4 June 2014
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, happy Wednesday.  Welcome to all those watching on the webcast. 

**Noon Briefing Guest

As soon as I’m done with you and you’re done with me, we will be joined by Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  And she will be here to brief you on the humanitarian situation in Syria.

** Ukraine

The Secretary-General has asked his Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, to represent him at the inauguration of President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine, which will take place this Saturday in Kyiv.  While in Kyiv, Mr. Feltman is also expected to hold meetings with senior Government officials and others in the spirit of the good offices of the Secretary-General.

**Security Council

Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the Joint OPCW-UN Mission working in Syria, briefed the Security Council this morning in closed consultations on the Mission’s work, and she then spoke to you right afterwards. 

Currently, Nickolay Mladenov, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, is briefing Council members on the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), and that’s also in closed consultations.

This afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled an open meeting, followed by consultations, on the work of the UN Mission in Somalia.

**Peacekeeping Panel

The Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations and for Field Support — Hervé Ladsous and Ameerah Haq — today announced the appointment of a five-member Panel of Experts to advise them on how to best use new technologies and innovations to benefit United Nations peacekeeping.

The Panel will be led by Jane Holl Lute of the United States, a seasoned expert on peace and security who is currently the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Relocation of Camp Hurriya Residents Outside of Iraq.  The four other members of the Expert Panel are:  Lieutenant General Abhijit Guha of India, who is retired; Major General Michael Fryer of South Africa, also retired; Major General Ib Johannes Bager of Denmark, who is also retired; and Dr. Walter Dorn of Canada.  And I should add that they are retired as Generals but not retired.

The Expert Panel will visit field missions and consult widely with Member States, partner organizations, non-governmental and governmental research institutions and think tanks, as well as industry leaders.  The Panel will convene in early June and its final report is expected to be released by November 2014.  It will recommend how the two Departments can benefit from ongoing technological innovations in a systematic and integrated manner in the longer term.  We have a press release available in my office.

** Libya

The UN Support Mission in Libya issued a statement saying it was deeply concerned over the violence in the east, particularly in Benghazi.  The Mission condemned the attacks against civilians and called for an end to the bloodshed.

The Mission said that the political efforts must take their course and highlighted the need for an agreement to counter terrorism within the framework of the State institutions.  The statement is available in my office.

Also on Libya, I was asked about support for the upcoming Council of Representatives elections expected on 25 June.  The UN-led electoral support team, made up of UN Mission staff and staff from the UN Development Programme, has been providing electoral assistance, including strategic policy and technical advice, to the Libyan High National Elections Commission.  It has been helping with the establishment of the voter registration process, education campaigns, logistics moves and more.  It has also been advising national electoral authorities on ways to include women in the electoral process.  The UN Mission continues to coordinate the international assistance efforts of UN funds, agencies and programmes as well as Member States and non-governmental organizations.

** Nigeria

Today marks the fiftieth day since the school girls were abducted in northern Nigeria.  The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, announced that the Safe Schools Initiative in Nigeria has attracted more than $23 million so far to ensure that schools, particularly in the north, are protected from attack and measures are taken to improve the safety of education for girls and boys.  And the Special Envoy’s Office will be working with UNICEF to implement that programme.

Moreover, he will continue to work with the Government to monitor the education situation and develop plans to ensure that the 10 million out of school children have safe spaces to learn.  No child should be prevented from learning and no child should face the threat of abduction for wanting to go to school, said Mr. Brown.

** Haiti

Hervé Ladsous, the head of the Peacekeeping Department, arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, today for a three-day visit.  He is in the country to engage with the MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] senior leadership and staff, the UN country team and Haitian officials on the strategic assessment of the UN’s presence in Haiti and of the gradual handover of the Mission’s functions.

During his trip, he will meet with the country’s President, Prime Minister and other officials to discuss the latest political developments and underline the need for long-awaited elections to be held as soon as possible.

** Colombia

Also on travel related news, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang, wrapped up a four-day visit to Colombia.  She said that the armed conflict in the country continues to affect new people every day.  Colombia is also vulnerable to natural disasters, including floods, which have a serious impact on communities with high poverty rates and limited access to basic services.  And we have more information available upstairs.

**South Sudan

Just an update from South Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Hilde Johnson, visited Bor in Jonglei State yesterday.  In meetings with State officials, she urged them to take concrete steps so that internally displaced persons can feel safe to return to their homes.  She also called on the Government to hold perpetrators of the 17 April attack on the UN compound in Bor accountable.

Ms. Johnson also visited the protection site, where more than 3,000 civilians are seeking shelter.  There, she met with community leaders and other internally displaced persons and urged them and other South Sudanese citizens to put their ethnic divisions behind them and unite as citizens of their country.

Meanwhile, the Mission (UNMISS) reports fighting between Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and opposition forces in parts of the country, including south of Bentiu in Unity State, as well as in Upper Nile State.  And the Mission once again stresses the importance of implementing the Agreements, as signed by both parties on 23 January and again on 9 May this year, and to accelerate the momentum for peace and to end the violence.

** Central African Republic

Just to flag that the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, and the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, urged donors in Rome to support the response to end the suffering of thousands of people fleeing into Cameroon from the Central African Republic.  Up to 2,000 people a week, mostly women and children, reach Cameroon through more than 30 entry points along the border.  We have more information available online.

**United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees

Also from Brussels today, European Union officials signed a joint declaration on EU support to UNRWA — the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees — for the period 2014-2016, and that signature took place with the Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl of UNRWA.  Under the agreement, the EU contribution to UNRWA for core services for 2014-2016 will amount to some €246 million ($335 million).  More information is available upstairs, or rather, excuse me, next door.


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction is today in the Philippines, where she is speaking at a conference, bringing together participants from Asia and Europe, on lessons learned from Typhoon Haiyan.  Margareta Wahlström noted that opportunities exist now to address underlying risks to ensure that the next disaster will not cause similar devastation, in line with President Benigno Aquino’s policy to “build back better”.  The conference is expected to produce the Tacloban Declaration, outlining new proposals for better disaster risk management which will contribute to the post-2015 development framework.

**Poland — Photo Exhibit

Just to flag that, this evening, the Secretary-General will attend the opening of a photo exhibit organized by the Polish Permanent Mission marking the twenty-fifth anniversary since the events of 1989.  And he is expected to deliver some remarks.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

He has also today appointed Antonio Vigilante of Italy as his new Deputy Special Representative for Recovery and Governance in the United Nations Mission in Liberia.  Mr. Vigilante will also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] Resident Representative.  He succeeds Aeneas Chuma of Zimbabwe, who has recently taken up a new assignment with the International Labour Organization.  Mr. Vigilante currently heads the UN Office in Brussels. 

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., a press conference here on “Sustainable Energy for All: Achieving Results and Shaping the Future”.  Speakers will include Kandeh Yumkella, the Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

And at 1 p.m., there will be a press conference on the launch of REmap 2030:  A Renewable Energy Roadmap.

And that’s it.  You’ve got to be ready.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  John Kerry said today that they are going to work with the new Government in Palestine and they are going to watch if it will be committed to cooperate with Israel or not.  I just wanted to know what it your position of that of the United Nations also going watch this…

Spokesman:  Wait, I’m sorry which Government?

Question:  I said they are going to watch the new Government in Palestine [inaudible].  I just wanted to know if the United Nations will do the same, especially always supporting the John Kerry negotiations.

Spokesman: I think you know the statement, the Secretary-General statement yesterday on the announcement of the new Unity Government I think was fairly clear.  It’s a Government that we welcome on the basis of pre-existent commitment and that, we said yesterday, the UN stands ready to lend its full support to the Unity Government.

Question:  Does the United Nations suspect that this new Government will be not committed to their obligations? 

Spokesman:  We received commitments that they are committed to their past obligations.  Matthew?

Question:  Great, thanks a lot.  One, I wanted to ask you… it seems that in the Central African Republic, where there is a UN Mission, there has been a ban on SMS or text messages directed at seeming a non-violent organization of a protest, so does the UN have any comment or reaction to that?  And also, this is in-house, but I wanted to ask you whether… if you can explain the loss by the news agency of Nigeria of its office and workspace at the UN given that it’s a major country, they’re on the Security Council.  Was there sort of notice given?  What’s the process?  What’s the reasoning? 

Spokesman:  I don’t know.  The process for offices and accreditation is clear, it’s on the website.  And you know, you can ask MALU [Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit].  I’m happy to ask for you.

Question:  I know there’s been previous request of sort of due process.  Do you believe that that’s been provided in this case?

Spokesman:  I don’t know the specifics of this case but I have full trust in MALU that due process is followed. 

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesman:  What is your question Matthew?

Question:  Okay, I guess my question is that it seems that without…

Spokesman:  No, I think I’ve answered the Nigeria question.  If you have another one, I’m happy to…

Question:  The CAR question.  Do you have any comment on…

Spokesman:  No, I’ll check with the Mission.  I’ll see if they have said anything on this.  Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  In the statement on Libya by the UN Mission there as you indicated it, says it took the clear increase in terrorist act and the Mediterranean civilian targeting constitutes and evident challenge to State authority and necessitate an agreement on precise means and mechanism to counterterrorism within the framework of the State institution.  Could you clarify?  That’s not clear.

Spokesman:  I think — I mean what I seem to understand and hopefully, I’m sure by what I understand, is that the Mission is there to support the State institutions.

Question:  But they want… they want something created within the State institution. 

Spokesman:  The important thing is to support the State institutions and to do whatever they need, to support them in whatever they need to do in order to help bring an inclusive political process.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I’m not sure if I missed it, I came in late.  What is the Secretary-General’s stance on the so-called presidential elections in Syria?  And what is the process at as far as you know, selecting the successor to Mr. Brahimi?  What’s happening on that side?  Can you update us?

Spokesman:  I think on the elections, we spoke about it at length yesterday.  We’ve taken note of the elections and the context in which they’ve taken place and the Secretary-General’s position on the timing on these elections remains unchanged.  You know, we can play the Special Envoy lottery and game until an announcement is made.  But until an announcement is made, you’ll have to wait for an announcement to be made.  Yes ma’am?

Question:  Thank you.  An Indian aid worker has been abducted in [inaudible] Afghanistan just days after the Indian… attack on the Indian Consulate.  Does the UN Mission there have a comment on it?

Spokesman:  I’ll check.  I haven’t seen that report but I’m happy to check for you.  Yes, Sangwon? 

Question:  I asked this yesterday, but today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and there reports of news channels getting cut off at the mention of anniversary among other things.  What is Secretary-General’s position on that and if he has a statement?  Thank you.   

Spokesman:  You know I answered that yesterday in reference to the speech in Shanghai and we had a very powerful statement from the High Commissioner as well.  Yes, Pam? 

Question:  Stéphane, just a clarification.  You said Mr. Feltman is going to the inauguration?

Spokesman:  That is correct.

Question:  Okay, is there any Representative of the Secretary-General at the Normandy?

Spokesman:  No.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you on Burundi and also on something on OPCW which maybe you’ll be able to answer or get an answer to.  On Burundi, thanks, yes, for… you know… your response yesterday that something has taken place with the PNG’ed staff member, but since then I’ve heard from the Spokesman or the Deputy Spokesman for the President of Burundi that it’s their claim that the UN staff member was found with ammunition in his luggage at the airport and they’ve given him 48 hours to leave.  And so I wanted to know, the other side says that he’s perfectly permitted to carry a gun and it was a mere oversight.  What is the… what is the fact… what are the facts of the case and will he remain in the country?

Spokesman:  Well, the facts are that on 25 May, as he was going on leave, the staff member who is a member of the Special Representative’s close protection team was going on leave, went through the metal detectors at the airport, they found two… some… two… what’s the term, ammunition.  Some ammunition…

Correspondent:  Bullets?

Spokesman:  Yes, bullets thank you.  That he had failed to remove.  He did not have a gun on him.  He did not have any weapon on him.  It was an oversight.  He handed over the ammunition to the airport authorities in Bujumbura.  He went on his way to Nairobi.  And in the meantime, he returned to Bujumbura on 2 June.  We have now been informed by the Burundians that they would like to declare him persona non grata.  We are in touch with the authorities in Bujumbura, we hope this decision will be reversed.  It was an oversight by the staff member, and really nothing more. 

Question:  What about the other staff member that was PNG’ed? Is there… have efforts been made to get him back in the country for having authored… authored the cable about a large…

Spokesman:  I have no update on that staff member.  Yes, sorry, and then Oleg.

Question:  Stéphane, usually when there is an election in a country the UN makes some kind of announcement, congratulating the people and the elected ones as well.  In the case of Syria, this didn’t happen.  Does the UN recognize the election or results of the election?

Spokesman:  The standard practice is usually for a letter or statement to go out for a… an election of a… when someone comes in new into office not for a re-election.  Oleg and then Mr. Abbadi. 

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  There has been information, some information in the media about helicopter of UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] threatened at gunpoint in Sudan while transporting civilians to [inaudible] area.  Do you have anything on that?

Spokesman:  No, we’re checking.  I know this was raised, we’re talking to the Mission to see if we can get anything from them on that incident.  Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  When would the Secretary-General give a press conference here in this room?

Spokesman:  We will try and get him in front of the press whenever there is a big announcement to make or when there’s an update.  Obviously, we like to get him in front of you as often as we can and we’ll keep working on it.  Yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Steph, is there an ETA time for a successor to Brahimi?

Spokesman:  No, no I think the Secretary-General has been fairly clear that this is a period of stock taking and looking at the overall situation.  And then when we’re ready to announce it, we will announce it.  Yes, in the back?

Question:  Hi, yes.  Does the Secretary-General support Navi Pillay’s statement yesterday on the Tiananmen Square?

Spokesman:  I think that the High Commissioner has her own mandate and it is not for the Secretary-General to either support or not support each of her statements.

Question:  [inaudible] in answer to a question I put to him concerning whether he supports a Chapter 7 resolution in Syria, he said yes.  Is that still the case?

Spokesman:  You know I think there are a lot of discussions going on in the Security Council right now.  We’ll see what the Council decides.  The Secretary-General’s position on the need for greater access to those Syrians in need is very clear and I’m looking forward to my next guest, Ms. Amos, to handle all the Syrian humanitarian questions.  Yes, Pam?

Question:  Stéphane, on the… on the Ukraine resolution, draft resolution that Russia is circulating, there was discussion in the Security Council that more needs to be investigated and reports need to come in from OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] and UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees].  Do you know… if they’ve been requested… any kind of reports on Ukraine and what humanitarian needs they might have been requested from OCHA and UNHCR?  

Spokesman:  I know our country team is in touch with the Ukrainian authorities on humanitarian issues, on issues of displacement, but as far as I know, there’s been no request by the Ukrainians for international aid through the UN, though we are providing some in particular instances.  And again, Ms. Amos will be glad I’m sure to answer those questions. But I’m not aware of any specific reporting requirements.

Question:  Not from Ukraine, but from Russia or any other…

Spokesman:  No.  Matthew, and then we’ll go to Ms. Amos.

Question:  Sure, great. I wanted to ask you… I wanted to ask Ms. Kaag, but I’ll ask you.  The OPCW visited Violia, the contractor it chose… the facilities in port Texas in advance of the chemicals I guess going there.  One… basically, they’ve been fined by the State of Texas for compliance violations.  They’ve been fined for repeated [inaudible] emissions of carbon monoxide, things normally that would give rise to concern.  I wanted to know what the Joint UN-OPCW Mission thinks about these complaints and what step it’s taken to make sure that these dangerous chemicals don’t become emitted in the same way? 

Spokesman:  I would refer you to Michael Luhan at the OPCW, who I’m sure would be happy to take your question.  Alright, thank you, I’ll be right back when I find our guest.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record