14 December 2012
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 everybody.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Humanitarian Appeal

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, called today for $8.5 billion to help an estimated 51 million people who will need urgent humanitarian relief next year.  Ms. Amos was in Rome to launch the humanitarian appeal 2013 on behalf of the United Nations and international humanitarian organizations working in 16 crisis-affected countries across the world.

She said that humanitarian needs continue to grow around the world and that there are millions of people in need as a result of the impact of disasters and conflicts.  The appeal is the culmination of a process in which 520 aid organizations have come together to coordinate operational plans and funding requests to meet needs in a strategic and comprehensive way.

** Syria

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui, arrived in Damascus today.  She is there to assess first-hand the impact of the armed conflict on children in Syria.  During her visit — which she is undertaking at the invitation of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic — she will meet with Government officials, United Nations partners and civil society representatives to engage them in the protection of girls and boys.  She will also travel to Lebanon, where she will hold a press conference in Beirut on Tuesday 18 December.

**Press Conferences

Today at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference here by the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.  And that will be to discuss the Commission’s work.

And then on Monday, I will be joined by Ray Chambers, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Malaria, along with Dr. Fatoumata Nafo-Traore, the Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, who will be participating by video link from Geneva.  They will brief you on the World Health Organization (WHO) World Malaria Report.

** Afghanistan

Yesterday I was asked about reports concerning the incarceration of children in Afghanistan.  The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is aware of the report.  The document raises serious issues regarding the situation of children.  The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission has been visiting detainees and the UN Mission is verifying the extent to which they have monitored the disposition of these child detainees.

The Mission is of the view that the cases of these children, or detainees who were children at the time of their capture and incarceration, should be reviewed carefully and they should be held in compliance with international standards for the detention of minors.  Additionally, all of these individuals should have full access to due process of law.

That’s what I have.  Questions, please?  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, I wanted to ask you, there are… there… there… the UN-affiliated Radio Okapi is in a… is… is reporting the… the… the presence of Rwandan troops in Kibaki in… in various areas controlled by M23, and I wanted to know since MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is there and have, you know, several thousand troops, are they aware of this or have they checked out this UN-affiliated report and do they stand behind it?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] to see if they can give me an update on what is happening in the eastern Kivus, and then I’ll let you know.

Question:  And if… I… I… I wanted to, I guess, ask again, does… is there anything from DPKO on what… after the… the… the… the controversy about not… not, you know, the serious issue of cholera in Haiti, of steps taken by DPKO to, even as it was said at the stakeout, to at lease screen peacekeepers coming from areas in which cholera is endemic before they are deployed elsewhere, is there any answer on that?

Spokesperson:  When I have something, then I’ll let you know, but I don’t have anything further on that.  I mean, I’ve spelled out a number of times what the UN is doing on the ground right now and the focus there that there is, and also the focus of the initiative that was launched earlier this week.  But on that particular point, I would need further information from my colleagues in DPKO to assist you with that.  Other questions, please?  Please?

Question:  Sure.  [inaudible]  One Internet and two election-related questions.  With the… the… I know that earlier you’d… the… the… the… you’ve given a… a… a statement by the Secretary… the Secretary-General’s views on how the Internet should be run.  Now that the US and, I guess, some other countries have essentially, you know, not have walked away from these talks in Dubai or there were that the ITU talks that would have given the UN… or… or that… that body more of a role in the Internet or [inaudible], does… does he have any thoughts of that… what does he think of the outcome of that conference?

Spokesperson:  I think you are mischaracterizing a little bit the outcome and also what the discussions were about.  Certainly, I would encourage you, at the very least, to take a look, if you have not done so already, at Dr. Hamadoun Touré’s statement.  He, as you probably recall, is the Secretary-General of the ITU, and he has put out a statement in which he said that this conference is not about governing the Internet, he’d have been saying that in the run up to this conference:  “I repeat that the conference did NOT include provisions on the Internet in the treaty text.  Annexed to the treaty is a non-binding resolution which aims at fostering the development and growth of the Internet — a task that ITU has contributed significantly to since the beginning of the Internet era, and a task that is central to the ITU’s mandate to connect the world, a world that today still has two thirds of its population without Internet access.”

So just to give you the context, and then I am going to provide you a little bit of information about the Secretary-General’s thinking on this, but just to conclude what Mr. Hamadoun Touré has been saying, that history will show that this conference has achieved something extremely important, and that it has succeeded in bringing unprecedented public attention to the different and important perspectives that govern global communications.  And this is not one single world view but several, and these views need to be accommodated and engaged.  I would note, for example, that the conference was available on webcasts, documents were easily available, and it was open in an unprecedented fashion to civil society and others.  So from that perspective, people had a good overview.  And of course, there were many tough topics that provoked considerable debates at the conference, and that included topics like network security, spam e-mail and various other aspects.  But the important point here is the Secretary-General said at the outset, and his view remains, that the management of information and communications technology should be transparent, democratic and inclusive.  And the United Nations system stands behind the goal of an open Internet.  And the right to communicate is central to the ITU’s mission.  And then finally, just to say that the freedoms that are spelled out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights include freedom of expression across all media and all frontiers, and those freedoms are not up for negotiation.  And we will continue to promote how most effectively to keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure.  Okay?  A bit long-winded.

Question:  No, no, but very comprehensive, thanks.  Thanks.  I was… okay, two election questions.  One is… is… is… is the… it seems like Saturday, there… in Egypt, there is the… the… the constitutional… the referendum on the constitution.  The Carter Center, among others, has said they are not going and observe because the… the… the rules regarding witnessing of the voting were… were… came out too late and they don’t agree with them.  Does the UN, one, have any role at all in…in observing or advising on… on the actual voting and… and what’s their view of the… the… what seems to some to be kind of a… a… a rushed process?  I know that there is some Special Rapporteur that has said something, but I wanted to know [inaudible] DPA [Department of Political Affairs].

Spokesperson:  Well, the UN itself is not in the observation business, unless it is very specifically mandated to do so.  So that answers that bit of the question.  If there is any other technical support that I am not aware of, I am sure that my colleagues in the Election Support part of DPA — Political Affairs — will be able to help me with that.  And finally, of course, the Secretary-General is closely monitoring what is happening there; he has been throughout the recent turmoil.  His main concern is that there should be dialogue and that any protests that there are should be peaceful.  And obviously we will wait to see the outcome of the referendum itself.  Okay, you said another election question?  That will be the last one, okay?

Question:  Yeah.  It’s a little… it’s closer to home, and… and I ask you to indulge me on this one, I… it… it has… it has to do with right here inside the building, the… the… there is a… you know, the… the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), which is the sole outside party to the UN’s own media guidelines and is given the first question and has a certain role here, has a constitution which requires elections to be held by 15 December and the Executive Committee to relinquish its offices by 1 January, and earlier today it was announced that both of these… these deadlines are being unilaterally waived without any explanation of how it relates.  So I understand… I admit it’s much smaller than Egypt, I want to say that clearly, but I… since given the interrelation between… even your office squawks its meetings, it is given a certain play here, what’s the… what… what… what does the UN think of… of… of the suspension of… of deadlines for voting, deadlines for leaving office, and is there some… is there going to be some… I’ve written a letter as… on behalf of something called the Free UN Coalition for Access to Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal asking, why given all this… these… these… these special roles continue, or whether, it seems to put the UN in some role to at least comment on the suspension of stated voting rules in the constitution of the organization it works with.

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think you are right, I do indulge you, every day, in fact, and today, also.  So I don’t think that you could ever accuse me or my Office of not providing you with access and providing you with answers.  You might not have liked the answers, but we sit here everyday and answer your questions, okay?  So that’s the first thing.  The second thing is that I will simply not be involved in your difficulties, meaning between the United Nations Correspondents Association and yourself or others.  That’s not our role.  And when you mentioned about announcing events that are taking place, that is simply a courtesy to enable all correspondents, not just those who are members of the Correspondents Association to attend an event they might not otherwise know is about to start, simple as that.

Question:  For example, you gave the first question, the passes to the general debate in September were given out only through UNCA, and I am saying it is right here [holds up UNCA constitution], it’s a constitution, it says the deadline for voting, it seems like it’s not… that’s why I’m… I’m… I’m asking the question.

Spokesperson:  If you were holding up the UN Charter, it would be a different matter.  You need to deal with…

Correspondent:  It has the UN logo right on it.

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think that is really quite silly to say that it has the logo on the front of it.

Correspondent:  Then you shouldn’t [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  You need to simply deal with the Correspondents…

Correspondent:  [inaudible] follow their own rule, that would be my statement.

Spokesperson:  Well, you have made your statement, I think you’ve had your time on air to express your views as you do every day, as it is your right, and I will continue to answer your questions, but I am not going to get involved in your difficulties with the United Nations Correspondents Association or, put more correctly, between you and the Correspondents Association.

Question:  [inaudible] another organization asking for the same treatment, but that will be in 2013, and happy holidays.

Spokesperson:  Well, have a great weekend, Matthew.  Thanks.

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For information media • not an official record