20 July 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General on Hadžić Arrest

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General on the arrest of Goran Hadžić.

The Secretary-General welcomes today’s arrest of Goran Hadžić, who was sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) since 2004 for crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed in Croatia in 1991 and 1992.  He commends President [Boris] Tadić and the Serbian authorities for their leadership in ending impunity for those indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

Mr. Hadžić’s apprehension sends a powerful message that those who are alleged to have committed such crimes cannot evade justice and will be held accountable.  His arrest will allow the ICTY to focus on the completion of its mandate, given that Mr. Hadžić was the only remaining fugitive out of the 161 persons indicted by the ICTY.

The Secretary-General’s thoughts today are first and foremost with the victims of Mr. Hadžić’s alleged crimes, the victims of other serious international crimes, and their families.  Ending impunity is an essential step for reconciliation, sustainable peace and justice in the region.

** Somalia

As you just heard, the Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council stakeout this morning after the United Nations declared a state of famine in two regions of southern Somalia.

Across the country, nearly half the population — 3.7 million people — is now in crisis.  Some 2.8 million of these people are in the south.

The Secretary-General said that if funding was not made available for humanitarian interventions now, the famine was likely to continue and spread.  Children and adults are dying at appalling rates, the Secretary-General said.  Every day of delay will cost more lives.

As you know, Mark Bowden, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, said earlier today that malnutrition rates there are the highest in the world, with peaks of 50 per cent in certain areas of southern Somalia.  He said that the United Nations and its partners have scaled up emergency nutrition, water and sanitation, and immunization efforts to combat malnutrition and reduce disease.  And he added that to speed up the delivery of supplies into the worst affected areas, the United Nations has started airlifting urgently needed medical, nutrition and water supplies.

And meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) has elevated the crisis in the Horn of Africa to the highest level of action.  The Programme’s Executive Director said that the depth and spread of the drought coupled with an inability among humanitarian agencies to access all affected areas, has raised this to a full-blown food and nutrition emergency, requiring a rapid increase in efforts.


And just a clarification of what Mark Bowden said in answer to a question during his video conference briefing here earlier about African support for humanitarian needs in the Horn of Africa.  The countries affected are providing assistance to their own people, but outside of that, African countries have not provided assistance to the United Nations appeal.

**Security Council

And earlier today, the Secretary-General addressed the Security Council on the impact of climate change on international peace and security.  He said that climate change is for real and it is accelerating in a dangerous manner.

The Secretary-General added that it was up to the members of the Security Council to mobilize action to confront climate change and the threats to international peace and security linked to it.

He said that nothing would build a lasting foundation for a more peaceful world other than securing sustainable development for everyone.  The Secretary-General emphasized the local and global effects, including instability and the creation of new security dilemmas, due to food and water shortages.

The Secretary-General also noted the need for the international community to act quickly on agreements reached in Cancún.  He added that the next Conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban must provide a clear step forward on mitigation commitments by all parties according to their responsibilities and capabilities.  And the Secretary-General’s remarks can be found on our website.

That’s it.  Questions, please.  Mr. Abbadi?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Tension seems to be mounting once again in the South China Sea between several countries of the region, and in particular between the Philippines and China over the issue of the Spratly islands.  Has the Philippines asked for UN mediation, and what is the response from the Organization?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of such a request, but I’ll certainly look into it.  What I would note is that this is a topic that is very much in the focus of the ASEAN group and China.  And I think that’s where I would leave it.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, sure, I want to ask about Sudan and Myanmar.  First, on Sudan, there is this allegation that a UNAMID staff member who was arrested, Abdelrahman is his name, Amnesty International said that he is being held and is charged with a crime that could result in the death penalty and has probably been tortured.  And I wonder what Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari or the UN system has done about this, the case of this national staff member in Darfur.

Spokesperson:  Well, we have repeatedly called for the staff members who were being held to be released.  And as you know, some were, and we continue to call for the swift release of any who are still being detained, including the gentleman you mention.  And it is something that I know the Secretary-General is aware of and has been speaking about with the relevant officials.

[The Spokesperson later said that, according to the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), its detained staff member, Idriss Abdelrahman, had been released from detention that afternoon in Nyala, South Darfur.]

Question:  And I wanted to ask, I’m looking at this, the UNMIS human rights report about Southern Kordofan and it’s beyond what is being sort of reported publicly, it has a paragraph very specifically saying on 8 June UNMIS human rights witnessed armed people coming in and out of the UNMIS protection perimeter without any intervention from the UN peacekeepers guarding the premises.  And it doesn’t qualify that as that they were unable to, I think that the… from what I have heard, the allegation is that the Egyptian peacekeepers of that unit were either sided with the Government or chose to not act.  And what I am wondering is, if, since this is the UN’s own report, what’s the next step?  Is the Secretary-General going to order some kind of an inquiry into the activity, and where, I mean…?  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, as you well know, the report has not yet been finalized, and Mr. Šimonović made that quite clear when he spoke to you here the other day.  That’s the first point.  The second is that we’re extremely concerned about the allegations that are out there, including those that have been brought to light in the report, which is not yet finalized.  So, I think we need to ensure that that report goes through the right procedure before more details are given on that.  But suffice it to say that many people within the UN community, from the Secretary-General down, are extremely concerned about the alleged incidents that there have been and the reports that we are hearing.

Question:  Thanks.  The one thing I wanted to know is, it seems from the way Mr. Šimonović said it, that this joint reporting to the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and to DPKO, so, since the allegation, at least the one that I just read out, is against, you know, DPKO or peacekeepers there, do they have some kind of a… what’s their role in editing the finalizing report?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think let’s be really clear, there is nothing unusual in that arrangement.  Wherever there is a mandate within a peacekeeping mission mandate to look at human rights, there should be a human rights component — in other words, people who deal with that.  And of course, as Mr. Šimonović explained, there is a dual reporting role.  A report of that nature of course will need to be seen by the principals concerned in the Office and in the Department.  And that’s normal procedure.

Question:  But they are not… I mean, when you’re saying it’s finalized, I am just wondering, it describes like things that happened on a particular day.  Is there some idea that this will be changed in a final report or is it…?

Spokesperson:  I do not know what the final version will look like.  But as you all know, this, the document that has been circulated, or rather leaked, is not the final version.  And it is still in the process of being finalized.  But as I have said, it is already clear that there are very serious allegations out there, not just in the report that’s being talked about and which Mr. Šimonović spoke about at some length the other day, but more generally.  And those reports are alarming and we’re extremely worried about them, the Secretary-General included.  Okay, other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Martin, about three weeks ago, I asked a question about the situation in East Africa, and I said that it might develop into a humanitarian disaster.  Now we have two regions with famine.  Why has the UN system acted with such delay?  And where is the role now of preventive diplomacy?

Spokesperson:  I am not quite sure I follow the logic of there being a delay.  As the Secretary-General just said at the stakeout, we’ve been ringing the alarm bell actually for months, not just three weeks, Mr. Abbadi.  And it’s been clear to all that there was a looming food security crisis and that has now been borne out by the increase in the severity of that crisis.  And that’s why Mr. Bowden was announcing today that there is famine in two parts of southern Sudan — I beg your pardon, southern Somalia.  This is something that the different UN agencies, whether it is the World Food Programme, whether it is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, have been speaking about extremely vocally for a long time.  And it is something that requires concerted efforts by the international community, and that’s the point that the Secretary-General was trying to emphasize today.  That any delay in providing the assistance that’s needed, and it’s $300 million just for Somalia, just for the next two months, then more people are going to die.  And we need to see more action from the international community, from donor countries, to try to make a difference as quickly as possible.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Myanmar.  But just two quick things on the budget and the Controller.  One is, I was told that in the budget proposed by the Secretary-General involving ECLAC, the Economic Commission in, you know, that Commission for Latin America — a reduction of 12 posts, which is significantly higher than of the other regional economic commissions.  Is that… are you aware of that?  The people who raised it said that they wondered whether there is some connection to the issues around GRULAC [Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries] during the Secretary-General’s re-election.

Spokesperson:  The budget is subject to an approval process that involves Member States, and I think none of this has been fully played out yet.  I wouldn’t get into the details of the submission for precisely that reason.

Question:  And is the… Can you confirm that the Controller, Jun Yamazaki, is leaving?

Spokesperson:  I personally cannot.  But let me see if I can hear anything further.

Question:  Okay.  And then on this Myanmar question, it’s something I had asked you both you and Farhan Haq a number of times, whether the UN or Mr. Nambiar had any comment on the fighting in Kachin state, which has continued.  I know that you’d said that, you know, if there was a comment you’d get, come back to me…

Spokesperson:  That’s correct, yeah.

Question:  Actually, Farhan gave a comment on precisely this issue, and I just… I mean, is that a comment from Nambiar?  And I also wanted to know why it wasn’t provided either, you know in some sort of readout here or…?

Spokesperson:  As I’ve said to you, if we have a comment to provide, then I would give it.  And I don’t have that, okay?

Question:  [inaudible] in this newspaper or website, Mizzima, there is a comment given two days ago by Farhan Haq specifically on Kachin state, and I just…

Spokesperson:  Well, let me check, let me check.  But, as I say, if I have something to provide, then I certainly will, okay.  All right, thanks.  Have a good afternoon.

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For information media • not an official record