HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PRESS BRIEFING
BY MARTIN NESIRKY,
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
THURSDAY, 26 SEPTEMBER 2013
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES CONFIRMATION OF CHARLES TAYLOR’S CONVICTION
- The Secretary-General welcomes today’s delivery by the Appeals Chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) of the appeal judgment in the case of Mr. Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia. This is a historic and momentous day for the people of Sierra Leone and the region. The judgment is a significant milestone in international criminal justice, as it confirms the conviction of a former Head of State for aiding, abetting and planning war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- The Secretary-General wishes to congratulate everyone at the SCSL for this important achievement and thank them for their commitment to ensuring accountability for the serious crimes committed during the conflict in Sierra Leone.
- The SCSL has been a model of a cooperative partnership to bring those responsible for serious international crimes to justice in accordance with international standards of fairness and due process of law. It has helped the process of national reconciliation and the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone.
- The Secretary-General thanks all Member States which have contributed to the Court, and calls on the international community to preserve and promote its legacy by supporting the Residual Special Court for Sierra Leone which will commence functioning upon the closure of the SCSL in the coming weeks.
PAKISTAN: SECRETARY-GENERAL SADDENED BY LOSS OF LIFE AND DAMAGE CAUSED BY EARTHQUAKE
- The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life in Pakistan, and the damage to thousands of homes caused by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that struck parts of Balochistan on 24 September.
- The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the people and Government of Pakistan, particularly the families of those who have been killed or otherwise affected in this disaster.
- The United Nations stands ready to lend assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs resulting from the earthquake and to mobilise any international support needed.
SECRETARY-GENERAL ATTENDS HIGH-LEVEL MEETINGS ON SOMALIA, NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT, SAHEL
- This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Ministerial Meeting of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Partners Forum.
- The Secretary-General noted that the horrific attack in Nairobi this past weekend was a grim reminder of the potent threat posed by Al-Shabaab. He said that it reminds us that we must give the highest priority to our common goal of building peace in Somalia. Those who use terrorist tactics against the innocent cannot be allowed to prevail.
- The Secretary-General said that Somalia continues to face a serious security challenge, and that this is the time to redouble our commitment to security. We cannot let our hard-won gains be reversed.
- The Secretary-General then addressed the first-ever high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament held by the General Assembly.
- He said that some might complain that nuclear disarmament is little more than a dream, but he added that that ignores the very tangible benefits disarmament would bring for all humankind. The Secretary-General said that it was now up to Member States to take meaningful, practical steps to achieve our great disarmament goal.
- At the high-level meeting on the Sahel, the Secretary-General noted that our collective efforts have helped improve the political and security situation in Mali and address some of the broader challenges in the region.
- He added that the UN Integrated Strategy, developed under the leadership of his Special Envoy, Romano Prodi, prioritizes governance, security and resilience, but needs adequate resources and the engagement of the whole UN system.
- The Secretary-General addressed the Foreign Ministers of the Group of 77, which he said can help the United Nations effectively use multilateralism as a force for change.
- He said that the G77 has pushed poverty eradication up on the global agenda and has shown the power of South-South cooperation to drive economic growth.
- The Secretary-General will speak at several meetings this afternoon. These include a high-level event on the World Humanitarian Summit, the Security Council high-level meeting on Small Arms, and a special meeting of a Group of Supporters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
- He will also make remarks at a ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the UN, as well as at the high-level meeting of the Group of Friends of the Secretary-General on Myanmar.
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL DISCUSSES RULE OF LAW, MDGs, SYRIA AT HIGH-LEVEL EVENTS
- The Deputy Secretary-General this morning spoke at a meeting on the rule of law and the post-2015 development agenda, one of several high-level meetings that he will participate in today.
- On Wednesday evening, he spoke at a high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals, saying that participants had taken an important step by committing governments to intensifying efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. They also agreed to hold a Summit in 2015 to launch an ambitious and transformative development agenda for the post-2015 era.
- In a separate high-level meeting on humanitarian needs in Syria and its neighbours, the Deputy Secretary-General noted that some seven million people in Syria -- nearly one-third of the population – have been displaced. Another 2.1 million have fled the country as refugees, he said, adding that more than three thousand schools and over half the country’s hospitals have been damaged or destroyed.
SYRIA: U.N. MISSION ON ALLEGATIONS OF USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS FINALIZING PREPARATIONS FOR FORTHCOMING WORK
- The Mission led by Professor Ake Sellström arrived in Damascus yesterday afternoon to resume its fact-finding activities in Syria related to the pending credible allegations of the use of chemical weapons.
- The Mission is continuing to receive the highest level of support and assistance from various United Nations entities in Syria and in the region.
- Following its arrival in Damascus, the team finalized preparations for its forthcoming work, including meeting with Syrian authorities in connection with its fact-finding activities.
- Asked about the sites the team would be investigating, the Spokesperson said that they would investigate at Khan al-Asal and other pending credible allegations of chemical weapons use.
- Asked about the Wednesday meeting with the five permanent members of the Security Council on Syria, the Spokesperson said that the focus was on Syria’s chemical weapons programme, but the participants also discussed the need to move forward with the Geneva II conference.
- He said the Secretary-General would convene a high-level preparatory meeting on the International Conference for Syria on Friday.
- The Spokesperson noted that the meeting had initially been scheduled as one involving US Secretary of State John Kerry, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Joint Special Representative for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi. It had since been expanded.
YEMEN: U.N. SPECIAL ADVISOR CONCLUDES MONTH-LONG VISIT, WILL PRESENT REPORT TO SECURITY COUNCIL
- Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Yemen, has concluded a month-long visit to the country and will present his report to the Security Council on Friday.
- His report is to highlight the progress made in the political process and the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen. It also focuses on the initial deliberations of the two-week long negotiations on the Southern Question, as well as the remaining challenges.
- After the Security Council meeting, the Special Adviser will head back to Sana’a to continue supporting talks and facilitating consensus on the Southern Question, the outcome document of the National Dialogue and the launch of the constitution-making process.
U.N. MISSION IN MALI HAS NOTIFIED TROOP CONTRIBUTING COUNTRY ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATIONS
- Asked about rape allegations against a troop contributing country involved in the UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, the Spokesperson said that the relevant troop contributing country, Chad, had been notified.
- He said that the troop contributing country has primary responsibility for investigating the matter and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary and judicial measures are taken should the allegations be well founded.
- The UN Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, will offer all necessary support to the troop contributing country to ensure that it is able to fulfill its responsibilities in this regard.
- Nesirky added that the allegations were raised with the Chadian delegation visiting the United Nations this week.
AT FIRST U.N. MINISTERIAL MEETING ON L.G.B.T. RIGHTS, SENIOR OFFICIAL URGES CONTINUED ENGAGEMENT
- This afternoon, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, briefed a ministerial meeting on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, marking the first time the topic was discussed at the ministerial level at the United Nations.
- Ms. Pillay said that when she first became High Commissioner five years ago, there was almost no discussion at the UN of human rights challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, but that this is no longer the case.
- She noted that the change we see at the UN mirrors a deeper shift at the country level. Over the past decade, many countries have embarked on historic reforms – strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion.
- But Ms. Pillay pointed out that in spite of advances, very serious challenges remain. Not a week goes by without her Office receiving reports of brutal violence and intimidation, police harassment and widespread discriminatory treatment affecting LGBT people around the world. Those who speak out in defence of the rights of LGBT people risk persecution and assault and even, in some countries, legal sanctions.
- She said that our campaign on behalf of marginalized communities will meet resistance, even opposition, but added that we must not be discouraged and that we must stay engaged.
FUNDS NEEDED TO DEAL WITH CHOLERA EPIDEMIC IN HAITI: Asked about the cholera epidemic in Haiti, the Spokesperson pointed to the UN’s efforts to do all it can to deal with the epidemic and to the need to raise funds for those efforts.
PALESTINIAN PRESIDENT SITS IN GENERAL ASSEMBLY SEAT: Asked whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be allowed to sit in the seat at the General Assembly during the plenary, the Spokesperson said that he would. He noted that Palestine is a non-member State at the United Nations, as is the Holy See. The Pope, he added, had also used that seat.
**** The guest at the noon briefing today was Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).