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

9 December 2009

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

9 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, everybody.

**Guests at Noon Briefing, Stakeout and Tomorrow

Our guests at the noon briefing are 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 will be joining us shortly.  And what they’ll be doing is giving a regular quarterly press conference.

And also, as a reminder, at 2:45 p.m. today, John Holmes, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will speak at the Security Council stakeout regarding the total pledges received for the Central Emergency Response Fund for 2010, and that’s as a result of the high-level meeting on the Fund that will end today.

And John Holmes will be back to brief you here tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. regarding his mission to Copenhagen next week for the climate change summit, and on new challenges that are presented for humanitarian action as a result of climate change.

**Climate Change Conference

In Copenhagen, the UN Climate Change Conference has entered the drafting phase for a final agreement.  And according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, there is a real eagerness among parties to sit down and get the work done as much as possible before Ministers arrive.

And just a few tidbits from Copenhagen:  More than 34,000 people have registered to attend the conference -- which is clearly a testimony to the great interest generated by it.  But the building can only hold 15,000.  And so, to address the issue, they have come up with a system which allows non-governmental organization delegates into the building according to a quota.  And the vast majority of the people registered at this conference are in fact from non-governmental organizations -- 20,820 to be exact.

And also, for those who like this kind of factoid, 700 kilometres of cables to provide power and high-speed Internet have been laid at the Bella Centre where the Conference is taking place.  And that’s apparently enough to go all the way from Copenhagen to Prague.

**Secretary-General on CERF

And the Secretary-General addressed a conference devoted to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which I referred to just now, today.  And he said that when he attends the Copenhagen Conference next week, he is going to stress that climate change is already affecting millions of people worldwide every year through more frequent, intense and non-seasonal floods, storms and droughts, as well.  And those who suffer most are the poorest and most vulnerable in risk-prone countries, where people have the fewest resources to cope.   And he added that humanitarian agencies are seeing increased food insecurity, migration, and displacement, public health threats and other related consequences.

** Cyprus

On Cyprus, the Security Council held consultations on Cyprus this morning.  Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, briefed Council members on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus -- which he heads.  And Alexander Downer, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, briefed on the good offices of the Secretary-General.  I think you’ve seen them both of them at the stakeout just now.

And in Cyprus itself, the leaders met under UN auspices.  They discussed economic matters in an hour-and-a-half tête-à-tête.  The next meetings of the two leaders are scheduled for 14 and 21 December.

**Security Council Yesterday

And staying with the Security Council, yesterday it concluded an open meeting on peace and security in Africa by adopting a Presidential Statement noting with concern the serious threats posed by drug trafficking and related transnational organized crime.  And in particular, it commended the important work of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and emphasized the need for adequate capacities to support national efforts.  And you will have seen a lot of coverage of that.

The Security Council also adopted a presidential statement noting with concern the postponement of the first round of presidential elections in Côte d’Ivoire.  It urged the Ivorian actors to hold open, free, fair and transparent presidential elections in accordance with international standards at the earliest possible date.

And the Council also issued a press statement condemning yesterday’s bomb attacks in Baghdad.  And I think you’ll recall that the Secretary-General also issued a statement on those attacks.

** Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, met with the United States Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, in Kabul today.  And Eide presented his civilian agenda proposals for Afghanistan.  He outlined the need for a more compact structure for coordinating civilian assistance in order to move forward there.

And he called for the United Nations, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the European Union and key donors to ensure they all work together in a more coordinated and streamlined way.  “There is no other choice.  We all have to change our mindset and be more geared towards a coordinated approach,” he said.

The Special Representative also underlined the need to avoid a situation where pressure for immediate results leads to an acceleration of quick impact projects and draws attention further away from long-term sustainable solutions.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

United Nations humanitarian agencies, along with international and national non-governmental organizations operating in the occupied Palestinian territories, appealed today for $664.4 million to fund humanitarian assistance programmes.

The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator there, Maxwell Gaylard said: “Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continue to face a crisis of human dignity.”  He said that humanitarian needs have increased, especially in the Gaza Strip.

The 2010 consolidated appeal process appeals to donors to fund 236 assistance projects carried out or implemented by UN agencies and non-governmental organizations.  And we have more on this upstairs.


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, is in Nigeria today.  And he will then visit Kenya tomorrow and Friday.  In both countries, Chambers will review progress made and challenges that remain to control malaria.

According to the Special Envoy’s Office, the two nations represent one third of all global malaria mortality.  And the Secretary-General’s ultimate goal is for near-zero global malaria deaths by 2015.  And to get there, it is critical to ensure universal access to malaria-control tools -- such as mosquito nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and effective medication -- by the end of next year. And we have more on that upstairs, too.

**WHO:  Tobacco-Free Laws

There is a new report out today by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that says that, although more people have been covered worldwide by comprehensive smoke-free laws in 2008, urgent action is still needed to protect people from the death and illness caused by exposure to tobacco smoke.  Ninety-four per cent of people worldwide remain unprotected by comprehensive smoke-free laws.


And today is International Anti-Corruption Day.  And this year’s theme is: “Don’t let corruption kill development.”  In a message marking this occasion, the Secretary-General says that when public money is stolen for private gain, it results in fewer resources to build schools, hospitals, roads and water treatment facilities.  And he says development is not the only casualty.  Corruption steals elections.  It undermines the rule of law.  And it can jeopardize security.  And we have his full message upstairs.


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that global food prices are on the rise again.  But it adds that market conditions are different from those that triggered the food price crisis that started two years ago -- because world cereal stocks are at more comfortable levels.  And there is more on that, as well.

So, I can take a few questions because we have our guests here.  Yes, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, and as this is the first occasion I see you here at the briefing, I congratulate you on your appointment and wish you the best in your mission.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  There are some indications that the Group of 77 at the Climate Change [Conference] are considerably unhappy about the paper that is circulating that presumably was drafted by three countries without consulting with the Group of 77.  Do you know about that?

Spokesperson:  Well, if you’re referring to this leaked document, I am not going to comment on a leaked document, except to say that there are many documents out there.  This is a negotiating process and all the parties are likely to be looking at different options and putting different things on paper.  But there is a set format with a formal negotiating process, which, as I said at the start of the briefing, is under way.  And so, I really don’t want to go down that track.  The Secretary-General has made clear that he believes in speaking to all the parties involved in these talks, and reaching out to all of them.  And that’s what he has been doing.

Question:  On Myanmar/Burma, as the Secretary-General has now appointed Ibrahim Gambari in Darfur, so will he be appointing somebody else to be the UN representative for Myanmar/Burma or will he be downgrading that post?  What’s happening to that post?

Spokesperson:  That’s being considered.  In due course I think you will hear exactly what’s going to happen.  In the meantime, Mr. Gambari will continue to work on this with the support from the Secretary-General’s good offices on that particular matter.

Question:  So, Mr. Gambari, while he’s in Darfur is going to be, or while he’s in Sudan…?

Spokesperson:  No, that’s not what I said.  I said it’s still going to be part of his portfolio in this transitional period with the support of the Secretary-General’s good offices.  And I think I can assure you that it’s being taken good care of, because the Secretary-General is focused, as he is on many things, but he’s focussed on what’s happening in Myanmar.

Question:  So, this transitional period, how long do you think that’s going to be?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know exactly, I can find out for you.

Question:  Do you have any updates regarding the pullout of Israelis from the Lebanese town of Ghajar, the northern part this?

Spokesperson:  No, nothing beyond what I said yesterday.

Question:  Two questions, one is on Guinea.  The military junta has said it’s pulling out of the talks until [Moussa] Dadis Camara is returned.  What is the UN, given Said Djinnit and others involved in that, what do they think of that, and are they aware of these reports that the junta is rounding up people and disappearing or torturing them?

Spokesperson:  The UN is aware of these reports that you’re referring to.  I don’t have anything specific on that particular aspect that you mentioned, and I’ll have to find out and come back to you on that.

Question:  I just wonder if you can give an answer for me and my question yesterday about the visit by the Moroccan Foreign Minister and meeting with the Secretary-General on the issue of the Saharawi activist.  Do you have an answer for me on that?

Spokesperson:  Exactly what the topic is for that meeting, that’s a different matter.  But I believe it is the case that the Moroccan Foreign Minister will be visiting later this week.

Question:  And so, what will be the topic then?

Spokesperson:  As I said, I don’t know the exact details of that, but he is going to be visiting, yes.

Question:  Martin, yes, about these bombings in Pakistan for the last three or four days that have been going on and lots of people have been killed; hundreds have been injured.  I had asked you, I think, about two days ago; has the Secretary-General or the Secretariat taken note of this?  I see that the Secretary-General has issued a statement about Iraq.  Pakistan is not important at all?  He has not even taken, considered the attacks in Pakistan which have been going on?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that is the right way to look at it.  Clearly the Secretary-General is concerned about any loss of life, particularly where it’s innocent civilians, as a result of bombings or other kinds of attacks.  And he has in the past made very clear his abhorrence for those kinds of attacks.  And he would reiterate that for the attacks that you mentioned that have happened in the last few days.

Question:  So the omission is probably not because of the attacks on the United Nations personnel over there?

Spokesperson:  Don’t read anything extra into this.  He expresses his deep concern for what is happening in Pakistan with those attacks, as he has done before.

Question:  Just a couple of questions on Copenhagen.  Now you seem to have all the facts and figures about how many metres there are of cable, etcetera.  So we had asked a couple of days ago how many UN staff are going to be there and what their cumulative carbon footprint was, so that it could then be offset.  So do you have those facts and figures?

Spokesperson:  Those I don’t, but my colleagues who are on the ground in Copenhagen will be able to give you them, I know.

Question:  Okay.  Another question, also in relation to Copenhagen.  You said the Secretary-General says that climate change is already affecting people and he’s blamed storms and floods.  Can you give us some specific examples of floods and storms that are linked to climate change?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that that’s something that one can do right on the spot here.  That’s certainly something that if you want more details we can try to find out.  What we’re talking about, James, is something, a general scientific fact that’s been established…

Question:  Namely?

Spokesperson:  You’ve heard what the Secretary-General said yesterday, that the science, the basic scientific fact that global warming is caused by humans is not disputed. 

Question:  You said that he said that it’s already affecting people in the form of storms and floods.  And I am asking you to give me some examples of storms and floods that are attributable to global warming that are already affecting people, because if you don’t know any specific examples, I don’t see how you can draw that conclusion.

Spokesperson:  Well, let me take that offline and I’ll give you some examples if that’s what you’re really looking for.

[The Spokesperson later informed the correspondent that no particular event can be ascribed to climate change.  There will always be storms and other extreme weather.  What is not in question is that the intensity of such events is increasing due to climate change.  There is considerable evidence amassed by scientific bodies and others, such as the insurance industry, to substantiate this.]

Question:  Regarding the war that’s gone on in Yemen for the last two months; is there any update about the humanitarian situation there?  If the United Nations is sending any fact-finding mission to really establish how these people are treated, especially they’re attacked from both sides -- Yemen and Saudi Arabia?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any fresh updates on that, except to say that I would ask you to speak to our colleagues in UNHCR.  This is very much, from the UN perspective, a humanitarian matter to help the people on the ground.  And so I’d ask you to speak to them.  I’m going to take one more question from Matthew and then that’s it, okay, because we have two guests here.

Question:  There is an article in today’s Korea Times talking about them building a new international centre in Inchon, South Korea, and it says that there will be 30 organizations, including those affiliated with the UN, that will be there, and states it as a fact.  So I was wanting to know whether the UN Secretariat has had discussions with the Government of South Korea about relocating UN agencies to that location, which ones they are referring to and whether the Secretary-General is aware of that plan?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  Okay, could I please ask our guests to join us?  Thank you very much.

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