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

12 October 2012

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

12 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, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

Nobel Peace Prize

The Secretary-General, on behalf of the entire United Nations family, has extended sincere congratulations to the European Union on its receipt of the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize.  Today, an indispensable partner to the United Nations has been given a richly deserved recognition of its accomplishments and its importance in Europe and around the world.

The European Union has more than lived up to its founding dream of forging a united and peaceful continent out of the devastation of two world wars.  It has become an engine of integration, weaving together nations and cultures.  Its achievement of peace within its borders, building on innovative mechanisms for dialogue and the rule of law, is a model to be emulated the world over.  Its unifying potential is all the more important in today’s economic climate.

Today, the European Union plays a central role in helping to build peace, save lives, promote human rights and support economic and social development across the world.  At the United Nations, we count every day on the EU’s involvement, its leadership and its contributions as we work to meet the most pressing challenges of our time.  These range from lifting billions out of poverty, extending life-saving development and humanitarian assistance and promoting human rights, to preventing conflict and building peace across the globe.  And in this statement from the Secretary-General, it also says that he celebrates and looks forward to deepening this enduring partnership.

Syria

You will probably also have seen that we’ve just distributed a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria.

The Joint Special Representative held talks with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, in Jeddah today.  They discussed the crisis in Syria, which they agreed was deteriorating with each passing day, with untold suffering for the Syrian people.  They agreed on the dire need to stop the bloodshed and provide humanitarian aid.

Mr. Brahimi reviewed the consultations he had conducted so far with both the Syrian Government and the opposition, and stressed his belief that this deplorable situation would not be resolved through military means, but rather through a political process that would meet the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people.  And yesterday, the Joint Special Representative for Syria met the Saudi Foreign Minister.  The full statement will be posted online shortly, I believe.

Syria — Humanitarian

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that, with the numbers of Syrian refugees still rising in neighbouring States, it is stepping up efforts to prepare for the onset of cold weather over the winter months.

In Jordan for example, the agency will focus both on the refugees in camps and those living in the local communities.  With its partners, UNHCR will help at least 10,000 refugee families living in cities with an extra monthly cash allowance for the most vulnerable.  The agency will also increase the provision of one-time emergency grants and issue vouchers for basic needs such as winter clothing and fuel for heating.

In the Za’atri camp, the agency will distribute a winter package that will include stoves and fuel, warm clothing and high thermal blankets.  Tent modifications are also planned for better insulation and protection.

And in Lebanon, where Syrian refuges live in local communities, UNHCR is providing cash rental assistance as well as shelters, and is helping with renovations to the homes of host families.

The refugee agency is also preparing to assist Syrian refugees in Turkey and Iraq during the winter months.  There is more information available on all of that online.

Security Council

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council will hold formal meetings to vote on two resolutions.  First, the Council will consider a draft resolution on the mandate of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  The Council will also then vote on a draft resolution concerning the situation in Mali.

Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the flash floods in Pakistan’s Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan provinces early last month had triggered a humanitarian crisis which continues to unfold.

Nearly 270,000 people have been displaced, with nearly half a million houses having been damaged and huge amounts of crops lost.  The Office has established a humanitarian coordination centre for operations in Sindh Province and has deployed staff to support the response in Balochistan.

The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, estimates that 3,200 schools have been damaged, disrupting schooling for half a million children.  UNICEF says that it is reaching tens of thousands of children and families with safe water, hygiene supplies, malnutrition screening and treatment.

Humanitarian Assessment

Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, will begin a visit to Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe on Monday.  The aim of her visit is to take stock of the humanitarian challenges in the region and to support efforts to promote disaster risk reduction.

More than 5.5 million people face food insecurity due to the impact of recurrent natural disasters such as droughts and floods and rising food prices across the region.  During her visit, Ms. Bragg will meet with Government officials and humanitarian partners to discuss ways to reduce the impact of disasters on vulnerable communities.

Convention on Transnational Organized Crime

The Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime will begin on Monday in Vienna.  During the five-day Conference, participants will discuss the impact of transnational organized crime and a resolution on a review mechanism for the Convention.  There will also be more than 20 side events which will examine crime-related issues, ranging from organized crime threat assessments to trafficking in people and firearms.  More information on the meeting can be found on the website of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Disaster Risk Reduction

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, is in Thailand, where she honoured the country’s Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, as a leading woman in disaster risk management.  Ms. Wahlström praised the Prime Minister for her leadership in responding to Thailand’s severe flooding last year, and her commitment to gender equality.

South Sudan

Yesterday, I was asked about fighting in Jonglei State and here is what I can tell you for now.

Following the attack on 23 August by the David Yau Yau group on SPLA troops, which resulted in the deaths of 24 SPLA members, the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has received additional unconfirmed reports of sporadic fighting between the David Yau Yau group and the SPLA in other areas of Jonglei State.  Reported sporadic clashes between the SPLA and David Yau Yau group took place last week, for example, near Gurmuk, where the SPLA has now deployed just over one battalion.

The Mission has received some reports from the local authorities about some civilian casualties.  The Mission has not been able to gain access to the affected area due to rains and flooding, and has therefore not been able to confirm the casualty figures.  The Mission is conducting regular visits to various areas in Jonglei to assess the situation.

The Mission protects civilians through implementation of an early-warning system, by supporting the Government of the Republic of South Sudan to fulfil its responsibility to protect civilians, and by fostering dialogue and political engagement at the community, state and national levels in an effort to reach an enduring peace in Jonglei State.  And just to mention that the Mission has approximately 850 troops deployed throughout Jonglei State, and just to remind you that Jonglei State is about the size of Bangladesh.

Okay, thank you.  Questions, please?  Yes, Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About Pakistan floods and so forth, has the Pakistani Government asked for help from the United Nations, and would there be an assessment made about any flash appeal and so forth?

Spokesperson:  I think, judging from the work that is already under way, there clearly has been communication with the Pakistani authorities.  There is already relief work on the way, both by the Pakistani authorities and, as I just mentioned, relief agencies of various kinds.  I think we have some further details on the amount of funding that is required, and I would be happy to let you have that, sir, afterwards.  Okay.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask you a question about Myanmar and also one about the Rohingya.  Something I have been looking more into what I asked you about yesterday, this Norwegian-Myanmar peace initiative.  There seems… there is controversy around it, about whether it should continue to fund the project when some are saying it’s sort of taking sides within the Karen area.  So a lot of the aid actors in Norway and others are engaged this [inaudible] different views.  What’s the role of the UN in this project, and what is Charles Petrie’s status with the UN?  I guess I’m wondering about whether it’s… you know, just, is it… is there a precedent for working for the aid initiative of a Government and also being a UN official at the same time?

Spokesperson:  I think I addressed this yesterday and if I have anything further, I will let you know.

Question:  No. I guess you said he is still ongoing.  That implies to me he is still working for the UN, but he is also working for the Government of Norway.  So how is that consistent with… with, I don’t know, Article 100 of the Charter, I guess?

Spokesperson:  As I said to you, I did go into this yesterday.  If I have anything further, then I will let you know.

Question:  And the question about the Rohingyas that are in Bangladesh.  There is a report of… since various clashes in both places [inaudible] on religious basis, have increased restrictions against the Rohingya; they can’t… not only can they not work, now they are not allowed to sort of move about.  I’m just wondering, is the UN system tracking this, do they have any call to make on that?  I heard before sort of Bangladesh thanked for what they had been doing for the Rohingya, but what about these new restrictions?

Spokesperson:  I think we have also addressed that topic in the not-too-distant past. 

Correspondent:  That’s not new.  This is new and this is based on a… on a… attacks on mosques and on Buddhist temples.

Spokesperson:  I think we’ve addressed that specific topic and I would be happy to provide you with the information that we have on that.  Okay, Matthew?  Yeah.  Yes?

Question:  Excuse me.  Good afternoon, Martin.  I thank you.  For the statement on the Nobel Peace Prize winner; taking into consideration early criticism that maybe an organization like the Red Cross, Red Crescent, or UNCHR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] might be a better organization to receive such a prize than the European Union, did the Secretary-General have any critical thought on the recipient of this year’s prize?  Maybe the Committee missed the mark this year?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General, in the statement I just read out, has been very clear about what he believes on this particular matter.  Awarding the prize is, of course, down to the Committee in Oslo and it’s for them to decide who or which organization, which group, receives the price each year.  I think that the Secretary-General has stated quite clearly why he believes was important for the European Union to receive the prize and he’s catalogued a number of reasons why.  And not least, it’s significant for the United Nations because of the indispensable role of the European Union in the work of the United Nations.  The European Union is clearly one of our closest partners in all spheres, whether it’s peace and security, development or human rights.  Other questions?  Yes?

Question:  There is an incident in southern Lebanon, where the Finnish press, at least, is reporting that six United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) troops from Finland were… their vehicles were stopped, and it says that the equipment belonging to the vehicle and the peacekeepers were taken from them and obviously were not returned.  So I’m wondering, do you have anything on this incident where weapons were taken?  What’s happening there with UNIFIL?

Spokesperson:  I will check with UNIFIL.

Question:  Okay.  And also I guess I’m asking this in advance of this afternoon’s adoption of the MINUSTAH mandate.  There is also a call… I believe there will be some demonstrations under the topic of a UN out of Haiti, but three groups there, based in Haiti, earlier this week made a public call that the UN Mission there should at least in a limited fashion waive its immunity and make itself subject to local process, both on sexual abuse and again on this cholera issue.  I wanted to know, is the UN aware of that call, what do they say about it, and if OLA [the Office of Legal Affairs] in fact still has no response to the claims that these… one of the three groups raised about cholera?  What explains the delay that many are finding kind of incomprehensible under the group of kind of rule of law, like, justice delayed, justice denied?  Is it ever going to be ruled on or is it just sort of dying a slow death in OLA?

Spokesperson:  Thank you for your question, which I think I understand.  The bottom line is that the claim was received and the claim is being studied.  And we don’t have anything further to say on the claim while it’s being studied.  I don’t think that is unusual when dealing with legal matters.  The more… the bigger question, the broader question you raised about the Mission and the protest, or potential protest, about MINUSTAH’s presence, the Mission is there under the Security Council resolution and obviously with the consent of the host authorities.  And there are very clear general rules that apply to any mission anywhere with regard to immunity.  And I don’t think that I need to go into that any further here.  So other questions please?

All right.  Thanks.  Have a good weekend.  Thank you.

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