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

23 October 2013

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

23 October 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

** Mali

The UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, reports that there was a suicide attack today on a UN checkpoint in Tessalit.  There are several victims, both peacekeepers and civilians.  The Mission firmly condemns this attack.  The Secretary-General has been informed and we expect a statement on this shortly.

[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement:  The Secretary-General condemns today’s suicide attack by unknown assailants on a checkpoint of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali in Tessalit.  A number of Chadian peacekeepers have been killed and injured.  It appears there has also been a number of civilian casualties.  The Secretary-General offers his condolences to the families of the fallen peacekeepers and wishes a swift recovery to those wounded.  This attack will not deter the determination of the United Nations to support the restoration of security, stability and sustainable peace in Mali.]

**Security Council

The Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and the Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Mohammed ibn Chambas, briefed the Security Council this morning.

Mr. Chambas said the security situation in Darfur and threats to the Mission and humanitarian personnel continued to be a serious concern.  He added that the situation was further complicated by the inter-tribal conflicts that plague the region and have led to a large number of civilian casualties and mass displacement.  He said the Mission was working closely with regional, state and local authorities, towards renewed attempts to bring about reconciliation between the conflicting tribal groups.

Mr. Ladsous said that, in addition to presenting safety and security challenges for UNAMID and aid personnel, the intensification of conflict has increased the need for protection and humanitarian assistance among the civilian population.  He also stressed the need for support for the peace process and efforts to strengthen the rule of law and human rights.

Mr. Ladsous said that, as requested by the Security Council, a review of the Mission has begun, with a view towards ensuring that the Mission has the resources, configuration and procedures needed to address these challenges more effectively.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way back from Denmark, where he spoke today at the launch of the Sustainable Energy for All Energy Efficiency Hub at the UN City in Copenhagen.  He said that access by all to clean, efficient energy will be critical in promoting sustainable development while, at the same time, reducing emissions.  The Secretary-General expects the hub, supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to stand at the centre of efforts to double the global rate of energy efficiency over the next 17 years.

He told reporters earlier in the day that more should be done to unlock the barriers to climate finance that exist across the global economy.  He also said that the commitment made by Member States to mobilize $100 billion annually by 2020 must be implemented.

He also spoke at a Copenhagen Climate Finance Meeting, where he said that the longer we wait, the greater the costs — to communities, businesses, economies and to the planet.  The Secretary-General also talked to Danish University students before heading back to New York, and he encouraged them to look at the harsh realities of our world and help others.  The Secretary-General is due back in New York later today.

** Syria

The Joint Mission of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations dealing with Syria’s chemical weapons programme reports that it has now visited 18 of the sites disclosed by Syria.  The team adds that Syria’s work to render critical equipment inoperable has begun at nearly all those sites.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Emergency Directors of eight UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are in Goma, taking stock of the humanitarian crisis that has displaced more than 1 million people in North Kivu, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Today, the Emergency Directors went to the town of Kibirizi, western Rutshuru, where they saw the distribution of relief items for more than 2,000 displaced people.

Yesterday, they visited Bulengo, a site hosting more than 55,000 internally displaced people.  The delegation also met with North Kivu authorities.  And on behalf of the delegation, John Ging, who is the Director of Operations of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs here at the United Nations, said the visit was a sign of solidarity with the people of North Kivu and a testament to the commitment to deliver humanitarian assistance to those most in need.

** Bakassi Peninsula

The Follow-Up Committee established to monitor the implementation of the agreement on the Bakassi peninsula held its final meeting in Geneva on Monday and Tuesday.  The three heads of delegations to the Committee adopted and signed a joint statement in which the delegations of Cameroon and Nigeria confirm that the special transitional regime for a period of five years ended on 14 August of this year and that, as of this date, Cameroon has full sovereignty over the Bakassi peninsula.

The Chair of the Committee, Said Djinnit, who is the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, praised both parties for their commitment that led to the conclusion of the process of implementing the agreement.  He stressed that this process is a good example of preventive diplomacy.

**Health

In a new report published today, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that the number of people ill with tuberculosis fell last year to 8.6 million, with deaths also decreasing to 1.3 million.  The new data confirm that the world is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals target of reversing tuberculosis incidence, along with the target of a 50 per cent reduction in the mortality rate by 2015, compared with 1990.

However, the World Health Organization says that gains in tuberculosis control are at risk because of drug resistance and because 3 million patients are hard to reach through health systems.  Insufficient resources for tuberculosis are at the heart of both of those challenges.  And there is more detail on this online.

**Press Conferences

Right after this briefing, indeed, in about five minutes from now, there will be a press conference co-organized by the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Peer Review Mechanism, the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa and the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).  Speakers will include Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the Chief Executive Officer of NEPAD, and Maged Abdelaziz, the United Nations Special Adviser on Africa.

And then, tomorrow, several human rights Rapporteurs will be here to brief you.  And there are details on those available in my office.

**Joint Mission

I was asked yesterday about the UN trust fund that is being set up to help finance the joint mission in Syria.  There are discussions with a number of donors, but no contributions have been received so far.  At this stage, planning is in full swing for the joint mission.

Costs are going to be met in the first instance from the regular UN budget and, as necessary, from the trust fund.  So, this is still a work in progress.  The donation of armoured vehicles has nothing to do with the trust fund.  And in addition to the 10 armoured vehicles provided by the United States, the European Union is providing 10 and the United Kingdom is providing two.  Canada flew the 10 [ United States] armoured vehicles to Lebanon.  And Sweden has put a transport aircraft at the disposal of the mission for two months.

Questions, please?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I… I have questions, but I just want to ask you one thing first.  First… first, I wanted to know how the briefing can be over in… in five minutes, and I also wanted to know, in this disarmament awards press conference we just had, there were no questions allowed, so… I am sorry that we have it… but I’m… I am wondering, in this briefing room, isn’t there supposed to be, like, at every press conference, questions are allowed and a noon briefing has some minimum Q and A period?

Spokesperson:  Well, if you take up the time asking me about technical matters, then we don’t get to the substance.  So, ask me a technical question.

Question:  Okay, I want to ask… all right, I will ask you, just in… in… in the Council, the Security… the Sudanese Ambassador said that… that everything is fine with visas, and he cited two meetings by Sudanese Government officials with Hervé Ladsous and sort of implied that… that… that… that Mr. Ladsous agrees that it is fine.  So, I wanted to know, what is the UN and DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) position on the granting of visas by Sudan to UNAMID personnel?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with our colleagues in Peacekeeping Operations; I don’t have an update on that.  I know that it has been a source of concern for some time, and not just in recent months, but let me see what the update is on this.  Ali?  And then Pam.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  We know that Mr. [Lakhdar] Brahimi is visiting Syria on the thirtieth of this month; is he going to meet with President [Bashar al-]Assad?  And also, did he request a visit to Saudi Arabia?  And please tell us whether he is going to be received there or not?  And I have a third question.  Can I ask it right away?

Spokesperson:  I think it would be fairer on your colleagues to stop it there.  And with regard to Mr. Brahimi’s movements, I don’t have an update beyond what we have told you about where he is going.  And certainly, I would not be in a position to give precise dates for precise locations in the days ahead.  He is visiting the region for obvious reasons, with a view to working on convening the Geneva II conference in the middle of next month.  Pamela?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On the 18 sites that the team saw in Syria, or went to, were there any roadblocks, any problems going to them and have there been any roadblocks — not literally — but I mean challenges, in going to any of the other sites?  And as a piece of that, when the team expands, what is expected to be… I know you’ve said you can’t discuss security, per se, but will there still be mainly Syria in charge of security, or will there be other… any… any outside security for the bigger chemical weapons team?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know quite what you mean by that.  The Syrian authorities, it’s important that they help to provide access to the sites where the inspectors need to go so that they can see that the work is being undertaken.  And, of course, the UN personnel who are present within that joint team are liaising not just with the Syrian Government, but with others to ensure that routes to these sites are open for the teams to get through.  But, we are not going to be giving details on that, nor will we give details on security arrangements in the time to come.  I am moving around the room.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said… has warned that it will scale back its activities as a result of fund… lack of funds, beginning early this coming month, November, and this will have direct impact on children and refugees.  What can the UN do to prevent a humanitarian crisis in the region?

Spokesperson:  That’s precisely why these emergency directors are in the region right now in the eastern [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] in North Kivu today, as I just mentioned to you.  And it’s not just the United Nations, but other non-governmental organizations who are working together to… precisely to raise the profile, to put the spotlight on this.  Indeed, there is a funding shortfall, that’s precisely why these colleagues are there, and I would certainly look to John Ging and others within the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to provide us with an update in the days ahead.  I am going to the back of the room; that will be the last question.

Question:  Yeah, Matthew, I just want to know…

Spokesperson:  And tomorrow is another day.  Tomorrow is another.  Yes, please?

Question:  Can I go ahead?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  I want to know, what will the UN do…

Spokesperson:  My name is Martin, by the way.

Question:  What the UN will do to the resistance of natives of Bakassi, who doesn’t want to be Nigerian or in Cameroon.  Do you have any means of addressing that issue?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, this is something that’s being dealt with in that meeting in Geneva, and if I have any further details through Said Djinnit, then I will let you know, but I don’t have anything beyond that at the moment.

Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.

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