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

6 December 2013

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

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.

**Nelson Mandela

The General Assembly observed a moment of silence this morning to mark the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, and the UN flag was lowered to half mast in his honour.

The Deputy Secretary-General, in remarks at the General Assembly, said that we remember Nelson Mandela today, but we should carry his spirit with us every day. That means speaking out against prejudice and discrimination wherever we see their dark manifestations; standing up against the indignity and deprivation that millions of our fellow human beings still suffer around the world; and building on the power of moral courage and universal values to triumph over brute force.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General said that Nelson Mandela touched our lives in deeply personal ways, but at the same time, no one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations. And, he said we should be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong example to keep working for a better and more just world.

**Secretary-General Travel

The Secretary-General is in Paris today, where he is attending the Elysée Summit for Peace and Security in Africa, hosted by the French Government.

In his remarks at the opening session of the Summit, he said that the violence of the past few days in the Central African Republic is yet another reminder that we must act now. He said that the resolution just adopted by the Security Council is an important step, and the deployment of additional French forces will also be essential.

The Secretary-General also said that the Summit takes place as the world mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, and said that his legacy is profound and will continue to guide the work of the United Nations.

On the margins of the Summit, the Secretary-General also held bilateral meetings with a number of African leaders, including the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Burundi and the Prime Minister of Libya.  The readouts of those meetings are available in our Office and online.

**Central African Republic/Humanitarian

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said today that she was extremely concerned by the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic.  She urged all those involved in the violence to protect civilians and ensure their safety and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law.

Ms. Amos also called for free and unfettered access for neutral and impartial organizations to safely deliver humanitarian aid.  She added that despite the insecurity, the United Nations and humanitarian partners are scaling up their activities, providing displaced families with shelter, safe water, sanitation, food and emergency health services in areas across the country.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, half the population of Central African Republic — 2.3 million people — is in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance.  Some 415,000 people are already displaced from their homes and 1.3 million people need emergency food assistance.

**Central African Republic/Human Rights

And the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) also said it was very concerned about the situation in the Central African Republic, especially in Bangui and Bossangoa, where yesterday dozens of people, including at least seven children, were killed.

The Office plans to deploy a human rights monitoring team to the country early next week to strengthen the existing monitoring capacity of the human rights section of the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BINUCA).

The Office also welcomed the adoption yesterday of Security Council resolution 2127 (2013) on the Central African Republic.  The Office welcomed the fact that the resolution requests the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate reports of human rights abuses by all parties since 1 January and to help identify perpetrators of such violations and abuses, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

And you will recall the statement we issued yesterday in which the Secretary-General calls the resolution “an important and timely step that sends a message of international resolve to respond to the crisis” and calls for its urgent implementation.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

A new report released today by the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is calling for investigations into serious human rights abuses committed by traditional hunters — called Dozos — between March 2009 and May 2013 in Côte d’Ivoire.

The report documents serious human rights abuses committed by Dozos while undertaking security activities.  According to the investigations, at least 228 people were killed and 164 others injured by bullets, machetes and knives, and 162 arbitrarily arrested and illegally detained by Dozos.  In addition, 274 cases of looting, arson and extortion committed by the Dozos have been verified and confirmed.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said the Dozos involved in the perpetration of human rights violations must be held accountable.  She called on the authorities to carry out serious investigations, bring the perpetrators to justice and provide appropriate redress to the victims.

The report is available online.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, strongly condemned the killing today of Mohamed Warsame Feisal, a member of the country’s Federal Parliament.

He was killed this afternoon in Mogadishu when an improvised explosive device planted in his vehicle detonated.  At least three others are reported to have been injured in the attack, according to the UN Mission in Somalia (UNSOM).

And there is more in a press release issued by the Mission.

**UNRWA

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency [for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] (UNRWA) condemns the killing of another of its staff, the tenth to die as a result of the Syria conflict.

Suzan Ghazazweh, a teacher at Abbasyyeh School in Muzeirib, was killed by shrapnel in her home on 2 December when a shell struck her residence in Dera’a.  The explosion which took Ms. Ghazazweh’s life also seriously injured her sister.

This tragic death illustrates yet again the devastating impact of the Syria armed conflict on families and on civilian lives.

The Relief and Works Agency strongly deplores the mounting toll of civilian deaths and casualties in Syria, including among Palestinians and humanitarian workers.  It urges all parties to abide by the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks and attacks against civilians and civilian objects.

**Genocide

The Department of Public Information would like to invite journalists to a high-level panel discussion to mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.  The event, titled “From Prevention to Protection:  the Genocide Convention 65 Years On”, will take place this coming Monday, 9 December, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., that’s to say, ‘til noon, in the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) Chamber.

**Noon Briefing Monday

And on Monday, the guest at the noon briefing will be Joan Clos, the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN–Habitat).  And he will be here to discuss the seventh Session of the World Urban Forum.

That’s it from me. Any questions?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot. I was looking at the readout of, of the Secretary-General’s meeting with Joseph Kabila of the… of the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and I, one thing I have been meaning to ask is, there was, there are many reports saying that the consideration is to resettle the M23 (23 March Movement) rebels now in… in… Uganda, elsewhere in the DRC, Equateur, and it is said that the UN, because it would obviously play a role in resettlement and housing etcetera, is somehow part of this plan.  I wanted to know, is that true?  Is the UN already started logistical planning and what do they think of the idea of resettling?  Is that… is that the best outcome for this?  And the other, the second question is… just maybe… it’s… I want to make sure I understand this correctly.  It says the Secretary-General congratulated the DRC for its successful military operation against the M23, and I just wanted to know, is that what can… to some it might seem strange the Secretary-General congratulating somebody for a military victory against a group, and I wanted to know is this… is this just a summary of it or… or is… or is that because the UN operates next, you know, with the… with the army, this is now the UN’s position that it is a good thing for Governments to wipe out armed groups?  Not wipe out, excuse me, to have military victory over… successful military operations against.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I am glad you re-phrased yourself.

Correspondent:  Yeah, yeah.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, we’ve made clear our position about the need to have the civilians, including the civilians in Goma, put out of harm’s way.  And it is in that context that the Secretary-General said what he said.  We stand by the wording of that readout in the context of the need to keep civilians from harm’s, from the threat of harm.

Now, regarding your other question, I wouldn’t speculate on what will happen to the M23 combatants.  At this stage, discussions are going on.  We’ll provide details about whatever role we have once any further development on where they will be placed is made.  Iftikhar?

Question:  [inaudible]  Yes, I was a bit late, maybe you have already said this.  I just wanted to know whether the Secretary-General will attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, at this stage, it is the Government of South Africa that is in charge of what the arrangements will be for former President Mandela’s funeral.  And we don’t have anything to announce about what the Secretary-General will do.  The Secretary-General is being kept informed about what the arrangements will be for Nelson Mandela’s funeral, and if he has any intention, then, at that stage, to visit South Africa, we will make an announcement at that point.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Just to follow up on that; is there any expec… is there information about what UN delegation or, um, in addition to the Secretary-General, might go… be participating in any of the memorial events of 15 December?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, again that would depend ultimately…

Correspondent:  You really don’t have…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: …on the kind of arrangements being made by the Government of South Africa for visiting leaders, visiting dignitaries.  We are keeping informed about the sort of arrangements that they will be putting in place, and depending upon that, we will decide upon what kind of representation we will have and we will inform you once that decision has been made.

Question:  All right, then just a follow-up question:  the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) issued a statement today, a little while ago, that the unfilled munitions have been destroyed and they were able to get to these near the city of Homs.  In terms of information flow, the information that the Special Coordinator, Sigrid Kaag, gave here did not include the 34 corporations that are bidding for the rest of the destruction of chemical weapons.  Is there any way to get that information from either side?  We’ve checked with… it’s not on the website of the OPCW, and since it’s a joint mission, is there any vetting process on the procurement?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we’ve been in touch with our colleagues in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  If they have information to provide in public about these companies, they will make that available.  So, I would suggest that you be in touch with them.  It will be their call about what to say about that once they have that information.

Question:  [Inaudible]…update, their response was to contact you.  [Laughs]  So?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Excellent.  That’s exactly why we coordinate, thanks for telling me.

Correspondent:  Well, all right, I’ll look [Inaudible]…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, regarding the Maaloula attacks, there were images coming from Maaloula showing that the burning, the intentional burning, of the churches, which date back 2,000 years or more, and other places, sacred places inscribed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as World Heritage.  Are, is the United Nations doing anything to stop these or to influence the events there?  Also, the Harara al-… eh, a new group today announced that they are the kidnappers of the nuns… the 19 nuns from Maaloula.  Are there any contacts with this group who probably are in also in Lebanon, working from Lebanon?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I wouldn’t have anything specific to say about the situation of the detainees.  What I can say on that is that the Secretary-General has repeatedly urged for all those held in Syria to be released immediately and without condition.  Beyond that, of course, we are aware of the situation in Maaloula and would argue that this is yet a further example of the need to halt all fighting in Syria.  And that is why we continue to press for the parties to attend the 22 January conference that we will have on Syria.

Question:  It is well known now that Al-Nusra, which is categorized as a terrorist organization, is the one which is… which has attacked Maaloula.  Are these ones, for example, the ones you are inviting to attack, sorry, to attend in Geneva?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As we have made clear, it’s up to the opposition to come up with a single delegation for these talks.  We don’t determine who will show up for that.  It is their decision.  Iftikhar?

Question:  Yesterday, the United Nations announced Human Rights Awards to various personalities, including Malala Yousafzai.  Where will this ceremony take place and when to hand over these awards?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe we have some details available on that.  There was an announcement made yesterday and there were some further details about that.  It’s available on the website of the Human Rights Office, but you can also get that information from our office afterwards.

Correspondent:  It wasn’t in the press release, probably…[Inaudible]…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Oh, I believe we have some further information on that that you can get.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want, I want to ask you, it seems that Mr. [Oscar] Fern… Fernandez-Taranco is in Bangladesh, and it is reported there that he asked but was, but the Government rejected that he would meet the President and also the chief of army staff.  Is that… is that correct and… and does that undermine part of his mi… desire to… to… to go back and forth between various parties and try to mediate the… in the run-up to the election?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes, we mentioned, actually on our website last week, that Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will visit Bangladesh from 7 through 10 [December].  And he intends to meet with members of the Government and the opposition and others.  This is part and parcel of his efforts to deal with having a situation on the ground that will be conducive to the holding of elections.

Question:  Does he intend to meet with the President and the chief of army staff?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will provide more details about his meeting once they are made.  We have said that he will meet with officials in the Government and the opposition and with civil society.  And we will have some more details once he is actually able to hold those meetings.  Yes?

Question:  Today, the Syrian Mission sent you… sent the Secretary-General and the Security Council another letter where naming on sighting hundreds of terrorists who were transported from Libya, Yemen and other place by Qatar and Turkey, and they were allowed to go into Syria and they were helped and abetted in carrying out terrorist attacks inside Syria.  What is the Secretary-General going to do about that?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General has opposed any further militarization of the conflict in Syria, and he has called on all parties, including all outside parties, to halt immediately all assistance and arming of the various parties.

Question:  Do you consider such actions as against the resolutions which were enacted by the Security Council and the General Assembly?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the Security Council resolutions are very clear in what they say, and we urge all Member States to abide by the terms of those resolutions.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask again about procurement by MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali).  Yeah, I mean, I know it’s been said that the… the process is… is “entirely transparent”, but I have been looking around the database and website and I just… I want to ask again, just yes or no, maybe you can… DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) or DFS (Department of Field Support) will tell you whether MI… the… the… the Mali Mission has contracts either directly or indirectly with Sodexho, Thales and GEOS, these are three French companies, and whether its letter has a letter of assist with a country call… company called France Expertise International, and if its letters of assist because the Government entity to that works with French contractors, whether the letters of assists of UN peacekeepers missions are public documents and whether they can be provided for MINUSMA.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think as Martin Nesirky made very clear to you — I believe just yesterday — there is a transparent procurement policy that is followed through with all contracts.  And we believe that that will be followed in these cases, as well.

Question:  But I am asking, is it being… I… I am just asking you, I… I understood that he said that, may be he didn’t, it’s not… I have now, since he said that, I went to the website and it’s not listed, and in fact, there are people that say that the procurement for the Mission has been done by a letter of assist to a French company called France Expertise International, which in turn does the procurement.  I wanted either you to confirm or deny that, and I want to know whether these three named French companies are in fact getting paid UN funds for logistics in Mali.  Say, if it’s transparent there should be an answer, that’s my…[inaudible]…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’d suggest just keep looking at the website which will have updates on all the procurement contracts that are approved.

Question:  But, it doesn’t have letter of assists there, that’s why I’m… I’m sorry that is the last thing I will ask on this.  I just wanted to know if the website doesn’t have letters of assist which… by which procurement could be out-sourced to a third party Government, is it possible to get such letters of assist in the… in the spirit of transparency that you’ve described?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we can ask our peacekeeping colleagues what information they have on letters of assist, but, like I said, the actual procurement contracts are there and they are posted.  It’s a full process that is standard across all peacekeeping missions. Yes?

Question:  Has there been any comment by the Secretary-General on the fairly recent election of Jordan to the Security Council?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  No, there…

Correspondent:  I know it’s on French time, but…

Acting Deputy Spokesperson: …there is no comment.  Of course, this is a decision by Member States.  We are aware that Jordan has been elected to the seat.  I believe the vote was 178 to 1, just over the past hour or so.

Correspondent:  Yeah.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  And so, the Security Council will have its full contingent of 15 members.  So, we take note of that, but that, of course, as with the previous elections, is a decision that is taken by the Member States.

Correspondent:  All right, thank you.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Have a good weekend, everyone.

* *** *

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