:  Well, again, not trying to pin you down too much here, but can you give us a timetable when you can proactively check where you can to get the answers where you can? Or if you can’t, to indicate that, perhaps today, later in the transcript, because…

Deputy Spokesperson:  We proactively check the moment the question is asked.  And it depends on how fast people get back to us with the information.  So we are going to try and get it for you today.

Question:  With regard to the poor harvest situation in Niger and 1 million people facing starvation, and with reports that Saif al-Islam Qadhafi and Abdallah Senussi, the head of the former Libyan intelligence, reported to be in Niger at the protection of some of the Tuareg tribes, could that be a loophole for them to penetrate the country in such dire conditions, knowing that Saif al-Islam has access to part of the… his father’s wealth overseas, and his activities in financing mercenaries in [inaudible], since we don’t have yet a reaction on whether he is gong to turn himself in to the ICC or he is going to stay… remain on the run?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as Mr. Martin said the other day to the Security Council — I think it was on Wednesday — the African Union and the United Nations are looking at helping the Libyans control the flow of people across the borders from their country to neighbouring countries, as well as the flow of arms.  So in that sense I would say that we are looking at how we can help the Libyans patrol their borders better.

Correspondent:  My question is not regarding the border protection; my question is regarding the influence of Saif Qadhafi on Niger itself.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he shouldn’t have… there is an International Criminal Court warrant out for Saif al-Islam, and we would expect all countries to respect that warrant.

Okay, thank you.  Have a nice weekend.

* *** *

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