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

2 July 2014

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

2 July 2014
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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

** Darfur

The Secretary-General is concerned about the recent serious allegations against the African Union-United Nations [Hybrid Operation] in Darfur (UNAMID).  These allegations cover a wide range of issues, including inaccurate reporting of the facts on the ground in Darfur, specific instances of failure to protect civilians and accusations of mismanagement of UNAMID.

UNAMID has undergone several investigations and reviews over the last two years, which have sought to address both strategic issues and specific incidents related to the mission's performance.  The Secretary-General’s Special Report of 25 February provides an overview of the strategic and managerial challenges faced by the mission and the work being done at United Nations Headquarters and in UNAMID to address them.

The Secretary-General remains committed to improving UNAMID's performance and is determined to take all necessary steps to correct any wrongdoing.  He has instructed the Secretariat to review the reports of all investigations and inquiries undertaken since mid-2012 to ensure that their recommendations have been implemented and that any relevant issues have been fully addressed.  This review, to be completed within one month, will enable the Secretary-General to determine what has already been done and, if recommendations are outstanding, what corrective action needs to be taken.  The full statement is online.

** Middle East

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, strongly condemned the reported murder of a Palestinian boy in Jerusalem.  He recalled the Secretary-General’s message that there can be no justification for the deliberate killing of civilians.

Mr. Serry said that the perpetrators of such heinous acts must be brought to justice.  He repeated his call on all sides to do everything they can not to further worsen an already tense atmosphere.  And the UN Relief and Works Agency [for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] (UNRWA) also issued a statement condemning the killing this morning and urged maximum restraint from all parties to prevent the situation from deteriorating further.  Both statements are available online.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) facilitated meetings between Afghanistan’s two presidential candidates, the leading members of their teams and Ambassadors, and other high-level representatives of the international community in Kabul yesterday.  The meetings provided an opportunity to engage in discussions about election-related issues and the way forward.

** Iraq

From Iraq, the Emergency Relief Coordinator and Chief for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, remains deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation, where families urgently need assistance and children are vulnerable to outbreaks of disease and malnutrition.

UN agencies and their humanitarian partners are doing their best to support the humanitarian response in the country despite security issues.

Ms. Amos called the recent announcement by the Government of Saudi Arabia to contribute $500 million towards aid efforts in Iraq extremely timely and exceptionally generous.  Ms. Amos said the funding will help humanitarian organizations rapidly scale up efforts.  And her statement is available online.

**Travels of Deputy Secretary-General

I just also wanted to flag that the Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, will depart New York for Geneva this evening.  While in Geneva, Mr. Eliasson will brief Member States tomorrow on the Secretary-General’s “Rights up front” initiative and on the post-2015 development agenda.  He will also meet with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, as well as the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer.

On 6 July, Mr. Eliasson will travel to Turin, where he will deliver the keynote address at the Turin Leadership Forum 2014, an event sponsored jointly by the UN System Staff College and the City of Turin.  From there, he will go on to Bologna to deliver a lecture at the International Peace and Security Institute’s Annual Bologna Symposium on Conflict Prevention, Resolution and Reconciliation.

**Ebola

I also wanted to flag a note about a Summit that is currently taking place in Accra, Ghana, on the spread of Ebola in West Africa, with the participation of the World Health Organization (WHO).  The objectives are to agree on a comprehensive operational response plan at the regional level for controlling the outbreak.  Participants include Ministers of Health from 11 African countries, as well as WHO, Médecins sans Frontières, Institut Pasteur and the European Union.  We will soon have more from the World Health Organization about the results of that meeting.

**Questions and Answers

Spokesman:  Since Ali just walked in, I do want to congratulate him on the birth of his daughter.  [applause]  As I told Oleg, may she ask you a lot of questions.  So, welcome, Naya.  So, on that note, we have seven and a half minutes before the President of the Security Council comes in.  Michelle?  Then Matthew.  Then Benny.

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Do you have any details on these reports of UN staff in South Sudan being harassed, based on their ethnicity?  And is this an isolated incident or has this occurred before?

Spokesman:  Yes, we have seen these reports.  We are aware of them.  It is unfortunately not an isolated incident. As you know, we’ve had these before.  What happened in this case is that four national staff members traveling to Entebbe on a UN mission aircraft on Monday were denied permission to board the plane by national security officers from the Government of South Sudan and had their passports and UN identification cards confiscated.  Similar incidents occurred with two other UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] national staff members at the airport yesterday.  The Mission has sought clarification from the authorities as to why the passports were confiscated and why they were not allowed to travel to Entebbe.  Staff members were traveling on UN official business for training course at the regional centre in Entebbe.  We were not given any legal explanation or other reason barring their official travel.  We did ask for the passports and documentation to be returned and they were returned, I’m told, earlier today.

Question:  What was their nationality?

Spokesman:  They were local South Sudanese staff.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Stéphane, I wanted to ask you… I had asked on, I guess, on Friday about whether MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] flew the sanctioned FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] leader and you said, “I’m not aware of any other services provided to him”.  And then, Monday, you said:  “If I had anything to add, I will.  If I have something, I will tell you something.”  And now Mr. [Martin] Kobler had said that it took place.  So, I wanted to know, how do I square… after Friday you said it didn’t happen, did you ask MONUSCO, did they tell you that…?

Spokesman:  If I have information to share with you, I’ll get it.

Question:  Can you understand why it’s problematic, you saying it didn’t happen…?

Spokesman:  I didn’t say it didn’t happen.  I said I wasn’t aware.  I’m not… you may not believe it, but I’m not aware of everything that goes on in the UN system.  I try to be prepared.  If I’m not aware of something, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.  It just means that I, the Spokesman, am not aware.

Question:  Is it fair to assume that if it’s asked, that you’re going to ask them?

Spokesman:  If it’s… you know, you can also pick up the phone and call the mission.  I make some phone calls.  Once I have information, I share it with you.

Correspondent:  When did you get…

Spokesman: Benny?

Question:  Just on the case of the killing of the Arab in Jerusalem, how come the Secretary-General hasn’t issued his own statement, just like he did in the other cases?

Spokesman:  You know, it’s all I have for now.  If there is a statement coming, it will be issued.  [The following statement was issued afterward:  The Secretary-General condemns the murder of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem and calls for the perpetrators of this despicable act to be promptly brought to justice.  He expresses his deepest condolences to the family of the victim.  The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all parties to ensure that tensions do not escalate further, leading to more loss of life.]

Question:  Follow-up on that:  I mean, three weeks ago, two young people were killed near a jail in Ofer in the occupied territories in Palestine, and until now, we do not hear any condemnation.  And also, what happens to the investigation that was supposed… or you called for it, the United Nations?

Spokesman:  I have not had any update on that.  Carla?  Can you please use your microphone?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General commented on the changes in the Japanese Constitution, which is causing a great deal of concern in South Korea and China, and possibly elsewhere?

Spokesman:  We’ve seen this.  We understand that, at this point, it is a cabinet decision that will now go to the Parliament.  But, we’re obviously following this closely.  Edie?

Question:  Stéphane, going back to the harassment of UN staff in South Sudan, could you tell us the ethnicity of the four local staffers?  And are they going to try again, now that they have their documents back, to go to this course in Entebbe?

Spokesman:  I don’t have the ethnicity.  Obviously, I would assume that they weren’t able to travel.  The course went on, so I’m sure other arrangements will be made for them to travel when the next course comes up.  Yes, Joe?

Question:  This is a follow-up to a question I asked you the other day.  You said you would check into it further.  That regards whether the Secretary-General has any comment on the human rights dimension of the court order in the [ United States] District Court, which essentially requires Argentina to pay fully those bond holders who are not participating in the compromise.  There have been some NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that have stated that, if that were the case, or if Argentina was forced into default, that would have an enormous human rights impact in terms of societal development and unemployment.

Spokesman:  Unfortunately, I still don’t have anything for you.  I will try my best.  Yes, Widad?

Question:  Stéphane, since it seems that the General Assembly failed to adopt the peacekeeping budget by the deadline, I was wondering if there are any changes on the operation on the ground or is it affecting anything in the missions on the ground?

Spokesman:  Obviously, this is a matter where… that we’re obviously following very closely.  The Secretary-General has had contacts with various Member States today.  He has urged everyone to work in a spirit of compromise to reach an agreement on the budget, not only for the good of peacekeeping, but, I think, for the effective functioning of the Organization as a whole.  We have made arrangements to ensure that the operations can continue on a day-to-day basis.  But, what peacekeeping needs, what peacekeeping requires, is a stable funding stream and a clear budget to be able to do its work.  Yes, sir?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane, for everything.  And I have a question.  Since yesterday, you confirmed that Mr. [Jeffrey] Feltman met with Mrs. Bouthaina Shaaban, and he, himself, confirmed the meeting.  Was this a planned meeting or just a “run into each other” and whether, my question, whether there will be any kind of senior meetings to follow up on that?

Spokesman:  No, it was a private conversation on the margin of the Oslo Forum.  So, I don’t anticipate any follow-up.  Again, it was just a sort of sidebar conversation and we saw some of the reports in the media today and Mr. Feltman wanted to make it clear that he did not ask anything of Syria regarding Lebanon.  Yes?  Rhonda and then… go ahead.

Question:  My question is about the speech that is going to be given by the Deputy Secretary-General, it is going to include about reconciliation?  And just in January, the Presidency of the Security Council said that’s a great weakness at the UN.  And I’m wondering if the Secretary-General sees that as a weakness at the moment and if he has any idea of how to develop the capability within the UN, both for dealing with problems here, as well as for dealing with problems in the world.

Spokesman:  Well, on the Deputy Secretary-General’s speech, I haven’t seen it yet.  As soon as we can, we’ll share it with you.  Obviously, the issue of reconciliation is critical to peacemaking and is one we are obviously focused on.  Yes?

Correspondent:  According to your statements just a few moments ago, it sounds like the [Secretary-General] is deferring more to the Japanese Cabinet on the issue of the Constitution.  But, he has weighed in directly before, including last August.

Spokesman:  No, I think, I would interpret it as this is part, the observation that I have made is that there is a process.  We’re following it.  It’s going from the Cabinet to the Parliament.  We’re following it at this point.  If we have anything further to add, I will do so.  Yes, Ali?

Correspondent:  On the elections in Haiti, do you have anything new, because it’s obvious they have crossed the constitutional line and they, it seems…

Spokesman:  I don’t have anything particular at this point.  Yes, Iftikhar?

Question:  Thanks.  Yesterday, you announced the new head of UNMOGIP [United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan], but we have never, ever heard what this mission does or doesn’t do.  Would you arrange a briefing with the new commander?

Spokesman:  If they’re here, I would love to bring other victims to this briefing, so the more I can share the pain, I will.  Sanghwon, yes?

Question:  Two things.  Follow-up to Widad’s question, what do you mean the UN has not made arrangements to ensure peacekeeping operations?

Spokesman:  Has made.

Question:  Has made.  So what are the arrangements?

Spokesman:  Well, ensuring that the missions have enough cash to continue to meet their immediate obligations.

Question:  How much and for how long? 

Spokesman:  Well, this is… we very much hope that this issue will be resolved in the next… today or in the next day.

Question:  And one quick thing about the Japanese legislation:  does the Secretary-General support the interpretation, in the sense that it would allow Japan to play a more robust role when it comes to security?

Spokesman:  As I said, I really have nothing to add beyond whatever I have already said on that.  Last question and then we need to let…

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Just to follow up on my previous question.  Since they were actors of the drama we have in Balkans regarding those floods and you addressed that issue so many times, and there is going to be a big donor’s conference in Brussels on 16 July, what will be the role, I’m wondering, of the UN?

Spokesman:  I will check and if my colleagues have not given you an answer, they are in trouble, because you have raised this question before.  I will leave you in the presence of the President of the Security Council.

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