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

8 December 2009

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

8 December 2009
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.

**Secretary-General on Iraq

The Secretary-General was asked this morning about the bomb attacks that struck Baghdad.  And he said that he was very shocked, and he condemned the bombings in the strongest terms possible.  And he also said that this was an “unacceptable, horrendous terrorist bombing against civilians”.  And as you also heard him say, there will be a statement on this; a formal statement that will be issued shortly.

[The Spokesperson later issued the following statement:

The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the bomb attacks in Baghdad today that have left over 120 people dead and scores more injured.  No cause can justify these attacks on civilians.  The attacks appear to be aimed at undermining the election process, including the political progress in Iraq.  The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the families of those killed and wishes for the full and speedy recovery of those who were wounded by these criminal acts.

The Secretary-General appeals to the people of Iraq to remain steadfast in the face of these attacks and to continue their determined efforts to achieve national reconciliation.  The United Nations remains committed to supporting them.]

**Secretary-General’s Stakeout

And as you probably also saw earlier this morning, the Secretary-General spoke at the Security Council stakeout about the climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

He said he’s expecting a robust agreement that will be effective immediately and include specific recommendations on mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.  He said this agreement should have an immediate operational effect as soon as it is agreed.

And the Secretary-General says he is encouraged and optimistic.  He said that never have so many different nations of all sizes and economic status made so many firm pledges together.

The Secretary-General was also asked about the recent email hacking incident.  And he’s very clear on this.  He said nothing that has come out in public has cast doubt on the basic scientific message on climate change.  And that message is quite clear; climate change is happening much faster than we realized and we human beings are the primary cause.

And we have his full remarks on this upstairs.

**Climate Change Conference

And actually at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Michel Jarraud, the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), reported that 2009 was likely to rank in the top 10 warmest years since 1850.  And he also added that, since 1980, every decade has been warmer than the previous one.  And he also stressed that greenhouse gas concentrations were the highest now than at any time over the last 800,000 years.


And finally on climate change, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has launched a programme to support climate change mitigation in developing countries.

And this is a multi-donor programme which aims to promote sustainable low-emission agriculture in developing countries over the coming five years.  And the organization says that agriculture is a key source of global greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 14 per cent.  But the sector also has a high potential to reduce greenhouse gases.

**Secretary-General -- Security Council

The Security Council held an open debate this morning to discuss drug trafficking as a threat to peace and security.  And the Secretary-General addressed the Council members, and he said that drug trafficking doesn’t respect borders.  He said:  “It is a menace to societies and individuals alike and it is associated with the horrific abuse of women in particular.”  He said that States must share intelligence, carry out joint operations, build capacity and provide mutual legal assistance to deal with drug trafficking.  And he also urged the international community to focus on reducing demand for drugs and the harm done by them.

The Secretary-General also told the Security Council that drug trafficking now threatened to reverse advances in peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.  And we have his full remarks upstairs, and also those by the Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa.  And the debate is still going on now.

After that debate, the members of the Security Council will have their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General.  And then at 3 this afternoon, the Security Council expects to hold a formal meeting to consider a presidential statement on Côte d’Ivoire.

**Security Council on Sudan

And sticking with the Security Council, yesterday, the Security Council received a briefing in its consultations, under other matters, on the recent attacks in Sudan against peacekeepers of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, UNAMID.  And Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy briefed Council members.

And afterwards, the Security Council members, in a press statement, condemned in the strongest terms the recent attacks on those peacekeepers that had resulted in the death of five Rwandan soldiers.  They took note of the action taken already by the Government of Sudan and encouraged it to ensure that all the perpetrators are swiftly identified and brought to justice.  As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General has already condemned both of these attacks.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General’s most recent report on the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) is out on the racks today.  He notes that the DRC is now largely at peace, with the exception of the Kivus and pockets in Orientale Province, and is ready to embark on the reconstruction and rebuilding phase.  In recognition of these realities, he says that the United Nations will engage with the DRC in detailed discussions on the future direction and configuration of the UN Mission, and that recommendations will be presented to the Security Council in April 2010.  An in the meantime, he recommends a six-month mandate extension.  The Security Council will take up the DRC next Wednesday.

**Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation

This morning the Secretary-General attended a breakfast meeting in support of his Five-Point Action Plan on Nuclear Disarmament and Nuclear Non-Proliferation.

He presented specific suggestions on the next steps of developing his action plan to promote nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation in general, and to facilitate the success of the upcoming 2010 NPT [Non Proliferation Treaty] Review Conference.  He also encouraged Member States to seriously consider the proposal by Costa Rica and Malaysia for a nuclear weapon convention.  And we’ll have the text of his speech available later today.

** Lebanon

On Lebanon, the Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), Major-General Claudio Graziano, met with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israel Defense Forces today at the UN position at the border crossing at Ras Al Naqoura.

They discussed the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), especially the recent incidents and violations, with a view to preventing the recurrence of such events.  And they also discussed the marking of the Blue Line.

There was also discussion of the village of Ghajar.  And Graziano said afterwards:  “We are hopeful that we will soon reach an understanding on the UNIFIL proposal that will facilitate Israel’s withdrawal from the northern part of the village of Ghajar.”

** Ethiopia

On Ethiopia, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that an estimated 4.8 million people would still require emergency food assistance throughout the first half of next year.  And this is despite the collaborative efforts of the Government and humanitarian partners to address ongoing humanitarian challenges in Ethiopia.

And this assessment is based on the findings of Ethiopia’s multisectoral contingency plan for January to June 2010, which was launched in Addis Ababa on Monday.  And this plan took into account the observed rainfall performance and its impact on crop production and the overall food security situation.  And what we’re talking about here, what’s needed is about $270 million for the total net projected emergency food and non-food needs.


On tuberculosis, some 36 million people have been cured of tuberculosis (TB) over the past 15 years, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which says that this is the result of the rigorous approach to treatment it has endorsed.  But WHO also says that millions of people are still unable to access high quality care.  TB remains second only to HIV/AIDS in terms of the number of people it kills.  And we’ve got more on this upstairs.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Ms. Rebeca Grynspan of Costa Rica as Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  She will replace Ad Melkert, who as you know was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq.  And we have more available on that upstairs.

**Questions from Yesterday

Some questions from yesterday.  I have some answers. 

I was asked about a trip that Ibrahim Gambari made to attend a meeting in Nigeria.  Mr. Gambari was on annual leave at the time and he attended that meeting in his personal capacity.

Regarding the question on the Quartet, there has been no Quartet statement on Israeli settlement activity.  There have been some working-level discussions among Quartet members in recent weeks.

And regarding the UN Panel of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I just wanted to remind you that this is actually a subsidiary organ of the Security Council.  And it will be up to the Council’s sanctions committee on the DRC to respond to the report.

And I think last among the questions that were asked yesterday was about the carbon emissions generated by the participation in the Copenhagen Conference.  The conference is expected to cause around 40,000 tons of CO2 equivalent, mostly due to the travel to Copenhagen.  And the Danish Government says it is offsetting the emissions through a project in Bangladesh that reduces emissions in a brick manufacturing plant.  And the offset more than covers all the travel and emissions related to the Conference.  And there is more on the web on this and if you need the link, we can provide that for you.

**Press Conference Today

There is a press conference today at 3 p.m. Mark Bowden, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, will brief correspondents on the humanitarian situation there.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And some press conferences and stakeouts for tomorrow that you might not be aware of yet.  At 11:45 a.m. tomorrow, the Rt. Hon Gareth Thomas MP, who is the UK Minister of State for International Development -- he will be here to talk about priorities for a more effective international humanitarian response.

And then, after the Security Council consultations, both Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Cyprus, and Alexander Downer, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Cyprus, will speak to correspondents at the Security Council stakeout.

And our guests here at the noon briefing will be Alain Le Roy, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Susana Malcorra, the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support.  And they’ll be here to give their regular quarterly press conference.

And at 2:45 p.m. tomorrow, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will be speaking to correspondents at the Security Council stakeout regarding the total pledges received for the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for 2010, and this is during a high-level meeting on that Fund, which is going on today and tomorrow.

And that’s what I have for you now.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  As regards the Benazir Bhutto Commission, I want to find out, there have been complaints in press conferences by some of the members of her party that they’re not being allowed to see the Commission.  Is that true?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Bhutto Commission has informed us that there are no restrictions on the team’s access, and they say that they’re pleased with the cooperation by the Pakistani authorities.

Question:  So they will be able to meet with them?  But they have said that the Government doesn’t seem to be allowing them to meet with them.

Spokesperson:  Well, as I’ve just said to you, there doesn’t appear to be any restrictions on the access, according to the commission, and they seem to be pleased with the cooperation that they have with the Pakistani authorities.  That’s what I have for you.

Question:  Just to follow up, the reaction of the SG on Iraq this morning; with this bombing today in Iraq, or attacks, will it lead him again to send his envoy for further discussions with the Iraqi Government on the Security Council situation in Iraq?  And I have another question.

Spokesperson:  Okay, well, I’ll have to find out precisely whether that is being considered.  Obviously the Secretary-General needs to be fully informed and kept up to speed on what’s happening there.  He was fully informed this morning on those events which he’s obviously extremely shocked about.  And I’ll find out if there is going to be any movement of the kind that you’re mentioning.  What’s your other question?

Question:  The other question is, is the Moroccan Foreign Minister coming to see the SG any time soon this week, the Foreign Minister of Morocco, Mr. Taieb Fassi-Fihri?

Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of that.  I’ll find out.  Yes.  Further questions?

Question:  Radovan Karadzic is apparently writing again to the Security Council, effectively asking it to call off his trial on the grounds that he had an agreement with Richard Holbrooke that he would not be prosecuted; I think Holbrooke has denied that.  But Karadzic did this once before, I believe he wrote a couple of months ago.  I’m not aware that the Security Council has responded or taken any action on his request, but do you have anything on that?

Spokesperson:  I did inquire, but I don’t have anything yet.  And as soon as I have, we’ll let you know.  But as you rightly pointed out, this is not the first time this has happened.  This is not the first time that he’s made this request, it would appear.  But let me see what I can find out.  I tried beforehand, I didn’t get it in time for this.

Question:  In Timor-Leste, the International Crisis Group and some other groups have recommended that the UN police force have either overstayed their welcome or are no longer useful and should turn over control back to the local government.  It’s said that the UN is studying the report.  What’s the UN’s thinking in terms of its continued authority of policing Timor-Leste?

Spokesperson:  Well, indeed you’re right that the UN is studying the report.  But to a certain extent this report is preaching to the converted, because after all, this is precisely what the UN is trying to do, is to hand over.  And the Government of Timor-Leste and the Mission there have agreed on a specific criteria for the handover of the primary policing responsibilities from the UN police to the national police.  And in fact, since May of this year, four districts and the police training centre have already been handed over to the national police, in accordance with those criteria.  And the UN really is wanting strongly to hand over all of the security responsibilities to the national police in the shortest possible time frame.  But clearly we also need to take into account the need not to jeopardise the foundations that have been put down for sustainable police development through the training and the mentoring that goes on.  There is actually a DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations] Police Division team visiting Timor-Leste right now to review the resumption process and the future downsizing of the police component of the Mission.  And there will also be a technical assessment mission in January with which the Mission on the ground and in consultation with the authorities will look at how the UN can best support Timor-Leste in strengthening the capacity and institutional development of the national police and ensure sustained assistance through bilateral and other means.  But I think the bottom line is, as I said, to a certain extent this is knocking on an open door.

Question:  Thanks a lot.  Also you announced this appointment of Rebeca Grynspan as the number two post in UNDP.  In the run-up to this, your predecessor had not confirmed that the Secretary-General got a letter from the African Group saying that they believed that that post had been essentially promised to them when Mr. Melkert left and saying that this Cameroonian candidate should get it and that Africa was being humiliated.  Can you now confirm that that letter has been received and why the Secretary-General, obviously he didn’t find this a more important appointment to make?

Spokesperson:  First of all, I am not going to contradict what my predecessor said.  The second thing is that the appointment has been made, and that’s where we are with that.  If I have anything further related to those particular points that you’ve raised, then we’ll get back to you with it, okay?

Question:  And also, it may be related, in the Fifth Committee yesterday, the Secretary-General was responding on this Office of the Special Advisor on Africa, which was merged into another office.  The General Assembly has twice called for the post to be filled.  He said that he’s still studying it.  When is that studying, given that it’s been going on for two years, when is that studying going to be finished?

Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out.  I don’t know the answer to that, and I’ll have to find out.

Question:  Another thing that Mr. Muñoz, the Chairman of the Bhutto Commission, has said that he will request the Secretary-General to extend the mandate of the Commission, that’s number one.  In fact, has that happened or not?  Because the mandate was supposed to end by the end of this month and they’re supposed to present a report.  But he said he won’t be able to do it because of the security conditions in Pakistan.  So…?

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s certainly the case that the security situation in Pakistan is complex, and it could well be that time is needed to evaluate what is going on.  But I don’t have anything specific, concrete on the point that you’ve raised on the mandate.  Let’s if I can find out about that.

Question:  Martin, welcome to the United Nations.  You spoke yesterday about two UNAMID staff that are being held or kidnapped in Darfur.  Do we know their nationalities, and then do we have some more information about the conditions under which they are being held, because it was also reported that one of them is seriously ill?

Spokesperson:  Well, yesterday indeed I did say that the Secretary-General made that phone call to President [Omer] Al-Bashir specifically to raise this humanitarian concern, because these two peacekeepers have been held now for 100 days, and one of them is seriously, gravely ill.  And so the Secretary-General was seeking to enlist the further assistance of the Sudanese authorities to secure their release.  You’ve seen the reports about the nationalities.  Let me confirm to you after this exactly what the nationalities are.  But the condition of one of those two, as I mentioned, is really very serious, and this is why the Secretary-General picked up the phone and made that call because he really wants to try to ensure that these people can be released.  Exactly where they’re being held and in what conditions is something that I wouldn’t want to go into.

Question:  Thank you.  Just, any update on contacts by the SG with the Spanish and Moroccan Governments concerning the Saharawi activist Aminatou [Haidar], especially after the Spanish court refused to force-feed her?

Spokesperson:  I haven’t anything beyond what I told you yesterday which is that the Secretary-General is doing as much as possible, the United Nations is doing as much as possible to try to find a way to resolve this.  But I don’t have anything fresh today on that.

Question:  Regarding the Ghajar village and the meeting between General Graziano and the Lebanese and Israeli authorities, first of all how close is the agreement to withdraw from Ghajar?  And will this include the Kfar Shouba hills also or is it just…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t really have anything beyond what I’ve told you, which is that the aim is for this to try to push things forward as much as possible.  But I don’t have anything further on those details that you’re mentioning.

Question:  Today -– also on the Haidar case -- today the High Commissioner for Human Rights called to respect Aminatou Haidar’s right to return to her country.  Does the Secretary-General plan to also join that call?  Does he also call for the same?

Spokesperson:  The High Commissioner for Human Rights is speaking out very clearly there and that’s her role to do so when it’s concerning human rights.

Question:  But does the Secretary-General also share her view on this?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has made clear his concern about the case, yes.

Question:  Sorry, just a follow-up.  Well, what does he suggest as a solution?  I mean, besides his concern about the case.

Spokesperson:  What I said yesterday is that the aim is to try to find a way to solve this, and the Secretary-General and the UN have been specifically asked to be involved to try to solve this.  But exactly on the details of how, that’s something that I wouldn’t want to go into.

Question:  Regarding Bernard Kouchner’s visit with the Secretary-General yesterday, does the Secretary-General support the creation of a world environment organization to regulate and monitor carbon emissions?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is aware of these proposals that are out there, and the view is that there are many organizations in the UN family that have been set up and have specific roles.  And over time, because of different developments, their roles change.  And so you could look at it in that context.  The Secretary-General, after the Copenhagen Conference is over, is likely to pull together a high panel group to look at how to take this kind of thing forward.  But that’s not directly answering your question, I know, but it’s simply to say that organizations need to adapt and change over time, and this is his view on the matter.

Question:  Yes, on Afghanistan, you know after the inauguration of President Karzai, the Secretary-General sent a message in which he said the main focus should be on fighting corruption in the Government.  But on Sunday, Mr. Holbrooke of the United States, the country most involved in Afghanistan, said that corruption is no longer a problem and the top priority should be destruction of safe havens.  Does the Secretary-General have any thoughts on this?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything specific from today.  But the Secretary-General has been very clear on the need to fight corruption and to make sure that there is a strong government in place as soon as possible. But I don’t have anything further specific on that for you.  If I have, then we’ll come back to you.  Any further questions?

Question:  In your summary of the Secretary-General’s new report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the country is largely at peace, I believe you said it was in the Kivu, and maybe Ituri?  What was the second?

Spokesperson:  I think it was Orientale.  Orientale.

Question:  Okay, because there are these reports in Equateur Province of the Government now sending 500 commandos and MONUC sending 120 to try and put down unrest.  I’m just wondering is it that the UN doesn’t see that as… Is that the second reference or do they not see that as being significant on an ongoing basis? There was a helicopter, UN helicopter shot at recently there.  Just wondering…

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that, Matthew.  I’ll come back to you.

Question:  Under-Secretary-General Sha [Zukang] was at this Internet Governance Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  Now somebody has posted on YouTube footage of him gabbling and saying, complaining about the security at the conference and saying “I don’t care if I’m being rude”.  Some have described him as sort of losing it.  I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General, was he aware of that and what…?  This was a conference at which a poster about Chinese Internet censorship was removed.  Some on the online world are saying it was a new low.  But I’m just wondering whether the Secretary-General was aware of that or that just takes place out there.

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, Matthew, there is an awful lot out there online, and I can’t imagine that it would be fair to assume that the Secretary-General is aware of absolutely everything that’s online out there all the time.  So we’ll need to take a look at that and then we can get back to you.  But thanks for raising it.  Any further questions?  Okay, thank you very much.

* *** *

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