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

23 March 2012

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

23 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.

**Press Conference

Today’s briefing will be very short, because immediately after my briefing, there will be a press conference at 12:15 p.m. with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, Abou Moussa; 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, Major General Adrian Foster.  They will brief you by videolink on the experts meeting responsible for finalizing the regional strategy of the fight against the LRA.

So, as I said, today’s briefing will be very short, Monday’s will resume at the normal length.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is leaving Singapore for the Republic of Korea around now to attend the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, and to hold a range of bilateral meetings there.  In Singapore today, the Secretary-General had meetings with the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and also met other Government ministers.

He delivered the inaugural Fullerton Lecture for the Asia branch of the International Institute for Strategic Studies.  The Secretary-General said geopolitical developments in the past year had shown there was a reshaping of the political landscape for the twenty-first century and perhaps even a readjustment of the power politics within the broader United Nations.  The Secretary-General spoke about developments in Syria, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Myanmar.  He said he would visit Myanmar soon, most probably next month.

**Humanitarian Affairs — South-East Asia

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has just completed a four-country visit to Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand to discuss with Governments and their national disaster response agencies recent experiences in disaster management.

Both Thailand and Cambodia were affected last year by the South-East Asia floods, and Ms. Amos says the international community can learn from their experiences.  Ms. Amos was encouraged by the response of the national authorities in Cambodia and Thailand and she has asked if the United Nations can be part of their lessons-learned process so that the international humanitarian system can improve its support in future large-scale disasters.  She also highlighted the leading role Indonesia and Singapore have played as strong supporters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in disaster management.

During her tour, Ms. Amos met senior ASEAN officials and visited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she highlighted the importance of UN and ASEAN cooperation in responding to disasters.

**Syria — United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has unveiled plans to address the urgent health, educational and other needs of tens of thousands of Syrian children being sheltered in surrounding countries.  UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Maria Calivis has pointed out that children had not been spared the violence sweeping Syria over the past year. 

The UN says that at least 500 Syrian children have been killed in the violence thus far, while hundreds more have been injured, put in detention or abused.  Schools have closed and health centres have shut down or become too dangerous for families to reach.  Of the 30,000 registered refugees who have fled Syria for Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, a large proportion are women and children. 

In order to meet the critical needs of this growing population and in addition to its work on behalf of children inside Syria itself, UNICEF is mobilizing its resources, with particular focus on education, child protection, and water and sanitation.  To carry out these activities, UNICEF is appealing for $7.4 million in funding.  More information can be found on the UNICEF website.

**Sri Lanka

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today warned that there must be no reprisals against Sri Lankan rights defenders following yesterday’s adoption of a resolution on Sri Lanka by the Human Rights Council.  Navi Pillay said that during this session of the Council, there has been an unprecedented and totally unacceptable level of threats, harassment and intimidation directed at Sri Lankan activists who had travelled to Geneva to take part in the debate.  There is more information available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

**Women

The United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today launched a high-level commission to improve access to essential, but overlooked, health supplies that could save the lives of millions of women and children every year.  The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children is part of the Secretary-General’s “Every Woman, Every Child” movement to support the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals.  Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg will serve as founding co-chairs of the new body.  There is more information online.

**Noon Guest Monday

Our noon guest on Monday will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  She will be here to brief you on her recent mission to South Sudan.

That’s it from me.  We have time for a couple of questions before we go into our press conference.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On this situation that exists now in occupied Gaza ever since Israeli attacks, suddenly there is much shortage of fuel and so forth, and the crossings are still not opened.  Has the Secretary-General or anybody in the United Nations talked to the Israeli authorities to ease their stranglehold of [Gaza]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has spoken out on many occasions against the closure of the land routes into Gaza, and that continues to be his policy.  I am not sure whether he has spoken recently to anybody there, but as you will recall, he visited the region in February and he had extensive discussions with both Israeli and Palestinian senior leaders, and this was one of the issues that came up.

Question:  On the recent shortages of fuel and supplies, there has been no updates that you have?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, our people on the ground are aware.  Apparently, there have been a few supplies coming in from Egypt if I am not mistaken, I’ve seen reports about that, but, again, the situation remains problematic, yes.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, in connection with the Secretary-General’s trip, Asian trip, the Defence Minister of Malaysia was quoted in Bernama as saying there was a request for Malaysia to send peacekeepers to Iraq.  But he also said one particular country had agreed to bear the costs, but since that country has yet to keep its promise we cannot send the team to Iraq.  I just wanted to know, to some, this seems kind of strange that… that… that a particular, you know, donor country would… would, according to the Defence Minister of Malaysia, pick up the tab for this.  Can you either, you know, say or find out what the communications were, have been, between the Secretariat and Malaysia and other countries on this trip as to particular units, particular missions — peacekeeping missions — particularly this comment by the Malaysian Defence Minister?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll find out about that for you, yeah.

Question:  And I wanted to also ask you if this green climate fund that is being set up is… I know it is… the Secretary-General is very interested in it… it is supposed to have $100 million, sort of an offshoot of the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change].  There is a controversy now about whether it actually will have immunity… whether it will be subject to regular legal oversight or be immune as the UN is, and it seems that the UN OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] has said that the UNFCCC is not immune, but there is an argument being made that the green climate fund should be.  I would like to know, from the Secretariat’s point of view, should this $100 million mechanism be shielded from legal process, and is that consistent with previous OLA guidance?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to find out for that, I don’t have the information with me, Matthew. 

Question:  My question is on Mali…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, yesterday, we were aware of what has happened in Mali.  I want to find out if the Secretary-General has been able to get in touch with the military officers based on the recommendation of the… based on the recommendation of the UN and the Security Council condemning the acts.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General issued a statement yesterday afternoon in which he 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 has called on all those responsible to refrain from any actions that could increase violence and further destabilize the country.  The Secretary-General has called for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule in Mali. 

We have people on the ground in West Africa who are closely engaged.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Said Djinnit, was actually in Mali yesterday after having attended earlier this week a ministerial meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council on the Sahel, which was held in Bamako.  He had met with the President and had departed the country before the rebellion began, but we are sure that the military in Mali are aware of both the Security Council and the Secretary-General’s statements, as well as those from ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and the African Union and others who are against completely the situation that has taken place in Mali.

Question:  Yes, the main news story in The New York Times today is entitled “Tibetan Self-Immolations Rise as China Tightens Grip”, reporting on human rights abuses against the Tibetan people, and mentions the right to use the Tibetan language as the language of instruction in schools rather than Chinese.  Can you give us an update on the Tibetan hunger strike that was held across the street from the UN and tell us what the UN is doing to improve the situation for the Tibetan people?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Tibetan hunger strike is, as far as I know, now over.  The head of the Office for Human Rights, the Human Rights Commissioner, sent a letter to the protesters.  It is a private letter — I am not going to comment on the contents of that letter, but you might want to pick up with the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva to find out what they are doing.

Question:  I want to ask about Eritrea and Ethiopia.  I know that a letter was sent to the Security Council cc-ing the Secretary-General by Eritrea.  Yesterday at the stakeout I tried to ask Mr. Pascoe about it, he said, you know, that he’d spoken to the President of Eritrea and then he added “in September”.  So I wanted to know, since it’s now, you know, March, and there have been incidents since then, does the UN have any communications… do you just get letters from a country saying we’ve been… we’ve had an incursion militarily into our land, or does anybody within DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or elsewhere in the UN system have any communications whatsoever with the Government of Eritrea?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll find out for you, I don’t have that information on hand.

**Appointment

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.  I have one statement to read, an appointment — Secretary-General appoints Carlos Lopes of Guinea-Bissau Executive Secretary of Economic Commission for Africa. 

Further to the announcements of 2 and 8 March 2012 on senior appointments, the Secretary-General has selected Mr. Carlos Lopes of Guinea-Bissau as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa [ECA].  He succeeds Abdoulie Janneh, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedication and commitment to the Organization and his leadership of ECA at a critical juncture of its work in the region.

Thank you.  We’ll resume in a few minutes, once they have got the technology set up for the press video conference.  Thank you.  Have a good weekend.

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