Secretary-General's remarks at the Noon press briefing
New York, 2 March 2012
SG: Thank you very much. Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. You may be wondering why I am here suddenly. I am not here to replace him [Spokesperson] - his job - but I am here to share with you beforehand how I am doing with creating my new team.
You have been briefed by my Chef de Cabinet [Vijay Nambiar] in between and me – twice. This is my third announcement, but with some concrete names.
Today, I would like to announce my choices for the positions of Deputy Secretary-General and Chef de Cabinet.
For Deputy Secretary-General, I am going to appoint Mr. Jan Eliasson, a national of Sweden, who is a veteran in the field of diplomacy and international relations and a strong supporter of the United Nations. Mr. Eliasson has held many important roles directly related to the United Nations, such as President of the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, my Special Envoy for Darfur, and currently a member of the MDG [Millennium Development Goals] Advocate Group. He also served as the first Under-Secretary-General and head of the Department of Humanitarian Affairs in 1992. During his tenure as President of the General Assembly, he led important reform initiatives which resulted in the creation of the Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission.
During his tenure as Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Special Envoy for Darfur, he was involved in emergency humanitarian operations and conflict prevention in a number of hot spots like Sudan, Somalia, Mozambique and the Balkans.
On the national stage, he has served in key ambassadorial positions representing his country in New York and Washington, as well as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and finally as Foreign Minister of Sweden.
As I mentioned earlier, Deputy Secretary-General Dr. [Asha-Rose] Migiro, will stay through the conclusion of Rio+20 Conference until June, and Mr. Eliasson will start as of July 1st.
For the position of the Chef de Cabinet, I selected Ms. Susanna Malcorra, a national of Argentina, who is currently serving as the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support. During her tenure as the first head of the Department of Field Support, she has directed logistical and administrative support for UN peace missions worldwide in support of about 30 field operations comprising 120,000 military, police and civilian personnel.
Prior to joining the Secretariat, she has also served as Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) overseeing daily emergency and humanitarian operations.
Before joining the WFP in 2004, she accrued 25 years of experience in the private sector, including leadership roles at IBM and Telecom Argentina. My current Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Vijay Nambiar, will concentrate on his role as Special Adviser on Myanmar. I have asked him to ensure an orderly transition with the incoming Chef de Cabinet who will take over from April 1st, next month.
As for the post of Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, the selection process will be initiated immediately.
Now, let me turn to other senior Under-Secretaries-General positions for which I have asked for open and public nominations. Transparent and competitive selection processes for ten Under-Secretaries-General have started. Some of them reached a final stage. It is my intention to finalize them as promptly as the selection process is completed. I will be able to make additional announcements some time next week.
Last, but not least, I would like to emphasize once again my strong commitment to promoting mobility of UN staff. We have to make our staff mobile and multifunctional to meet the requirements of global service delivery. The success of the Organization will be determined by our ability to deliver globally. This year, we will submit to the Member States a comprehensive proposal for mobility. To lead by example, I have applied a five-year rule to senior advisers above the rank of Assistant Secretary-General and will apply it this time again. This is the case with the other senior advisers in my immediate office - Mr. Robert Orr, and Mr. Kim Won-Soo. I will also continue to apply the same rule to other staff at the Professional level and above in my office, to set the example. Last month, I announced two enablers – partnership and reform - as part of my five-year action agenda. Mr. Robert Orr will lead the effort to create a new partnership facility as a way to harness public and private partnership to meet global challenges. This facility will build on existing recently launched initiatives such as the Global Compact, UN Partnership Office and Every Woman Every Child initiatives. After the departure of Mr. Atul Khare, I already tasked Mr. Kim Wonsoo to lead a change implementation team. It is now focussed on creating a network for reform, which will enable the Organization to have a modern Secretariat, supported by a mobile and multi-skilled work force. Both Mr. Orr and Mr. Kim will move to these new functions starting from April 1st.
Thank you, I am happy to answer some of your questions.
Q: My question is on Syria. Did you get any reply from the Syrian Government about Ms. [Valerie] Amos?
SG: Ms. Amos has come back yesterday. I met her today and she met Joint Special Envoy Mr. Kofi Annan this morning and also Mr. Kofi Annan met the Syrian Ambassador yesterday. We are pushing hard to have Valerie Amos visit Syria as soon as possible. The statement which was made by the Syrian Foreign Ministry yesterday seems to indicate that they are willing to receive Valerie Amos at an appropriate time, but the important thing is the timing. There are so many people who need urgent humanitarian access, assistance, and we don’t have humanitarian access. The main purpose of my sending Valerie Amos to Syria is to agree on a framework to have permanent and workable humanitarian access. So we are working very hard on this.
Q: I would like to ask you regarding how you see the mandate of the mission of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to Syria and if the Syrians are willing to invite him over [inaudible] to Damascus.
SG: The mandate will be based on the General Assembly resolution. Yesterday, I had a trilateral teleconference involving myself, Kofi Annan and [Nabil] El-Araby of the League of Arab States for about half an hour – what the mandate and terms of reference of the Joint Special Envoy would be. We have an agreement on that. Basically, his mission and his activities will be guided by this General Assembly resolution to have a good offices role and try to have a ceasefire, an end to violence and to help [find a] political solution [to] this issue in an inclusive way. He will visit Cairo on March 7th, as I believe, as I understand, and from there, he will try to visit Damascus as soon as possible after consultation with the League of Arab States.
Q: In the light of the fact that Mr. Kofi Annan’s mission and mandate stems from the General Assembly, which states that his mandate is also political, according to the Arab League resolution which is, in effect, adopting the 22 January political process: president to step aside, powers to be given to the vice-president, elections, national unity government [inaudible]. How likely is it that Syria will accept this sort of mandate, especially since the Deputy Foreign Minister, State Minister [inaudible] press media outlets that they were not consulted about Annan’s appointment, indicating not directly that they might not accept his visit. How likely is it that they will accept? And what transpired in the meeting with Bashar Ja’afari, if you know what happened in that meeting concerning that visit?
SG: The General Assembly has adopted a resolution giving a broader guideline of the mandate of the Special Envoy, and of course, as you said, the League of Arab States has adopted a resolution on 22 January, having their own position there. But I believe at this time, to have a political dialogue with Syrian authorities, he should be given broader flexibility, a broader framework. This is what we have agreed [to]. Rather than sticking to any specific points, as you mentioned in the resolution of the League of Arab States. So, it’s up to Mr. Annan’s very able diplomatic skill to draw out, first of all, and to [end] all violence and to bring about the political solution of these issues and also help create some humanitarian space. This is a broader, broader framework and mandate, so he will have much more flexibility.
Q: Any indication from the meeting yesterday with Ambassador Ja’afari, on the position of the Government of Syria?
SG: We will let you know, because I am not in a position to let you know every movement of the Special Envoy. He has been meeting with all the P-5 of the Security Council. And I have also arranged a luncheon where some of the Arab ambassadors participated and discussed Mr. Annan’s future activities and they conveyed their positions. So he has been involved broadly with the Member States and he will be able to engage broadly with the stakeholders inside and outside the region. So let us support him. He was Secretary-General of the United Nations. He was involved deeply and successfully in the Kenyan crisis. That is why I have recommended him as Special Envoy.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, about the appointments, especially Mr. Eliasson. In view of his status and great work with the United Nations, will he be performing the same functions as the current Deputy Secretary-General or will he be assigned more duties, especially in the political field, in view of his experience?
SG: It is not clear - the division of work [with] the Deputy-Secretary-General. I will discuss this matter. I had initial discussions with him. Considering that he has such broad and extensive experience in crisis management and mediation, it is always natural that he could use his diplomatic skills in addressing many important and serious political crisis issues. And he should also be involved in development issues, as the current Deputy Secretary-General has been doing. So it is a matter of flexibility and a very creative way of dividing our roles, between myself and the Deputy-Secretary-General and the Chef de Cabinet.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, first of all, as a follow up to Ifthikar’s question, I would like to actually congratulate you on your appointments, especially on Mr. Eliasson whom we had the chance to interview. Some of us have talked to him before. But my question is, as you are the chief diplomat of the world, allow me to use this opportunity and your advice is well-accepted in most parts of the world: What would you say to diplomatic missions here of the Member States, whether your principle of mobility should be applied on their side also. Of five years, four years or so? Do you have any advice for them?
SG: They are all appointed by national governments, Head of States. They have their own sovereign right to appoint their own representatives and move as they wish. I do not have any control over their [interrupted]
Q: I am talking about advice, rather - or some kind of general statement. Let me put it this way. So, why are you pursuing your principle of mobility of five years?
SG: This is the Secretariat and this is an Organisation to serve the Member States. All the mandates should be implemented in an effective way. There are many ways, many areas where we have to deliver results on the ground. To [make] that possible, we need to have a professional and very able and capable staff. For UN staff to be able to carry out their duties, they should be multi-functional. They should be agile and they should be fast and mobile. But, in my judgment, having served as Secretary-General during the last five years - even before five years - when I first became the Secretary-General, I have been looking into all the systems inside the Secretariat while I was serving particularly as Chef de Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly from 2001 and 2002. I have been engaging with the Secretariat. Sometimes, the bureaucratic process is very cumbersome, slow. This has been the main source of criticism from Member States from outside who really need the support and contribution from the United Nations. That’s why I really wanted to see our staff experienced, more effective and mobile and multi-functional. You may agree that some of the departments have been really full of staff, very stagnant, you know. Some staff working 10 years or 15 years or 20 years in one place. My logic, my argument is that ‘how can you expect motivation and creativity from those staff who are working in one place almost doing the same things from nine to five?’ I really need somebody who is always agile, mobile, can do everything at any time, any moment, any place. That’s why I really wanted to give more opportunities to our staff to get better and other experiences. That’s the five year rule. [In] five years, you can learn a lot. That’s what I believe. And now staff understand. I think it is it necessary. If you are just stuck in one place in the developing world, where living conditions are not good, while some other staff are just living in very affluent societies where all the conditions are good, then even for personal well-being issues, it’s not fair. So we need to have some harmonious rotations between and among the staff. That’s what I’m promoting.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, back to Syria and the [inaudible] that the Syrian regime puts in front of Ms. Amos’ planned visit to Syria to assess the humanitarian needs. Do you anticipate that her visit would be done before the arrival of Mr. Annan to Damascus or it will be still left to the Syrians to play around with the words and bureaucracy?
SG: As Mr. Annan’s plan stands at this time, he’s going to have consultations with the League of Arab States’ members on 7th March in Cairo. Then for us, to be able to deliver humanitarian assistance to many people, then I believe that Valerie Amos should be able to visit before. That’s more urgent. The images which we have seen in Syria are atrocious. It’s totally unacceptable, intolerable. How, as a human being can you bear this situation? This really troubles me. I’m deeply sad, seeing all that has happened. The Syrian authorities must open, without any preconditions, to humanitarian communities. Why are they afraid of receiving the head of the UN humanitarian department? We are ready to mobilize all this. We do not have access. So that’s priority number one at this time. But, at the same time, all violence must stop. Again, I’m really urging the Syrian authorities to stop the violence and allow humanitarian access. And Mr. Annan will be able to discuss all these political issues.
Q: You mentioned that Mr. Annan will be meeting with the League of Arab States on March 7th. Initially, there was talk that he would go to Cairo today. Is there any reason for this delay? And any update on when we can expect his team to be announced, his deputy?
SG: He’s leaving, as I understand, this evening, going back to Geneva. Yesterday when we were discussing this matter, there seems to be a certain situation in the League of Arab States. First of all, [Mr.] El-Araby will not be returning by the end of 6 March, and he will have to convene some meetings, so it may take time. That’s why [Mr. Annan will] be there on 7 March. He’ll have consultations with the League of Arab States. I’m sure that he will have good consultations and try to proceed, if possible, immediately to Syria.
I’m going to report to the General Assembly at 3:00 o’clock today in accordance with the provision of the General Assembly resolution which [says that] I have to report to the General Assembly in 15 days after the adoption of the resolution.
Q: Will he meet the Syrian opposition while in Cairo?
SG: He will be engaging with all of the stakeholders, all of the stakeholders. I don’t know whether it will be in Cairo or in Syria. He will have a broad mandate and flexibility.