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

16 November 2011

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

16 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary‑General.

Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary‑General in Thailand

The Secretary‑General visited the Thai capital, Bangkok, today.  His first appointment of the day was a meeting with the Prime Minister of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra.  The Secretary‑General said that the United Nations stands ready to do everything possible to help Thailand respond to and recover from the heavy floods which hit the country.

The Secretary‑General then met with staff at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), which is based in Bangkok.  He expressed his sympathies for UN staff members who have been affected by the heavy flooding.

He then spoke at a round table on universal health coverage and visited an exhibition on Thailand’s health‑care system.

The Secretary‑General saw first‑hand the impact of the flooding from a helicopter and met with people who were evacuated from inundated areas.  We have also issued a transcript of the Secretary‑General’s part of the joint press conference he attended with the Prime Minister of Thailand.

**Security Council

This morning the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution authorizing the continued presence of European Union and NATO forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

After that meeting, the Security Council began consultations to receive updates on the work of two of its sanctions committees — those dealing, respectively, with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and with Somalia and Eritrea.

** Cyprus

The Cypriot leaders met for one hour today in Nicosia, and they agreed on a schedule for their meetings until January.  The next meeting of the leaders will take place on Monday, 28 November.  After that, the leaders agreed that they will meet roughly once each week, according to Lisa Buttenheim, the Secretary‑General’s Special Representative for Cyprus.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, Martin, I see the Secretary‑General has become quite prolific in Bangladeshi.  [laughter]

Spokesperson:  Please don’t ask me to repeat it.  [laughter]

Question:  My question is about this Saudi resolution that is now in the General Assembly.  I mean, the Iranians have said that this resolution is based on rumours and lies, and it could hurt the United Nations if it is considered by the General Assembly.  Now, I am just asking:  what is the Secretary‑General’s position on such a resolution?  I am not saying what the General Assembly is going to do; we don’t know anything about that, but that resolution that has been submitted to the General Assembly by Saudi Arabia yesterday.

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re obviously aware that there is a resolution in draft form, but it is obviously for the Member States to deliberate on, and let’s see what happens.  But it is certainly not right or proper for the Secretary‑General to inject himself into such a matter when it is being considered by Member States.

Question:  But the fact that Iran is warning that this is based on rumours and lies would hurt the United Nations doesn’t matter?

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  Iranian warning that this is based on lies and rumours, that this resolution… the Secretary‑General, doesn’t he believe that it is his place to comment on it at all at this time?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, this is something that is before the Member States of the General Assembly and all aspects of it will doubtless be discussed in that forum.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Early this morning, there were two explosions in Tyr, South Lebanon, and the Special Coordinator, Mr. [Robert] Watkins, said they were not directed against the UN.  Do you have any further information?

Spokesperson:  Well, it is correct that there were two explosions that were reported in Tyr earlier this morning.  And as you will be aware, it is the Lebanese authorities who are in charge of security in that area and with investigating the matter.  And that is what they are doing.  And so we are waiting to hear more information from the Lebanese authorities.  We were informed already that there were no injuries, but that several vehicles were damaged in these explosions.  Among those vehicles damaged were two UN vehicles that were parked on the street, but we have no indications, according to our colleagues in UNIFIL, we have no indication whatsoever that the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was targeted by these explosions.  But as I say, we are waiting for information from the Lebanese authorities.  Yes?

Question:  Hi, Connor [inaudible], South-South News.  Today is recognized as International Tolerance Day.  I was wondering if the Secretary‑General — I know he is busy in Thailand — if he is doing anything to acknowledge that, and if you could bring us up to date on any efforts that he is leading to combat intolerance.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General did issue a message on International Day of Tolerance, and he is saying that this is a period in which the old world is slowly but irreversibly changing and the contours of a new one are just beginning to take shape.  And he says that traditional institutions are being challenged, and budgets are being squeezed.  Families are being stressed.  And all of this flux and churning creates enormous anxiety.  And he says — I won’t read out the entire message, which is available and has been circulated — but he says, amongst other things, that it is especially important at a time of change to stay true to the ideals and principles that are at the heart of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  And indeed, amongst those core values is, of course, tolerance.  And our practice of tolerance must mean more than peaceful coexistence, crucial as that is.  It must be an active understanding fostered through dialogue and positive engagement with others.

And he points to the special role that UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] plays in fostering active tolerance by promoting quality education for all girls and boys, for example, and advancing a free and pluralistic media, including on the Internet, and also protecting cultural heritage and nurturing respect for cultural diversity.

And I think those are the main points.  He is very active in this area.  As you know, he was recently at the G‑20 Summit where he spoke precisely about the flux and churning that there is at the moment in the social fabric of the world, as well as in the financial markets.  And that’s why it is really important that people should at this time of all times look at what are the core principles.  And tolerance is one of those.  And that begins with each and every one of us, every day.  It’s not just a big concept; it’s about living together harmoniously, and that begins with everybody as an individual.

Okay, other questions?  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  In that same message, as you indicated, the Secretary‑General said that traditional institutions are being challenged.  Does he have in mind also the United Nations and in what way it is being challenged?

Spokesperson:  I think this is a general statement.  And it involves everybody; we are all being challenged, whether as individuals, whether as countries or multilateral organizations like the United Nations.  Whether that is to do with funding, whether it is to do with multiple crises and challenges that we face, whether it is humanitarian, political or otherwise.  So I would not specifically say that he is focusing on the United Nations there; no, he is painting a broader picture.  But are we exempt from it also?  No.  Of course, the United Nations is being challenged as never before and is in demand as never before.

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.