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

19 June 2013

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

19 June 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 noon briefing.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General spoke by telephone with the President of Somalia regarding today’s attack in the capital, Mogadishu.

The Secretary-General said he was deeply concerned and outraged by the despicable attack against the United Nations, and added his own personal condolences to the families of the deceased.

He urged the President to ensure UN staff are protected and to coordinate closely with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and his Special Representative.

The Secretary-General said the United Nations would not be deterred from delivering its mandate.

As you will have seen this morning, the Deputy Secretary-General began his remarks to the Security Council by saying that he was greatly saddened and shocked by the outrageous attack in Mogadishu.  The full details are still emerging, but we know that several people have died.

For his part, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Kay, called the attack an act of blatant terrorism and a desperate attack to knock Somalia off its path of recovery and peacebuilding, adding that reports of casualties are still being verified.

The Special Representative said that, while colleagues in Mogadishu are shaken, the United Nations remains determined to stand by the people of Somalia.

**Secretary-General in China

The Secretary-General had a series of meetings with the new Chinese leadership in Beijing today, including with President Xi Jinping.  We issued a readout with details on that meeting, as well as his meetings with the Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, and the Chief of General Staff General, Fang Fenghui.

In his meetings, the Secretary-General emphasized the important role of China in the United Nations, notably in peacekeeping operations.  He also discussed a wide range of topics, particularly developments in Syria and on the Korean peninsula.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General visited China's peacekeeping training centre near Beijing and spoke by video link with Chinese peacekeepers based in South Sudan.

The Secretary-General also met UN staff and the UN country team, and held talks with the President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Wang Weiguang.

On Thursday, the Secretary-General has further meetings with Chinese leaders, including Premier Le Keqiang.  He will also have meetings related to energy and climate change.

**Security Council

The Deputy Secretary-General addressed the Security Council’s open meeting on conflict prevention and natural resources.  He told the Council that, in too many countries, a wealth of resources fails to translate into equivalent wealth for the people.  The result of this injustice is bitterness, mistrust and alienation.

He said that the primary responsibility for preventing conflict, and transparently and equitably managing resources, lies with Governments.  Ultimately, all parties need to recognize — and act upon — the links between poverty, inequality, conflict and sustainable development.

The Council also heard from Kofi Annan, in his capacity as Chair of the Africa Progress Panel, and from senior World Bank and UN Development Programme (UNDP) officials.

** Syria

A UN inter-agency team visited Al-Qusayr in Syria on 15 June to assess the humanitarian situation there.  The mission observed large-scale destruction, including to health facilities, housing and schools.  There was also no water or power supply.  Most civilians have fled to neighbouring areas, as well as to Homs and Damascus.  The humanitarian team noted that restoring basic services and rehabilitating damaged infrastructure would likely be a long-term undertaking.

Meanwhile, in the last two weeks, the World Food Programme (WFP) has dispatched food rations to help 900,000 Syrians, including many who were displaced by the situation in Al-Qusayr and Quneitra.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided emergency health kits for over 40,000 people in Homs, while generators and water-cleaning materials have been provided to allow for a safe water supply for 1.6 million people in Homs, Hama, Tartous and Damascus.

** Myanmar

The High Commissioner for Human Rights today urged the Government of Myanmar to devote urgent attention to tackling the continuing discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in the country, warning that failure to act could undermine the reform process.

Navi Pillay said that Myanmar today can act as a source of inspiration by showing how Governments can be transformed by a renewed commitment to human rights.  However, the High Commissioner said, the human rights violations against the Rohingya community in Rakhine State, and the spread of anti-Muslim sentiment across the state and beyond, is threatening the reform process and requires focused attention from the Government.

The President of Myanmar has made some important statements on the need to end discrimination and violence and foster mutual respect and tolerance between people of different faiths and ethnicities, and Ms. Pillay encouraged the Government to translate political will into concrete actions.

Her full statement is available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.

**Refugees

In a report released today, the UN refugee agency says that more people are refugees or internally displaced than at any time since 1994, with the crisis in Syria having emerged as a major new factor in global displacement.

The agency’s annual “Global Trends” report shows that, as of the end of last year, more than 45.2 million people were in situations of displacement compared to 42.5 million people at the end of 2011.  This includes 15.4 million refugees, 937,000 asylum seekers, and 28.8 million people forced to flee within the borders of their countries.

About 55 per cent of all refugees come from five war-affected countries:  Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said that these numbers are alarming and reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them.

There are more details available on the UN refugee agency’s website.

Questions, please.  Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Right, regarding Al-Qusayr, while this visit of the Red Cross to the town, did they find any evidence of massacres that took place?  What happened to those who were injured in the fighting?  Did they establish the facts about them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to find out; the information I have right now is what I read out.  We’ll see what else they report.

Question:  Another matter; the… the Interior Minister of Lebanon today complained about some parties are recruiting from the refugees, the Syrian refugees, training them in camps and probably using them internally.  Does the Secretary-General has any opinion about such practices?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has said that the situation in Syria is causing ripples beyond its borders, and that any attempt to further militarize the situation is completely unhelpful.  And that continues to be his position.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir.  On these talks between the Taliban and the United States and Afghanistan, which have now been torpedoed by Mr. Karzai’s non-participation, can the United Nations, in this case, play any role… helpful role to bring about peace talks which are now, it seems, in limbo?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the UN maintains that long-term peace in Afghanistan can only be achieved through a political process.  That has been our position all along, and it continues to be our position.  The UN remains committed to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process, in accordance with the UN mandate.

The UN Mission, UNAMA, stands ready to support Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation efforts, in full accordance with its mandate.  Joe?

Question:  Yeah, this is really just a follow-up to my questions yesterday.  You indicated you were going to try to see if you can get more information.  The first question was whether the Secretary-General, while in China, had participated in meetings involving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; there was a UN committee there hosted by Beijing.  And second, whether, if you were able to find out if the Secretary-General had been invited or had requested attendance at the G-8 Summit, considering it is my understanding that the heads of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank were there and Syria was a major topic of discussion.

Deputy Spokesperson:  On the first question, the Secretary-General did not attend the conference in Beijing; he was represented by Oscar Fernández-Taranco who read a statement to the meeting.  And on the second question, we’re still trying to find out; I haven’t gotten any information back yet.  Pamela?

Question:  Thank you, Eduardo.  On Mogadishu, you had your initial comment; do you think the… is the Secretary-General looking to follow up on anything in terms of protecting UN staff in the future in this setting?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t discuss security in public.  He has been in conversations, as I said, he spoke with the President of Somalia this morning.  We were very — as far as one can be — pleased with the rapid response of Somali security forces and AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and African Union forces.  They responded quickly, so in that sense, we were very pleased with that, but we are not going to get any further into security issues.

Question:  No, but just to follow up, taking additional security measures to protect UN staff, generally speaking?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, security is always under review by the United Nations.  We take the security of the staff extremely seriously, and I am sure, in the coming days, a lot of thought will be given to what the security situation is, not only in Somalia, but around the world.  It is something that is an ongoing process from our security people.  But, that is as far as I want to go.  All the way in the back?

Question:  Thank you.  President [Vladamir] Putin and President [Barack] Obama are expected to talk about nuclear issues and possible cuts in nuclear arsenals in these two countries.  Any statement… any reflection on the part of the Secretary-General himself?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is always pleased when leaders decide to discuss disarmament and discuss the reduction of nuclear arsenals.  We don’t have any specific statement, but I think that that’s a general principle we can follow.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks, Eduardo.  I… I wanted to ask you, you know, there was a briefing here earlier this morning by Watchlist and… and World Vision and… and this question of… of both groups said that they don’t believe that a country that’s listed as a child-soldier recruiter, i.e., Chad should be in MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali], but… but Watchlist went… went beyond that and said that in… according to their information, in mid-April 2013, Chadian troops kept children under detention and questioned them for several weeks before turning them over.  So I wanted to, I guess I wanted to know first if… if… if there is… I know that there has been any… any DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or UN response to these two respected NGOs [non-governmental organizations] saying that, that as a matter of principl,e a recruiter shouldn’t be in a Mission.  And also, if DPKO was aware of this information — at least I wasn’t until this, today, that the Chadian troops had detained children — and if so, when were they going to make that public or… or what do they say to… to the idea of turning, blue-hatting uh… uh… this… this force into MINUSMA?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict visited Chad in May 2013, followed by a visit of the Military Adviser this month, together with a UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] representative.  They discussed with the Chadian authorities, among other things, short-term measures to be implemented by 31 October 2013, within the grace period for AFISMA troop contributors to comply with United Nations standards.

Chadian authorities expressed their commitment to ensure that no children are present among the troops to be contributed to MINUSMA, and are undertaking a number of measures to that effect.  In particular, steps are under way to systematize training on the issue of child recruitment, to establish a network of focal points in each military region, and to organize an age-verification workshop.

The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is working closely with the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF, and in close consultation with the Chadian authorities, to put in place immediate mechanisms to ensure that there are no children in the contingent it contributes to MINUSMA, and that their troops are trained in child protection.

AFISMA troops, including the Chadians, will be re-hatted as MINUSMA blue helmets on 1 July.  But, they will be subject to a grace period of four months, during which, they will be expected to meet UN standards, both on technical issues and on this question of child recruitment.

Chad is listed in the Secretary-General's Children and Armed Conflict report for recruitment and use, and signed an action plan in June 2011 with the UN, which will put in place long-term measures to end this violation and enable Chad to be de-listed.

The United Nations stands ready to work closely with the Government of Chad to ensure full implementation of the action plan beyond the short-term measures and after the four-month grace period.

Question:  Just to — thanks a lot, I really appreciate that — I just want to make sure that there… is there, if it is possible to get a response to whether [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or the UN system otherwise was aware of, of this allegation that… that the current… the ones currently in… in Mali had detained children for several weeks and… and… and questioned them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll ask [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], yeah.  Okay, thank you very much…

Question:  Can I ask another question?

Deputy Spokesperson:  One more question; the last question.

Question:  All right.  This… this has to do with Mr. Mitri has done a couple of briefings and they have been very useful, but I wanted to get the… the… that he can’t answer for… for U… for… for UN-Women [United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women], maybe you can, or he, there seems to be some concern among women in Libya about the… the Constitution process and about this quota that has existed until now, 35 per cent women being done away with, and seems to… they met with Mr. Mitri and some of them had said he was somewhat dismissive of this, he’s answered, but they also said that UN-Women promised to give them the Secretary-General’s e-mail, so they could write to him; promised to come to a meeting on 30 May and didn’t, and I am just wondering, does the UN system have any position on steps that should be taken in Libya to ensure continued participation of women and as the country makes a new Constitution?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, in principle, I think you know that the Secretary-General has always been a very strong promoter of the role of women in public life.  And that is something that he stands by.  On the specific question of Libya, we’ll check with [Department of Political Affairs] and get back to you.  Thank you.  Have a good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

* *** *

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