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Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary General


FRIDAY, 17 MAY 2013



  • The Secretary-General recently finished a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. You will have seen that we issued a readout on that meeting, the main focus of which was Syria. The Secretary-General expressed his support for the agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States to convene an international conference as soon as possible, to help the Syrian parties operationalize the 30 June 2012 Geneva communiqué on establishing a transitional governing body with full executive powers. They discussed the importance of both regional support for the conference and the role of the Joint Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi.
  • They also discussed the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, climate change, sustainable development and peacekeeping operations. Their conversation continued over a working lunch, where they discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula; Iran; the Responsibility to Protect; the Central African Republic; the Sahel and Mali; terrorism; and also, Russia's presidency of the Group of 20.
  • Earlier, the Secretary-General met Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and held a press conference with him. The Secretary-General told reporters that he sincerely hopes an international conference on Syria can be convened as soon as possible.
  • Asked about allegations about the use of chemical weapons, he said it was regrettable that the UN investigation team has not been able to enter Syria to investigate onsite. He again urged the Syrian authorities to be flexible and to allow the team to have onsite investigations. The full text of his press remarks is available online.
  • In response to questions, the Spokesperson reiterated that the Secretary-General believes any further militarization of the conflict is unhelpful.
  • Asked about Mr. Brahimi’s tenure, the Spokesperson said that he continues to serve as Joint Special Representative for Syria.


  • The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that the number of Syrian refugees who have now left their country has surpassed 1.5 million.
  • The Agency warns that the widening gap between the needs and resources available is a growing challenge. UNHCR has registered close to one million refugees since 1 January of this year – that is about a quarter of a million people each month.
  • Refugees have been describing increased fighting, and the changing of control of towns and villages, in particular in conflict areas, results in more and more civilians deciding to leave. Over the past four months, the Refugee Agency reports that it has seen a rapid deterioration when compared to the previous 20 months of this conflict.
  • UNHCR continues to respond to the emergency needs of those in desperate need inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.


  • In a press statement issued last night, the members of the Security Council strongly condemned the incident on May 15 in which a group of anti-government armed elements detained three United Nations Military Observers from the UN Truce Supervision Organization’s Observer Group Golan for several hours, and looted a United Nations observation post within the Area of Separation there.
  • In that incident, a group of unknown armed men broke into UN Observation Post 52 in the area of separation. Three unarmed UN military observers were taken and held for approximately five hours and were released unharmed. They returned safely to UN Observation Post 52, where they were met by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Head of Mission.
  • The members of the Security Council noted with grave concern that this was the third such incident in the past two months.


  • Friday is marked by millions of people around the world as the International Day against Homophobia. This year, the United Nations Human Rights Office – which has the lead within the UN system in relation to human rights protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – has put out a short, compelling video, called "The Riddle", which you can view on YouTube.
  • In addition, the Secretary-General has issued a message, which was delivered Thursday night by the High Commissioner for Human Rights at an Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual rights conference in The Hague.


  • Martin Kobler, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, urged all Iraqi leaders to do everything possible to protect Iraqi civilians, as another wave of bombings hit the country during the past few days and claimed more innocent lives.
  • He said that it is the responsibility of all leaders to stop the bloodshed in Iraq and to protect their citizens. He said that small children have been burned alive in cars and worshippers cut down outside their own mosques. This is beyond unacceptable, Mr. Kobler said.
  • He said that it is the politicians’ responsibility to act immediately and to engage in dialogue to resolve the political impasse and put an end to this. The country will slide backwards if they do not take action.


  • On Monday, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator will begin a four-day visit to Sudan, which will take her to the capital, Khartoum, and to Darfur.
  • While in the country, Valerie Amos will meet with Government officials and representatives of aid organizations to discuss how to improve humanitarian access to people affected by conflict and displacement, particularly in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
  • In Darfur, Ms. Amos will see first-hand the ongoing relief operation ten years after the start of the current emergency. The humanitarian community continues to work with the Government to address deteriorating living conditions in camps and to find lasting solutions for those who have been uprooted for many years.


  • The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that after making landfall in Bangladesh and moving away from Myanmar, Tropical Storm Mahasen has weakened and dissipated.
  • Myanmar’s Rakhine State was spared any impact from the storm and initial assessments indicate no damage.
  • The Government reports that nearly 120,000 people were moved or relocated, and many are now returning to their camps or host communities voluntarily. UN agencies and their partners are continuing to monitor the movements of people to provide a sense of protection for all of those who are still displaced as the rainy season continues.
  • In Bangladesh, the Government says that up to six people were killed. While assessments are continuing, in spite of the damage anticipated, damage to houses has been limited.


  • On Sunday, 19 May, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Geneva to represent the Secretary-General at the Fourth Session of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction.  During his visit, he will participate and give opening and closing remarks at a High-Level Dialogue meeting on Disaster Risk Reduction. He will also attend an event on Small Island Developing States and Disaster Risk Reduction and meet with a group of mayors.
  • On 22 May, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to The Hague, where he will have bilateral meetings with senior Government officials.  He will also meet with officials of the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
  • Then, on 26 May, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Brussels and represent the Secretary-General at the Third High-Level Meeting of the Inter-Regional Dialogue on Democracy.  During his visit, he will hold bilateral meetings with European Union and Commission officials.  He will also host a meeting with UN heads of agencies based in Brussels and participate in a discussion with members of the European Parliament. He will return to New York on 29 May.


  • The UN Human Rights Office on Friday welcomed the fact that dozens of international companies have made a legal commitment to improve safety in Bangladesh’s garment factories in the wake of last month’s building collapse, which the Office says killed more than 1,100 people.
  • Nearly 40 companies have signed on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which the Human Rights Office calls an important and, in many ways, unprecedented, agreement, which can be enforced in the countries where the multinationals are based.
  • However, the Office expressed concern that some major retailers, especially in the United States, have chosen not to sign this agreement, but to instead carry out their own inspections.
  • The Office added that the best way to honour of the victims of the recent collapse is to ensure such a tragedy never happens again – in any industry, anywhere.


  • On Friday, the Secretary-General announced four senior personnel appointments.
  • The first is that of Albert Gerard (Bert) Koenders of the Netherlands, who will serve as Special Representative for Mali and Head of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabliization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.  Mr. Koenders has been the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire since October 2011.
  • To fill Mr. Koenders’ post in Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General is appointing Ms. Aichatou Mindaoudou Souleymane of Niger.  Ms. Mindaoudou has been serving as Deputy Joint Special Representative in the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).
  • Haile Menkerios of South Africa will be the new Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to the African Union. Mr. Menkerios will also continue his current assignment as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan.
  • And finally, the Secretary-General announces the appointment of Lt. Gen. Carlos Alberto Dos Santos Cruz of Brazil as Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).


  • The UN Human Rights Office expressed its concern about a recent statement issued by the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) announcing that it intends to resume the death penalty, more than half a century since it last carried out an execution.
  • The country has maintained a long standing de facto moratorium since 1954 which was subsequently passed into law in 1970. The Office says that resuming the death penalty again would be a major setback, especially after so many other states have subsequently abolished the death penalty or adopted moratoriums.
  • The High Commissioner for Human Rights has written to the Prime Minister stating her concerns about the planned resumption of the death penalty, and is calling on the Government to maintain its moratorium and subsequently join the growing number of Member States that have abolished the practice altogether, including 11 States in the Pacific.
  • The Human Rights Office also said that it regrets Friday’s executions in Indonesia of three men, bringing the total of people executed to four since the death penalty was resumed in March.
  • The Office said that this is an unfortunate development, as the country was close to establishing a moratorium on executions. No executions were carried out between 2008 and 2012.
  • Last January, the High Commissioner for Human Rights wrote to the Government of Indonesia after the Attorney General’s Office announced its plan to execute 10 convicted criminals in 2013, urging the authorities not to carry out further executions.


** The guests at the Noon Briefing were the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, and the Deputy Head of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Maarit Kohonen Sheriff. They briefed reporters on the issue of homophobia.


 18 – 24 MAY 2013

(This document is for planning purposes and is subject to change.)

Saturday, 18 May     

There are no major events scheduled for today.

Sunday, 19 May

There are no major events scheduled for today.

Monday, 20 May

At 10:30 a.m., in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Chamber in the Conference Building (CB), the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People will hold its 352nd meeting.

At 11:00 a.m., in the General Assembly Hall, there will be a ceremonial opening meeting of the 12th session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

At 1:30 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library (DHL) Auditorium, there will be a press conference on the opening of the 12th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues by Mr. Paul Kanyinke Sena, the new Chairperson of the Forum along with other indigenous representatives.

In Geneva, the World Health Organization (WHO) begins its World Health Assembly. It will end on 28 May.

Tuesday, 21 May

Today is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

At 1:00 p.m., at the German House (871 United Nations Plaza), there will be a briefing on “Global efforts to protect wildlife and timber from illegal trade”, co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Gabon and Germany, in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

AT 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 3 (CB), there will be a panel discussion on “Freedom from fear and freedom from want –– How can a post-2015 agenda can address the twin challenges of the twenty-first century: Recommendations emerging from a global conversation”, organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Tunisia.

In Geneva, there will be a press conference on the launch of the 2012 Annual Health Report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

In Geneva, WHO will hold a daily briefing on the World Health Assembly. 

Wednesday, 22 May

Today is International Day for Biological Diversity.

In the morning, the Security Council will adopt a resolution on the extension of the mandate of the United Nations Integrated Peace-Building Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), followed by a briefing and consultations on the Middle East.

At 10:00 a.m., in Conference Room 3 (CB), there will be the third session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals.

At 11:00 a.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, there will be a press conference by the High-level Committee on South-South Cooperation, to highlight the upcoming Sixth Global South-South Development Expo and its hosting by the United Nations Environment Programme in Nairobi, Kenya 28 October-1 November 2013.

At 12:30 p.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, there will be a press conference by Mr. Braulio F. de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity and H.E. Mrs. Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil on the occasion of the International Day of Biodiversity.

At 1:15 p.m., in Conference Room 6 in the North Lawn Building (NLB), there will be a launch of the publication “Who Will Be Accountable? Human Rights and the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, organized by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

In Geneva, there will be a press conference on the humanitarian crises in Syria and the Sahel by Kristalina Georgieva, European Union Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response.

Thursday, 23 May

In the morning, the Security Council will hold consultations on Sudan, South Sudan and the United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA).

At 11:00 a.m., in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library (DHL) Auditorium, there will be a press conference by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) on the mid-year update of the UN World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2013, which includes new information and forecasts for different global economic issues, as well as updates to the economic outlooks for all regions of the world.

At 1:30 p.m., in the DHL Auditorium, there will be a press conference on issues affecting indigenous peoples in that region.as part of the ongoing 12th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues by representatives from Africa.

At 6:00 p.m., in the First Floor Dining Hall at the UN Headquarters, there will a high-level reception “From Despair to Dignity” in observance of the First International Day to End Obstetric Fistula, hosted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Friday, 24 May

Today is "Vesak", the Day of the Full Moon.

At 6:30 p.m., in the ECOSOC Chamber (CB), there will be a special commemorative event on the occasion of the Day of Vesak, organized by the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka, in cooperation with the Permanent Missions of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Lao Democratic People’s Republic, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Thailand and Viet Nam.