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

3 November 2011

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

3 November 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.

**Secretary-General Travels

The Secretary-General is in Cannes today, where he is taking part in the G-20 Summit.  This morning he participated in working sessions on “Growth and Jobs”, and right now, he is discussing development and trade in another session with the G-20 leaders.

Earlier this morning on the margins of the G-20, the Secretary-General spoke to the 2011 Labour Summit.  He said that the Cannes summit had to be about more than financial fire-fighting.  It must be about global economic recovery — growth that is sustainable and inclusive, he added.

The Secretary-General also said it was time to write a new social contract for the twenty-first century that includes a Global Jobs Pact.  He said that at a time of crisis and confusion; discord and division; inequality and injustice, we were all called to moral battle once again.

Later tonight, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with the President of the European Commission and the President of the Council; the Prime Minister of Ethiopia; and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates.  He met earlier this morning with the President of the Republic of Korea.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council met to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on developments in Guinea-Bissau and on the activities of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office (UNIOGBIS) there.

The Secretary General’s Special Representative for Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, said that the national authorities, with the assistance of international partners, have steered the country in the right direction and have consolidated important gains, resulting in a better political and security environment.

He underscored the need to continue to build upon these gains as the country embarks on a sensitive electoral process in 2012.

This afternoon, the Committee on the Admission of New Members will meet in closed session.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that its food price index dropped to an 11-month low in October.

The drop in the index was triggered by the sharp declines in international prices of cereals, oils, sugar and dairy products.

In spite of this, prices still remain generally higher than last year and continue to be very volatile, the Organization warned.

There is more information on its website.

**One Day on Earth

The United Nations, in collaboration with the “One Day on Earth” online video community, is preparing for what will be the first-ever global screening of a film that includes footage that was shot in every country on the planet on a single day.

The movie, which bears the same title as the organization, One Day on Earth, will be screened in every country of the world on the same day in late February 2012.

One Day on Earth produced the film in partnership with the United Nations, more than 60 non-profit organizations, and a growing online community of over 19,000 filmmakers, both experienced and novices.

On 10 October 2010 (10/10/10), the One Day on Earth community, including over 95 United Nations country offices, filmed in every country of the world, capturing both the joys and the struggles of everyday life.  The film pulls from the resulting 3,000 hours of footage, which is now a shared-for-use archive for all those that participated.

For more information, please look at the press release on the United Nations website.

**Counter-Terrorism

The United Nations Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) will launch on Thursday, 10 November, a new report concerning our coordinated response in the event of a terrorist attack using chemical or biological weapons or materials.  The launch will be held at the International Peace Institute (IPI).

There is more information available upstairs.

That’s all from me.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, I’d like to know, last time when the Secretary-General went to this meeting of G-20, he had asked for aid for the developing countries because they were facing financial crisis all over.  And it was said that about $1 trillion was committed.  But has that been delivered?  If it was delivered, has it been distributed?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have the figures that have been delivered or not, but the Secretary-General is once again in Cannes, at the G-20, reminding leaders of their responsibility to look far beyond their own national interests and to look at the needs of the most vulnerable, which are the poor, the disenfranchised, the planet, women and youth.  And that it is important for them to focus on those constituencies.  The Secretary-General does not represent them legally, but he represents them morally as the head of a major global organization.  So, his objective is to sensitize leaders to live up to their commitments and to come across with the type of programmes and policies that over the longer term will reach the most disenfranchised people in the world.

Question:  So, basically what I want-I want to know basically, you are not aware, or that $1 trillion committed, not necessarily directly to the United Nations, were ever delivered or ever matured at all?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any figures with me to be able to confirm that.  All I know is that the Secretary-General is once again advocating for those who are in most need of assistance and in most need of change and that that is his objective at the G-20 summit.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you.  In his address to the group you just mentioned, the Secretary-General called for solidarity, for unity and for social justice.  He also called for a revolution in thinking.  Is this new language on the part of the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It’s not new language; it is evolving language.  Obviously the Secretary-General is very concerned that sometimes meetings between groups of countries focus exclusively on the problems facing those countries.  And what he wants is for them to look beyond their national borders and beyond their national interests and to look at the needs of people everywhere.  172, 173 countries are not represented at the G-20 meeting, and these countries are some of the countries that have the most vulnerable people in them.  So, obviously there is a great need for the international community at the G-20 level to look beyond its national interests and to establish the kinds of policies and global perspectives that will address the problems of people in the longer term and will provide real solutions.

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, thanks. I wanted to ask at least in a, first about the UAE and also about Libya separately.  In the UAE there is a trial of five on-line activists.  They have been put on trial in what’s called the UAE five case for insulting UAE Government officials in an on-line forum, and Amnesty International and a variety of groups have said that the trial is a travesty and that international organizations should speak against it.  I am wondering if anyone in the UN system is observing that trial, do you have any statement on the UAE putting essentially bloggers on trial for their speech.

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we have no statement on that yet.  If we have anything, we will let you know.

Question:  In, well, okay.  Yesterday I had, I had asked you, maybe you have an answer now, I am hoping, when the Secretary-General flew to Libya, he has now left, so, there is no security concerns.  How, on whose aircraft did he fly?  Did he fly commercial?

Deputy Spokesperson: He flew, he and the delegation flew from here to Frankfurt on commercial aircraft, and then from Frankfurt to Libya on a UN-chartered aircraft; and then from Libya to Nice on a UN-chartered aircraft.

Question:  Okay, just, just contracted out, you know, paid, paid?

Deputy Spokesperson:  To the best of my knowledge, yes.

Question:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  A UN-chartered aircraft.  Yes?

Question:  Yesterday, I had asked you about this Secretary-General’s reaction to this Israeli, what do you call, the threat to the region, wherein it was reported mostly in the Israeli press that missile or rocket, which has enough distance to go to hit Iran, was test-fired by the Israelis.  Does he have any reaction to that, because it is exasperating tensions in the region?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General and the Quartet have called on all parties in the Middle East not to engage in provocative actions, and that remains the policy of the United Nations and of the Quartet.  Now, obviously, every nation State has the right to decide on its own defence needs, and in that sense, the Secretary-General has to respect that also.  So, its’ a two-way street.

Question:  Another question about this, another flotilla, which has started from Turkey into Gaza, and it has again been threatened to be attacked by Israelis.  Do you have any reaction to that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s view remains that assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channelled through official crossings and established channels.  He is fully aware that the extensive restrictions imposed on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip through the closure of land crossings perpetuate an unstable situation for the population.  He has consistently called for the lifting of the closure of Gaza, and he continues to do so consistent with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  He has taken note of the reports of the vessels that could reach the waters off Gaza on Friday and is calling on all sides to exercise restraint.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General approached the Palestinian leadership at all about its plans to apply to more UN agencies and their affiliated bodies?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Not to the best of my knowledge in the past two or three days, no.  But he is, he has made his views aware, he has made his views known in an interview this morning that he gave to AP in Cannes at the G-20 where he noted that it is the prerogative of Member States to decide on membership into the international organizations.  But it is also his job as head of the UN to ensure that the UN functions properly and smoothly, and is adequately financed to meet its goals and objectives.

Question:  I thank you.  Does the Secretary-General believe that the international community should act against the Israeli decision to expand the settlements in the Occupied Territories, especially that UNESCO is representing the international community and they decided to accept the membership of Palestine?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, if you read the Secretary-General’s statement yesterday — I will read you the first paragraph, it was issued yesterday after the press briefing, so you may not have gotten it — it says the Secretary-General is deeply concerned at the decision announced by the Government of Israel in response to the decision of UNESCO’s General Conference in favour of Palestinian membership.  Israeli settlement activity is contrary to international law and the road map, and prejudices final status negotiations.  The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to continue to transfer VAT and customs revenues that belong to the Palestinian Authority and are essential to enable it to function in line with Israeli’s obligations.

Question:  But does, does he believe that the Security Council let’s say, should act on the settlements?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, that’s a question for the Security Council to decide.  The Secretary-General does not advise the Security Council in that sense.  It’s up to the Security Council to decide.

Question:  Thank you, Roberto (Sic).  There are press reports that indicate that three NGO members — two from Spain, one from Italy — have been kidnapped in Tindouf in southern Algeria.  And those reports indicate also that elements of the POLISARIO affiliated with AQIM, the Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb Islamic (Sic) have been involved in this kidnapping.  Do you have any information on that, and what is the UN doing to help release these kidnapped Europeans?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has expressed his deep concern at the kidnapping of these three individuals, and has asked all sides to refrain from anything that may endanger them, and has called for their immediate release.  That’s the only information I have.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to, maybe I’ve, you, you said something on this, you know, Syria or the Government of Syria reached the agreement with the Arab League very publicly and, and since then it is reported that, that 12 people have been killed in Homs, and so, some they are saying that the Arab League, that agreement has not been lived up to.  What’s your comment both on the agreement with the Arab League and on developments since then?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General said he is aware of the League of Arab States and the Syrian Government’s agreement yesterday, and the understanding that it was to be implemented immediately.  He hoped that this agreement would be implemented immediately.  The suffering and killings in Syria have gone on for far too long.  And it is a completely unjustifiable situation, that there should be accountability and human rights should be protected.  And that the killing of Syrian people must stop immediately.  He said that is what I have been speaking out, that is what I have been discussing with President Assad; he has not kept his promises.  Now that it is reported he has agreed with the Arab League, he must implement it as soon as possible.

Question:  And when, when was this, when was that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He said this yesterday in, at a press conference in Tripoli.

Question:  Is that a response to these 12 people being killed in Homs or is that, is this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a response to the announcement that the agreement had been struck and that the agreement was supposed to take effect immediately.  Obviously, as he said, and I will repeat:  the killings must stop.  The killings are not justifiable under any stretch of the imagination, and the killings must stop.

Question:  Can I, can I, I wanted to ask you, this is also something that I had asked you yesterday by e-mail, but I wanted to maybe also now as with the chartered aircraft you actually there is an answer awaiting.  Sitting where you are the, the head of the working group on mercenaries said that, that, said, quote, the UN does use private military companies.  And she said that the UN in the Secretariat there is a process afoot to judge private military companies or mercenaries essentially and root out those who may be charged with human rights violations.  What, does, is it, I mean, she said it, is it true?  How did, does the UN or its agencies use any private military companies, and if so, what safeguards are in place?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’re looking into it, and once we have a response, we will be glad to give it to you.

Question:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson: Anything else? Okay, thank you!

Question:  One more!  Is it possible?  This is a domestic one.  There was an eve, an incident last evening in, in Oakland, California here in the United States in which, for the second time in less than a month, tear gas was used to put down protesters, Occupy Wall Street, or in this case, Occupy Oakland protesters, and I just wonder as, as is there any comment, is there anyone within DPA or elsewhere in the Secretariat, I know that you’d said we’re always looking at things, that’s what Martin said, but what’s the comment on this?  Do you think that that’s a proportionate response and is the UN considering somehow, uh, uh, either paying more attention, is this on DPA’s radar screen or is it viewed as a development in a developed country that you are uninterested in?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, Matthew, everything is on the radar screen, but we take things in their just proportion.  Obviously, the fact that tear gas was used, that the authorities thought that tear gas had to be used, if I recall a couple of weeks ago the Mayor of Oakland apologized for an incident, so, we believe that the authorities are acting responsibly, and that we hope that they will continue to act responsibly.

Thank you so much.  Have a good afternoon.

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