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

9 December 2013

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

9 December 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, everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Briefing Guest

Today, as you can see, I am joined by Joan Clos, who is the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat.  And he is here to discuss the seventh Session of the World Urban Forum, and that’s going to be taking place in Colombia next year.  I will pass the floor immediately to the Executive Director to make some introductory remarks and then take questions; and, of course, after that, I will be able to continue with other information and take questions.  Thank you very much.

[Press Conference by Mr. Clos issued separately.]

**Secretary-General’s Travels

I have a few more items.  The Secretary-General arrived this morning in South Africa, where he will attend the official memorial service for former President Nelson Mandela tomorrow.

Earlier today, he visited the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, which is a museum.

In his remarks there, the Secretary-General called Mr. Mandela a giant for justice, equality and human rights.  He touched our lives deeply and taught us what is possible in Africa and across the world.  The Secretary-General’s full remarks are online and they are also available in my office.

The Secretary-General also visited Mr. Mandela’s residence today, where he offered his condolences to the former President’s family.

** Central African Republic

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has said today that the humanitarian community in the Central African Republic remains preoccupied by the alarming deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the country and, in particular, in the capital Bangui, and in Bossangoa.

The Acting Humanitarian Coordinator, Rokhaya Daba Fall, called on all parties committing acts of violence to respect the protection of civilians and to ensure their security, including humanitarian organizations operating to alleviate the suffering of the people affected by the crisis.  Unlimited and unhindered access should be guaranteed to allow organizations to deliver assistance where needed in a neutral and impartial manner.

UN agencies and humanitarian partners in the Central African Republic have intensified operations to provide shelter, drinking water, sanitation, food security and health to internally displaced people, and they are reinforcing civil-military coordination and supporting reconciliation efforts.  There are more details available in a press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

**Security Council

Tarek Mitri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, provided an update to the Security Council this morning on the situation there, saying that discontent has mounted significantly.  Over the past few weeks, he said, the UN Mission has seen expressions of popular frustration with the political process and street protests.

Mr. Mitri said that the events of the past month have again highlighted the need for dialogue with the main armed groups.  He said that in the present circumstances, it is essential for all parties to engage in dialogue and create the right balance of incentives in order to stimulate a comprehensive process of reintegration and eventual disarmament.  We have his remarks available in my office.

The Security Council also issued a presidential statement this morning, expressing its concern at the delay by the authorities in Guinea-Bissau in taking the necessary steps for the timely adoption and implementation of decisions towards restoring constitutional order and organizing inclusive elections.  The Council urged the authorities in charge of the transitional period to ensure there is no further delay or postponement that could further affect the already fragile situation in Guinea-Bissau.

** Syria

In a joint statement over the weekend, the heads of UN humanitarian bodies strongly condemned attacks on health and other civilian sites in Syria and expressed deep concern for the serious implications for patients, health personnel and the provision of critical medical supplies.  They said that health facilities must be respected and protected in all circumstances and should not be used for military purposes.  Attacks against health facilities can be considered a war crime under international law.

** Middle East

Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, confirmed today that the Government of Israel has decided to resume the transfer of construction materials for UN projects in Gaza.

The situation in Gaza remains a matter of concern and the United Nations is engaged with relevant parties in trying to address the most urgent areas, such as energy, water and private sector construction.  Mr. Serry expressed the hope that a solution will be found quickly to the particularly pressing energy situation, and called for the support of the international community in this regard.

** Philippines

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that, one month after Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines, the humanitarian community continues to increase support for people affected by the storm.

The Office says that humanitarian needs remain enormous, with nearly 15 million people affected, including some 4 million people displaced and more than 1 million homes destroyed or damaged.  The UN and its partners are focusing their efforts on reaching the most vulnerable with emergency food, shelter, health and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance and also protection services.

** Ukraine

We are continuing to monitor developments in Ukraine very closely.

As you know, the Secretary-General spoke yesterday to the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, by telephone.

The Secretary-General expressed his grave concern about the situation in Ukraine, emphasized that there must be no resort to violence, and appealed for peaceful dialogue amongst all parties concerned.

The Secretary-General welcomed the President’s assurances that consultations would be initiated to defuse the situation.  He also congratulated the President on Ukraine’s successful chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe this year, and on the ministerial meeting held in Kiev last week.

** Bangladesh

The Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Oscar Fernandez-Taranco, continues his visit to Bangladesh, where he has been holding meetings with a wide range of interlocutors since Saturday.  Mr. Fernandez-Taranco has met with the Prime Minister, the leader of the opposition, party leaders, the election commission, and civil society, as well the Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary and members of the diplomatic corps.  He is expected to conclude his visit tomorrow.

He continues, in his discussions, to encourage dialogue and compromise to ensure an inclusive election and also non-violence.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow, my guests will be the tennis and basketball stars Martina Navratilova and Jason Collins.  Related to Human Rights Day, they will be here in support of an event on sport and the fight against homophobia.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I would like to ask about Iran, where that process is continuing [inaudible].  The Iranian Foreign Minister has made a statement saying that if further sanctions are imposed on Iran now by any country, including the United States, it would derail the process.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about this process?  Can you weigh in on this process, whether this is a right move, for a country to impose sanctions when the process is continuing?

Spokesperson:  I think the important word there is “if”, and I don’t really want to get into the hypothetical here.  What I would simply stress is that this is a process that has started.  The Secretary-General welcomed that process.  He welcomed the interim agreement that was reached.  And of course, now, those interlocutors, the P5, permanent five [Security Council members] plus one, are continuing their meetings with the Iranian authorities, I believe in Vienna, and so we need to watch how that develops.  But clearly, it was a very positive development; there’s more work that needs to be done on it, but that work is continuing. Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  The African States are holding a three-day meeting in Algiers regarding peace and security in the continent.  And they seem to be very concerned about lack of representation in the Security Council, especially at the level of permanent seat with the right of veto.  And all indications show that they are going to entrust the non-permanent members of the Council to open a dialogue with the permanent members for that purpose.  Does the Secretary-General welcome this initiative to revive the efforts aimed at reforming the Council?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I would comment on any specific individual undertakings by groups of Member States, but suffice it to say that the Secretary-General has often spoken about the need for Security Council reform.  That’s widely recognized and he spoke about it, indeed, at the weekend while in Paris attending another meeting on peace and security in Africa, which was organized by the French authorities.  The bottom line is that everybody understands the need for Security Council reform.  What is less clear is how that reform will look and whether the Member States can find a common cause here to reach an endpoint.  That is something that is still a work in progress, as you well know from your own previous life in the UN Security Council Affairs Division. Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I’d like to ask about the Central African Republic and then a corporate question of the type that I asked Mr. Clos.  In Central African Republic, and… I heard the statement that you read out, there are reports of basically the French forces making arrests of former Séléka officials, or former officials of the Government.  There’s also some concerns people are raising about the disarmament is being done only of Séléka, not of anti-Balaka Christian forces.  And I wanted to know, particularly on the first question, what’s the UN’s position on the legality of such arrests?  Is it… does the Security Council resolution authorize the French forces to make arrests… under, what law is in place?  And also… are both sides being disarmed?  And who from the UN system is looking at this?

Spokesperson:  With regard to the first part of your question, I would refer you to the French authorities and also just to read the resolution.  I think it speaks for itself.  It’s lengthy and it is quite detailed in what it sets out.  With regard to monitoring what’s happening there, we do have a Mission.  If I have anything further for you from that Mission, I’ll let you know.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, two quick questions.  Does United Nations and Secretary-General still sure that 22 January is going to be the date?  Because we have experienced before that the date was moved.  In regard of the Geneva II Conference and taking into account that two major events are happening — Davos Summit and apparently Watch Fair in Geneva.  And can you also tell us what would be the premise and how it would look like, that kind of conference?  Would it anyhow look like, for example, Dayton, when all participants were somehow locked, I’m not suggesting locked, but at the one place at the same time for a certain period of time?

Spokesperson:  First of all, the Secretary-General has said at the weekend in a press conference that he gave in Paris that he would be extending an invitation by the end of this month to those who will come to the talks on 22 January.  And he said that “I will try to extend an invitation by the end of this month, so that we will have this 22 January meeting, as scheduled.”  So, clearly, the intention is to hold that conference starting on the twenty-second, and that’s the key point — that it’s a starting day.  It’s not a one-day event, it’s the start of a process and it begins with a larger format with the two Syrian parties, the opposition and Government, and also including a number of other countries and players to be invited.  But then, after that initial opening session with the international players involved, it will be very much a Syrian-focused negotiating process mediated by Lakhdar Brahimi, the Joint Special Representative for Syria.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I guess I want to ask two questions, if that’s okay.  One is on Sri Lanka and one is this corporate question.  The first one is just I heard this morning the Deputy Secretary-General in this event on the genocide convention.  He again cited the Rights Up Front plan.  So, I just… I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you… one, when is this plan going to be made a public and official UN document?  And two, is there any update you can give on implementation?

Spokesperson:  I think the Deputy Secretary-General was giving an update on implementation right there, and he did so also when he was speaking in the Council on the Central African Republic.  That was another example of Rights Up Front being used and actually, there was a clear intention to state that there is a problem in the Central African Republic, things are spiralling out of control and that this is not even an early warning, but a late warning.  So, that’s the first part.  The second part is that there is some information already available.  If you don’t have it, I’d be pleased to make sure that you do.  (See Press Release SG/SM/15526.)

And what was the other question, on the corporate side of things?

Question:  Yeah, thanks a lot.  Similarly to the Habitat thing, I wanted to ask, what is sort of the UN’s policy… is there a comprehensive place to go to see what donations the UN receives from corporations?  In particular, I’m asking about what I understand to be a donation of television screens or sets from Samsung and I wanted to know, is there a comprehensive list… what is… what are the rule applicable to these donations?  Is the UN aware, for example, of pretty serious organizing drive in South Korea about occupational diseases at Samsung?  And just in the same way that Mr. Clos answered, what are the rules applicable and… and is there a database of such contributions?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check, Matthew.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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