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

20 March 2012

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

20 March 2012
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 Briefing.


**Secretary-General Travel


The Secretary-General is in Indonesia, where he held talks this morning with President [Susilo Bambang] Yudhoyono and members of the Indonesian Government at the Presidential palace at Bogor, near the capital of Jakarta.


Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Secretary-General said the discussions had covered a wide range of topics, starting from bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and the United Nations, and encompassing cooperation between the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.


He said that they also discussed Indonesia’s contribution to UN peacekeeping, the Millennium Development Goals, this year’s Rio+20 summit, sustainable development and democratic governance, as well as regional matters including Myanmar, Timor-Leste, Cambodia and Thailand, and global challenges such as Syria.


Later, the Secretary-General travelled to Sendul in West Java to visit the Indonesia Peace and Security Centre, a new training centre for peacekeepers.


In a speech at the Centre, the Secretary-General commended Indonesia’s intention to boost still further its contribution to UN peacekeeping.  He also said he had asked the President to consider providing badly needed helicopters for peacekeeping operations. The full text of the speech is online.


The Secretary-General also attended a reception at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.


Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General met the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Surin Pitsuwan, to discuss cooperation and regional developments.


Tomorrow, the Secretary-General will deliver the keynote speech at the Jakarta International Defence Conference.  Later in the day he will head to Kuala Lumpur on the next leg of his Asia trip.


**Secretary-General on Syria


You will also have seen the Secretary-General was asked about developments in Syria during the press conference in Indonesia.


He said the situation there had become the most troubling crisis for the international community at this time.  He said he sincerely hoped that the international community would speak with one voice, and particularly the Security Council.


He said we have no time to waste, no time to lose.  Just one minute, one hour, delay will mean the death of more and more people.  He said it was the moral and political responsibility of the international community to tackle this crisis, and that it was his top priority.


**Security Council


This morning the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, briefed the Security Council on his first few months in Afghanistan.


He said that, if there was one thing he drew hope from, it was the strong expressions of the desire for peace.  The message of the people is clear — it is time to wind down this war.


Another important point he drew from his meetings was a near universal recognition of the value of the UN’s work and a great desire for United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) continued presence.


He called on all to exercise non-violent forms of protest when challenged by unfortunate events.


He concluded noting that, from the outset of his work in Kabul, he has been clear that the Mission and the 28 UN agencies, funds and programmes present in Afghanistan, must work in support of the increasing capacity of Afghan authorities and institutions to meet the needs of the Afghan people.  This approach will also determine the future footprint of UNAMA and the UN family in the country.


**Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Martin Kobler, has condemned in the strongest possible terms today’s brutal attacks in a number of cities throughout Iraq.


Those attacks have claimed the lives of dozens of Iraqis and injured many more.


He said the atrocious crimes being committed against the people of Iraq are totally unacceptable.


He has urged all Iraqis to remain steadfast in the face of attempts to undermine a stable and peaceful Iraq.


He added that every effort should be made to identify the perpetrators of the violence and bring those responsible to justice.


SRSG Kobler has extended his condolences to the families of those who were killed and his wishes for the speedy recovery of those who were injured.


**UNRWA:  ‘Engaging Youth’ Conference


Today, an international conference called “Engaging Youth” convened by United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA) concluded in Brussels.


The two-day meeting was attended by Catherine Ashton, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, Nabil Elaraby, Secretary General of the Arab League, and Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA.


The meeting was opened with messages of support from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, delivered by his Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, and also from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.


The event, which was streamed live on the Internet, was also attended by 24 young people brought to the meeting by UNRWA from the five areas where it works, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo Human Rights


A United Nations report released Tuesday details serious human rights violations, including killings, disappearances and arbitrary detention, during the November 2011 presidential and legislative elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


The report, based on investigations conducted by the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, documents the killing by security forces of at least 33 people in the capital, Kinshasa, in November and December last year.


The investigation found that at least 83 were wounded, mostly by bullets.  At least 16 people remain unaccounted for.


The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, strongly condemned the serious human rights violations described in the report and other acts of violence committed throughout the country during the electoral process.


There are more details online.


** Somalia


In Somalia, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has said that it is concerned by the resumption in mortar attacks in Mogadishu which have claimed at least four lives in recent days.


The agency says that mortars landed in a small settlement for internally displaced people in the capital yesterday morning.  This latest incident was the first such attack in Mogadishu since last August.


The United Nations refugee agency calls on all parties to the conflict in Somalia to cease attacks targeting civilians and humanitarian agencies, or where there is a high risk of harm to civilians located near the intended target.


** Mali


And in Mali, UNHCR is boosting assistance to the thousands of Malians who have been uprooted by fighting since mid-January.  The agency says that tens of thousands of people continue to flee into Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, or are internally displaced within Mali.


It says that 60 tons of relief, including blankets, mats, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting are currently being trucked from Ghana to Niger, as well as 52 tons to Burkina Faso.


In Mauritania, the UNHCR completed the relocation of 39,390 refugees from the border to Mbera camp yesterday.  Relocation to safer sites is ongoing in Burkina Faso and in Niger.


**Joint Special Envoy for Syria


We have been asked assorted questions about administrative and staffing details with respect to the United Nations-League of Arab States Joint Special Envoy for Syria.


We do not, as a matter of practice, provide detailed lists of staff who work for an envoy or those who accompany the envoy on these missions.


The Joint Special Envoy is being supported by staff contributed by UN departments such as Department of Political Affairs and Department of Peacekeeping Operations, and others who have been hired from outside the United Nations, including his Foundation, which has been helpful to the United Nations in getting this effort running quickly under the circumstances.


With regard to people who have been specifically mentioned:  Alan Doss, who works for the Foundation, was on the first trip to Syria in an advisory capacity, and is now back at the Foundation.


Lamine Sise is the Envoy’s Chief of Staff, and Ahmad Fawzi is his Spokesperson.


The Joint Special Envoy’s initial budget comes from funds available to the Secretary-General for these kinds of unforeseen activities.  The Joint Special Envoy has a $1/year contract.


That’s all from me, ladies and gentlemen.  Questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  My name is [inaudible]… of Nigeria.  My question is on Syria.  We have heard a lot, a lot from Syria, and I want to ask, is there nothing new the UN could do to speed up the ceasefire and stop the continued killing of civilians in Syria?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN is speaking against it.  The Secretary-General has been calling for the past year for an end to the violence and the killing.  We have, as I mentioned yesterday, a two-pronged mission in Syria right now; one looking at the possibilities of how to deliver humanitarian assistance; the other one looking at negotiating an agreement whereby the violence and the killing would end.  So, there is a lot that the United Nations is doing on it.  Unfortunately, there is no United Nations Security Council mandate yet which would of course have strengthened the ability of the United Nations to take a more proactive position.  But the Secretary-General, basing himself on the General Assembly mandate as we announced before and I just mentioned here, nominated with the League of Arab States Kofi Annan to head the mission.  Mr. Annan was in Damascus last week; he met with President Assad and he has his team working with President Assad’s people to see how they can come together.  He also met with members of the opposition.  So, I would say that the dialogue process is taking place and the United Nations is involved in it.  Matthew?


Question:  I wanted to ask about, and thank you for at least providing some information.  You’d said that, of some of the people named, Nicolas Michel, for example, the former head Legal Officer under Kofi Annan has been seen on television in Cairo with him, what, what is his status?  Why isn’t he part of your [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, as I said, we do not normally name members of envoys missions.  I have given you the information that we are planning to give and that is about all.


Question:  Mr. Guéhenno was not the deputy?  This is, why the reported…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have no information on that.


[The Spokesperson later issued the following press release:


Jean-Marie Guéhenno was today appointed as Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria.


Along with Mr. Nasser al-Kidwa, Mr. Guéhenno will assist Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan in the exercise of his mandate.  Mr. Guéhenno was United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations from 2000 to 2008, and brings to the position years of diplomatic and academic experience.


Prior to this appointment, Mr. Guéhenno was a Professor at Columbia University, and a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.  He was also Chairman of the Board of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, and has had a distinguished career at the United Nations and the French civil service.


You will recall that on 7 March 2012 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and League of Arab States Secretary General Nabil Elaraby had appointed Nasser al-Kidwa as Deputy Joint Special Envoy of the United Nations and the League of Arab States on Syria, to assist Joint Special Envoy Annan in the exercise of his mandate.


Mr. Al-Kidwa brings to the position years of diplomatic experience and deep knowledge of the region.  Prior to this appointment, Mr. Al-Kidwa served in various functions with the Palestinian National Authority, including as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 2005 to 2006, and Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations from 1991 to 2005.]


Question:  And then he is, I want to ask you just because I want to, I actually asked the Kofi Annan Foundation for simple information which is, since they have this role in this mission, have they solicited or received funds, for example, from the Governments of Qatar, Saudi Arabia or the UAE [United Arab Emirates]?  They told me to ask Jared Kotler, who is the DPA [Department of Political Affairs] Spokesman but it’s now my understanding, is the UN, is the UN going to provide financial information of potential conflicts of interest about the Kofi Annan Foundation or I am assuming they won’t so I am wondering do you acknowledge that relying on an outside foundation, which has an absolutely zero transparency on its website of where its funds come, from might represent something of a problem?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what I said in my statement was that the Secretary-General was using funds that are available to him for unforeseen circumstances and that as far as I am concerned, that’s the answer we are going to give you.


Question:  So both Mr. Sise and Mr. Fawzi are being paid in UN funds?


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


Question:  Okay, how do we contact Mr. Fawzi since he is now a UN paid spokesman?


Deputy Spokespersonfawzi@un.org.


Question:  Okay, very good.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay?  Yes.


Question:  Did the Secretary-General ever issue a statement on the outcome of the recent presidential elections in Russia?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t believe he did, no.  But he did congratulate President Putin on his re-election, on his election again to the post of President that he had given up a few years ago.


Question:  I want to ask about Sudan and also the Special Adviser on Africa.  On Sudan, two things:  one is the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] North in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile has said that the Government is preparing a group of 4,500 paramilitaries and, as I am sure you know, there is a lot of discussion that what took place in Darfur may now take place in those two regions.  Did, is the UN, who in the UN is working on this issue as things escalate toward paramilitaries versus rebels in these two areas?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that for you, as you know we don’t have a presence in Blue Nile and that area of the country.


Question:  Well, you do have a presence in Darfur:  UNAMID.  There has been a call by the new, the former head of the LJM [Liberation and Justice Movement], Tijani Sese who used to be a UN employee at UNECA [Economic Commission for Africa] in Addis.  He said that UNAMID should leave Sudan and be replaced by a joint Sudanese-Chadian force, and I am wondering since you do have a presence there and Mr. Gambari is the Head of UNAMID, what is UNAMID’s response to local authorities saying that UNAMID should leave?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We are not going to comment on that now.  Anything else?


Question:  Special Adviser on Africa, maybe you will either comment or find this out:  factually, when does Mr. Maged Abdelaziz begin as the Special Adviser on Africa, a post he was named to from here?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check, I don’t have that date with me.


Question:  And given that he is now a prospective UN high official, is there, what is your comment to some who say that there is a conflict of interest now?  He works for Ban Ki-moon, but he is still negotiating budgetary, i.e., troop cost issues in the C-34 [Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations] with the Secretariat that he has already taken a job to work for?  Is there some problem with that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he will begin to work for the UN when he begins to work.  Until then, he is probably earning a living doing something else.


Question:  Right, but is there, I mean, do you see why he is already working for the side he is supposed to be negotiating around how UN funds go to peacekeepers, but he is already working for the entity that actually pays the money.  So, it’s, there is no safeguards about this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, there is no conflict of interest right now because he has not begun his job yet.


Question:  He has already been given the job though.


Deputy Spokesperson:  But he hasn’t begun his functions yet.


Question:  So, he is…


Deputy Spokesperson:  When he begins his functions he will be expected to work solely for the UN.


Question:  So at this point though, he has to have zero loyalty, or not loyalty, affiliation to Ban Ki-moon, it’s not, the idea is that this has no impact on his behaviour of advocacy status.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’d have to check on that with the appropriate authorities.


Question:  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay?  Thank you so much.  Have a nice afternoon.


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