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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY
SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

WEDNESDAY, 14 NOVEMBER 2012

SECRETARY-GENERAL IS DETERMINED TO DRAW APPROPRIATE LESSONS FROM INTERNAL REPORT ON SRI LANKA

  • The Secretary-General issued the following statement on Wednesday concerning the Internal Review Panel report on Sri Lanka:
  • “The conduct of the final months of the war in Sri Lanka in 2009 generated profound concerns about alleged violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.   In 2010, following an agreement with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, I established a Panel of Experts to advise me on measures to advance accountability. 
  • The Panel of Experts report raised a number of significant issues, including those regarding the United Nations response to the terrible situation facing civilians in the north of Sri Lanka.  The Panel recommended “a comprehensive review of action by the United Nations system during the war in Sri Lanka and the aftermath, regarding the implementation of its humanitarian and protection mandates.”
  • I, therefore, established a new Panel to do just that.  The Panel, headed by Mr. Charles Petrie, has now completed its 8-month study.   This morning
  • Mr. Petrie briefed me on the report’s findings and recommendations.
  • The report concludes that the United Nations system failed to meet its responsibilities -- highlighting, in particular, the roles played by the Secretariat, the agencies and programmes of the UN Country Team, and the members of the Security Council and Human Rights Council.
  • This finding has profound implications for our work across the world, and I am determined that the United Nations draws the appropriate lessons and does its utmost to earn the confidence of the world’s people, especially those caught in conflict who look to the Organization for help.
  • The Panel’s report recognizes initiatives we have taken in the wake of the events in Sri Lanka to prevent a similar breakdown.   However, I am fully committed to ensuring that we do much more.  
  • As an immediate first step, I will organize a senior-level team to give careful consideration to the recommendations and advise me on a way forward.  Other action will follow in short order.
  • As transparency and accountability are critical to the legitimacy and credibility of the United Nations, I also decided some days ago to make the report public. 
  • From the beginning of my tenure as Secretary-General, I have been committed to strengthening the United Nations and its core mission of protecting people from harm.  Events today in Syria are the latest reminder of just how crucial that work is.
  • Our obligation to all humanity is to overcome our setbacks, learn from our mistakes, strengthen our responses, and act meaningfully and effectively for the future.   These principles and objectives drove me to establish the Panel and they will guide us as we take forward its outcomes.”
  • Regarding questions on the report, the Spokesperson said that there would be a senior-level briefing on the report on Thursday.
  • Asked about the composition of a senior-level team, Nesirky said that has yet to be decided.
  • He said that it would be the UN’s responsibility to learn from mistakes and plan better for the future. The United Nations would do its utmost to earn the confidence of the world’s peoples.
  • The Spokesperson noted that there have been recent initiatives to prevent similar breakdowns.

U.N. WELCOMES EFFORTS BY SYRIAN OPPOSITION GROUPS TO WORK TOGETHER

  • Asked about the recent talks among Syrian opposition groups, the Spokesperson said that efforts deployed the last few days in Doha by Syrian opposition groups to work together and develop united positions and structure are welcome.
  • The United Nations, and the Joint Special Representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, and his team in particular, looks forward to engaging the recently established “National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition forces“ to know its views on how Syria's current problems be addressed and the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people be realised.

U.N. CONFIRMS DEATH OF A NATIONAL STAFF MEMBER IN ABYEI

  • Asked about the death of a UN staff member in Abyei, the Spokesperson said that the UN Interim Security Force in Abyei (UNISFA) confirms the death of a national staff member on 13 November from gunshot injury, sustained during the violence that occurred while UNISFA troops were trying to control Ngok Dinka demonstrators who attempted to damage the Abyei town mosque. Given the present facts at hand, UNISFA is unable to confirm any further information.
  • The Head of the Mission has directed that an inquiry be conducted to look into the circumstances of the staff member's unfortunate death. It is hoped that the inquiry will be able to ascertain the manner and the exact cause of the staff member's death.

SECRETARY-GENERAL PAYS TRIBUTE TO FALLEN STAFF AT A MEMORIAL SERVICE

  • The United Nations held a memorial service on Wednesday to pay tribute to fallen staff, including 29 staff members, from 16 different nations, who died over the past year.
  • In remarks at the memorial event, the Secretary-General said that we continue to focus on enhancing staff security, and we continue to call on Governments to uphold their responsibility to provide security and prosecute those who target and attack UN staff.
  • He added that the memorial service was also a moment to take strength and resolve to carry forward the work for which the fallen UN staff members gave everything.

U.N. INVESTIGATION SHOWS MASS EXECUTIONS OF CIVILIANS IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO

  • A UN investigation into the human rights situation in southern Masisi, in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has shown that at least 264 civilians, including 83 children, were arbitrarily executed by armed groups in more than 75 attacks on villages between April and September this year.
  • Investigators from the UN Joint Human Rights Office found that the victims were often those least able to flee the attacks.
  • Investigators found that the Raia Mutomboki armed group, with allied Mayi Mayi groups, was responsible for most of the killings, in which many victims were hacked to death with machetes while others were burnt alive in their homes.
  • The opposing Nyatura group was found to be responsible for other human rights violations, including killings, sometimes carried out in collaboration with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). 

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE DE-ESCALATION OF TENSIONS IN GAZA: Asked about violence in Gaza, the Spokesperson said that the Secretary-General calls for an immediate de-escalation of tensions. Both sides should do everything to avoid further escalation and must respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure the protection of civilians at all times. 

SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS CONSULTATIONS ON SUDAN AND SOUTH SUDAN: The Security Council held consultations on Wednesday on Sudan and South Sudan. Council members heard from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, and the Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Haile Menkerios. In the afternoon, the Council was due to hold a formal meeting on Bosnia and Herzegovina, followed by briefings by the chairs of the Council’s subsidiary bodies. 

***The guests at the Noon Briefing were Shareen Joshi and Richard Kollodge, who are the authors of the United Nations Population Fund’s report on “The State of the World Population 2012”.