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

4 April 2013

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

4 April 2013
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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guests

My guests today are here to brief you on the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action.  They are Ambassador Saleumxay Kommasith, — I hope I pronounced it right — the Permanent Representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, along with Ambassador Miguel Berger, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany and Assistant Secretary-General Dmitry Titov of the Office of the Rule of Law, along with his colleague Paul Heslop.  Gentlemen, the floor is yours.

[Press conference on International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action is issued separately.  The Secretary-General’s message for the Day was issued on 28 March in Press Release SG/SM/14915 and was read out at the press conference by Mr. Titov.]

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen, we will continue with the noon briefing now.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General arrived in Madrid earlier today, and about now, he is speaking to reporters with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.  The Secretary-General is also attending a high-level UN meeting on hunger, food security and nutrition.  We expect to be able to distribute his remarks a little later.  It is also expected that the Secretary-General will meet with Crown Prince Felipe later today.

The Secretary-General arrived in Madrid after wrapping up his visit to Monaco, where earlier today he met the Principality's Minister of State and Chief of Government and gave a joint press conference.  At that press conference, the Secretary-General said that he is deeply concerned and troubled by the rising tension on the Korean peninsula.  He called all the parties concerned to play a very important role to calm down the situation.  He expressed his hope that the recent measure to restrict the movement of personnel and goods in and out of the Kaesong industrial complex in the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] will be lifted as soon as possible.

The Secretary-General also visited the Environmental Laboratories of the International Atomic Energy Agency to meet staff.  On Friday, the Secretary-General will be chairing the UN Chief Executives Board meeting.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) strongly condemns an attack yesterday against a Government compound in the south-western Province of Farah, which resulted in the deaths of at least 41 civilians, most of whom were civilian Government workers, and injuries to more than 100 others.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that they intended to target civilian Government employees, in particular workers in the courts and prosecutors’ offices.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ján Kubiš, called on the Taliban to follow through on their previous public commitments to protect civilians.  With the onset of the spring fighting season, the UN Mission again highlights the obligations of parties to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.  We have a press release with more details.

**Syrian Refugees

The World Food Programme (WFP) has launched school feeding projects for more than 10,500 Syrian children attending schools in refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq to boost nutrition and encourage children to come to school.

In Jordan, more than 6,000 children are now receiving a mid-day nutritious snack in the two UNICEF-run schools in the Zaatari refugee camp.  The World Food Programme is also providing the snacks to more than 4,500 children in the Domiz camp in Dohuk, northern Iraq, and at two refugee camps in Al-Qaim in central Iraq.

The agency plans to increase its school feeding programme to feed close to 30,000 Syrian children in Zaatari refugee camp and 6,000 children in refugee camps in Iraq.  The UN food agency needs $780,000 to continue its school feeding programme in Jordan and Iraq until the end of the year.

The World Food Programme must, in total, raise $19 million each week in order to provide food assistance to 2.5 million hungry people inside Syria and more than 1 million refugees in neighbouring countries.  That amounts to an urgently needed $113 million to continue operations until June.

**Security Council

The Security Council held consultations on Yemen this morning.  Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Yemen, briefed the Security Council on developments there.  And if I am correct, Mr. Benomar has already spoken to reporters at the Security Council stakeout.

** Central African Republic

In a message yesterday to the extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) on the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General called for the rapid restoration of constitutional order and urged the authorities to ensure the restoration of security in the country.

He also said that he is concerned about the humanitarian situation and by reports of grave violations of human rights, looting, targeted attacks, rape and recruitment and use of child soldiers in violation of international norms.  The Secretary-General said that the United Nations is determined to work together with the Economic Community of Central African States, and other partners in the international community, in search for durable solutions to the present crisis.

The Secretary-General was represented by his Special Representative for the Central African Republic, Margaret Vogt, at this Summit that took place in N'Djamena, Chad.

** Sudan

The World Food Programme said today that it has started providing urgently needed food assistance to people affected by conflict in Sudan’s Blue Nile State.  This is the first time the Programme has distributed food since fighting broke out in September 2011, forcing thousands to flee their homes, many to Ethiopia and South Sudan.  In the two localities most affected by conflict, the Programme plans to reach more than 51,000 people.  Before the start of the fighting, the Programme was providing assistance to some 183,000 people in Blue Nile State.

**Millennium Development Goals

And the United Nations and its partners around the world are calling for accelerated action in the thousand days leading to the target date for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.  The Secretary-General has said that the Millennium Development Goals have helped set global and national priorities, mobilize action, and achieve remarkable results.

Starting tomorrow, the actual milestone date, and running through 12 April, the United Nations will work with Governments, civil society and international partners to mark “MDG Momentum:  1,000 Days of Action” in a variety of ways.  In Madrid, Spain, the Secretary-General and young people from the Spanish and European Youth Councils are participating in a special event this afternoon, joined by a number of heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes who are visiting for a senior-level UN meeting.  More information is available on the website.

Ladies and gentlemen, questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible] how much people the WFP is trying to reach in Sudan?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I said here the Programme plans to reach more than 51,000 people.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Eduardo.  The… maybe four questions, if… some from yesterday that… that… it looks like you got only two in the whole briefing, so there is just… start in… I… I want to ask you on Minova.  I’ve asked on this a number of times, but there was that 1 April, you said it was a midnight deadline, for suspending assistance to two battalions charged with 126 rapes.  You’ve read a couple of times, starting on Monday, the statement that assurances were received.  I… I, obviously, want to know what…it seems like… its… since the… the… the ultimatum was made public, whatever these assurances are should be made public.  But, I have also seen an announcement of a… of an agreement between the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and Ms. Bangura.  It doesn’t mention the rapes, but it talks about sexual violence, and I wanted to know, is that the assurance?  And, if so, how does it address the… the…the 126, at least, victims of rape in Minova?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, I have nothing to add to what I said before.  When wee have something to more to add we will let you know.

Correspondent:  You said… I mean… but I mean, if there is a deadline…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, when we have something, I will let you know, I don’t have anything else.

Question:  Okay, okay.  I wanted to also ask you about this… this, which I asked about 10 days ago, this peacekeeping training in Nepal, where it is explicitly said this is a training for troops, 800 troops from 23 countries, to participate in UN peacekeeping missions.  And, since Nepal is alleged to be, you know, inadvertently, of course, to be the source of the cholera that is in Haiti, I am going to reiterate my reque… my… my… my question to you.  What safeguards did DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] have in place to ensure that, in fact, they haven’t just gathered people in what was viewed to be the source?  And more generally, what safeguards do they have in place not to have a repeat of what they did in Haiti?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll check with DPKO.  I don’t have anything on that here.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later clarified that the centre is led and funded by the United States.]

Question:  Did you check with them before?  I don’t mean to be…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we did, but we don’t have anything yet.  When we get something, we will let you know.

Question:  Is it fair to say there are no safeguards then?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, it’s not fair to say.  Don’t put words into my mouth, Matthew.

Correspondent:  No, no, I am saying in 10 days…

Deputy Spokesperson:  When we have something to say, we will say it.

Question:  Okay.  Okay.  How about Michel Forst… also on Haiti, the… the… the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Haiti, Michel Forst, resigned, even though he was entitled to another year as… as the Special Rapporteur.  He was very critical of the UN, and Ban Ki-moon, in fact, for dismissing the claims of cholera in Haiti.  Is there… it is now being reported that, essentially, he was pushed out of the job and I wanted to know, does the UN deny that?  Is the… the UN have any response to its own Special Rapporteur criticizing its human rights performance in Haiti?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that.  Special Rapporteurs, as you know, are… let me see if I have something.

Correspondent:  Great, that’ll be great.

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t.  When we have something, we’ll let you know.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes, the situation in the Korean peninsula.  We know that the Secretary-General is very concerned, and we assume that he has a direct contact with the Government of South Korea.  What has… what has been the contacts lately with the… does he… does he have any contact with the Government of North Korea?  Is he able to establish a kind of conversation with them or not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, he has made his statements very clear.  The Secretariat, of course, deals with the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  I don’t know if he has… I don’t think he has had any contact with the leadership in North Korea itself, but they know what the Secretary-General’s position is and he has made it quite clear in a variety of statements over the past week, statements that have been very public and carried over the media and on which the Mission here has been informed of.  One more?

Question:  I want to ask about the [inaudible] for… for Joseph Kony.  The UN… which the UN in… in this room spoken a lot about his participation in.  It’s now said that the Ugandan troops are leaving Central African Republic because of the coup, a change of Government there.  How is the… what… what’s the UN’s position on how the search for Joseph Kony, particularly in Central African Republic, will continue and does the US have a… does the UN have any view of this bounty issued yesterday by the Government on Joseph Kony’s head?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check on that.  We have seen the reports, I am not sure whether the Ugandan soldiers are leaving or they have just been frozen in place.  We’ll have to check and see.  We’ll get back to you on that.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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