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

28 September 2012

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

28 September 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Nuclear Terrorism

The Secretary-General spoke at a meeting this morning on countering nuclear terrorism, focusing on strengthening the legal framework.

He said that the prospect of terrorists acquiring nuclear materials is one of the most unnerving threats imaginable, adding that we must use all of our tools to contain this nuclear genie and not allow these arms to proliferate to non-State actors or terrorists. 

The Secretary-General urged all countries to become party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.  He also called for the building up of State capacity to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.  His full remarks are available online and in my office.

**“Group of 77” and China

And the Secretary-General also spoke at the annual ministerial meeting of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China this morning, at which Fiji took over the group’s leadership for next year, replacing Algeria.

The Secretary-General once more challenged leaders to raise their level of ambition, by putting people and problems first, setting aside narrow interests and acting for the greater good.

He noted that the global economy has been struggling, Governments are looking inward, and some people are using prevailing fears to stoke divisions.  This is a dangerous trend, the Secretary-General said, adding that we need more solidarity, more compassion, more reaching out to break down barriers and build bridges of trust.

He said that the G-77 and China have been working hard to reach the Millennium Development Goals. There can be no let-up as the 2015 deadline draws near.

Those remarks are available online.

** Syria

Earlier in Geneva, the Human Rights Council decided to extend the mandate of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.  In the resolution adopted this morning, the Human Rights Council requested that the Commission continue its work and present a written report on the situation of human rights in Syria at its next session.  And that text is available online.

**Press Conferences and Stakeout

Following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., here in this room, there will a press conference by Mr. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

And then later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will convene a meeting of the Group of Friends on Myanmar, and his Special Adviser, Vijay Nambiar, will speak to reporters following this meeting at around 6 p.m. at the stakeout position in the North Lawn Building.

And for other forthcoming media opportunities, including tomorrow, you can check our website for information or check with my office.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

And I just have one other announcement to read out to you shortly, if you bear with me.  And that is something I have right here; and that is that, following consultations, the Secretary-General has designated Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser of Qatar, who was President of the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly, as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.  And Mr. Al-Nasser replaces Jorge Sampaio of Portugal.  And we have more information on this appointment in my Office.  And the Secretary-General just announced that in remarks to a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations here at United Nations Headquarters. 

So, questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Martin.  I wanted to ask you about a couple of reports; one is a report by… by… by… of using satellite imagery, showing… they say that… that in Southern Kordofan in Sudan that a new district which had not yet seen fighting, the Abbasiya district has been… 90 per cent of the residential structures have been destroyed, this is by the Sentinel Project, and I am wondering, I understand… I mean, although the… the… the UN no longer has an UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] with one single S there, it does comment or… or try to keep track of fighting in other places it doesn’t have missions.  Can it confirm this, and what is its read on whether the fighting is becoming more pronounced or less so in Southern Kordofan?

Spokesperson:  Well, the key point is that we do not have access there, and we would like to have access to that area to ensure that humanitarian needs can be met.  We’ll have to check whether our colleagues who deal with humanitarian matters have any further information from other sources on this topic.  But I don’t have anything specific on the satellite imagery that you are referring to.

Question:  Sure, and… and… okay.  The other reports, I’m sure you’ve seen these ones by the Government Accountability Project, and it tries to look pretty systematically at the UN Dispute Tribunal and ostensibly reform for the UN.  But… but they find, at least statistically, is that a far smaller percentage of people charged with wrongdoing in peacekeeping missions are… is… is this, you know, either found to be true or pursued.  They find a lot of inconsistencies in how things are investigated.  It’s a whole slew, it’s a pretty critical report, and I am wondering, what is the UN’s response to a detailed report that it is not investigating its own… not its own, wrongdoing in its peacekeeping missions?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you have rather oversimplified what is being reported.  I think what is really important here is that the United Nations takes the justice system within the United Nations system extremely seriously.  It is plainly a marked improvement on the previous system since it was brought in in 2009.  And I have quite a lot more to say on this – I am not going to say it here right now.  I am going to provide that to you and to everybody else right after this.  But two further things:  one is that it is obviously still relatively early days, and the Secretary-General has himself said in a report on the justice administration system that there are areas that need to be looked at.  In addition, the executive summary, we have seen.  We have not yet seen the full report in the way that we have been able to study it.  So I would expect that we would have more to say once we have been able to digest the entire report and not just the executive summary, which is what we had up to now.

Question:  Sure, is that… I just… I mean, I wasn’t trying to oversimplify the report, I was just… specifically they use this 68 per cent figure of people cleared of wrongdoing and said it’s significantly higher than under the old system.  So that’s…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, as I say, I have more that I will let you have right after this, yes.

Correspondent:  Okay, that would be great.

[The Spokesperson later made the following available to correspondents:

The Secretary-General places great importance on an independent, transparent, professionalized, well-functioning justice system that ensures respect for the rights of staff members and the accountability of managers and staff alike.  The new justice system has only been in effect since July 2009 and is viewed by the Secretary-General, the General Assembly, the Internal Justice Council and the staff members as an improvement over the old system.  It is an important component of the accountability architecture of the Organization and is closely monitored with a view to strengthening managerial accountability.

With respect to the statistics highlighted in the Executive Summary, it is unclear whether those cited take into account the disposition of cases by the United Nations Appeals Tribunal (UNAT), since the new system is two-tiered and UNDT (United Nations Dispute Tribunal) judgments are subject to appeal to the UNAT.  These will have to be considered in more detail when the full report is received.  That being said, it is viewed that the clarification and strengthening of the evidentiary standards applicable to misconduct cases constitutes a positive development in holding staff members, including senior managers, accountable for their decisions and actions.

It is also considered that the system is still evolving and, as such, it would not be prudent, at this point, to draw conclusions about the direction of the emerging jurisprudence.]

Question:  And did you ever… I remember this… this is… goes back some… some days, but the case of the Rwanda peacekeeper in Haiti that was killed by a gun… you know, killed and was being investigated.  Has that investigation… has the… has the… MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] been able to determine how that took place?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think I would be able to give you some more details on that.  But basically, the Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, reported that this young Formed Police Unit officer, so police officer from Rwanda, died after suffering a gunshot wound to the head.  Subsequently, one of his fellow Rwandan police officers was found dead and with a gunshot wound.  There is an investigation that we already said was going on.  And this is obviously an extremely sad incident for everyone concerned, not least for the families.  I think I will probably be able to provide you with a little bit more detail on that.  But essentially, this is a very tragic accident with equally tragic consequences.  Okay, anything else?  If not…

Question:  Can I ask one thing?  I… I… I tried to get this answered yesterday at the stakeout and was unable to.  So I’ll just ask it here, which is:  in these various agreements that were reached between Sudan and South Sudan, it seems that… that, although many were reached and it was… as was said in the… in their open part of the meeting yesterday, Abyei, this [inaudible] where there is a UN peacekeeping mission, UN… you know, was not… has not been solved and is… I can’t figure out whether the UN… it’s Security Council or Secretariat has some role going forward.  I know the African Union is supposed to make a decision about one of the commissioners, but what is the UN’s role in trying to bring this… this… this unresolved part of the dispute between the two countries to a close?

Spokesperson:  Well, this was addressed in the statement that was issued.  And I think, if I had anything further to add to that, I would let you know.  But at this point, I don’t.  It is addressed in the statement that was issued after the agreement was announced.  I think if you take a look at that, there is a reference to Abyei there and the need to conclude on that.  If you bear with me, if I have anything else, I’ll let you know.  I am assuming you have a question, otherwise I don’t think I’d be seeing you here?

Question:  Yes, I do.  Sorry for rushing in at the very end.  And, yesterday, the Israeli Prime Minister made a rather dramatic presentation in the General Assembly, suggesting that, you know, there could be a time when countries are forced to use military force against Iran’s nuclear facilities.  This prompted an angry reaction from the Iranian Mission.  I wondered if the Secretary-General has a position on this; he has said that he would like to see inflammatory rhetoric avoided, but there has been quite a bit of it this week.

Spokesperson:  Well, even without a chart, the Secretary-General in his quite forceful remarks to the General Assembly on Tuesday made very clear that there does indeed need to be a toning down of the rhetoric from all sides.  He referred to the shrill war talk of recent weeks.  It is obvious that harsh tones and rhetoric are not going to be helpful — that is quite clear.  What is also clear is that Iran needs to prove to the international community that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes, and it needs to adhere to the various Security Council resolutions that are in place, and also to comply fully with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).  It has not done so to the satisfaction of the international community to this point.  And we would certainly encourage them to work in the right direction.  Okay, thanks very much.  Yes? 

Question:  Hi, I’m Karen from CNN.  Can you tell us more about this unexpected phone call Ban Ki-moon received yesterday?

Spokesperson:  Well, it wasn’t yesterday, it was on Wednesday.  And stuff happens.  The Secretary-General received the call between meetings; he had been addressing the Security Council on the Middle East, and then was going to the mini-summit on Somalia.  Between those meetings, he did take a phone call.  He rather quickly realized that it was prank phone call; he took it for what it was, which was a joke.  And he also — and I have spoken to him about this — realized, as I say, quite early on that this was not a genuine phone call.  I think there are clearly lessons to be learned for everybody, and certainly the “Justiciers Masqués” — the “Masked Avengers” — should they try phone calls in future, they will need to perfect their false French accent, I think.  Okay, thanks very much.  Thank you.

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