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

10 October 2012

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

10 October 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.

So good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

I am joined today by Ivan Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as you well know.  It’s a pleasure to have you here again, Mr. Šimonović.  And Mr. Šimonović is here to brief you on his recent trip to Mali.  He is just back from Mali.  That was a four-day mission and I’ll leave you to tell us more about it, and then open up for questions.  And after that, I will be available to answer questions.  And I also have a few items to report to you on.  So, please, Mr. Šimonović, the floor is yours.

[Press conference by Mr. Šimonović is issued separately.]

So, I have a couple of more items, and I will be happy to take some questions.

** Syria

In a statement we issued last night, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the string of coordinated terrorist bombings in Damascus on Monday night that resulted in numerous deaths and injuries.  The Secretary-General is also concerned about the fate of detainees reportedly held at the facility where the bombings occurred.  The Secretary-General reiterates that no cause can justify terrorist attacks, wherever, whenever and by whomever they are committed.

And the Secretary-General, in that statement, also said that he is extremely concerned that the spiral of violence in Syria is creating a fertile ground for terrorism and criminal actions of all kinds, and all violence must stop.  The Secretary-General reiterates his firm conviction that resorting to violence and military means will only lead to more suffering and destruction, and that the only way out is through a political solution.  And the Secretary-General urges all sides to move towards a political transition and dialogue in Syria, and to work closely with the Joint Special Representative of the United Nations and the League of Arab States, Lakhdar Brahimi.

And you will also have seen that we issued a note to correspondents, in which we said we are extremely concerned about reports of the use of medical facilities and vehicles to carry out violence related to the conflict in Syria.  And we certainly urge all parties involved in the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and ensure that civilians are not targeted.

** Pakistan

Leila Zerrougui, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has condemned in the harshest terms the targeted attack yesterday by Taliban gunmen on Pakistani schoolgirls in the Swat Valley, north-west of Islamabad.

She said that education is a fundamental right for all children, and that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the attack, must respect the right to education of all children, including girls, to go to school and live in peace.

And the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, also condemned the shooting and called on all parties to respect all children’s rights, including education in a safe and protective environment.  With 20 million children already out of school in Pakistan, it is critical that quality education reaches all children, particularly the most vulnerable and disadvantaged, says UNICEF.

And I can tell you that when I briefed the Secretary-General this morning, like so many other people in Pakistan and around the world, he is truly outraged by this attack.  And I can tell you, to show his support, he is writing to the family of Malala Yousufzai, the 14-year-old who was seriously wounded in the attack that targeted her specifically for her campaigning for education.  And we would expect a formal statement on this a little bit later.

[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement:

The Secretary-General expresses his outrage and strongest condemnation over the shooting of Malala Yousufzai, a 14-year-old girl who has bravely championed the right to education for women and girls in Pakistan, as well as two other girls.  He calls for the perpetrators of this heinous and cowardly act to be swiftly brought to justice.   The Secretary-General, like many around the world, has been deeply moved by Malala Yousufzai’s courageous efforts to promote the fundamental right to education — enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Secretary-General is hoping for Malala Yousufzai's full and speedy recovery, and extends his heartfelt sympathies to her family at this very difficult time.   He similarly expresses his sympathies to the families of the other two girls wounded in this attack.  The Secretary-General also expresses his solidarity with the Government and people of Pakistan in their efforts to confront violent extremism.]

**Security Council

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council will meet in closed consultations to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

**Rule of Law

The Deputy Secretary-General spoke to the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee on the rule of law this morning, and he said that he and the Secretary-General had been impressed by the strong participation and engagement by Member States at very high levels at last month’s meeting on the subject, as well as by the comprehensive, yet concise, Declaration that was adopted by consensus.

The Deputy Secretary-General voiced confidence that we now have a process in place for application of the rule of law in all three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development and human rights.  And we have the Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks available in my office.

** Western Sahara

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, arrived in Laayoune today to visit the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, known as MINURSO.  He will be reviewing operations and meeting with Mission’s leadership.  He plans to travel to two team sites, as well as to Tindouf and Rabat, where he will meet with officials from both parties.

**Press Conferences

And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference here to launch a new report on child marriage.  Speakers will include Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), along with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Martin.  I wanted to ask you, there has been this report and seeming confirmation from the United States that they have sent 150 military trainers or personnel to Jordan, and it said that they are working with Jordan on the refugees that are coming from Syria.  So I guess I wanted to know, since I know the UN, UNICEF and other agencies are very involved in this refugee flow, do they have… is there any… can you say whether or not the UN agencies are in fact working with these US trainers in any capacity?

Spokesperson:  I think you are aware that UN humanitarian personnel work very strictly and specifically on humanitarian matters.  Yes, Matthew, I am sure you have another question?

Question:  Oh, sure, I do, actually, yeah.  Actually, I am going to… I’ll… I have one on Sudan, but I wanted to be sure to ask this one; it’s kind of in… in-house.  I have seen a series of e-mails back and forth between the Staff Union and Susana Malcorra, the Chief of Staff, and I just wanted to ask you, is it the case that the Secretary… the Secretary-General is proposing a 5 per cent cut in, you know, in… in various parts of the Secretariat and has… is… held a video conference with staff representatives today to… to lay that cut out?

Spokesperson:  These are discussions that are now under way, because, as you well know, the budget cycle for 2014-2015 is beginning now, shortly.  And indeed the Chef de Cabinet, Ms. Malcorra, and others did take part in a video conference this morning to speak to all manner of stakeholders amongst staff about that budget process.  So other questions, please?

Question:  Did they think… just one more on that.  Did they think… I mean, is this going to give rise to a proposal to be voted on by December, this… this 5 per cent cut, is that the goal?  I just wanted to…

Spokesperson:  It’s a budget process.  I think you know how it works.  And we ought not to prejudge what the outcome will be.  And you said something about Sudan?

Question:  Yeah, I just wanted… I don’t know if you had another statement on… on Kadugli.  The… the SPLM-North [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] is saying that they have again shelled the town and there is a… there is an unnamed source from WFP [World Food Programme] saying that… that there were shells falling.  What is the status of the… that…?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have been checking.  I don’t yet have a specific readout on the latest reported shelling, but we have already spoken very clearly about the first one, which we were able to confirm.  But I just wanted to come back to you on one aspect of the questioning from yesterday.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has no mandate to conduct peacekeeping operations in Kadugli or indeed in the wider Southern Kordofan area.  And this would be a decision for the Security Council, not for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.  The UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) is mandated to conduct peacekeeping operations only in the Abyei area.  And the airstrip out of Kadugli is not in that mandated area of operations.  It is a logistics base from which to re-supply and support the mission.

So I think you will understand that it is normal practice for peacekeeping missions to maintain logistics bases near the area of operations, to enable efficient logistical support.  But, just to repeat, the mission has no mandate to undertake peacekeeping activities within this logistics base — and these activities are mandated within the Abyei area of operations, and that is, of course, in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions.  I think that that is quite clear.  Other questions, please?

Okay, thanks.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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