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

22 March 2012

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

22 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 noon briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Singapore from Malaysia just a couple of hours ago.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General visited Kuala Lumpur's Institute of Respiratory Medicine to meet tuberculosis patients and help highlight Saturday's World Tuberculosis Day and this year's campaign to stop TB in our lifetime.  He spoke to reporters at that event and the transcript is available.

He also delivered a speech at the Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Relations before driving to Putrajaya, about an hour from Kuala Lumpur, to meet the Malaysian Prime Minister in his office there.  In his speech at the Institute, the Secretary-General commended Malaysia for making great strides towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals, and urged the country to help share its experiences with other countries in the Global South.  He also said Malaysia and its neighbours face common challenges related to human rights, including protecting the rights of migrants.

After his meeting with Prime Minister Najib, the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister gave a press conference, during which the Secretary-General took questions on Syria, Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  You will have seen the transcript of the comments, but on the DPRK, he reiterated his concerns for the North's intended launch of a satellite next month using a ballistic missile.  He said he hoped the DPRK would refrain from any acts that would destabilize the Korean peninsula.

Before flying to Singapore, the Secretary-General visited the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre at Port Dickson.  He paid tribute to the thousands of Malaysian peacekeepers who have served in UN missions since 1960 and the 28 who have lost their lives.

Tomorrow in Singapore, the Secretary-General will meet Government and State leaders, and deliver the inaugural Fullerton Lecture to the Asia branch of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

**Security Council

This morning, the Security Council adopted a resolution on Afghanistan that extends the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan until 23 March 2013.

As well, Special Representative Michael von der Schulenburg briefed the Council on developments in Sierra Leone, noting that the forthcoming elections in November will be the major challenge for the country’s nascent democracy.  He noted Sierra Leone’s political elites carry a heavy responsibility to not let these elections derail Sierra Leone’s future.  He raised reports that the Government is importing assault weapons for the police and urged the Government to fully clarify these reports.  He called on all sides to refrain from extreme and unsubstantiated accusations.

The Council then held consultations on Sierra Leone and other matters, and will be briefed by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Lynn Pascoe, this afternoon at 4:30 in consultations.

**United Nations Development Programme

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan and Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan inaugurated the first Global Human Development Forum in Istanbul this morning.  Recommendations from the 2011 Human Development Report and the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability will be analysed in depth at the Forum, which will examine key issues on the agenda at the Rio+20 Conference in June.

In a message to the Forum, the Secretary-General says that sustainable development recognizes that our economic, social and environmental objectives are not competing goals that must be traded off against each other.  Rather, they are interconnected objectives that are most effectively pursued together in a holistic manner.

**Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met today, focusing their discussions on the issue of property.  They will meet again next Thursday, 29 March.

**World Water Day

In a message marking World Water Day today, the Secretary-General says that nearly 1 billion people suffer from hunger and some 800 million still lack a safe supply of freshwater.  With this year’s theme for the day being “Water and Food Security”, he emphasizes that guaranteeing food and water for all will require countries’ full engagement.  And investments in water infrastructure, rural development and water resource management will be essential.

**Slavery

And just to flag to you that this year’s commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade starts tomorrow with a DPI/NGO briefing for non-governmental organizations at 10 a.m.  This year’s commemoration will honour heroes, resisters and survivors of the transatlantic slave trade.  There are also other events next week, including a solemn meeting of the General Assembly on Monday at 3 p.m.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria to discuss the Commission’s work and the latest human rights situation in Syria.  Participants will be the members of the Commission:  Paulo Pinheiro, Chairperson; Yakin Ertürk; and Karen Koning AbuZayd.

And then at 12:15 p.m., there will be another press conference with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, and the Special Envoy of the African Union for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) issue, Francisco Madeira, and the Deputy Force Commander of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  They will brief you by videolink on an experts meeting responsible for finalizing the regional strategy of the fight against the LRA.

That’s all from me.  Questions, please?  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A quick question on that, the Cypriot property meeting, where did that take place?  Somewhere… elsewhere, right?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Elsewhere, yes, it wasn’t here.  I don’t have that information with me here.  But it was elsewhere.  Yes?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the meeting took place in Nicosia.]

Question:  Thank you.  Ambassador Ron Prosor of Israel has sent a second letter to OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] regarding Ms. Khulood Badawi, regarding what Ambassador Prosor says is hate speech and incitement ever since this employee was contracted by OCHA.  She is in Jerusalem, and this is going on since 2008, according to the letter from the Israeli Mission.  If you have any comments, please?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we are aware of the letter that was received from the Israeli Permanent Representative.  We understand and take seriously the concerns expressed, and an internal inquiry is under way regarding any breach of UN staff rules and regulations.

Question:  Yeah, sure, I wanted, I am sorry if I was running here from the North Lawn, but I wanted to know, not just the… I saw the comment that you put out on Mali and what many people are describing it as a coup d’état there.  What is the UN system’s presence on the ground and are… does the UN actually view what has happened as a… as an unconstitutional seizing of power, as some of the regional countries have said?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has said that he is concerned about the situation in Mali.  We are in constant communications with the African Union, with ECOWAS [the Economic Community of West African States].  Mr. [Said] Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in the region, has also spoken with the media.  The reports are that it is a coup d’état, we’re waiting to see what; if we have a statement a bit later on, hopeful we will may have something.

[The Spokesperson’s Office later issued the following statement:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the rebellion by elements of the Malian armed forces who have announced the dissolution of Government institutions and the suspension of the Constitution.  He calls on those responsible to refrain from any actions that could increase violence and further destabilize the country.  The Secretary-General calls for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule in Mali.  The United Nations is ready to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including the leaders in the subregion and ECOWAS towards this end, so as to preserve the democratic gains made by Mali over the past two decades.]

Question:  And who will be briefing the Security Council at 4:30 p.m.?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe it is Lynn Pascoe.

Question:  Okay.  And I wanted to ask you, earlier today in Geneva at the Human Rights Council, there was a resolution on Sri Lanka, which referred, many of the speakers referred to the Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts report; it was adopted 24 to 15.  I wanted to know, first, you know, given his history with this issue, if he has any comment on it, and also if it impacts in any way his decision until now to say nothing about General Shavendra Silva, who is in the report, becoming a senior adviser on peacekeeping to the UN.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as we have said about General Silva, that is a matter for Member States.  As the Secretary-General said, this was a matter for Member States to decide.  Given the Panel of Experts’ assessment and the number of allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law were credible, he felt that it was incumbent on him to share the report of the Panel of Experts with the UN Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and that the support of the international community in helping Sri Lanka move forward for the accountability issue is critical, given the serious concerns raised by the Panel about violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

Correspondent:  And just… just one… Thanks for that.  I just wanted to ask one follow-up on that.  Since you are saying… I mean, since the statement says that the Secretary-General has found in that report credible allegations… since some of the credible allegations are against what is now his own adviser on peacekeeping, that is why I… I am… I am just asking it seems somehow inconsistent…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, Matthew, Matthew, as we have said consistently and as the Secretary-General himself has told you, it was a Member States decision.

Question:  Right, but I mean on… on situations like Syria, he tells Member States what he thinks; what does he think of this situation?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It was a Member States’ decision and that’s all we have to say on that.  Anything else?

Question:  One more, actually.  I just finished… there was a stakeout by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Spain, who is in at the UN.  He said he met with Ms. Malcorra, and I wanted to know whether this was in her capacity as the head of the… of the Department of Field Support or whether she is already now operating as the Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General.  In which capacity did she meet with the Spanish Foreign Minister?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Ms. Malcorra, I believe, begins as Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General on 1 April, if I am not mistaken.  Right now she is acting in her capacity as head of Field Services.

Question:  So that meeting, that meeting was about field support or troops?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a readout on the meeting, we’ll try and find out.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support met with the Spanish official.]

Question:  Can we get a readout?  Okay, thanks.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.

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