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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good Afternoon.  I apologize for the delay.  We were waiting for a statement, which I have now received. 

** Central African Republic

As you know, the Security Council this morning adopted resolution 2149 establishing the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic — known by its French acronym, MINUSCA.

And the statement reads as follows:

The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption today of Security Council resolution 2149, establishing the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).  He trusts that this important decision of the international community will lead to the immediate, concrete and sustainable support that the Central African people need and deserve.  The Secretary-General, deeply moved by his visit to the country on 5 April, again calls for an immediate cessation of the killings, targeted attacks and other atrocious human rights violations that continue with total impunity.  

The Secretary-General commends the tireless efforts of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic, MISCA, which will continue to implement its mandate until 15 September alongside French Sangaris forces and the recently authorized European Union force in the Central African Republic, known as EUFOR.  The United Nations will work closely with MISCA to ensure a seamless transition to MINUSCA.  The Secretary-General strongly calls on all partners to increase their support to MISCA until MINUSCA becomes fully operational.

The Secretary-General recognizes the importance of the role of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and the African Union, as well as the mediation led by the Republic of Congo in support of the political transition in the Central African Republic.  This is the moment for the international community to demonstrate its collective support to the efforts undertaken by the Transitional Government, under the leadership of Catherine Samba-Panza, to bring long-lasting peace, stability and reconciliation to the Central African Republic.

The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation for the committed and courageous work of all United Nations personnel in the Central African Republic and, in particular, for the exemplary dedication of his Special Representative Babacar Gaye and the rest of the staff of the Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the CAR, known as BINUCA.

**Secretary-General in Washington, D.C.

Today, the Secretary-General and Deputy Secretary-General are both in Washington, D.C., today, where they will attend a series of events taking place alongside the spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Right after arriving, the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, launched the Emergency Coalition for Global Education Action.  That is a group of prominent leaders who are coming together to work harder to accelerate progress until the end of 2015 to ensure that all girls and boys are in school. 

They were joined in that launch by more than 500 youth, including two young women who had been shot by the Taliban along with Malala Yousafzai in 2012, only for wanting to seek an education.

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will attend an event on ending poverty and providing education, along with World Bank President, Mr. Jim Yong Kim.

** Burundi

A number of questions have been raised in the past days or so on the situation in Burundi, and I wanted to update you on that.

The United Nations is receiving troubling information about recent political developments in Burundi and has been raising concerns both with the Government of Burundi and at the highest levels in the region and the greater international community.

In New York, senior officials have briefed the Security Council twice in the past two weeks, with the latest briefing having taken place on 8 April, by Jeffrey Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  Mr. Feltman drew the attention to the restrictions on political rights and freedoms and political violence mainly by the CNDD-FDD’s youth wing, including reports alleging about efforts to arm and train the youth wing.

In addition, as you may have recalled, and I think it’s been said from this podium in the past few days, the Secretary-General has discussed the political situation in Burundi with the President of Burundi, the First Vice-President of Burundi, and as well in recent days with political leaders in the region, including the Presidents of South Africa and Tanzania.

He is seeking their support in encouraging the Government of Burundi to take concrete steps to address these reports.  Mr. Feltman also spoke with the African Union Commission and other leaders in the Great Lakes region.

Several special envoys for the Great Lakes have also recently voiced their concerns to the government.  Today the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, is in Bujumbura on a long-scheduled visit, and he will follow up with the Government of Burundi on those concerns.

We are stressing that if no action is taken and serious human rights violations occur, those responsible for manipulating the youth affiliated to political parties and instigating violence would be liable for international prosecution.

In light of Burundi’s past, we trust that the Government of Burundi will thoroughly and promptly address the ongoing political violence and restrictions to human rights.

Political violence has the potential to spark fear in the population and trigger large-scale violence.

This is a concern that is shared by many in the international community and we trust that the Government of Burundi will take this matter seriously.  As Burundi prepares for 2015 elections, we hope for steps that would demonstrate a genuine commitment to political pluralism and the democratic process.

** Iraq

Moving on to Iraq, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country has reaffirmed the United Nations support to the country in its fight against corruption.

Nickolay Mladenov said that corruption is a virus that plagues transitional societies, and he added that it hinders peacebuilding and state-building efforts and undermines trust in public institutions.

And for its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) began providing emergency food assistance to nearly a quarter of a million people affected by fighting in Iraq’s Al-Anbar governorate.

WFP aims to reach about 48,000 families for the next six months.

And more information on those two items is available online.

** Yemen

From Yemen, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in that country has called for full and unfettered access to people affected by clashes in Amran Governorate in the north of the country.

Tens of thousands of people in Amran are uprooted by conflict and remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the Humanitarian Coordinator, underscored the importance of maintaining the temporary truce brokered between Government forces and armed groups in Amran, urging the parties to protect civilians and provide unfettered access to aid groups to help those in need.

This year, nearly 60 per cent of Yemen’s population needs humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs.

And more information on this issue is also available online.

**Homicide Report

Also, we wanted to flag an interesting report out of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  It launched today its Global Study on Homicide.

This report establishes that almost half a million people across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide.

Men made up almost 8 out of every 10 homicide victims, while women accounted for the vast majority of domestic violence fatalities.

The report also indicates that 95 per cent of the perpetrators are men and that over half of all homicide victims are under 30 years of age.

The global average murder rate stands at 6.2 per 100,000 people, but Southern Africa and Central America record more than four times that number.

Homicide levels in North Africa, East Africa and parts of South Asia are also rising amid social and political instability.

However, in an encouraging trend, South Africa, which has had consistently high numbers of homicide, saw its homicide rate drop by half between 1995 and 2012.

And more information is available online on the UNODC website.

**Secretary-General in Mexico

And lastly, the Secretary-General will travel to Mexico City on Monday, 14 April, to attend the First High-level Meeting of Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

Established during the Fourth High-level Forum (HLF-4) in Busan to ensure that development cooperation has the maximum possible impact on development results, the Global Partnership brings together a wide range of countries and organizations to foster engagement, communication and knowledge-sharing.

The Secretary-General will speak at the opening session of the event on Tuesday, 15 April.

He will also take the opportunity hold bilateral meetings with President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Meade Kuribreña, as well as with other leaders and senior officials attending the Summit.

The Secretary-General is scheduled to return to New York on the evening of 15 April.

Yes, Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask you about Burundi as I asked you about yesterday.  I wanted to ask specifically and thanks for the long readout, but I wanted to know what the UN did upon receiving this 3 April cable from Bujumbura, which said, not only said that there are alleged reports of arming of the young wing but also named hotels, named Government officials.  I mean, it was very specific.  There’s two long paragraphs where it says specifics, and I wanted to know, I understand that, this calling for, for — I saw that the Secretary-General called for an investigation of it, but has the UN done anything, in terms of looking into these allegations and how… Was the Secretary-General told of the cable?  I just want to sort of understand how “Rights up front” works when you receive a cable like that one week ago.    

Spokesman:  First of all, I’m not going to get into details of what cables may or may not have been received.  But maybe you and I have different understanding of what I just read out.  But I think I gave a pretty comprehensive listing of what the United Nations has done, what the Secretary-General has done to follow up on the information that we’ve received.  We’ve raised it with the Security Council, we’ve raised it with the Government of Burundi, with Burundi’s neighbours, we’ve raised it with the African Union and obviously our office in Burundi has also raised it at a more local level with the authorities there.  So I don’t know what….

Question:  Well, I’ll zero it in.  Because, because the cable says, that pistols were given out in February and now, AK47’s were given to this youth wing and names the places in which target practice were taken.  It seems very, it seems more than the UN read in a newspaper.  Somebody in the UNDSS (United Nations Department of Safety and Security) had knowledge of these places and times.  So I wanted to know, does this youth wing still have the pistols and AK47’s that were given to them?  Is that….

Spokesman:  Obviously the issue of youth wing being armed is of great concern to the UN, which is what I’ve just read.  So I think that I’ve given a fairly complete account of contacts made with Governments that may have influence on the Government on Burundi, our immediate contacts with the Government on Burundi.  We are very concerned by these reports, and we are acting on them.  I really have nothing else to add.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Thanks.  Again in Burundi, can you, does the UN still have a large operation there or they withdrawing?  I know that the Secretary-General wanted it extended, but what’s there, and what will be there, what won’t? 

Spokesman:  It’s a political presence that’s still there.  I can get you the numbers, but the UN is very much present in Burundi and following the developments very closely. 

Question:  Didn’t the Government want it to leave or…? 

Spokesman:  You know as long as we have a mandate from the Security Council we’ll continue to stay.  Yes sir?

Question:  Recently, there is a back and forward going on between the United States and Iran in regard of the new Ambassador.  I was wondering if everything goes honkey dory, and the Ambassador is here tomorrow.  What is UN opinion on the Ambassador, which has got some question marks on his portfolio? 

Spokesman:  We always hope that things go honkey dory.  Obviously every Member State is free to name whatever, whichever or whomever Permanent Representative they wish to.  Right now, this exchange between Washington and Tehran is taking place outside of this building.  We are obviously watching the situation.  It remains a bilateral issue, and we hope it gets resolved.   

Question:  What I meant is, if it gets resolved and the Ambassador is here, what is UN opinion on having somebody….

Spokesman:  As I said, it’s up to each Member State to name the Permanent Representative they feel should represent them.

Question:  So UN stays neutral on that?

Spokesman:  It’s not up to us to opine on the person that is chosen. 

Question:  At a time when the United Nations views the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem, East Jerusalem as illegal, it has transpired recently that two congressmen contributed in attacking the Al-Aqsa mosque with other sectors and other supported by the Israeli security.  Their pictures were published, showing that they were taking part in such an aggression.  How does the United Nations view that?   

Spokesman:  I have not seen those reports, but I think that the Secretary-General position on East Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territory is well known and well stated.  Yes, Benny?

Question:  We discussed this earlier today, but can you tell us where are we at as far as the Palestinian request to exceed to 13 UN….what are they called?  14?  Is it 14?  Because I thought that it was 13 here, one in, in, in, Hague and one and… 

Spokesman:  I looked on the UN Treaty website today, and I manually counted 14.  Now, that we’ve established that fact.

Question:  Ok, so where are we at?

Spokesman:  Ok, so where we’re at is that on 2 April, the Secretary-General in his capacity as depository received from the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine through the United Nations copies of instruments of accession to 14 multilateral treaties.  In conformity with the relevant international rules and in his practice as depository, the Secretary-General has ascertained through his Office of Legal Affairs and more specifically through the Treaty Section in the Office of Legal Affairs that the instruments received were in due and proper form before accepting them for deposit and has informed all States concerned accordingly, through the circulation of depository notification.  Now, if I can explain that in slightly less legal terms, as depository, when these instruments are deposited, it’s up to the Treaty Section in the Office of Legal Affairs to kind of go through an administrative check list that verifies the conditions for participation with the relevant provision of each treaty; also, verifies that the instruments are in proper and due form, which mainly means the instrument of accession include clear and fair expression of commitment to undertake the rights and obligations to the treaty, that it’s signed by the right people.  So it’s really, I would say an administrative function performed by the Secretariat as part of the Secretary-General responsibility as depository of the treaty.  But I think it’s also important to emphasize that it is for States, each individual Member States, to make their own determination with respect to any legal issues raised by instruments circulated by the Secretary-General.  So that’s where we are.

Question:  Thanks Stéphane.  Just again in more and I do have another question on Post-2015 Agenda after that but this is as a follow-up.  Can you just put even a little bit more light in that saying that what would be the role of the Secretary-General in this obvious request for Palestinian authorities to enter 14 UN agencies or so. 

Spokesman:  No, I think you’re talking about chickens and oranges here — if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor.  The membership of Palestine into specialized agencies of the UN is being dealt with by — eventually if it happens — by each individual assembly of that agency whether it’s UNESCO, World Health Organization, etcetera as an example.  What we’re talking here are treaties, international treaties, where the Secretary-General is the depository.  His responsibility as I said, more of an administrative one to say: okay, someone has submitted papers.  Do these papers, are they filled out correctly?  Are they signed by the right people?  Do the letters say the right thing?  Once that’s done, then the Secretary-General through his Office of Legal Affairs and through the Treaty Section — in fact, I would encourage you to visit the website because it’s fairly clear and they’re all listed there — will then inform all States accordingly through the circulation.  So he then says to all the Member States who’ve signed on to those treaties there is, new instruments have been deposited.  

Question:  That was very helpful indeed.  Another question was yesterday Secretary-General talking at ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council], he, I’m just interpreting, I’m not quoting although we do have his remarks.  He said regarding the partnership that he is looking for on behalf of the United Nations of this is obviously on sustainable development in energy regarding that, for the external partnership in order, the UN internal policy to be coherent and to work.  So if you can also put a little bit light in that.  What does it actually mean? 

Spokesman: I am not sure I understand your question.  Well, you answer your phone, and then I’ll go to that young lady. 

Question:  I just want to have a confirmation, so you said it’s up to the Treaty Section, go through its administrative checklist.  So can you confirm that that administrative checklist is complete for the Treaty Section portion? 

Spokesman:  For the 14, yes, it is.  And they are all listed.  As I said, right now you go to the Treaty Section website and you can search under latest treaties and you’ll see all 14.

Question:  So the OLA in the Treaty Section portion of the, the depository is complete?  

Spokesman:  It’s complete.  That’s correct.  Yes Carla?

Question:  [inaudible] which the law permits, well as…

Spokesman:  I’m not going to go through the detail of the report, but I think it would be logical to qualify honour killing as intentional. 

Question:  And also capital punishment then would be?

Spokesman:  I don’t know; that you’d have to look at the report.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  On 9 April, the Secretary-General commended the decision of the General Assembly in the so-called Managed Mobility Framework for the staff.  At the same time, he recognized that there are concerns among the staff regarding the possible impact of this decision on their life.  To what extent have the concerns of the staff been taken into consideration in the adoption of this decision?  And is the Secretary-General ready and prepared to have a dialogue with the leaders of the Staff Union regarding this matter? 

Spokesman:  There’s been consultation with staff throughout this process.  It’s been a very long process. The Secretary-General was very pleased that the General Assembly adopted the resolution.  It will be phased in over a number of years.  I think it starts in 2016.  I think anything that involves people moving from one place to another with their families, is you know, it can have a very serious impact, and I think that the policy was designed to take these kinds of things into account.  But it was really designed to create what the Secretary-General has wanted since the beginning of his term is truly a mobile, multifunctional work force for the United Nations.  Yes, and we’ll start round and let’s go with those who haven’t asked a question first. 

Question:  I just wanted to confirm the treaties thing again.  So I thought um… that the instrument for The Hague Convention was it?  Was given to the Dutch representative so, again, it’s the SG who’s the depository for 14?

Spokesman:  I’ve double checked twice.  I hope the information given to me was correct.  As I said, I’ve counted them.  There may be others that are deposited in other places.  I have 14 listed on my Treaty Section website.  If I stand corrected, I will come back here in half an hour and apologize.

Question:  One other question.  Um, what’s the… Can you give us the latest updates on whereabouts of Mr. Brahimi and the latest on UN effort for the Geneva process?  Is he travelling anywhere?  Is he here?  Is he in Geneva? 

Spokesman:  I believe he’s in Geneva, but contacts at various levels are continuing, but I don’t have a hard update to give you.  Benny and then we’ll go back to Matthew.

Question:  Just follow-up on this thing.  When you say it’s up to States to make their own determination with any respect to any legal issue [inaudible] do you have like, is it supposed to be by consensus?  Can any state veto the accession?  Or is it just they’ll bring up some objections or … or… not objections and then, okay noted? 

Spokesman:  I always fear of going into waters I don’t fully understand.  So I repeat what I said, which is: it is important for States to make their own determination with respect to any legal issues raised by instruments circulated by the Secretary-General — which means that every Member State has the sovereign right to make its own determination regarding the legal issues raised by the instruments just circulated by the Secretary-General.  

Question:  Which means that one State can object to… to… for legal reasons to… to the thing…so… so can it … one …you need one State to object?  One Member State?  

Spokesman:  It’s not a question of veto, I think it’s in the question of the application of the treaties, and I’ll leave it at that.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask something that wasn’t answered yesterday in this sexual violence press conference.  It has to do with the allegations that were made of gang rape against the Chadian peacekeepers in the Mali Mission in September.  DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] had said in January that Chad had finished its investigation of it but nothing has been said since.  And given that there’s said to be a zero-tolerance policy and transparency, is there a way that…that…that you can say, were the cleared?  Were they found guilty?  Were they disciplined?

Spokesman:  If I get something from DPKO I will share it, but I don’t have an update.

Question:  And also, I wanted to ask you on Myanmar, you’d said a couple of days ago, or maybe it was even yesterday, that when the census was over that the UN would have something to say and there’s now… The headline today is: ‘Census wrapped up.  It’s finished’.  And so do you have anything to say?

Spokesman:  No. Yes ma’am?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General received a letter from Israeli Mission regarding Hezbollah and if so, is there any response to it yet?  

Spokesman:  Negative.  Not that I know, but I will be happy to check.  Yes sir?

Question:  Just to rephrase it so we all know now that the Post-2015 Agenda recognized that all Millennium Development Goals are not going to be fulfilled in all countries and in all areas, to use the UN vocabulary.  In that light, what kind of…can you put more light…what kind of partnership is Secretary-General looking for in order to move forward with that?

Spokesman:  The reason for this push for partnerships is a clear understanding that the United Nations alone, Governments alone cannot work — do not have the capacity by themselves to fulfil these goals and to work on greater development issues pre-2015/post-2015.  And, that the role of civil society and that the role of private sector and other NGOs [non-governmental organizations] is critical to that, and that we all need to work in partnership to achieve those goals and to work beyond 2015.  So that’s why we have this focus on partnerships. 

Question:  Hi, I just have a quick question on Palestinian issue again.  Thank you for the clarification, but is there a deadline that has to be made… Oh, sorry.  Getting back to the Palestinian question, is there a deadline that the review has to be completed by 2 May?  Can you confirm that?  On the…on the review of all…

Spokesman:  No, but I’m happy to ask on your behalf. 

Question:  Just a follow-up, development goals in the post-2015.  Is there a mechanism for prioritization of the goals in anyway?

Spokesman: In post-2015?  I think this is a discussion that’s ongoing right now.  Yes?

Question:  The host country agreement between the US and the UN, in regards to that, I know that there’s a US law that grants the US Government to deny a visa for somebody that might pose security threats, but I’m just wondering how legally that comes into effect versus the US agreement with the UN on providing visas for  diplomats. 

Spokesman:  The host country treaty is there, its public, it’s for all to see.  Now it’s up to each Member State to weigh their obligations towards international treaties and their own national laws.  That’s a political decision they will have to make.  But again, on this particular issue between the US and the Islamic Republic of Iran, I think it’s being dealt with outside this building for the time being.  If and when it comes here, then we would hopefully have more to say.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to know, it terms of this trip by the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General to Washington, it seems like yesterday the Deputy met with Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, and also, Assistant Secretary of State, Dean Pittman.  I wonder, particularly since that the Secretary-General himself is going to meet with the State Department, can we get a readout of those meetings and can you… I guess I wanted to ask you of this… it continues to puzzle some that the meetings that the Secretary-General is having with the US Government are with the Pentagon and with the Joint Chief of Staff.  So can you say what the… what the… what is the thinking of this?

Spokesman:  I don’t think there’s anything — I don’t know who’s puzzled by it because I don’t think there’s anything to be puzzled by.  Whenever the Secretary-General travels to foreign countries, he may meet with the foreign minister, may meet with the defence ministry, that’s not surprising.  We have contacts with the State Department.  Obviously, the Secretary-General is meeting Secretary of Defence Hagel.  I don’t think that there’s anything to read into that, and I’m happy to see if I can give you a readout of the meetings at State. 

Question:  But just as an example, when he went to Moscow and you were with him, did he seek to meet with Russian Defence Minister?  I mean…obviously the questions are coming from people looking at Ukraine and Syria for example. 

Spokesman:  Everything is you know, sometimes he meets with Defence Ministry, sometimes he doesn’t.  We met with the Defence Minister in Kyiv.  Okay so, I think you know — in most countries, in a lot of countries, you know, foreign ministries deal with foreign issues, and often, defence ministries have an impact on international issues.  I’m not puzzled by it.

Question:  But I guess my question is, one follow-up on that.  And this has been raised by… in connection with this was the MOU that he signed in North Atlantic Treaty Organization back in 2010.  So the idea has been since then, has the Secretariat reached similar agreement with let’s say non-Western aligned… military alliances…

Spokesman:  You know every time there’s an agreement signed by the UN and other entities, we announce it.

Question:  Just a follow-up on Matthew’s question.  Probably ten days ago I asked whether the Secretary-General as a part of his shuttle diplomacy between Kyiv and Moscow, actually would include travelling to Washington because Washington is obvious very much concerned regarding this issue, that’s number one.  And, number two, was this visit to Washington planned long time ago or it’s…?

Spokesman:  It is part of the spring meeting, so it’s planned and the Secretary-General has had contacts with the Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry; we’re in contact with US Mission.  So obviously on the issue of Ukraine, we’ve been in contact with all those who matter. 

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  I think the visit to Washington, as I said, has been planned for quite a long time. 

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Some people are asking for a referendum regarding Ukraine, is the Secretary-General in favour of that?

Spokesman:  I have nothing new to add to what we’ve said in the past on Ukraine.  Last question? 

Question:  Under the Global Study on Homicide, thank you for pointing it out.  Has there been a comment by the Secretary-General accompanying it or nothing?

Spokesman:  No, I don’t believe there is.

Thank you very much. Have a good day.

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For information media • not an official record