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

16 October 2012

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

16 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, briefed the Security Council this morning on the latest developments in the country.

He said that Somalia was now in the process of forming the first post-transition Government.  He also said that the security situation had vastly improved and that the fall of Kismayo — the last stronghold of the extremist Al-Shabaab insurgents — in late September marked a decisive turning point in the conflict.

Mr. Mahiga said that the new administration in Mogadishu must now move with speed to stabilize the newly liberated areas.  The immediate challenge is to establish local and district administrations, justice and rule of law, as well as to provide services to the population.  Mr. Mahiga said that civilian activities had to come in quickly behind military operations to establish local administrations and to provide humanitarian and development-related activities.

On the humanitarian front, he noted the persisting dire situation, despite great political and security strides.  He urged the international community to sustain and expand assistance to Somalia, and said that they had a promising partner in the new Somali leadership.  Mr. Mahiga also noted that the UN Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS) had begun a consultative process to review the future presence of the United Nations in Somalia.  He said that this would be led by the needs and expectations of the Somalis.

And then this afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations on the situation between Sudan and South Sudan.

** Syria

Just to update you on the activities of the United Nations and League of Arab States Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, he is in Cairo today, where he has met the Egyptian Foreign Minister.  Tonight, he will meet the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil ElAraby.  And yesterday, as you saw, the Joint Special Representative was in Iraq, where he met the President, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister.

**Education

In a report launched today, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) says that 20 per cent of young people in developing countries fail to complete primary school and lack skills for work.

The tenth Education for All Global Monitoring Report says that despite significant progress in some regions, few of them are on track to meet the six Education for All goals set in 2000, and some are a long way behind.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, said that the best answer to the economic downturn and youth unemployment is to ensure that young people acquire the basic skills and relevant training they need to enter the world of work with confidence.

This report follows the launch on 26 September of “Education First”, an initiative driven by the Secretary-General, who stressed the importance of rallying all stakeholders to overcome the obstacles to achieving “quality, relevant and transformative education”.  Primary education for all is, as I am sure you know, one of the Millennium Development Goals.

**Food

The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, spoke today at a ministerial meeting on food-price volatility attended by some 20 ministers in Rome, as World Food Day is observed in 150 countries.  He said that continuing food-price volatility requires improved global governance of food security.  He added that in the globalized world we live in, it's not possible to have food security in one country alone.

In a message to mark World Food Day, the Secretary-General says that agricultural cooperatives will be crucial in meeting the Zero Hunger Challenge that he launched at the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in June.  He adds that the great expertise of agricultural cooperatives will be invaluable in achieving one of initiative’s primary aims — doubling the income and productivity of smallholder farmers.

**Press Conferences

Following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference organized by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), along with the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

And then, at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Chair of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria, Paulo Pinheiro, along with a member of the Commission, Karen AbuZayd.  They will discuss their latest findings on the human rights situation in Syria.

** Liberia

I was asked yesterday about the death of a peacekeeper in Liberia.  I can confirm that the death was due to a car accident that took place on 13 October.  Two other peacekeepers were injured and are in hospital.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, just at the, I guess, photo op followed by a meeting between the Secretary-General and the Human Rights Minister of Sri Lanka, and I wanted to know, first… I mean, you may… possibly there is no… not a readout yet, if there is going to be a readout, may… and whether this Petrie report on the UN’s own performance during the final stages of the conflict was one of the topics to be discussed?

Spokesperson:  I would anticipate a readout a little later that will be e-mailed around, but just to tell you now that this is a meeting between the Secretary-General and the Sri Lankan President’s Special Envoy on Human Rights.  The main focus was on the LLRC recommendations — the Lessons Learned Reconciliation Commission recommendations.  The Sri Lankan Special Envoy was able to provide an update on how those recommendations are being implemented and the Secretary-General encouraged the Sri Lankan authorities to keep that momentum going.  They also discussed climate change.  As for the last part of your question, to my knowledge, that did not come up.  As we have said to you, this is an internal looking report and it is in the works.  And once it is finalized, I am sure that I will be able to provide a little bit more detail on that.  But, at the moment, it is still in the works.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  On Somalia, Johnnie Carson, the top US diplomat for Africa, said a couple of weeks ago that the United States wants to see a transition soon from… away from [African Union Mission in Somalia] and towards a Somali national army.  Does the UN have any comment on that?  Does the UN think that this transition should occur fairly soon?  Is Somalia prepared for this, in your view?

Spokesperson:  Well, that would be a matter for the Security Council, I think, and so it is not really for me to comment on what may or may not be appropriate.  You will have seen Mr. Mahiga’s rather detailed report to the Council that is looking at the transition that has taken place, and what needs to happen with regard to the deployment so that AMISOM can be up to full strength.  He did mention some of the details that are there — full strength in numbers and in equipment.  But, for any change in the nature of the Mission, that would really be for the Security Council to look at, as I think you will know, they recently extended the mandate of AMISOM.  So other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Sure, Martin, can I ask you, there is… yesterday, there was a report of a UNAMA helicopter in Afghanistan, and initially it was reported as a… as a hard landing, and then the… at least in some places, the Afghan Taliban have taken credit and said that they downed the helicopter.  Can you… what… was there a helicopter that went down, you know, “hard”, and did… was it shot at?  Did it have technical difficulties, what’s the… what was the cause?

Spokesperson:  It was involved in an emergency landing due to technical problems on the afternoon of 14 October, and this was in Yakawolang District in Bamyan Province, which is in the central highlands of Afghanistan.  All the passengers on board were safe; some had minor injuries.  And they were all immediately evacuated from the area and taken to the UN office in Bamyan.  The Mission has told us that during the flight, the helicopter developed mechanical problems and the crew was forced to make an emergency landing.  And the cause of those mechanical problems is obviously under investigation.  Okay, other questions, please?

All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you very much, thank you.

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