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

12 May 2010

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

12 May 2010
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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Just to announce a few press conferences for tomorrow.

Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Action, will hold a press conference here at 11 a.m. tomorrow about efforts to rekindle momentum in the international climate change negotiations.  And then, at noon, Mr. Said Djinnit, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of Office for West Africa (UNOWA), will be the guest at the noon briefing.

At 12:30 p.m., Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), will hold a press conference to launch a new report on metals recycling rates.  And he will be joined by the report’s lead author, Thomas Graedel, Professor of Industrial Ecology at Yale University.

And at 1.30 p.m., Ambassador Marina Valére, the Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago, will hold a press conference about prevention and control of non-communicable diseases.


The Secretary-General is in Ottawa today, where he just spoke to the UN Association of Canada about the importance of the relationship between the United Nations and Canada.  He said that relationship is particularly significant this year, as Canada will soon host the G-8 and G-20 meetings.

The Secretary-General pointed to several challenges that need to be faced in the coming months, including the efforts under way to strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the threat posed by climate change, and the need to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  Where we are not on track in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is not because the goals are unreachable, or because time is short.  It is because of unmet commitments and a lack of focus and accountability, he said.

The Secretary-General also met this morning with the Governor-General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean.  Later this afternoon, he will discuss a range of issues, including the G-8 and G-20 summits, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  He will also meet other senior officials and the leader of the opposition before returning to New York later today.

**Security Council

The Security Council unanimously approved the extension of the mandates of two UN Missions this morning.  The mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was extended by four months, while the mandate of the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT) was rolled over for two weeks, until 26 May.

The Security Council then began an open debate on Somalia.  Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, said that next week’s Istanbul Conference on Somalia can show political solidarity with the Somali people, who have suffered so much.  The meeting, which will be co-convened by the Secretary-General, is also a sign of hope to Somalis that they are not alone.

And as you know, later, you will hear directly from Mr. Ould-Abdallah, and from Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, and Ambassador Ertuğrul Apakan, the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations.  They will discuss the Istanbul Conference on Somalia, at a briefing here which will be at around 12:45 p.m.

** Darfur

The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the security situation in North Darfur remains tense.  This assessment follows reports of an expanding presence of both Government troops and Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forces in the Shangil Tobaya region, the mission is saying.  The build-up has already caused some 70 per cent of internally displaced persons in the local UN-run IDP camp to flee the facility, fearing possible military battles.  The mission continues to monitor the situation.

** Afghanistan

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said today that he is concerned by recent reports of girls falling ill in school in several different parts of Afghanistan, allegedly due to the presence of some kind of chemical contaminant.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, in support of the Afghan authorities, have been investigating these reports.  They are also helping to treat the ill children and are seeking ways to prevent any possible breach of security in Afghanistan’s schools.  At this point, the investigations have not revealed any conclusion as to the nature or source of these incidents of illness.

De Mistura noted that the children have recovered relatively quickly from their symptoms.  And he has asked all relevant UN entities to remain vigilant in the protection of schools and of the rights of all children to education.  And we have more details on that in a press release from our Mission in Afghanistan.

So, I am happy to take questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You indicated at the beginning of the briefing that the G-8 and G-20 will be meeting in Canada.  Are they meeting simultaneously or are they separate?  Are they meeting on separate dates?

Spokesperson:  These are separate gatherings.  Obviously, there are leaders whose presence will overlap, if you like.  They are separate gatherings.  But I am sure that the Canadians in due course will be providing more details on the exact logistics of that.  Other questions?

Question:  Sure, Martin.  Two things:  in Myanmar, the New Dawn of Myanmar, the official Government newspaper, has reported that the Government does not want, and will not accept, any international observers for the upcoming election.  I am wondering, given the UN’s good offices and other roles, if the Secretary-General or Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar have any thoughts on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have also seen that report.  As we’ve said before, the United Nations has strongly encouraged the Myanmar authorities to invite regional and international monitors because we believe that that will inspire confidence in the elections.

Question:  Okay.  Also, I remember, I think it was last week that I asked you about this, whether there was any UN response to the NLD [National League for Democracy] being dissolved, and you’d said it’s up to parties to do as they choose.  Does the group — the Burma Campaign UK has specifically — “campaigners accuse UN chief over Burma ban, Ban Ki-moon fails to act as National League for Democracy banned by Burma regime”.  I wondered, I guess I wanted to make it clear, I don’t think the NLD voluntarily said, “Let’s just disband.”  The Government said they had to disband.  So, I was wondering there really was no UN response, reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I did it with a dismissive flick of my hand, as I recall, Matthew.  And I think the point is that political parties take their own decisions.  That is the case, and we have to respect the decision that’s taken by those parties.  What we have also said, and that’s equally important, is that for any election in Myanmar to be credible, there needs to be plurality and there needs to be a comprehensive, inclusive approach to the election.  And we’ve said that very clearly, and in essence are reiterating that today by saying that we really encourage the Myanmar authorities to invite monitors from outside because this will help to inspire confidence in the elections.  So, I think that this is fairly clear.  Okay, any other questions?

Question:  You already indicated also that the meeting in Turkey on Somalia will provide solidarity with the Somali people.  Are the participants looking for moral solidarity or also financial and food — other types of aid?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’ll have a great opportunity to get a really expert answer from Mr. Ould-Abdallah and from Mr. Pascoe in about half an hour from now.  Okay.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General planning on going to Istanbul?

Spokesperson:  The intention is that the Secretary-General will take part in that, yes.  As I have mentioned before, it’s an important conference being co-chaired by the United Nations.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask, maybe these will be fast.  One is:  one of the judges of the UN’s Dispute Tribunal, the internal justice system of the UN, Judge [Michael] Adams, who is the one who has issued rulings against Shaaban Shaaban; the one who has essentially said the UN was in contempt and should provide more information.  Today he held his last hearing at the Teachers’ Building courthouse, and many people that I’ve heard from think that he was basically encouraged not to seek a renewal of his contract and was essentially chased out of the justice system because of his harsh, or some say independent, rulings.  Supposedly, either Angela Kane of Catherine Pollard was going to go to this last hearing and some felt this was – I just wanted to know, what’s the UN, maybe this is a Department of Management question, but it seems like, given the Secretary-General has spoken about this internal justice system, that the highest profile and most independent judge is leaving after less than six months.  Is there any response or explanation?

Spokesperson:  I think that’s a question firstly for Judge Adams himself, and for the country he comes from – from the country where he lives.  That’s where you need to ask the question.

Question:  Okay.  I guess if there are some, okay, fine.  The other one, this is a much more straightforward question.  It’s come to my attention, Inner City Press has received a copy of an intra-UN e-mail indicating that in the Albano Building swing space, that up to 90 per cent of the building is infected by bed bugs; that this problem that began earlier during the move there has not been fixed and has in fact gotten worse.  I’m wondering: what steps is the UN taking?  Why is it that, months after they were first discovered, the bed bugs remain in the UN swing space and what steps are being taken to protect the people that work there?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out about that.  Clearly, if there are any concerns about staff health or safety they need to be taken very seriously and looked into.  So, let me find out.  All right.

Thank you very much.  Thank you.

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