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

21 November 2013

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

21 November 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 Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon everyone.  Thanks for joining us here.

**Noon Guests

Today, we’re very pleased to have as our guests Stefan Feller, the United Nations Police Adviser, and Hester Paneras, also of UN Police Service (UNPOL), and they’re also here to talk to you also about the participation of women in UN police forces around the world.

I believe they will make some opening remarks and then can take some questions from you.

Mr. Feller, would like to go first?

[Press conference by Stefan Feller and Hester Paneras issued separately]

If you will just wait a few seconds then we will then read a few more notes, then I can take some questions as well.  Okay, great.  Just a few small items to say before I take any questions that you might have.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

First of all, the Secretary-General is on his way back to New York from Warsaw, where he was attending the UN Climate Change Conference.

This morning, he took part in a discussion on the crucial role that cities play in tackling climate change.  He noted that more than 50 per cent of the world’s population is urban, and the proportion is growing, especially in Asia and Africa.  The Secretary-General said that, by transforming the way cities are planned, it would be possible to usher in a low-carbon future that benefits people and the planet.

The Secretary-General had a wide range of meetings with individual countries and regional groups while in Warsaw.  We have provided a readout on the meetings that gives an overview of those discussions, which you can find online.

** Philippines

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos ended a three-day visit to the Philippines today.  She welcomed the strong coordination among the international community, including partners and military assistance from Member States, in support of national and local responders, to address people’s immediate needs.

As of yesterday, the Philippines Government estimates that 13.25 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan, including some 5.4 million children, many of whom face serious protection, health and safety risks.  Of the 4.4 million people displaced by the disaster, nearly 90 per cent are in the Eastern and Western Visayas regions.  More than 387,000 people are staying in evacuation centres across the six affected regions.

Ms. Amos warned that people left without homes will require substantial longer-term support from the international community to ensure that they are provided with the means to rebuild their houses.  The Government and the World Food Programme (WFP) have distributed food to nearly 2.7 million people.  A mass measles, Vitamin A and polio vaccination campaign is set to start on Monday.  Funding for the humanitarian appeal for the typhoon launched last week stands at nearly 43 per cent or $129 million.

** Syria

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 9.3 million people in Syria need humanitarian assistance, including 6.5 million people who have been displaced.

Humanitarian organizations are providing assistance to millions of people in Syria, but insecurity continues to threaten their lives and their ability to reach people in need.  The World Food Programme has reported that, this month, it has been able to dispatch less than 30 per cent of the planned food rations compared to October when it reached over 3.4 million people with food supplies.  Despite the insecurity, humanitarian convoys have dispatched life-saving assistance to more than 312,000 people in hard-to-reach areas in the past two weeks.

Humanitarian partners have vaccinated 1.4 million children against polio and another 473,000 children against measles so far, but they face access constraints in Dar’a, Damascus and governorates in the northeast of the country.


The Chef de Cabinet, Susana Malcorra, spoke at an open session of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council this morning, on behalf of the Secretary-General, who is on his way back to New York.  She said that we must work together for strategies to confront the terrible phenomenon of terrorism; and in particular, to reach young people and to help them see a world of fairness and justice, of opportunity and empowerment.  She said that, ultimately, it falls on each of us to cultivate greater understanding through outreach and education.  Her remarks are available in our Office.

**Press Conferences

And also on counter-terrorism, tomorrow, Jean-Paul Laborde, the Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), will be my guest at the noon briefing.  He will speak about what the UN is doing to combat terrorism and to counter violent extremism.

Then, at 12:45 p.m., Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be here to brief on her recent visit to the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan.

That’s it from me.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The Foreign Minister of France, Laurent Fabius, commenting on the situation in the Central African Republic, said it is on the edge of genocide.  Does this comment, is this comment, is this assessment, rather, shared by the Secretary-General?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General’s assessment on this, as you know, came in his extremely serious and extremely sombre report to the Security Council on the Central African Republic, and I would just refer you to his observations there.  In addition, as you know, just a few weeks ago, Adama Dieng, who is the Special Adviser dealing with the Prevention of Genocide, issued a press release concerning the Central African Republic.  So I would just refer you to their remarks, and that is where we stand on that question.  Iftikhar?

Question:  Farhan, thank you.  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the drone attack, which took place outside the tribal belt, the uh… Pakistan’s tribal belt, for the first time in a… in… a… uh… uh… the… the… the attacks have taken place usually in the tribal areas and not outside the tribal areas?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific response to today’s incident.  We don’t have any first-hand information just yet about this particular incident.  I would note that the Secretary-General has repeatedly said about the use of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles in general that they are to be used in accordance with international norms and, in particular, with international humanitarian and human rights law.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Given the Secretary-General’s often-stated objective to have a binding legal climate change agreement by 2015, my first question is:  does he have any plans to try to get more directly involved in facilitating agreement between the developing nations, who walked out of the Warsaw conference over financing issues, and the developed nations?  And my second question, still related to that conference:  I believe the Secretary-General was asked at the conference whether the lobbyists from fossil fuel companies would continue to be permitted to attend these conferences drawing, uh, the question drew a parallel to WHO [World Health Organization], which apparently, according to the questioner, has barred participation by tobacco companies.  So does the Secretary-General have any, any comment on that issue of continued lobbying participation by fossil fuel companies in these proceedings?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General does have a comment, and in fact, that comment comes in the form of his answer to the question.  I’d just refer you to the fact he did answer the question in the [press] briefing and explained about the need to be able to include businesses in the process of making sure that we can all deal with the question of climate change.  And I’d refer you to the language of what he specifically said; it’s in the transcript that is still available online.  And regarding your first question:  the Secretary-General did in fact speak to a large number of groups of different nations, in terms of bringing them together and trying to come to a way forward on the issues of climate change that they all face.  And we have a readout that was issued a few hours ago that describes the range of meetings he held while in Warsaw in order to try and deal with both developed and developing nations on the question of climate change.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, thanks.  I wanted to… first I wanted to ask you; yesterday I heard from the… the… the lawyers for the… the… the… on the Haiti cholera case, and I understand that, you know, the UN is… is free to have its, you know, legal defence of immunity, but they cla… they say that they… they… they… the UN wouldn’t even accept service of the papers, that they to the office of OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] and that the papers were physically refused and I wanted to know, can you find out if that’s true and… and what would you say to people that say that that’s… there is something kind of scofflaw-like about that, like… like… is it true that they physically refused to accept even service of papers in a lawsuit in which they would claim immunity but that were served to them on this important issue?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything to add on Haiti at this time.  We’ve said what we have to say on this particular legal question.

Question:  Right, but this is… I mean, this is just an actual factual question.  Did the UN refuse service of process of, of this case that’s been wildly, widely reported?  See what I mean?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I see what you mean.  We have actually, if you look back on what we’ve said, you can see what the explanation is for what we have been doing on this, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

Question:  Can I also ask, ask about the Loya Jirga in, in Afghanistan?  There, it seems now, it has started and there, there, there are, since there is admission there, what I wonder is first, just factually, what, is there any, any, UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] or DPA [Department of Political Affairs] in, in, sort of involvement in tracking it or pre… even presence added, and also now that the President [Hamid] Karzai has said that he wishes to defer any security agreem… agreement with the US, does this have any impact or are there people within the UN system looking at how this may impact UNAMA’s operations?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, regarding the dialogue between President Karzai and the Government of the United States, we will leave that bilateral matter in their respective hands and we’ll see what develops.  The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan is present.  They have been giving regular updates, including regular press releases about developments both prior to the Loya Jirga and during it, and we expect that they will keep up with those updates.  You can see those updates on their website.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Would the Secretary-General give a monthly press conference after his long trip?  Thank you.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We will give you an announcement on his next press conference fairly shortly.  But there will be one in the coming weeks, and we will let you know when that happens.  Yes?

Question:  I just… the… the… the… there… there… um… Martin Kobler did a… did a… and I understand often you’ll just say whatever he said stands, so I just wanna… but it was a… it was a very appreciated hour-long entity but there was a question that, that at least was posed that wasn’t taken so I wanna ask you; which is that, what did MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] find?  It was said that they were going to check into reports of reprisals in Kiwanja and Bunagana areas, you know, from which the M23 left, and I wanted to know, what if anything did they find?  I mean, there are, some are reporting had actual names of people that were robbed or… or beaten.  And also, the other one is he used a phrase and I just wanted to know if this is, maybe, if it’s reading too much into it, he said there should be a… some sort of final text between the… the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] Government and the M23, and I know that prior or before the word agreement has been thrown around, there is a… it’s kind of important, is… is there any change in the US, in the UN system’s, uh, expectation and desire for… for how to end the conflict?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’d stick to what Mr. Kobler said:  we need to have some sort of final text.  We are waiting to see what kind, what form of understanding can be reached and we will see what that is.  We will study that when it happens, but we really do need for this issue to be resolved and we are working to see what can happen to do that.

Regarding the first question, as we have said also from this podium, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, has been looking into these various reports regarding the possibility of reprisal attacks in Bunagana and Kiwanja.  As Martin Nesirky, I believe, has said, we are not taking reports at face values, but are trying to look to see what the details are.  If and when we get any further details, we’ll share them.

Have a good day, everyone.

* *** *

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