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

24 June 2013

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

24 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 briefing.


**Security Council


The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a Security Council open debate on women and peace and security, saying that the UN system is committed to “Delivering as One” to end the culture of impunity that prevails regarding sexual violence.


In his remarks, the Secretary-General said that a senior women protection adviser will be deployed shortly within the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to join those already in place.  Others are soon to be deployed in the Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Somalia.


He called on all leaders at the highest political level to voice their unequivocal support for the cause and to follow up with deeds.  The Secretary-General said that the resolution adopted earlier by the Security Council sends yet another strong signal to perpetrators that their acts will no longer be tolerated.


The Secretary-General also thanked the other speakers today for their work and advocacy, including Angelina Jolie, who is a UN refugee agency Special Envoy, and Jane Adong Anywar, a lawyer and civil society activist.


**Commencement Address


The Secretary-General will deliver the commencement address at the Democracy Prep High School this afternoon, and he will urge the college-bound students to reach inside themselves and fulfil the promise of their school to change the world.


He will mention that there are 61 million children who are out of school in our world, but, under the Global Education First Initiative, his goal is to get all of them into school by the year 2015.  We’ll have his remarks at the commencement address, which is being delivered at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, available later in the day.


** Pakistan


As you will have seen, last night we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General said he was appalled by the reported killing of a group of foreign mountaineers in northern Pakistan.


In that statement, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at the mounting terrorist attacks and bombings in Pakistan.  While reiterating the support of the United Nations to the Government of Pakistan in the face of terrorism and extremism, he urges the Government to take immediate measures to bring the perpetrators to justice and to ensure security.  The full statement is available on our website.


** Lebanon


Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, met this afternoon in Beirut with the ambassadors of the five permanent members of the Security Council, and he said afterwards that he and the ambassadors were unanimous in deploring the recent challenge to the rule of law in Sidon and recent attacks on the Lebanese Armed Forces there and elsewhere.


They stressed the importance of the protection of civilians and look forward to the early restoration of order in the city.  They expressed their unified support for Lebanon’s President, the institutions of the State and the security forces, and in particular the army, at this difficult juncture.


**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travel


Later today, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Vienna to visit the United Nations Office in Vienna and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  During his visit, he will participate in and deliver opening remarks at the UNODC Commission on Narcotic Drugs special event launch of the World Drug Report.  The Deputy Secretary-General will also address the opening session of the thirteenth Alliance against Trafficking in Persons High-level Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Conference, and the high-level opening of the “Vienna+20” International Expert Conference on the twentieth anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights.  He will also hold bilateral meetings with senior Government officials.


On 27 June, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Afghanistan, where he will have bilateral meetings with senior Government officials and visit the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN agencies, funds and programmes in the country.  He will also make a field visit.  The purpose of this visit is to gain a first-hand view of the progress Afghanistan has made and to discuss with Afghan interlocutors their priorities and challenges.  The Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 2 July.


**UNRWA


Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), has named 23-year-old Mohammad Assaf as the first UNRWA Regional Youth Ambassador for Palestine Refugees.  This follows Mohammad winning the Arab Idol crown, and reflects his personal commitment to Palestinian refugees and to the Relief and Works Agency.


**Press Conferences


Following this briefing, at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference here by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the Minister for Women’s Rights and Government Spokesperson of France.


And then tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., there will be a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Palau to the United Nations, on the issue of oceans in the sustainable development goals.


Questions, please?  Masood?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes, sir.  In reference to Israel’s bombing of Gaza today, does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that?  And there was a report last Friday by a UN agency which was reported on… on… on Thursday… on Friday, about Palestinian children being mistreated by the Israelis, and including torture of those in custody… others… and using others as human shields.  This is the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, sir.  So, do you have any reaction to this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We have no reaction to either of these.  What we would say in terms of the exchange of fire, the Palestinian rockets and the Israeli bombing, is that both sides should demonstrate restraint and should respect the ceasefire agreements.


Question:  But, you have no reaction to the UN report on the abuse of the Palestinian children?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to check on that for you.  Sylviane?


Question:  Regarding the targeting in Lebanon, has the Secretary-General spoken with the President today?


Deputy Spokesperson:  To the best of my knowledge, he hasn’t spoken with President [Michel] Sleiman today, but we have what Derek Plumbly… what I read about Derek Plumbly having met with the five ambassadors of the permanent members of the Security Council, and what he and the ambassadors said afterwards.


Question:  In Lebanon?


Deputy Spokesperson:  In Lebanon.  I read it before, yeah.  It will be in the transcript.


Question:  Is there any possible way to extend the mandate of… UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] mandate if the Security Council…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  That’s a question for the Security Council to decide.  Matthew?


Correspondent:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask you… I wanted to… may… maybe you can answer it now, or maybe you… maybe… maybe look into it.  Whether Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous, Mr. [Dmitry] Titov and the head of UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) have received a detailed complaint from an UNMAS whistleblower in Somalia that the head of UNMAS in Somalia provided genetic information from bombings to [United States] intelligence agencies and also moves around Mogadishu with armed guards from that group, Denel, that we were talking about.  It’s a pretty troubling thing, I’ve seen a copy of it, and it’s… it seems to have been direct… directed to and received by those three individuals, so I would like to get a statement from you that they have received it and what their response to it is.  I also e-mailed several of them and asked for a comment; I haven’t received anything.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll have to check on that for you, Matthew, we’ll check with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations].


Question:  And… and… and is it your understanding that UNMAS individuals and their contractors can walk with arms?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, you’d have to ask DPKO that, I don’t have the information.


Correspondent:  It’s UNMAS… I mean it’s…


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have the exact nature of what they are allowed to do and not allowed to do.  Speak with DPKO over that.


Correspondent:  You always say that and then I don’t have any answer from them.  I’ve had… I’ve e-mailed the head of UNMAS about… a complaint that her agency provides genetic and other information to [ United States] intelligence and she wouldn’t deny it, so I am asking you.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you know we… there are all kinds of complaints, they have to be…


Question:  By a UN individual?


Deputy Spokesperson: …they have to be proven.


Correspondent:  And she, the individual, says that there is already now a witch hunt to find out who the complainant is, so I think it is something I’m… I am asking to get a response, that’s all.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I wouldn’t say there is a witch hunt, but when people are being accused of something, we obviously have to go to the bottom of it and find out what is happening.  So, as I said, we will check with DPKO and then get back to you.


Question:  But, when a UN person comes forward… will this person be protected by whistleblower protections?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We will have to get back to you on that, Matthew.  We don’t discuss hypothetical situations.  Right now, we… right now, I certainly don’t know anything about a whistleblower.  Pam?


Question:  Eduardo, is there any…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The microphone, please.


Question:  Sorry.  Is there any feedback on the S… the Secretary-General’s trip to China and if he brought up Syria, if there is any response on Syria and negotiations?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the readouts were there.  Obviously, these things were discussed in China.  There is a meeting tomorrow between the Russian and [ United States] foreign secretaries and Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, and we’ll see what comes out of that meeting.


Question:  And is there any possibility the SG, the Secretary-General, could come brief us on his trip to China?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to see; I don’t have any information about that.  Matthew?


Question:  Sure, I wanted to… since there is… since there is this big debate today about sexual violence in conflict, I wanted to ask again something I asked you back on 29 May, which is for a… a… for a UN update on what has been done about the 135 rapes in Minova, how many people have been arrested and what… whether to the U… it seems like three… the last report that was said publicly by the UN was three.  Are there more, and does support to the 41st and 391st battalions continue?  How is that consistent with the things being said in the Council today?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what I can say to you is that MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] continues to impress upon the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] authorities the importance of full accountability for all those responsible for the grave sexual violations which occurred in Minova last year.  And based on the continuing efforts of the DRC authorities in holding those responsible for the violations to account, MONUSCO has not suspended overall support to the FARDC [Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo].


Question:  Is there a number of people arrested?  Is three the number or is there a higher number?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information with me.  We have to check with DPKO.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you have to check with the Congolese authorities, Matthew.


Correspondent:  No, sure, but since the UN has a stated conditionality policy…


Deputy Spokesperson:  We have a stated conditionality, but this is in the hands of the Congolese authorities; you’d have to check with the Congolese prosecutor’s office to find out what they are doing.


Question:  But, you are saying that the UN says that there is enough, and I am… I am saying the last thing the UN said was there was three; is that enough?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I didn’t say there was enough; I said we continue to impress upon the DRC authorities the importance of full accountability for all those responsible for the grave sexual violations which occurred in Minova last year.


Correspondent:  And you said the support continues; that’s the part I was referring to.  I understand, I don’t… I… anyway, you can ask…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Based on the continuing efforts of the DRC authorities in holding those responsible for the violations to account, the DRC authorities have taken steps; we continue to impress upon them the need for full accountability, and if you need any more information, I would invite you to contact the Congolese authorities.  They are the people who are doing the prosecution.


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


* *** *

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