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

11 October 2012

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

11 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.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**International Day of the Girl Child

This is the first International Day of the Girl Child, and the Secretary-General will mark the occasion by speaking at a high-level panel on child marriage this afternoon.

At that event, he will say that child marriage can disrupt girls’ education, increase their exposure to abuse, jeopardize their health and result in early and unwanted pregnancies — an often life-threatening risk.

He will also mention the shooting in Pakistan earlier this week of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai and two other schoolgirls.  The Secretary-General is expected to say that with their cowardly attack, the terrorists showed what frightens them most — a girl with a book.  As you will have seen, we issued a statement on this attack yesterday.

** Bakassi Peninsula

And we also issued a statement last night on the tenth anniversary of the ruling of the International Court of Justice on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria.

In that statement, the Secretary-General commended the commitment of the Governments of both countries to honour the obligations of the ruling.  He also congratulated the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission for the commendable efforts it has made in implementing that ruling. 

By peacefully resolving their border dispute, Cameroon and Nigeria have provided a positive example for countries around the world facing similar challenges.  And the full statement is in my office and it’s online.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I was wondering, is USG Feltman going to Japan any time soon?  There are some reports…

Spokesperson:  I am not fully acquainted with all of his travel plans. I am not aware of that, I’d have to check.  Yes?

Question:  I noticed yesterday that the Human Security Report came out as a UN document.  I was just curious as to why this NGO group is carried as an official document whereas others, like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and many, many other NGOs that are very worthy, are, as far as I know, not run as official documents.

Spokesperson:  I will need to check on the background to that, I really just don’t know.  Sorry, I am not being terribly helpful today, but I am sure we can find out the answer.  My colleagues probably know the answer to this, but it is actually not an aspect of the release of that report that struck me; there were other elements that struck me, but, okay, all right.  Thank you.

[The Spokesperson later explained that the links to some reports which are not United Nations documents are shared with journalists upon request, as a courtesy.]

Question:  So many, I couldn’t pick up on that.  He… they seemed to say at the… the… Andrew Mark and his colleague that… that the UN is… has… didn’t follow up on a commitment it made in 2010 to collect data about sexual violence in conflict.  They also seemed to be saying that there is less of it they believe and it is generally said.  But one line that stuck… stuck out to me, that Andrew Mark said, that when the Secretary-General briefed the Security Council on sexual violence in conflict, he has “absolutely no idea” whether it is increasing or decreasing.  Does that… did that jump out at you and what is the response to that?

Spokesperson:  I have the response here, which I will also ensure is e-mailed to people too.  But I am going to read it.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  What?

Correspondent:  No, no, it’s… go ahead.

Spokesperson:  The report you are referring to highlights the need for deeper, evidence-based research and rigorous analysis on the serious scourge of conflict-related sexual violence.  Because of the shame and hidden nature of this crime, data collection on conflict-related sexual violence remains a challenge.  And there are ongoing efforts, however, to improve consistent and comprehensive reporting.  What we do know is that there is overwhelming evidence that rape has been, and continues to be, used as a weapon of war — Rwanda during the genocide was a case in point, and so was Bosnia and Herzegovina, where rape camps were established. More recently, there have been incidents of mass rape in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And we welcome research on sexual violence in conflict, because we do not yet know enough about this phenomenon.  And we cannot effectively prevent what we do not adequately understand.  Okay.  Yes?  Nice to see you.

Question:  Nice to see you, Martin, thank you.  Just to follow up, first of all on that question.  The UN… it has been said, that I would like to… if you can reaffirm of how many victims of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina the UN does have as operational number [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check with my colleagues who handle that particular topic, because I don’t have specific figures with me now.  But, as I just mentioned, it is beyond dispute that there were rape camps in Bosnia and Herzegovina, so what I also said was that the hidden nature of the crime and the terrible ordeal that women — and it is obviously mostly women — go through, that makes it very difficult to be able to provide data; to collect data.  And I think everybody would appreciate why that might be.  But as we have said, research into this topic is really welcome precisely because we do not know enough about it.  And if we are to try to fight it, then you do need to understand and know more about it.

Question:  And if I may also, as you know, the mothers of Srebrenica are… today and yesterday they were also… and yesterday, they have submitted their new lawsuits at the European Commission of… excuse me, European Court for Human Rights.  And obviously they are unsatisfied with the warm words of the Secretary-General, who met them during his visit in Srebrenica, and beyond any doubt, Martin, if I may, besides all the help in the form of UNDP programmes and everything that United Nations was involved in that part of Bosnia, what can UN do more to address the suffering of those… continued suffering of people?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you have outlined what is happening, that there is assistance being provided, but plainly this was an awful massacre.  The Secretary-General spoke eloquently about this, absolutely, yes, something, a genocide that took place in Europe in the twentieth century.  This is obviously something that was very difficult for him to undertake, that visit to Srebrenica, and to meet with the mothers of Srebrenica.  He was profoundly moved and as I say, spoke extremely eloquently about that; I’d refer you to his remarks.  But beyond the remarks, you are quite right, that there are projects that continue to help those who lost loved ones in this awful event. In addition, on the legal side, simply to say that I am not going to comment on a legal process that is underway except to say that the original ruling from the District Court in The Hague from 2008 was upheld by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

We fully share the sorrow of those people who lost their loved ones and the Secretary-General has in person, expressed his deepest sympathies to them for the brutal killings that took place.  And of course, we are aware of the United Nations failings at that time, of course.  We are aware of the United Nations failings at that time and that is at different levels, both on the ground, within the secretariat and of course, the Security Council as well.  So this is something that continues to be a source of pain for many people and for reflection too.

Question:  Just a short one, do you, referring now with last sentence that actually the part of the blame as it should probably… should go towards this Security Council, and there is the situation is really nobody can see nobody at [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  It’s, look, there is a moral responsibility here.  I think I have scoped out where we are with that.  Any other questions?  Yes, Masood, yes?

Question:  I just want to ask you, does the Secretary-General have any comment on this Turkish taking down this Syrian airplane from… in its territory and emptying it of all its cargo, on which the Russians protested?

Spokesperson:  We are obviously aware of the various reports there are on this.  I don’t have any particular comment on that at this point.

Question:  Okay, Secretary-General has no… nothing to say about that?

Spokesperson:  I said we are aware of the reports, Masood, but I don’t have any particular comment at the moment.

Question:  Martin I wanted to ask about the Sudans, the DRC and something about the budget.  On the Sudans, there are… there are… there are these reports that in Jonglei State, which, obviously, was much in the news at the beginning of the year, that attacks by the Yau Yau, David Yau Yau’s Murle group, has… it’s… the numbers are unclear, how many civilians were killed, how many… South Sudan army… I wanted to know what… what UN… UN… UN… UNMISS — double ‘S’ — knows about this fighting, and what it is doing to protect civilians during this fighting?

Spokesperson:  Sure, I’ll check.

Question:  The other one was… I just… did the… since there was a report of renewed shelling of Kadugli, I remember yesterday you said you didn’t have anything on this, you know, I… I appreciate your answer, but I just wondered, have you gotten anything more on this, what’s reported to be a second round of shelling of the town?

Spokesperson:  Nothing further beyond what I had said yesterday.  But simply put, the statement that was issued after the first shelling I think would apply equally.

Question:  No, no, sure.  I guess my question was, it… it seemed that the statement seemed very clear that shelling of a town is a violation of international law.  So it seems like if there are… if the remaining UN personnel are no longer at the air base that are there and the shelling occurs, are they reporting them in some way either to the Human Rights Council or… or…?

Spokesperson:  Just simply put, I have sought more information; I don’t have anything further at the moment.  But I think what we said already covers the ground for now.  If I have anything further, then obviously I will let you know.

Question:  Definitely.  This is just sort of a question of something that the President of the Security Council said yesterday, late afternoon, Mr. Rosenthal.  He said that there was… there is… there… there is a UN presence behind M23 lines in the eastern Congo, that there… but that MONUSCO seeks to avoid skirmishes with M23.  So it left me… I… I didn’t think he is… he can… it seemed like it is a Secretariat or a DPKO question to know what are the… the sort of terms of engagement of MONUSCO armed peacekeepers in the area controlled by M23.  If it is said that M23 is recruiting child soldiers, raping, all the things that were said yesterday, what are they doing there behind enemy lines?  Is there some way… I don’t… I mean, maybe you know, or have a statement, or is there some way to… to get something from DPKO on what, how many are behind enemy lines, and… and… and what… what they are doing, and what they understand their terms of reference to be?

Spokesperson:  I’ll certainly ask, Matthew, yeah.

[The Spokesperson later gave the following response:

Regarding your question on M23 activity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO has a presence in M23-controlled area that provides some protection to local populations.  MONUSCO’s presence in M23-controlled areas has also provided opportunities for some M23 elements to present themselves for demobilization.  We would also draw your attention to the Security Council press statement issued yesterday on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo].

Question:  Okay, and this is a more fresher one, that just this morning, in the Fifth Committee, Under-Secretary-General Takasu was, you know, briefing on the… the status of the budget, and one of the things that he said, I… I wanted… sometimes in the past, when Angela Kane had the position, she would then come in and… and speak about, you know, countries’ dues, but he said that there is… the number would seem very high; he said that… that… that… that even at the end of the year, even with payments that are supposed to go out this week, that the UN would be behind in its payments to troop-contributing countries, police- and equipment-contributing countries by some $512 million.  And he said it bothered him, but it was difficult to know why that is, if that’s a product of people not paying their dues or is there some kind of payment backlog.  So maybe he is coming for a briefing or maybe there is a way to get an answer from the Controller’s Office on why there is a half a billion dollars in arrears to the countries that give peacekeepers.  Is there a way to know?

Spokesperson:  Sure, I am sure there is a way to know.  And if it has been mentioned in the Committee, I am sure there is supporting documentation to go with that.  So I am sure that we will be able to get something on that, yeah.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I am just looking to see if there are others, Matthew, okay?  Any other questions?  Right, last question.

Question:  No, no, I… okay, actually, I will… then I will ask the question.  It’s… this one is sort of… you may say that… that… that it is still in the works, but I had asked about this report that was supposed to be now done by Charles Petrie into the UN’s performance in… in… in Sri Lanka in 2009.  And I went back and looked at it.  It seemed like it was supposed to be finished in August and you had said that it is… it is… when it is finished it will be up to the Secretary-General whether to make it public or not.  One, so I want to know if… some way to know the status now that we are in October.  But also, I… I didn’t know this, but that… that… that Mr. Petrie is in charge of something… has… has another job, which is to be the head of the Myanmar peace support initiative, Norwegian.  Did he do this at the same time?  Did he… did he… was this a full-time position?  Has he finished the report and what is going to happen with the report?

Spokesperson:  The work with that Norwegian organization has absolutely nothing to do with the United Nations.  It is the work that is being carried out on the report and continues to be carried out is obviously entirely separate and is not a full-time role.  So I think that covers that.  The first part of your question, yes, it is still in the works, and when it is ready, it will be ready, but it is still in the works.

Question:  Okay.  So it hasn’t been finished and given to the Secretary-General or…?

Spokesperson:  Not yet.  It has not been given to the Secretary-General at this point, yeah.  All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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