8 March 2012
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to this briefing on International Women’s Day.

I’ll be joined at the end of my part of the Briefing by Nihal Saad, who is the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, as you know.  And that will be for an important joint announcement.


Further to his announcement of 2 March, the Secretary-General would like to share with you his choices for the following three Under-Secretaries-General positions:  Special Adviser on Africa, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

For the position of Special Adviser on Africa, the Secretary-General has selected Mr. Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt, who since 2005 has been the Permanent Representative of Egypt to the United Nations in New York.  He will bring to the position more than 33 years of experience in multilateral diplomacy and direct engagement in promoting global development and the socio-economic agenda.

For the position of High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, the Secretary-General has selected Ms. Angela Kane of Germany who since 2008 has been Under-Secretary-General for Management.  And she brings to the position more than 35 years of experience at the United Nations, including relating to political and disarmament areas.

For the position of Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, the Secretary-General has selected Mr. Sven Alkalaj, a national of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs of his country and Ambassador in Washington and Brussels.

The Secretary-General is grateful to the outgoing senior officials who have served with distinction and true commitment to the ideals of the United Nations.

At the Assistant Secretary-General level, the Secretary-General has also decided to appoint Ms. Jacqueline Carol Badcock, a national of the United Kingdom and current UNDP Resident Representative and Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, as the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator, Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).

And Mr. Nicholas Haysom of South Africa will move to the post of Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

And finally, Mr. Yoon Yeocheol of the Republic of Korea, will move to the post of Chief of Protocol.

The other professional staff and above in the Secretary-General’s Office will continue to move to set the example for mobility at all levels of the organization.  And we will have additional announcements in the coming weeks on other senior appointments as the relevant selection processes are completed.  And, the full announcement — I have only read part of it — the full announcement is available in my office and online.  And I believe it is also being e-mailed to correspondents.

** Syria

The Joint Special Envoy on the Syrian crisis, Kofi Annan, met with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Nabil Elaraby, in Cairo today.

Mr. Annan told reporters afterwards that he comes to the region with the full support of the entire international community and that there should be one process for mediation — one process that would ensure that we work together with the Syrian Government in the interest of the Syrian people.  Mr. Annan said that people throughout the region and the world are deeply troubled by what is taking place.  The level of violence is excessive and unacceptable by any standards.  This cannot continue, he added.

For her part, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, continues her visit to Syria today.  She’s been meeting with Government officials, members of the diplomatic community and non-governmental organizations.

And yesterday, as you know, she visited the Baba Amr neighbourhood of Homs and you will have seen her comments to reporters after that visit.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding a debate on Haiti this morning.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Mariano Fernandez, briefed the Council members on the latest developments in the country.

He said that, in his eight months as Head of the UN Mission in Haiti, he had seen an overall process of stabilization in the country.  He noted, however, that the recent resignation of the Prime Minister had been a worrying sign.  He stressed the need to ensure that a new government will be in place as soon as possible.

Concerning the rule of law and security, the Special Representative said that institutions were being established and developed.  He underlined the full establishment of the Supreme Court as a particularly important step.  He also noted the work of the Mission to strengthen the Haitian National Police.  He said that the new five-year plan jointly drafted by the Mission and the Haitian National Police would allow further training and development of the police.

**Press Conferences

At 12:30 p.m. here, there will be a press conference on the role of business in empowering women and a new microfinance initiative to enhance financial inclusion of women will be announced.  The event will be moderated by Roland Rich, who’s Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office for Partnerships (UNOP).

And then, tomorrow afternoon, here in this Auditorium, there will be a press conference on the launch of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs Guidance for Mediators on addressing Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ceasefire and Peace Agreements, which for the first time provides principles and strategies for mediators and their teams to help combat this destructive tactic of warfare.  Speakers will include B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Margot Wallström, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict.

And also, to let you know, that Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will be briefing the press tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., in the 2nd Floor conference room of the Innovation Luggage Building here in New York.  And Mr. Grandi will outline the challenges of UNRWA’s work in Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Jordan in the context of the Arab Spring one year on.

So, I have time for a few questions before I invite Nihal to join me.  Three in a row; starting on the left from me even though it is International Women’s Day, just coming this way.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  All right, would like first?

Spokesperson:  We’re moving this way; the hands went up in unison. So, we’re just moving this way.

Question:  Okay.  Martin, is there any possibility to know if there were any other candidates who were applying by those who are announced today?  And also when they are starting with their job?

Spokesperson:  Start dates — I don’t know the answer to that at this point.  That’s something that I am sure will be made clear in the days to come.  I don’t know the full answer to that at this point.  The whole process of recruitment at this level was launched by the Secretary-General in December.  It is an open and transparent process.  There was a call for applications, including through Note Verbales — so diplomatic notes — to all the Permanent Missions of the Member States and obviously as you will also have seen through advertisements online.  Nominations came not just from Governments, but also from interested individuals and groups.  And the selection process was subject to a transparent and rigorous competition; so, in other words, more than one person.  And this was a process that was run by a panel composed of the most senior officials of the Organization with the relevant background in each case.  And of course the final selection by the Secretary-General was based on recommendations received from those different panels.

Question:  Just one short follow-up:  What kind of clearance to those personalities it is necessary in order to be sure that everything is fine with them if, for example, somebody under domestic jurisdiction is under the investigation or so are you all aware of everything since you choose those candidates about all moments if I put, if I can put like that.

Spokesperson:  I would stress the word “rigorous”.  Yes, coming this way?

Question:  Okay, Martin.  A couple of just housekeeping things; I didn’t catch the Angela Kane line.  What is she being transferred to?

Spokesperson:  ODA — Disarmament Affairs.

Question:  Okay.  And also, when these things, when are these jobs taking place?  Like when is Eliasson going to be in his job?

Spokesperson:  Well, Mr. Eliasson, as the Deputy Secretary-General, I believe that was announced by the Secretary-General before…

Question:  No, I know that, I said when, do you know?

Spokesperson:  Yes, and the time was announced.  I don’t have it.

Question:  You don’t have it at the top of your head?

Spokesperson:  I believe it is from 1 April, but I could be mistaken.

Correspondent:  No, no, July.

Spokesperson:  No, no, 1 July, 1 July; exactly!  1 July, 1 July!

Question:  All right.  And the third housekeeping is this; perhaps your office could kindly tell the nice people of UNRWA that with a busy day like tomorrow having an off-campus press conference is very difficult.  Now, my question, my substantive question is on Haiti.  There is a lot of discussion in the Secretary-General’s report, as well as in the Council on the Rule of Law; and yet Baby Doc Duvalier is walking around unmolested; he is having a good time with some of his Tontons Macoutes, which I remember very well covering the UN’s role in getting him out there, and I am just very curious why this is continuing quite normally; I didn’t hear anybody mention it.  But he is having a very good time [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Well, I can’t speak for the members of the Council at that briefing, I am sure you could ask them on their way out if you haven’t already.  I have not seen the full comments made by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General who is in charge of the MINUSTAH Mission.  But again, he did stress the need for an improvement in rule of law and security.

Question:  Well, we’ll ask him if he comes out; it’s just that when you speak about impunity here is one of the chief murderers, alleged murderers of the Caribbean having a very good time.

Spokesperson:  Well, accountability is something for national authorities to handle.  Certainly, the Secretary-General believes as a principle, as a statement of principle that there should be no impunity and there needs to be accountability for past wrongdoings in any given country.  Yes?

Question:  Speaking of accountability, the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, Bill Clinton, yesterday acknowledged that a UN peacekeeper brought cholera to Haiti.  I have spoke to one of the experts from the Panel of Experts who authored the UN’s report on cholera.  She says there is new information since they’ve written that report and the evidence now all points to the UN facility at Mirebalais.  Is the UN finally ready to accept responsibility for the cholera outbreak?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you mentioned, in January of last year, the Secretary-General appointed a panel of independent scientific experts to study all available evidence in order to determine the cause of the cholera outbreak.  And then in May of last year, the four-member panel concluded that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti.

Question:  But since then the experts [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Would you let me finish what I am saying?  I think that might…

Question:  I know, but it doesn’t address the question.

Spokesperson:  In May of last year, the four-member panel concluded that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti, and that the cholera outbreak was caused by a confluence of factors, and was not the fault of, or deliberate action, of a group or individual.  Nevertheless, MINUSTAH is and will continue to be in close coordination with the entire UN family in its efforts to stem the epidemic.  And in relation to former President Clinton’s reported remarks to the press yesterday in Haiti; we note that he emphasized the importance of focusing on improving Haiti’s sanitation system and the fact that the United Nations and others are working hard to do this.  For any further explanation or comment, we’d refer you to his office.

Question:  Okay.  So, since that report, the experts, those are very same experts, are saying there was new information that changes the outcome of the report.  So, does the UN have any intention of looking at that new information since your own experts are now saying differently?

Spokesperson:  Is it experts or expert?

Question:  Expert.

Spokesperson:  Expert or experts?

Question:  The author of the report.

Spokesperson:  One or all of them.

Question:  One.

Spokesperson:  Right, okay, so let’s get clear.  I can check further, but what I have said here is what I have to say:  that the panel, a four-member panel, concluded that it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti.  And the most important thing now is to focus on ensuring that those who have suffered are helped on the ground in Haiti…

Question:  So how does the UN plan to do that, because the people who have suffered are asking for release and for compensation?  Has the UN decided how to respond to that?

Spokesperson:  On the ground, a lot of work is being done on sanitation in particular, that’s the key point.  A lot of work is being done on sanitation to ensure that this epidemic does not spread.  And…

Question:  Is the UN not going to open the standing claims commission that is required under the SOFA [status-of-forces agreement], then, because that’s what they have asked for?  And what is the answer to that, and how much longer will they have to wait for an answer for that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the United Nations has received claims related to cholera in Haiti, and it is studying the claims.  I have time for one more question.

Correspondent: I have [inaudible]…

Spokesperson:  I’m sorry?

Question:  On posts; I have some questions.

Spokesperson:  You have…?

Question:  On the posts that you named.

Spokesperson:  Right, so I am going to…

Question:  So I want to, I am sure I had my hand my hand up since you made the announcement and so, [inaudible]…

Spokesperson:  I am coming to you; I am asking Sylviane to ask a question and then I am coming to you.

Correspondent:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yes, I know you spoke up.  You often do, Matthew.  Yes?

Question:  Regarding the Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan to Syria, to Cairo then to Syria, how many reporters or journalists are with him and how the selection has been made?

Spokesperson:  I do not know the answer to that; I will check.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I have several questions on posts; one is…

Spokesperson:  Can you make it one question, as we have guests coming?

Question:  You have three posts, so I am going, I’ll just say them out and then you can either answer them now or later.  The three questions are as follows:  What’s the Secretary-General’s response to criticism from the African Group that they no longer have the Deputy Secretary-General and that the Special Adviser on Africa post is going to a North African not sub-Saharan?  There is widespread criticism on that, maybe there is a response.  Second question is:  Jeffrey Sachs here sitting next to you said he is a candidate for the World Bank.  He is still a Special Adviser or whatever, you know, or whatever his status is to the Secretary-General.  Is it possible that that’s a conflict of interest of some kind?  Does he have to step down in order to run for another post?  And can you confirm that Morris Strong, former UN official is a senior adviser on “ Rio+20”, and what is his compensation as I asked by e-mail yesterday?

Spokesperson:  On the final one, yes he is, and there is no compensation.  On the second…

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Matthew, yes, he is…

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yes, there is.  Yes, he is a senior adviser.  No, there is no compensation.  On the second question, moving back up the list, I don’t have any comment on Professor Sachs and whether or not he is running for the World Bank.  And on the first point, Africa is a continent and Mr. Abdelaziz is from the continent of Africa.

Nihal, please join me for this…

Question:  Morris Strong, [inaudible]…

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I have given you an answer on that.

Question:  I sent an e-mail yesterday asking [inaudible]…

Spokesperson:  Matthew, Matthew, I have answered the question.

Question:  You didn’t.

Spokesperson:  Welcome, Nihal, on International Women’s Day.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Martin.  Oh, thank you very much, and good afternoon everyone.  And ladies, happy Women’s Day.

Joint Announcement by President of General Assembly

and Secretary-General of United Nations

As Martin just mentioned, we have here an important joint announcement by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  The announcement has just been officially made by the Chef de Cabinet of the Office of the President of the General Assembly, Dr. Mutlaq Al-Qahtani before a session of the Commission on the Status of Women.

And here is the joint announcement:

The President of the United Nations General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations would like to jointly propose the convening of a Global Conference on Women by the United Nations in 2015, 20 years after the last women’s summit in Beijing.

Given that women make up half of humanity and given the importance and relevance of women’s issues for global progress, it is high time that such a world conference is convened.  It is all the more important because of the enormous changes the world is going through, with both positive and other implications for women.

The President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General feel confident the international community will welcome this joint initiative.  They also hope that the Member States, who have the final authority to convene the proposed conference, could take the necessary steps during this sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

They believe that the high point that the United Nations reached with the establishment of UN-Women in 2011 can be meaningfully substantiated with a global programme focusing on women that can be articulated at the Fifth Conference.

The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995, adopted the current Forward-Looking Platform of Action.  The Beijing summit was preceded by three world conferences, beginning in 1975 in Mexico City, and followed by Copenhagen in 1980 and Nairobi in 1985.

The enthusiasm of civil society, particularly women’s organizations, for such a conference has added extra strength to the general support expected for today’s proposal.

The President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General believe that a world conference on women could review the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.  They also believe it could tackle emerging issues, in particular those relating to women and political participation, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) that deals with women and peace and security, equal access to decent work and to decision-making and the involvement of rural women and girls.  It could also cover aid effectiveness, food security, trafficking, drugs, migration, environment, climate change and information technology, all of which make an impact on women, and on nations and societies as a whole.

In all these matters, the role and involvement of young people, particularly women, would add an important dimension that was not properly reflected at earlier conferences.

**Activities and Meetings by General Assembly President

And on other activities and meetings of the President of the General Assembly, the President, President Al-Nasser is on a four-day official visit to Belgium.  President Al-Nasser had an audience with His Majesty the King of Belgium, Albert II at the Royal (Laken) Palace in Brussels.

President Al-Nasser has also just wrapped up a meeting with Secretary-General of NATO Andres Fogh Rasmussen at NATO headquarters in Brussels; it’s the first visit of a President of the UN General Assembly to NATO.  They both welcomed the growing cooperation between NATO and the United Nations including the Alliance’s UN-mandated peace support operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

During the visit to Belgium, President Al-Nasser also held talks with the President of the European Commission, H.E. Jose Manuel Barroso.

He also met with H.E. Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, and the European Commissioner for Climate Change Ms. Connie Hedegaard and Mrs. Helga Schmid, Deputy Secretary-General of the European External Action Service.

And we are going to be issuing a readout of these meetings today.

President Al-Nasser is scheduled to go to Strasbourg on Monday where he will be addressing the European Parliament in an extraordinary meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in association with the Committee on Development and the subcommittees on Human Rights and security and defence.

And that’s what I have.  If you have further questions.  Yes, Evelyn?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible]…where is the women’s conference going to be?  Here, or you haven’t decided yet?

Spokesperson:  The details are being worked out.  We will be announcing that as soon as a decision has been made.

Question:  And it is a successor to Cairo and Beijing?

Spokesperson:  Excuse me?

Question:  It is a successor to Cairo and Beijing?

Spokesperson:  Indeed.

Question:  Right.

Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  Why has it been 20 years since they have had a conference?

Spokesperson:  Why is it in 20 years?

Question:  Yeah.

Spokesperson:  Yeah, it has been 20 years, so…

Question:  Yeah, but why?  I mean, why did they not continue their 5- or 10-year intervals?

Spokesperson:  I don’t quite get the question, but this is, the last women’s summit was 20 years after Beijing.  So, what is the question exactly; I don’t understand what is the question?  It is not after 20 years; it is going to be held in 2015.

Question:  I see; I’ve got it!  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, thank you.  Any more questions?  I think, yeah?

Question:  I wanted to ask about a comment that the present secretary, eh, the President of the General Assembly made I think, I believe is in regard to Syria and he said that the current UN is not fit for its purpose.  Can you, obviously some find it extraordinary that the President of the General Assembly would say that about the UN, so I am just wondering, can you unpack it a little bit what he meant?

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s you are taking the quote that the President of the General Assembly said out of context; it was a whole lot of, a story about how the United Nations has dealt with the issue of Syria.  So, that particular quote that you are saying is taken out of context.  You have to read the entire story and, so that you would get to the point of where the President and what the President exactly said.

Question:  But you remember I asked, I think I asked you previously about a speech that he gave at NYU [ New York University]…

Spokesperson:  Yes, I do.

Question:  Do you have an answer, do you have an answer on that whether…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have an answer to that because as I said it was taken out of context.  It was a question, a question-and-answer session at NYU and the author or the journalist who filed the story has taken whatever the President said out of question; out of context.

Question:  But the, just one last, and just to understand it, you, the, this quote of not fit for purpose was the headline in the Independent and the Telegraph; have you guys written a letter…?

Spokesperson:  No, I, of course, I have the story; we have seen it, and the thing is that the President was talking about a whole lot of issues with the Independent journalist; he was talking about the revitalization of the General Assembly, the necessity of also the Security Council reform, and he was giving his views regarding the necessity of reforming other UN-related organizations in order to cope with the realities of the twenty-first century.  This is why the quote was being made, but that is why I am telling you also that it was taken out of the whole context of the interview.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:  I am very conscious that we are out-staying our welcome, and that following colleagues are here to give a press conference on the role of business and empowering women and to make an announcement of a microfinancing initiative.  And so, I am very happy to pass the floor to them; with apologies for the slight delay.  Thanks very much, have a good afternoon.

Spokesperson for the General Assembly President:  Thanks very much.  Thank you, Martin.

* *** *

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