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

23 July 2009

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

23 July 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Press Conferences Today

Our guest today is Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal and the Head of the UN Mission there.  She will be here to brief following her meeting with the Security Council earlier this week.

Following that, at 1:15 p.m., Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, President of the General Assembly, will be joined by other speakers to brief on today’s General Assembly meeting on the responsibility to protect.

**Statement on Guinea-Bissau

I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Guinea-Bissau.

The Secretary-General will be closely watching the upcoming second round of presidential elections in Guinea-Bissau as an important measure of national commitment to democracy and reconciliation.  He urges the people of Guinea-Bissau to participate peacefully in the voting as they have done in past elections.  He calls upon the presidential candidates to resolve any disputes that might arise through peaceful, legal means and to respect the final result.

The Secretary-General hopes this election will mark a clear step forward for Guinea-Bissau in achieving political stability and security, and in fostering the social and economic conditions necessary to consolidate peace and fully realize human rights throughout the country.  The United Nations is committed to working with the newly elected President, the Government, the National Assembly and other authorities to encourage further progress in Guinea-Bissau through national dialogue and reconciliation.

That statement is available upstairs.

**Security Council

And today in the Security Council here, Council members heard in an open meeting today from Choi Young-jin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire.  He told them that the announcement that the country’s presidential elections would be held on 29 November this year is a very positive step towards resolving the Ivorian crisis.  He said that the UN mission (UNOCI) shall leave no stone unturned in its provision of assistance so that elections and reunification can take place without further delay.  But, at the same time, he warned that the Ivorian election management body appears to be struggling with questions of managing and planning the electoral process.

The Council then went into consultations to continue the discussions on Côte d’Ivoire.  Once those are done, the Special Representative said he would speak to reporters at the stakeout.

And earlier today, the Security Council voted unanimously to adopt the resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for six months, until 23 January 2010.  And Karin Landgren will tell you more about that shortly.

** Nepal

And also on Nepal, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today sent a letter to the Government of Nepal, confirming the acceptance of the extension of agreement between her Office and the Government of Nepal.  That follows an official communication by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which stated that the Government of Nepal agreed to extend the mandate until 9 June 2010.  Again, I am sure that Karin will have more on that.

**Security Council

And going back to the Security Council, in its consultations following the item on Côte d’Ivoire, the Security Council expects to hear from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, about the recent incidents involving the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

And yesterday evening, just to recap, the Security Council ended its day-long discussion on peacebuilding by adopting a presidential statement, which you can pick up upstairs.

**Responsibility to Protect

And today, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Edward Luck, addressed the General Assembly’s Informal Interactive Dialogue on the Responsibility to Protect.  He said the concept’s principles are universal.  Every part of the world has suffered mass-atrocity crimes at one point or another, he added.

Luck noted that detractors often said the responsibility to protect was another word for military intervention.  But he stressed that it actually sought to discourage unilateralism and military adventurism.  He also rejected the notion that sovereignty and responsibility are incompatible.  Rather, they are mutually reinforcing principles, he said.  He noted that the Secretary-General’s thinking on the responsibility to protect involves the strengthening -- not the weakening -- of State capacity.  We have his full statement upstairs.

Meanwhile, in related news, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today issued a statement on the responsibility to protect.  She noted that Governments have a responsibility to prevent genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.  But she stressed that Governments -- and indeed the UN -- have not been very successful in preventing such acts during the last 60 years.  In that regard, she called the present discussions at the UN on the responsibility to protect “extremely important”.

She said her Office will continue to support States through long-term measures such as institution-building and technical cooperation.  But States, UN partners and regional organizations will need to make a concerted effort to rapidly respond to exceptional situations, she said.  There is more on that upstairs, as well.

** Somalia

On the racks is the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, out as a document today.  In it, he says that he is deeply concerned about recent repeated attempts to overthrow the Somali Government by force.  He appeals to the international community not to waver in its support for the Government.

While the security situation remains fluid, the Secretary-General says that the Transitional Federal Government maintains an inclusive approach to solving political differences with the opposition, in the spirit of the Djibouti Agreement.  The Secretary-General deplores the continued use of “high-gain” assassinations by the armed Al-Shabaab opposition group to destabilize the Government.  He also says that the international community is still considering further support to the Government following the latter’s call for military and other assistance.

The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), meanwhile, continues to deploy in Mogadishu and is expected to start the crucial task of training some 10,000 members of an all-inclusive Somali police force.  Eighty-nine AU personnel have already been recruited for this and other related purposes.  The UN, for its part, is helping to review AMISOM’s rules of engagement to enable it to take more robust action within its existing mandate.  The UN is also supporting the expansion of State authority across Somalia with the recent training of 120 civil servants in Puntland and another 500 in Somaliland.

And while the humanitarian situation has deteriorated further amid an intensifying armed conflict, the Secretary-General says that more than half of the $984 million humanitarian appeal for Somalia remains unfunded.

** Cyprus

Turning to Cyprus, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met today under UN auspices in Nicosia.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, spoke to the press afterwards.  He noted that the leaders mainly discussed the issue of immigration, asylum and citizenship.  The leaders have agreed to meet again next week, on 30 July.  And there is more on that upstairs as well.

** Iraq

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reports that its Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie has returned to Iraq to offer support to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced within their own country.  During her day-long visit to Baghdad today, Jolie visited a makeshift settlement for internally displaced people in a suburb of north-west Baghdad, where she met four families displaced from the district of Abu Ghraib.

Despite the difficulties in Iraq, Jolie said this was a moment of opportunity for Iraqis to rebuild their lives.  “This is a moment where things seem to be improving on the ground, but Iraqis need a lot of support and help to rebuild their lives,” she said.  UNHCR estimates that 1.6 million Iraqis were internally displaced by a wave of sectarian warfare that erupted in February 2006.  In addition, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees remain in neighbouring countries, mainly in Syria and Jordan.

** Pakistan

On Pakistan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, as of this Sunday, more than 324,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned home in north-western Pakistan, about 14 per cent of the 2.26 million people who are internally displaced in all.  An assessment to determine the initial needs of returning IDPs and the population that remained in the conflict-affected areas will start on Saturday.  The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has provided funds for the assessment.  Early-recovery efforts will focus on “building back better”, laying the foundation for long-term recovery that ensures that people’s lives are better than before the conflict.

After taking into account the early-recovery effort, the consolidated appeal for Pakistan has been revised, and it is now estimated that some $543 million is required to adequately meet these needs.  So far, only $88.5 million has been provided or committed, so some $454 million is still needed to provide humanitarian assistance to more than 1.5 million people between now and the end of this year.

** Ethiopia

And from Geneva, John Holmes, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters just a short while ago that Ethiopia will receive $6 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and we should expect an update on this shortly.

**Foot and Mouth Disease

And the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched a major offensive to fight foot and mouth disease.  This highly contagious animal disease causes serious production losses and poses major constraints in international trade, and also threatens the livelihoods of herders and rural households in developing countries.  And you can read more on that upstairs.

** China

And as you know, the Secretary-General has arrived in Beijing, where, tomorrow, he will meet with the President, the Premier and the Foreign Minister, among other senior Chinese officials.  He will also speak at an event encouraging the use of energy-efficient light bulbs.  He will stress that, although light bulbs are not always the first thing that springs to mind when talking about revolutionary technology, energy-efficient light bulbs are a revolutionary innovation that can change the world.  And we’ll have more on that later.

And the first-ever trust-fund agreement on technical cooperation for statistical capacity between China and the UN took place yesterday in a signing ceremony in Beijing.  Sha Zukang, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, signed the agreement on behalf of the UN.  This large, multi-year statistical project was established to strengthen the statistical capacity of China and other developing countries in Asia.  It is expected to advance the use of reliable and up-to-date statistics, and is considered the foundation for effective national development policies.  And there is more on that upstairs as well.


And finally, I’d like to correct something that was said at yesterday’s noon briefing.  Our guest, Under-Secretary-General for Management Angela Kane, had suggested that the immunities that apply at UN Headquarters would not be similarly applied at the swing space facilities that UN staff are relocating to during the Capital Master Plan renovation project.

That’s not the case.  On 18 June 2009, the United Nations concluded with the US Government a Fourth Supplemental Agreement to the UN-US Headquarters Agreement.  Under that Agreement, the Headquarters District of the United Nations, as defined under the Headquarters Agreement, will be extended to the “swing space” properties leased to house Secretariat staff during the renovation of the Secretariat Building.  As a result, the entire regime of facilities, privileges and immunities provided for under the Headquarters Agreement applies to the swing space properties.

For those of you who were here yesterday, you know what this is referring to.

So, that’s what I have for you. We have Karin here already, so I’d like to turn over, but I’ll just take three questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have two that I’m going to ask.  One has to do with today’s debate about the responsibility to protect.  The Secretary-General’s report on it makes various recommendations.  Is the Secretariat expecting, for example, a vote, a resolution today that the Office of the Special Adviser on the topic could be somehow funded or accepted by the General Assembly?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not sure what is expected from today’s session.  I think maybe you should refer that to Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, who will be here shortly.

Question:  I just wanted to know, the Secretary-General’s son-in-law, Mr. [Siddarth] Chatterjee, he previously was working as Chief of Staff for Staffan de Mistura in Iraq.  Is that still the case?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have some guidance on that.  I don’t have it with me, so after the briefing, if you can come upstairs, let me get it for you, okay?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that Mr. Chatterjee was working for the United Nations Office for Project Services in Copenhagen.]

Question:  The $454 million still needed for Pakistan, how much of that is expected to be received by the end of the year, do we know?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What I just read to you was the amount pledged and the amount received.  If it’s an amount that is pledged, then we don’t know as of yet.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has a mechanism and they will do the follow-up.  But we can certainly ask them to provide you more information on what other expectations they have for further funding.

Question:  Has OCHA, the humanitarian office, assessed as to why there is such apathy towards giving relief for these IDPs?  Basically it’s an international fight, what is happening?  Why is it that the donors are so reluctant to contribute?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you’d have to ask the donors that question.  But as you know, when John Holmes, after he came back from the region and came back here, talked to you about the massive needs on the ground and just from the scale of the displacement I read to you, there are huge needs and there is going to be -- as you know, humanitarian assistance is not just for when these people are forced to flee and assistance is required, but when they return they also require funding.  So let’s see if the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs can provide us more on that.  Maybe they can give you an updated briefing as well.

Question:  The reason I ask that, Marie, is essentially because of the fact that now if they go into western Pakistan or Waziristan, where there is going to be a big fight, there are going to be a lot more IDPs coming in, more than this 2.5 million that they are saying.  There will be a lot more IDPs coming in.  What will happen at that point in time?  Even now, we have not even anticipated the big fight that is coming.  That’s the reason why I ask.  Can the United Nations step up the appeal?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, that is why precisely we’re reading you this note today to let you know what’s missing, what still needs to be done.  And that’s why the humanitarian folks have told us to flag this.

Question:  There is a briefing currently, as we speak, at the Security Council on several incidents, but one of them involving 14 peacekeepers, UN peacekeepers, being injured.  I haven’t seen yet anything the Secretary-General said about that.  Is he concerned that 14 of his peacekeepers have been injured on, I think, Monday or something?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What country are you talking about, Benny?

Correspondent:  Lebanon, UNIFIL.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think we have been talking about this issue all throughout the week, and we have been giving you…

Question:  But has the Secretary-General issued any statement about the injury of UNIFIL…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have been talking about this every day.  Right now, I can’t recap every day what has gone on, but you’re talking about the explosions and the subsequent incidents…

Question:  I am talking about subsequently 14, more than 14 French UNIFIL officers went to inspect a site and were injured by so-called Lebanese civilians.  Is that a problem?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Let me recap, because obviously you have not been following our briefing on this.  On Saturday, there was coordinated UNIFIL-Lebanese Armed Forces activity in the general area of Khirbat Silim, related to the explosions of 14 July 2009.  During a joint activity undertaken by UNIFIL and Lebanese Armed Forces in connection with the ongoing investigation, about 1 kilometre from the explosion site in Khirbat Silim, UNIFIL vehicles and personnel located in the general area were obstructed by approximately 100 persons who pelted stones at the peacekeepers.   Additional UNIFIL and Lebanese personnel immediately responded to the location.  UNIFIL thanks the Lebanese Armed Forces for their actions, which prevented any further escalation.

UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces are investigating the circumstances of the incident within the framework of resolution 1701 (2006).  UNIFIL remains committed to its strategic partnership with the Lebanese Armed Forces that has contributed to stabilizing the situation on the ground.  To this end, UNIFIL is in constant contact with the Lebanese Army regarding the activities to be carried out in the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).

In addition to this, we’ve had updates throughout the week of contacts between [United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon] Michael Williams on the ground, and his latest assessment was that, I think, things were returning to calm in the area.  And that’s what I have for you.

Question:  I have been following very closely what you have been saying, including what you are saying now.  I haven’t heard anything about injuries to 14 peacekeepers.  Have there been injuries to 14 peacekeepers?  Are you concerned about the fact that there were injuries to 14 peacekeepers?  Who has injured 14 peacekeepers?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Benny, I will get you more on this immediately after the briefing, okay.  Thank you.  All right, it there is anything on this further, my office can bring it down and I will bring it to you here.  Thank you, very much.  And with that, I think I will turn over to Karin Landgren, who is here to talk to you about Nepal.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that during the course of the entire incident, 14 UNIFIL soldiers were lightly injured and some UNIFIL vehicles were damaged, amongst them one ambulance from the UNIFIL investigation team.]

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.