|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas.
Good afternoon, all. As you know, the President of the General Assembly will be here at 12:30 to talk to you about the Goldstone Report and the vote at the General Assembly yesterday. He will be with Jean Victor [Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly]. We have to finish our briefing in 15 minutes. So it’s going to be a short one.
At 3 this afternoon, the Secretary-General will brief the Security Council in closed consultations on Afghanistan. He will discuss the security situation and his recent trip to Kabul. Afterwards, he will talk to reporters briefly at the Security Council stakeout. Since it is starting at 3, we can expect something around 3:45 or 4. It’s going to be a short stakeout.
This morning, Council members heard a briefing in an open meeting from Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Nepal. She said that much of the past three months has offered the semblance of calm in the country. But the past few days have seen low-level clashes between the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League and the Unified Maoist-Leninist Youth Force in some eastern districts. Landgren said that moving forward through consensus is the central challenge for the parties at the moment. We have her remarks upstairs.
The Security Council followed the meeting on Nepal with consultations on the same subject, and the Council President is expected to read a press statement on Nepal following consultations.
Yesterday afternoon, the Council adopted a presidential statement on Guinea-Bissau, welcoming the peaceful presidential elections and the inauguration of the President in that country.
Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, today met with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri. He discussed the formation of a new Government in that country, as well as the Secretary-General’s new report on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).
That report is out as a document today, and in it, the Secretary-General expresses his serious concern at the recent incidents that have taken place in the area of operations of the UN Interim Force, UNIFIL. The Secretary-General condemns all violations of resolution 1701 (2006) and calls for increased vigilance. He urges all parties to continue to act with maximum restraint, and to respect the cessation of hostilities and the Blue Line.
The Secretary-General expresses particular concern about the firing of rockets from Lebanon into Israel on 11 September and 27 October.
He adds that, four months since legislative elections were held in Lebanon, a new Government has yet to be agreed upon and to assume office. He hopes that the process of consultations led by Hariri will soon result in the formation of a Government that will gain the Parliament’s confidence.
Williams will brief the Security Council on the report next Tuesday. Both the report and William’s remarks are available upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is gravely concerned about last week’s intense inter-ethnic violence in the Equateur province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Clashes over fishing rights between rival ethnic groups have reportedly killed 60 people, injured 40 and caused 16,000 more to flee into the neighbouring Republic of Congo. UNHCR says that houses in a number of villages were also burned down.
In response, the agency has sent an assessment team to the region, which is already reporting a widespread need among survivors for proper shelter, food and household items, such as blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, is asking donor countries for $2.8 million to deal with the threat of flooding facing more than 300,000 mostly Somali refugees in two camps in Kenya.
The Kakuma camp in north-western Kenya and the Dadaab camp in the east, on the Somalia border, are prone to flooding for three months of the year. When heavy rains started three weeks ago, UNHCR began digging trenches and placing sandbags around hospitals, boreholes and other strategic locations in both camps. In Kakuma, the camp worst hit by floods in the past, UNHCR has diverted two seasonal rivers, the Tarach and Lodoket, that have often inundated lower grounds. Without these measures, many sections of these camps would have been inundated.
But urgent funding is needed to pre-position essential items such as fuel, blankets and plastic sheets, and to respond to possible outbreaks of disease.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at least 16,000 people have been displaced by flooding in Somalia’s Hiraan, Gedo and Lower Shabelle regions. Meanwhile, the distribution of the ready-to-use therapeutic food known as Plumpy’Doz is expected to continue in almost all project locations in south-central Somalia in November.
The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that it is stepping up its assistance to people displaced by military operations in South Waziristan, Pakistan, including by distributing tents to families who have been staying with host communities in the nearby region. UNHCR says that it will distribute some 35,000 tents, with distribution expected to start in the coming days.
Since September, the refugee agency has assisted some 175,000 displaced people by distributing relief items such as kitchen sets, jerry cans, quilts and sleeping mats. Security constraints have led to some intermittent disruptions of aid efforts, but distribution is continuing through the agency’s local partners. We have further details in today’s UNHCR briefing notes.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that a United Nations cross-border assessment last week to Al-Mandaba, in northern Yemen, has provided a clearer picture of humanitarian needs in the immediate border region. It is estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 internally displaced persons are sheltered in the area, with 140 to 210 new persons arriving daily. Contingency planning will now begin, in case of a further deterioration of the situation.
**Viet Nam – Typhoon Mirinae
In Viet Nam, initial damage estimates following Typhoon Mirinae from United Nations agencies and the Government of Viet Nam show that a total of 1,261 houses collapsed, 57,743 are flooded and 25,695 have been damaged.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 10 hospitals and 50 community health centres in Phu Yen Province have been damaged by floods. The initial total cost of damages is estimated at $122 million, while the death toll had been reported as reaching 104. WHO is working with the local government in the affected provinces to monitor the public health situation and provide technical support if needed.
The last negotiating session before the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December is ending today, in Barcelona, Spain.
Speaking at a press conference, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo de Boer, said that Copenhagen can and must be the turning point in the international fight against climate change. A powerful combination of commitment and compromise can and must make this happen, he added.
De Boer said that the Barcelona talks had seen progress on adaptation, technology cooperation, reducing emissions from deforestation and mechanisms to disburse funds for developing countries.
However, he also said, little progress was made on two key issues: midterm emission reduction targets of developed countries, and on financing. In that regard, de Boer stressed that leadership at the highest level was required to unlock the pieces. Between now and Copenhagen, Governments must deliver the clarity required to help the negotiators complete their work, he added. There is more on this upstairs.
**United Nations Environment Programme
Laws protecting the environment in times of conflict should be strengthened, enforced and clarified as a way to protect a country’s natural assets during wars. That’s according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), released today. Among others, the report recommends determining and designating critical natural resources and areas of ecological importance as “demilitarized zones” at the outset of any conflict.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, is commending UNICEF for the allocation of $8.5 million in new funding to support net distribution campaigns across eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We have his statement upstairs.
**Press Conference Today
Following my briefing, the President of the General Assembly will be here shortly to brief on the recent General Assembly resolution on the Goldstone Report. And at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference on key issues relating to climate change and sustainable development.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
On Monday, the Security Council will hold a meeting and consultations on the Great Lakes region.
On Wednesday, the Security Council will hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. You can have the full Week Ahead upstairs.
This is all I have for you. Please limit your questions. I’ll take three or four questions, no more.
**Questions and Answers
Question: There is going to be a debate on the 1701 (2006) report next Tuesday. Is that report already out?
Spokesperson: Listen to me; I just said it at the beginning of the briefing that it is out.
Question: What’s Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s position regarding the Saudi air strikes against rebels in Yemen? Is he concerned now that Saudi Arabia is getting involved in the conflict between the rebels and the Yemeni Government, that it might increase the deterioration of the humanitarian situation?
Spokesperson: I don’t have any comments on this today, nor any comments from the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is, of course, following the situation. He has been informed of what is happening. We don’t have any independent information, because the UN is not involved there. So there is really nothing I can say on this count.
Question: On Nepal, several parties have issued statements criticizing the Secretary-General for what they say is “meddling in their internal affairs” by issuing a statement. Have you seen that? She didn’t do a stakeout, the SRSG. What is the Secretariat’s response to this pushback by the Nepalese Government?
Spokesperson: It was the ruling alliance of parties; they were criticizing the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council. And the observation of the Secretary-General is consistent with his repeated calls for unity and consensus among the political parties in order to assure the success of the peace process. They are quoting extensively what the Secretary-General said in the report. But the report is intended to encourage Nepal’s political parties to achieve what they themselves have expressed about the desirability of a unity Government and does not in any way represent a form of interference.
Question: Médecins sans frontières has said in great detail that a vaccination campaign they conducted in October in FDLR-control areas of [the Democratic Republic of] the Congo was used as “bait” ‑‑ that is the word they used. So that FARDC [the Congolese Armed Forces] attacked the vaccination sites, killed some civilians and sent others into the bush. It’s such a graphic allegation on their part, I’m wondering what is MONUC ‑‑ is this a unit MONUC works with? Does MONUC deny that it happened? What’s MONUC going to do about that?
Spokesperson: I’m going to get more information ‑‑ in fact, we are going to have someone from [MONUC] coming to brief you on the Congo shortly. Mr. Ross Mountain [Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo] is supposed to come next week and he will be briefing you on the Congo, so I would suggest that you ask him the questions.
Question: Mr. [Soon-hong] Choi, of the information technology [office]: is he Assistant Secretary-General or an Under Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: Assistant Secretary-General.
I just wanted to briefly inform you that tomorrow there will be the funeral of our colleague Louis Maxwell in Florida, and the Chef de Cabinet is going to go there for the funeral. Thank you.
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