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

5 April 2016

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, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, one and all.

**Security Council

On Mali, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, told the Security Council this morning that while important steps had been achieved in the implementation of the peace agreement, progress was still too slow regarding defence and security.

He encouraged the Government and the armed groups who signed the peace agreement to establish a timeline to resolve all pending questions of the agreement.

He said that the upsurge of insecurity in the north of Mali and the Mopti region, combined with the rise of terrorism in the subregion, called for greater attention to the security threat in West Africa.  And he welcomed regional efforts to reduce the influence of terrorist groups against this threat.  His full remarks are available in our office.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

In addition to the information we provided you yesterday on the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by the Tanzanian contingent in the UN Mission, MONUSCO, we can confirm that out of the 11 allegedly abused women, six are minors.

Seven of the alleged victims have already given birth and four women are still pregnant.  They have been referred to UNICEF, which has deployed a team on the ground.

The Tanzanian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York has informed the United Nations yesterday during a meeting with the Department of Field Support that they have appointed an investigation team, which will travel in the DRC in the coming days.

The Secretariat has recommended to the Tanzanian authorities to conduct joint investigations with the Office for Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

**Syria

The Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, is traveling to Moscow today for a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.  The meeting is taking place at the Special Envoy's initiative in order to discuss preparations for the forthcoming resumption of the Intra-Syrian Geneva Talks.

**Libya

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, is now in Tripoli, Libya — his first visit to the country since the arrival of the Presidency Council in the capital last week.

During his one-day visit, Mr. Kobler met with Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj and members of the Presidency Council, as well as representatives of the Grand Tripoli municipalities.

Speaking to the Libyan officials, Mr. Kobler said that he is moved by their courage and determination to find a political solution to the conflict in Libya.  He discussed with them the way forward and the United Nations commitment to support their efforts.  We hope to provide you with more information on his visit later today.

**Malawi

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today in Geneva that it was concerned about the increasing number of people killed in mob attacks in Malawi.  Over the past two months, at least nine separate incidents leading to the death of 16 people have been reported across the country.

The Office is urging the authorities in Malawi to act promptly to identify and prosecute those involved in mob killings, and to offer remedy to victims.  It also urges the authorities to address the root causes of such attacks and to launch an awareness campaign to encourage people to report crimes to police rather than take justice into their own hands.

The Office has welcomed President Arthur Mutharika’s 30 March statement strongly condemning these crimes and calling on all citizens, NGOs and Government agencies to support the Malawi police in its fight against mob killings in accordance with the rule of law.

**South Sudan

The World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are warning that civil strife and unfavourable rains have further reduced crop production in South Sudan, aggravating the already severe food shortages.

The two agencies say that cereal prices have shot up nearly five-fold since early last year, making it increasingly difficult for people to get enough to eat.

Some 5.8 million people, or nearly half of the country’s population, are unsure where their next meal will come from, while the rate of severe food insecurity has now reached 12 percent, double the rate of a year ago.

In a new joint report, the two agencies make a series of recommendations for immediate action to address hunger, strengthen domestic food production and reduce the food gap in 2016 and into next year.

The most urgent need, the report says, is for an immediate improvement of security across the country.  You can find more information online.

**Rwanda

The World Food Programme also released a new study on Rwanda, indicating that rates of chronic malnutrition in Rwanda have fallen significantly in the last three years, but still remain stubbornly high, especially in rural areas.  More details on WFP’s website.

**Sudan

And in Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the refugee influx into the country from South Sudan continues with some 54,000 new arrivals recorded since the end of January.

These new arrivals continue to arrive primarily into East Darfur State, which has seen a significant increase in the last three weeks.  They are fleeing mainly from North and West Bahr El Gazal States in South Sudan, reportedly due to hunger, food scarcity and high food prices.

Most of the new arrivals are settled in the Khor Omer Camp, where between 100 and 120 families continue to arrive every day.

OCHA says that assistance has been scaled up, including food, health, and water.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

The Deputy Secretary-General, Jan Eliasson, is in Sweden today where he spoke at the Fifth Global Meeting of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding as well as the 2016 Stockholm Forum on Security and Development.  The Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks are available online.

**Central America

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said today that the number of people fleeing violence in Central America has surged to levels not seen since the region was wracked by armed conflicts in the 1980s.

As in previous years, preliminary data from 2015 shows that the United States remains the main country receiving asylum applications from the Northern Triangle — that’s El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — almost twice the number of 2014.

But last year, Mexico also saw an increase in asylum claims of 65 per cent since 2014, and Belize, Nicaragua and Panama are seeing similar sharp increases in asylum requests from people fleeing the Northern Triangle countries.

UNHCR says that action is urgently needed to ensure that unaccompanied children and others receive the protection to which they are entitled.  More is available on this in the briefing notes from Geneva.

**Fiji

Our humanitarian colleagues say that storms in cyclone-devastated Fiji are causing widespread river flooding, as well as road and school closures, according to meteorological authorities.

More than 3,600 people who have been evacuated are taking emergency shelter and an estimated 77 evacuation centres are now up and running in the western and central divisions of the country.

Further heavy rains are expected and local authorities in Fiji and Vanuatu warn there is now a high risk that the storm will strengthen to a Category 1 Tropical Cyclone as it approaches Fiji.

**Health

Health needs from humanitarian emergencies are at an all-time high, the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners say today.

They ask for $2.2 billion to provide lifesaving health services to more than 79 million people in more than 30 countries facing protracted emergencies this year, including Syria, Ethiopia, Fiji and Angola.

In one of the most profound transformations in its history, WHO is rolling out a new Health Emergencies Programme that will increase operational capacity in countries and enable a faster, effective and predictable response to all kinds of health emergencies, including outbreaks and humanitarian crises.

And the WHO Regional Office for Europe said today that the continent is closer than ever to eliminating measles and rubella.

According to WHO, 32 countries in Europe successfully interrupted the transmission of these highly contagious diseases, which often strike among children and infants.

WHO says that 21 countries in the European region had entirely eliminated measles and 20 countries had done so with rubella.

**Honour Roll

For the honour roll: today, India becomes the 63rd member of the Honour Roll, as it has paid its regular budget dues in full for 2016.  We thank New Delhi.

**Press Conferences

Today, following this briefing at 1 pm, in this room, there will be a press briefing by the UN Development Programme in conjunction with the Pritzker Architecture Prize on architecture and sustainable development.

Tomorrow at 12:30 pm, there will be a press briefing by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and Ms. Marama Pala, an indigenous woman living with HIV.  They will brief on the Civil Society Hearing for the 2016 High-Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS convened by the President of the General Assembly.

**Questions and Answers

Are there any questions?  Yes.  Speak into the microphone, please.

Question:  On Ng Lap Seng and the Macau fiasco, is there any official position or action being taken about the representatives of the Member States who signed off on building this expo centre in Macau?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the actions taken by the representative Member States will have to be dealt with by Member States themselves.  Ultimately, that's up to their side.  From our side, of course, you're aware of the audit we're doing, which, as Stéphane [Dujarric] mentioned yesterday, will be available as a document on 22 of April.

Question:  Just a quick follow-up: I mean, is the official opinion or position that, you know, they're blameless because they were unaware of the bribery and attempt to get it built or…

Deputy Spokesman:  No, I mean, every Member State would have to have viewed their own actions in accordance with their own laws and their own principles.  We're doing that for what we see from the Secretariat side, but ultimately, as this expands, if there's any further problems caused by the transfer of money from these various groups, each Member State has the responsibility to follow up.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Yes, Farhan, can you tell us about the Yemen talks, where the Houthi rebels are now also gone to Saudi Arabia to hold talks with the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, as to where do they stand now?  Because… in Kuwait.  So what is… how… why are… why are these talks taking place before the Kuwait conference?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, it's to be expected that in advance of the talks that will be convened under the auspices of the UN Special Envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, that the parties themselves may try to meet with each other and iron out any differences they have, so that we can get a good head of steam going for the actual talks that are conducted in Kuwait.  The dates have not changed.  We still expect a cessation of hostilities on the 10 April and then a week later for the talks to begin in Kuwait, as Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced from here two weeks ago.

Question:  Do you have any idea as to what these talks are taking place in Saudi Arabia, as to what will they achieve?  And is UN also apprised of these talks?

Deputy Spokesman:  We're apprised of developments as they can… as they progress.  Obviously, what we want is for the parties to continue their efforts to deal with each other in good faith and for there to be a series of confidence‑building measures so that we can actually move forward and have good, lasting cessation of hostilities and then productive face‑to‑face talks.  

Question:  On the same subject.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  Do you confirm that the Houthis are in Saudi and Riyadh at the moment and they are holding negotiations with the Saudi authorities? 

Deputy Spokesman:  It's not for me to confirm the talks that are happening outside of the UN auspices.  So ultimately, you'd have to ask the Houthi and Saudi officials, respectively.

Question:  But you said Ould Sheikh is probably orchestrating this.

Deputy Spokesman:  No, that's not what I said.  I said he keeps apprised of developments as they progress.  There have been developments outside of the process that he has been engaged in, but to the extent that any of these other developments help to build confidence among the parties, that's a good thing.  And we would welcome that.

Question:  Yes.  Sorry.  Just on the same subject.  Yesterday in Hajjah, there was an aerial attack against refugees in one of the camps.  Again this is probably the third time.  Do you have any statement on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you're well aware of our concerns against any attacks where there are large concentrations of civilians.  We're hopeful that all the attacks will stop, which is why we're working towards a cessation of hostilities.  Yes, please.  You in the back.

Question:  Thank you.  Farhan, the UN refugee agency has said that some of the first people to be deported from Europe under the terms of the EU‑Turkey migration deal may have been deported by mistake.  We have seen today Greece has held up deportations based on these claims.  What can you say about that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, at this stage, you're aware of the concerns we've had about the return of people.  We're hoping that anyone who has a claim to asylum will have that claim fairly heard, and we're hoping that ultimately the dignity and rights of all of those who are being treated will be respected fully.  Yes, please.

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  Regarding Congo Brazzaville, what is the UN position on [Denis] Sassou Nguesso’s re‑election and after changing the constitution to remove any age and terms limit and the violence that ensued?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you've heard what the Secretary‑General has had to say in terms of his overall concerns in terms of using different avenues, outside of the previous constitutional processes, not just there but anywhere in the world, in order to ensure a continuation of power.  At the same time, of course, we'll leave this matter in the hands of the voters and hope that any problems in the process will be worked out through the electoral process and the electoral institutions.  Yes.

Question:  Shihab [inaudible] from Al Jazeera.  We now have the UN's own internal report commissioned into the outbreak of cholera in Haiti, the MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) environmental health assessment report.  It's a catalogue of appalling sanitation practice, not least the fact that a month into the outbreak, peacekeepers were still dumping sewage into the open.  Is it still the UN's position that no one should be held accountable for any of this?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, in terms of our responsibility for improving these practices, the reason we did reports like that was exactly to figure out what's being done wrong on the ground and how it can be improved.  We want to make sure that all UN personnel, including all peacekeepers, abide by rules of basic health and safety, and, when that's not happening, that it be improved.  So, for example, the Department of Field Support (DFS) had commissioned reports into how sanitation practices, not just in Haiti, but certainly there and elsewhere, could be improved.  In this case, an environmental compliance unit was created in MINUSTAH in 2007, and the environmental inspection reports start from that year onwards.  Then from 2007 to 2010, there's seven reports by the environmental compliance unit of the Mirebalais site.  Compliance in the environmental compliance unit inspections is assessed from 0 to 4 in more than 10 items.  There were two reports in 2010, one in June and another in November.  In the November report, the contingents scored 2 on oil management which is about small oil spillage and 3 or 4 in all remaining items.  Regarding wastewater management, the camp was compliant.  However, it was noted that the contractor was taking the waste water to a location 300 miles… meters, sorry, 300 meters from a river.  In the inspection report, it was recommended that the wastewater should be treated before disposal.  So that is what was happening at that point.

Question:  So you've catalogued… the UN is terribly good at cataloguing for a practice, but what about accountability?  And questions as to why we know MINUSTAH had five self‑contained water treatment plants, two of which weren't working, but why weren't they fixed or used?  Because, surely, those would have avoided this entire outbreak.  Is anyone asking the question?  

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, as I've said, the whole point of these reports is exactly so that MINUSTAH and its contingents improve their practice on the ground.  Although there was wastewater treatment in the country before 2012, the infrastructure was not approved at a national level.  At the time, the available facilities were only approved at local government and authorities’ level and where the de facto locations at which the municipalities disposed of their waste.  MINUSTAH contractors were disposing at these locations, in accordance with that.

Question:  But accountability is what we're asking for.  Everyone just got away with it, the people who made these decisions, which even the UN and UN personnel accept, at the very least, contributed to this deadly outbreak of cholera in Haiti.  Has there been any accountability whatsoever, or is the UN completely above the law?  

Deputy Spokesman:  You've seen what we tried to do in terms of improving the management of waste and waste disposal by troop contingents.  You've seen what we've tried to do on the ground in terms of dealing with cholera, where we have put in a lot of effort since 2010, both in terms of working with the Government of Haiti and in working with regional and international partners trying to make sure that the right interventions are in place.  But, ultimately, we're dealing with a variety of problems, including extremely poor sanitation infrastructure.  It's…  As you've seen, it's taken a lot of the effort to try to deal with that, but we have tried…

Question:  But isn't it poor accountability infrastructure perhaps?

Deputy Spokesman:  What?

Question:  Isn't it poor accountability infrastructure at the UN as opposed to on the ground in Haiti?

Deputy Spokesman:  You're kind of playing a certain game with words there.  I mean, what we're trying to do is physically, tangibly improve the situation on the ground so it's better.  That's what we try to do.

Question:  Same topic?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  I wanted to ask… I mean, I think one of the points to me of this report is the dating of it.  How did the UN go forward after having this internal report and continue to deny any responsibility or nexus between its practices and the disease?  And what is your response to the Médecins Sans Frontières finding in the magazine Emerging Infectious Diseases that the count of 9,000 killed by cholera is a gross understatement?  And what is being done, not about future water in Haiti, but for the families of the people that were killed in the sense of recompense to the people who lost their homes, can't send their kids to school?  I guess, in terms of accountability to those who were injured by the UN's practices, what has the UN done? 

Deputy Spokesman:  The UN has tried to do what it can to work with the Government, as I told your Al Jazeera colleague, in terms of bringing down the cholera epidemic.  We have worked with them.  We have… as you know, the Government has an action plan on the rehabilitation of its own infrastructure, and we've tried to support that.  We're continuing to work with them and hope that ultimately we can bring this crisis to an end.

Question:  But what about the… I guess, the victims.  It seems like in the context of sexual abuse there's a recognition by the Secretariat that the people that were injured need to be compensated.  Here there are more than 9,000 families injured by what the UN did.  Has a single penny been paid to them?

Deputy Spokesman:  As you know, that's not a foregone conclusion and we've told you the position on that.

Question:  Because you don't go to court and so…

Deputy Spokesman:  We've told you what the position is which has not changed.  Yes, Joe?

Question:  Yeah, two questions.  The first one is on Libya.  Is the Prime Minister-designate and the council members, are they still in the naval base and is that where Mr. Kobler visited them?

Deputy Spokesman:  He met them in Tripoli.  That's the details we have on that.

Question:  But they had been sort of sequestered in the naval base.  I would like to know whether that's still the case and has Mr. Kobler tried to reach out to those other groups, armed groups, that have objected and tried to prevent the Prime Minister designate and Council members from coming to Libya?  That's my first question.  Second question is a follow‑up on the audit that… that… that's supposed to be made public, I guess, on 22 April.  Now that Helen Clark has put herself forward as a candidate for Secretary‑General and she's, of course, the head of the UNDP, does the Secretary‑General have the authority to waive the third‑day rule before the audit report becomes public?  And I'm thinking, in terms of next week's General Assembly hearings, where this information may be relevant since the South‑South Cooperation office is within the UNDP structure.  And, secondly, do you know when the UNDP audit is supposed to be completed and made public?  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, if by the UNDP audit you mean the audit about its office of South‑South Cooperation, they have said that they expect that to be done in mid‑April.  So hopefully fairly soon.

Question:  But the question is, then, when it can be made public and whether this 30‑day moratorium on public disclosure is waivable in the case of UNDP by Helen Clark herself, since she's now a candidate for the Secretary‑General, and in the case of the OIOS report by the Secretary‑General, because it's very relevant to the hearings next week on the candidates.

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe the OIOS report has been shared with different States.  It becomes a document on 22 April, as we've made clear.

Question:  But civil society does not have access…  But civil society does not have access.

 

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding…  Excuse me.  Please let me finish.

Question:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding the report on the Office of South‑South Cooperation, I believe they expect to make it public right away.  So my hope is that, if it's ready in mid‑April, that you'll get it in mid‑April.

Question:  Well, the U… sorry, the UNDP audit… I looked it up… they also have a 30‑day rule before there's public disclosure.  So what I'm trying to find out is how rigid those rules are given the sensitivity here.  Civil society and the public at large would, I think, benefit… if there's transparency in this whole process of the Secretary‑General nomination hearings, would benefit from full disclosure of what's in those reports.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, and we're in touch with our UNDP colleagues and encouraging them to make it available and also to do a briefing on it as soon as they can.  So we're doing that from our part and you can try to press them on that, as well.  Yes, Oleg?

Question:  Thanks.  Farhan, couple of days ago… actually last week, Stephen O'Brien in the Council said that there are preparations by the World Food Programme to airdrop new food parcels on Deir Ezzour for 200,000 people, I guess.  Any updates on that?  Where's it going?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, we are looking for the right window in which we can… of time in which we can conduct these airdrop activities, but we don't have any update to give you just yet.

Question:  Yeah, but isn't there a sense of time?  I mean, the people are blocked over there by terrorists.

Deputy Spokesman:  Exactly.  And we want to do this urgently, but as you can remember from the last time we tried it, what we want to do is make sure the food actually gets to people in need, so we're studying the best possible time in which we can get that accomplished.  And we'll provide the details once the operation has been carried out.  Yes, Lou?

Question:  Follow‑up, question on the audit.  Is… how deeply will the UN be looking the finances of South‑South News as it reviews the accreditation of that organization here?  And in light of the recommendation for the UN to, in general, improve due diligence of its relations with various groups, NGOs, etc., will it be adding due diligence regarding funding sources for media organizations in the future in light of the revelations in this case?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're seeing what recommendations can be done in terms of following up on the allegations arising from the Office of the President of the General Assembly.  At this stage, regarding South‑South News, its accreditation is being reviewed.  I can't speak to what the criteria are under what… under which it's being reviewed, but that review is happening.

Question:  Follow‑up on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yeah.

Question:  And the general question for the recommendations for increased due diligence on the part of the UN, I mean, will this be… I mean, will there be financial due diligence related to media accreditation in the future going forward?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'd have to see.  I can't confirm what that is.  We're looking at ways to improve the due diligence in light of this… these latest allegations.

Question:  Same topic.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, and then Intisab.

Question:  Okay.  I'd like to know, because on the same… on very same topic, given that South‑South News was used for $12 million of bribes, according to the criminal complaint, $12 million were infused into it by Ng Lap Seng, some portion of it was spent on this, on this UNCA (United Nations Correspondents Association) ad.  And so I would like to know… he asked the question, so I'm asking a question… is there an attempt to figure out where, within the UN system, not only this; I'm sure there's other ways, where the money was spent by South‑South News?  And other Ng Lap Seng affiliates, including a DPI (Department of Public Information) NGO conference that was held, including a slavery memorial, including a Cameroon‑sponsored drumming exhibition in the lobby, it seems like all of these… there should be a record of them.  Does the UN keep records of departments taking… where they take money from, including something called the World Harmony Foundation linked to Ng Lap Seng and Frank Liu that sponsored UN peacekeeping day?  And is it the case, my final question, maybe you can answer here or later today, is the World Harmony Foundation, linked to Ng Lap Seng and Frank Liu, still a member of the Global Compact?  Because on my computer, it still is.  And I'm wondering, since the audit, has the Global Compact taken any steps to make sure that Ng Lap Seng affiliates are not promoting human rights for the UN?

Deputy Spokesman:  Certainly, I'll check on whether the World Harmony Foundation is still part of the Global Compact.  I'd need to check with the Global Compact office on that.  Regarding the UN Correspondents Association, your colleagues in that association are in this very room, and you'd need to ask that question to them in terms of what their concerns are.

Question:  I'm asking you because you seem take a lot of… you give them the first questions.

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't speak…

Question:  You give them a lot of play, and so I'm asking you, given this, how do you justify that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't speak for the United Nations Correspondents Association.  Yes?

Correspondent:  I think, if this is a discussion about who gets a lot of play in this room, then I think you, Matthew Lee, get more play than anybody else in this organization.  So don't throw accusations at the UN Correspondents Association.

Deputy Spokesman:  Guys, at least for the benefit of our students from Finland, who…  I would love to show them a functioning newsroom, so please let's keep our behaviour good.  Yes?

Question:  Sorry, I didn't… I wasn't clear on your answer to Lou's question.  Is there any investigation of media journalists taking bribes or no?

Deputy Spokesman:  At this stage, I can't… I couldn't say that there is any such thing going on right now.  We will have to see what further steps are… need to be taken in terms of due diligence as we proceed to take in all of the various allegations that have come up in this case.

Question:  I just need to follow up on the audit question.  Going back to what I had asked earlier, the South‑South Cooperation Office, as you said, is part of the UNDP, but did it… was it also a subject of the internal audit that… that the OIOS completed, or are… or did they leave it completely for the UNDP to look at that relationship?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I mean, you'll be able to see the entire audit for yourself.

Question:  Well, that's on 22 April.  I'm asking whether the subject matter of that office, which in the Secretariat, but we were told reports up to the UNDP hierarchy, was that in… discussed in this audit report or is that left completely to UNDP?

Deputy Spokesman:  I believe it's basically a question for the UNDP audit, which will also, like I said, be available sometime in mid‑April.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  On Burundi and the UN police, how's the collaboration taking place between the UN and President [Pierre] Nkurunziza?  Is he granting access?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, at this stage, we're working to explore how the follow‑up will go in terms of the Security Council's recent resolution on Burundi.  So the Special Adviser, Jamal Benomar, is conferring right now in terms of determining what our precise follow‑up will be.  I don't have anything to say on it just yet as he's exploring that.  Intisab, sorry.  You've been waiting.

Question:  That's okay.  Farhan, I have… on Haiti again, because it is not clear for me your position why not… or your explanation regarding not paying or at least trying to compensate the families, victims.  Would you please explain your position again and make it clear, because I don't really get it.

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, on that, what we've tried to do is do as much as we can to help the families in terms of raising money for dealing with the cholera outbreak throughout Haiti.  What… so our focus, therefore, has been on bringing the number of cases down, on improving the water and sanitation infrastructure throughout the island, and that's an effort that we do jointly with the Government of Haiti.  The question of compensation is not one that we have entertained.

Question:  Do you agree… as a follow‑up, do you agree that the UN has false doing in the story?

Deputy Spokesman:  Has a what?

Question:  I mean, did wrong for the victims like the UN is also responsible for the deaths and the… what happened there?

Deputy Spokesman:  When you use the word "responsibility," I mean, there's many different ways to consider that.  From a standpoint of legal responsibility, that's a separate issue, which we've dealt with separately.  We feel that there is a moral responsibility that we have and that the international community has in terms of improving the situation in Haiti, and we've tried to take that seriously in terms of efforts, both to finance the improvement of Haiti's infrastructure and to make the necessary health interventions to bring the disease to a halt.

Question:  You're talking all the time about the future.  I would like to know about the work you have done and the things that went wrong there and if you were able to… if you are willing to take… you can call it something else but… responsibility for the work you've done there and the things that went wrong.

Deputy Spokesman:  I think what we're describing is how we try to take… exercise a responsible posture in terms of dealing with the cholera outbreak in Haiti.  Yes, Yoshita?

Question:  Thank you.  Thank you, Farhan.  Last week in Brussels, the Indian Prime Minister criticized the UN for the way it's been responding to terrorism, and he even said that the UN has not been able to deliver a structured response, and organizations like the UN will become irrelevant if they don't sort of come up with appropriate responses.  How does the SG see these remarks?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we certainly are trying to take a responsible attitude in terms of dealing with terrorism and the spectre of terrorism worldwide.  As you know, the UN encourages international solidarity against terrorism in all its aspects, whether it is terrorist bombings or terrorist financing.  In just a few days from now, we'll be holding a meeting in Geneva on the need to prevent and to counter violent extremism.  And the Secretary‑General will be speaking at that — in terms of the specific measures that we've been talking about, in terms of handling violent extremism and its spread throughout the world, and the Secretary‑General will speak at that in just a few days from now so I'd draw your attention to that.  Masood?

Question:  Yes, Farhan, can you tell me whether the Secretary‑General or the United Nations has any point of view on these Panama Papers and 102 world leaders… 120 world leaders being affected, impacted by it because of the corruption that is being reported?  Does Secretary‑General or United Nations have a point view on that?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any specific comment on that or on this particular leaked document, to which we are not privy.  Obviously, any efforts to deal with corruption worldwide and to root it out is a positive thing, and we hope that it can be done in a responsible manner so that we can have Governments that are more responsive and more accountable to their people.  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Farhan.  On the DRC and the rape allegations against the Tanzanian contingents, how many… is it the entire Tanzanian battalion that is being confined to base?  And, if so, how is it affecting the operations of the Force Intervention Brigade?  And, in addition to that, have you had discussions with the DRC Government regarding these allegations?  And given the tenuous nature of that relationship, has this in any way affected it negatively?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I mean, at this stage, on the Tanzanian brigade, pending the results of an investigation, all measures will be considered in terms of how we respond, including potentially the repatriation of the unit, and command accountability will also be sought for that.  Regarding the responses that we've received, of course, we've received, as I just mentioned just a second ago, that we were informed by the Tanzanian Permanent Mission yesterday that they've appointed an investigation team which will travel in the DRC in the coming days, and we had recommended to the Tanzanian authorities to conduct joint investigations with the OIOS.

Question:  How is this… how is their being confined to base affecting the mandate of MONUSCO?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we hope that we'll be able to resolve this matter quickly enough that we can also go about all the necessary activities on the ground, so that we can ensure the safety and security of the civilian population of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  So it is important for us to get to the bottom of this, but also for us to have contingents that are working and working properly so that people can feel safe.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  You mentioned that Staffan de Mistura is now in Moscow to meet Sergey Lavrov.  What regional or international actors will he contact afterwards?

Deputy Spokesman:  We'll provide any details as they come up.  But right now all I've had to announce for today is the meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov.  If there's any further detail, I'll share it as it becomes available.

Question:  But can you announce that on 12 April, Staffan de Mistura will brief the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesman:  Not just yet.  We'll have to see what we can say about the discussions.  Obviously, Mr. de Mistura does intend to keep the Security Council apprised, and our hope is that, sometime over the course of next week, we will have the resumption of the intra‑Syrian talks, but we'll come out with a more precise date once we get more clarity on that.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, do you have any comment regarding yesterday one of the groups which are considered to be murderers in Syria alongside Jabhat al‑Nusra shot down an aircraft, a Syrian jet fighter?  They've got new weapons, obviously, that can shoot down aircraft at a time.  Do you think these still are eligible to take part in the negotiations in Geneva and others groups like these?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I wouldn't have any confirmation of that report, nor would I be able to comment on it as a result.  Yes?

Question:  Yes.  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on reports that an Iranian ship that was allegedly loaded with rockets and rifles and so forth destined for Yemen and the Houthis had been intercepted by a US ship?  Does the Secretary‑General have any comment on Iran's apparent flouting of international law and Security Council resolutions related to that?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, we're aware of the media reports but have no confirmation.  Obviously, it's up to the members of the Security Council to consider whether any of their resolutions are being violated.  Oleg?

Question:  Yes, Stéphane yesterday was asked about reports that Iran sent military advisers to Syria.  Do you have any comment on that, anything… can you confirm that and, as well, do you think it's a violation or anything?

Deputy Spokesman:  No, and as with Joe's question, ultimately, any questions about whether the resolutions regarding Iran have been complied with or have not been complied with is an evaluation to be made by the Security Council members.  Yes?

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  I want to ask about Burundi, Uganda and today's sexual abuse meeting of the General Assembly.  In… on Burundi, there was this pretty high‑profile death in prison of Jacques Bihozagara.  And I'd asked Stéphane, and he'd said, "We obviously would hope that his death would be investigated as much in a public manner as possible."  Today, a report has come out from Rwanda saying that Burundi officials demanded that the deceased's family sign documents indicating he died of natural causes or forget asking about for his body, essentially conditioning the receipt of the deceased's body on signing the form.  What is the UN… which does have a presence on the ground.  What is it… beyond just commenting, which wasn't much of a comment, what is it doing to look into this case, which has the potential of triggering cross‑border violence?

Deputy Spokesman:  Certainly, we'll need to see what the further details of this case are as it progresses.  As you know, we have human rights people on the ground who are working to look into any potential human rights violations, and they report back periodically on their findings.

Question:  Would it be appropriate for any governmental authority to condition the receipt by the family of a body with the signing of a… of a… of such a form absolving the Government of liability?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, I think even asking the question is essentially answering it.  Obviously, everyone knows that that sort of practice is not an appropriate one.  Whether that's happened in this case or not would need to be determined, however.

Question:  And on Uganda, maybe you've noticed this.  The opposition leader, Kizza Besigye, has been arrested again, was arrested during the election.  Now he's been arrested again.  And I'm wondering… I mean, the UN does a lot of things with the Government of Uganda, including a mediation in Burundi, including peacekeepers.  What… what is the UN's comment on the repeat arrest of a major opposition figure in the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, you'll have seen the concerns that we've expressed, including our human rights officials, concerning the detention of officials in Uganda in recent times.  So I'd just refer you back to that.  Yes?

Question:  Farhan, there was… were reports that Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed for a ceasefire after what… this flare of violence in Nagorno‑Karabakh.  Do you have any comment on that?  And I know I asked Stéphane yesterday, but after that, did Ban Ki‑moon contact any of the sides, possibly a phone call?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don't have any phone contacts with either side to report from the Secretary‑General.  You, of course, saw the statement we issued over the weekend with his concerns.  If there's anything further to say, if there's a ceasefire holding on the ground, we'll let you know at that point.  Yes?

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to ask, today at 3 in the Trusteeship Council, there's this informal meeting at the plenary to hear about allegations of sexual abuse in the CAR, and so I wanted to know, you might expect it, I've been trying to get an answer from this, so I would like you to know.  What are the provisions in terms of being able to stake out the meeting and speak to those entering it and closing it without, in the case of a non‑resident correspondent, having a Secretariat escort or minder present?  What is the… how can that be done?

Deputy Spokesman:  This meeting will be an open meeting, so you should all be able to view it and to cover it.

Question:  I'm talking about staking it out, standing in front…

Deputy Spokesman:  We will have the Chef de Cabinet… excuse me.  The Chef de Cabinet will speak on the Secretary‑General's behalf at that meeting, and we'll put out what he has to say once he's delivered it.  So that event is an open meeting.

Question:  But my question of covering it is not… just like with the Security Council.  It's not to watch it on television.  It's to stand in front and speak to people, what they think…

Deputy Spokesman:  Regarding the coverage, the normal rules apply and certainly…

Question:  Is it necessary to have an escort?  I tried yesterday…  

Deputy Spokesman:  You can be in contact with our media accreditation and they’ll tell you what the relevant rules are.

Question:  Why is that required?  I'm asking.  I want to cover the meeting.

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, this is not… this is a press briefing.  This is not a place for you to resolve all your various problems in life.

Question:  I'm asking you why you require a Secretariat escort.

Deputy Spokesman:  Matthew, if you want to resolve that, resolve it with media accreditation.

Correspondent:  I talked to them yesterday. 

Deputy Spokesman:  I'm the Spokesperson.  I do a briefing.  This briefing is over if you have no other questions.  Thanks.

For information media. Not an official record.