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

27 May 2010

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

27 May 2010
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.

So, good afternoon, and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General in Brazil

The Secretary-General landed in Rio de Janeiro early today, ahead of the Alliance of Civilizations Forum, which opens tomorrow.

His activities today are giving him the opportunity to see up close Brazil’s progress in eradicating extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  Very shortly, he’ll be visiting a favela in Rio de Janeiro where he’ll meet youth from the local community, as well as other favelas around Rio, and hear directly from them about the reality of their lives and the relevance of the Millennium Development Goals.

This will be followed by a meeting with the families of Brazilian peacekeepers who were killed in the Haiti earthquake as well as the unveiling of a commemorative plaque for those peacekeepers.

Later on this evening, he’ll hold several meetings in preparation for the Forum’s opening on Friday.  We will have copies of his remarks from the peacekeeper commemoration available from my office a little later, and likewise the transcript of a press conference held earlier today.

**Holmes in Sudan

John Holmes, the UN humanitarian chief, is in Sudan for a four-day visit.  Today he travelled to Southern Sudan, where the rising concerns over food insecurity, displacements and inter-tribal violence are threatening an already vulnerable population.

Holmes visited Warrap state, one of the two states in Southern Sudan most heavily affected by inter-tribal fighting, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  Holmes said the increasing level of the violence — which is disproportionately affecting women and children — was alarming.  He said the violence was occurring in areas that are suffering from lack of food and malnutrition, and where humanitarian agencies cannot reach.  He said this was a recipe for disaster.

OCHA says that an estimated one quarter of the population of Warrap state suffers from acute malnutrition.  Holmes said that the situation in Southern Sudan was poised to become more desperate over the coming months, and that the humanitarian community must gear up to respond to the needs from forced displacement and the deteriorating food security situation.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations on UN peacekeeping operations this morning as well as on the interim report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And then at 3 p.m., this afternoon, the Council will hold an open meeting on Côte d’Ivoire.  And that will be followed by consultations on the 1718 Committee.

**Guests Tomorrow

Tomorrow, our guests at the noon briefing will be Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support.  They will be here to talk about the forthcoming International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers, which is on 29 May and which is being celebrated tomorrow.

So, questions, please.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have two questions.  The first one is, I understand the Secretary-General issued a letter to the NPT [Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons] member countries yesterday to call on cooperation, to come up with a final document.  Can you elaborate on that?  The second is, the Secretary-General reiterated the importance of continuing humanitarian assistance in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Is there any scheduled visit of a UN mission to Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the humanitarian assistance front?

Spokesperson:  On the first, on a letter to NPT countries, I will need to find out about that.  What I can tell you is, what you heard from the Secretary-General at the press conference here on Monday, where he was calling on all the States parties to look beyond their national interests and to seek an agreement, the kind of statement, if you like, at the end that would really be equivalent to the aspiration of people around the world who are watching very closely what is happening at this Review Conference.

[The Spokesperson later provided correspondents with the letter distributed to all delegations attending the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, in which the Secretary-General conveyed his personal message of support for a successful outcome.]

On the second, related to humanitarian assistance, there is a mission, a UN mission from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, that has been in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in recent days, and this was headed by a Deputy Director from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva.  And this was to review the Central Emergency Response Fundthat is used in various locations, as you know.

I have more details that I can provide you, if you just bear with me.  So, yes, this is being headed by Rashid Khalikov; he is Director of OCHA in Geneva, not Deputy Director, my apologies.  And the aim of it is to get a better understanding of how the funds provided by this CERF, the Central Emergency Response Fund, are being used, and to see if there is scope for increased support to the UN in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to provide the aid to those in need.  So that gives you a snap-shot, if you like. 

As you well know, it’s not unusual for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to undertake such missions to areas where that kind of funding is provided.  And this is an important mission.  As we’ve said here, not just related to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there are funding shortfalls, and this is a chance to assess what that means on the ground and how best to help the UN people who are working there to deliver the assistance that is needed by vulnerable groups and those mentioned, for example, by the Secretary-General at the press conference on Monday, children in particular.

Question:  Are they still in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or they have left, and…?

Spokesperson:  My understanding is that the dates of the visit were from the 21st to the 28th.  So today, if I am not mistaken is the 27th, and so that would imply that they are still there.  But I think our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will be able to give you further details on that.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  Martin, I don’t know, at the top of the briefing did you have any statement on Israel’s jets attacking inside Gaza and injuring several civilians?

Spokesperson:  No, there was no specific statement or comment on that at the beginning of the briefing.

Question:  There is no reaction whatsoever?

Spokesperson:  What I can say is what the Secretary-General has said before, and that is that any actions, whether rockets or mortar attacks coming out of Gaza or air strikes into Gaza, such actions, there is the risk that they undermine the proximity talks that have started.  And clearly any action which could increase tensions has to be watched very carefully.

Question:  On another topic, [inaudible] whether you have [inaudible] update on this shortfall in funding for resettling Pakistani IDPs [internally displaced persons], which is of course creating a situation [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, Masood, you’ve mentioned this many times here and you asked the Secretary-General just after the press conference on Monday.  And his response, as I recall, and my response from here on a number of occasions, has been that we are concerned about the shortfall, and that we would appeal to countries, donor countries, to provide assistance in the generous manner they have in the past.  If you want to try to pursue further to find out whether there has been any uptake, then OCHA are the people to help you.

Question:  I understand, but you answered the question, I understand the Secretary-General answered the question, that he is trying his best and so forth, but my question was, is there any update on whether this fund is in fact being, I mean, [inaudible] some money is coming into it? [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  And that’s precisely what I just said.  OCHA would be able to help you with that, I think.  If I can get an update from them, if we can get an update from them and relay it to you from here, we’re very happy to do so.  But you might find the direct conduit to OCHA gives you the answer you need in a swifter fashion.  Yes?

Question:  Martin, regarding this convoy which is leaving Turkey and heading to Gaza, the Israelis have threatened to intercept that.  In the previous occasions they have attacked them, they have shot at these boats.  Is there anything the United Nations can do to protect them, or at least to give them some kind of cover against such piracy?

Spokesperson:  We’re aware of what is happening and keeping a close eye on this, and I would anticipate that we will have something to say about this a little later today.  But not right now.

Question:  Well, I mean, these threats, are they justified by international [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  What I said was, Nizar, that we’re watching it closely, and I don’t have anything right now, but I would anticipate that I would have something later on today.  Matthew?

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations was closely following these developments.  “We strongly urge that all involved act with a sense of care and responsibility and work for a satisfactory resolution.  We have repeatedly made clear our opposition to the closure of Gaza and our concern at the insufficient flow of material through legitimate crossing points to meet basic needs, begin reconstruction, and revive economic life.  There has been a modest improvement in recent months but much more is required.  We continue to urge the Israeli authorities to facilitate a greater range and quantity of traffic through legitimate crossings to meet urgent needs in Gaza.”]

Question:  Sure, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  On Somalia, if you remember, before you and the Secretary-General went to that Istanbul Conference, this question arose of why [Special Representative of the Secretary-General Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah had sided with the President in the sacking of the Prime Minister, which was later reversed by the President as having been unconstitutional.  And some people said that this undercut the UN’s own credibility.  Was this at all addressed?  You’d said that maybe there would be some either discussion or UN statement on whether it was appropriate for Ould-Abdallah to side with an action that turned out to be illegal [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  I’m not sure that I said that there would be some kind of UN statement.  But maybe you’ve read the transcript more closely than I have.  I don’t…

Question:  I think you said it might come up there.  So, I guess my question is did it come up there?  Was there any UN statement?

Spokesperson:  What came up, there were a number of questions to the President of Somalia at the final press conference.  And so I think you would be able to look at that.  He spoke for himself, and I don’t need to speak for the President of Somalia.  But he addressed that question.  If you wish to pursue it further, I am sure that you could get an answer from Mr. Ould-Abdallah.  I was not in all of the meetings, and therefore I am not privy to everything that went on in those meetings involving officials from Somalia. 

The focus, as you know, was not so much specifically on the internal politics, although it was a factor, undoubtedly.  And the Secretary-General and others were very clear about the need for the Transitional Federal Government to step up to the plate, to use the local vernacular here, at least, and deliver on governance and on getting their own house in order.  So that certainly was a factor, amongst others.  But on specific details about what Mr. Ould-Abdallah may or may not have discussed with other folks there, including the President, I would defer to him.

Question:  There was a member of the Somali delegation here that described to me a meeting that they had with the Secretary-General before, just before the Istanbul Conference, at which they apparently complained that the UN is spending, according to them, $25 million a year on the UNPOS [United Nations Political Office for Somalia] Ould-Abdallah office, whereas the TFG has very little funds.  Is that, does that ring any bells?  And if so, what’s the UN’s response to that?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have a readout of that particular meeting, so I can find out about that.  But as a general point, these missions — UNPOS or other missions — need funding to operate.  They operate in difficult circumstances.  I know not in Mogadishu, but in helping with the Transitional Federal Government.  As you also know, this is a matter of funding for training, for example for security forces, this is not just a matter for the United Nations.  This is something that is being looked at through other conduits as well, including the European Union.  And voices were heard on that at the Conference and clear commitments were also made about that.

Question:  And then just one last one on Somalia.  There is now a… There are reports out of Somalia that the President will once again seek to replace the Prime Minister, and one of the leading candidates is said to be a UN employee, a UN UNPOS employee, Mohammed Abdi Rusak.  I’m wondering, would it be appropriate, this may not be his, I mean, that he’s rumoured to be a candidate, I guess, is not a problem.  But is it, what provisions are there in place for UN staff members to become political figures in the conflicts that they have been working on?  One, last week I asked Marie about this guy, Mr. Kai-kai, who is an UNMIL employee who has said openly that he wants to run for president in Sierra Leone.  I didn’t get an answer yet, but is that, my question, I guess, on both of these cases, is it appropriate for current UN employees getting paid by the UN to put themselves forward as political candidates in neighbouring countries or in countries they work in?

Spokesperson:  Right.  First of all, it’s fairly clear what the rules of the game are.   You cannot be a politician and a UN official at the same time.  And you cannot declare your aspiration to be a political figure while being a UN official.  That’s fairly clear.  How that’s enforced is a matter for Human Resources, and I would first of all, I want to know from Human Resources if they have any further guidance for me on that to be able to give you more details.  But as a general policy, I think that’s fairly straightforward.

Question:  What is required?  What does Human Resources require to actually take action, if not [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, the way it works is, if you ask us a question, we try to get the answer, and we try to get the answer as soon as we can.  If the answer has not yet materialized, it’s not for want of trying.  All right.  Other questions?  Okay, last question, Matthew.

Question:  [inaudible] there are two interrelated Congo questions.  One is a policy question.  Today there is a controversy in the Security Council right now about the MONUC, or MONUSCO as it may be renamed, Mission in the Congo, and whether protection of civilians should be the highest priority of the Mission.  I understand that it’s a, the Secretary-General does reports and has, apparently is willing to opine on important things in the Council.  Does the Secretary-General believe that protection of civilians should be the highest priority of the MONUC or MONUSCO Mission?

Spokesperson:  On MONUC, two things.  First of all, you can ask Mr. Le Roy that directly tomorrow.  He will be giving a press conference tomorrow, you can ask him directly.  The second thing is, as you pointed out, it is something that is being discussed in the Council, and we need to wait to see how that shapes up.  You’re right that there are different configurations that are under discussion, but we can’t pre-empt or prejudge what the Council will decide on that.

Question:  Just, I mean, and this came up yesterday.  It has to do with a statement that the Secretary-General made on the Koreas, on the sunken ship.  There he seemed to say he expects the Council to take appropriate action, even thought it is not yet on the agenda of the Council.  So, I’m trying to understand why in some circumstances…

Spokesperson:  He said, yeah, that’s absolutely right.  But he made absolutely clear that he was not saying what the measures should be.  That’s a very clear distinction.  Okay.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] and I will tell you why I am asking it here.  I have asked DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] in writing a series of questions about Alan Doss, who I understand is leaving at the end of this month, therefore in a few days.  He may be in New York actually right now.  So, maybe you can get these answers.  They have asked to say unless I ask you, I can’t get an answer from them to these questions…

Spokesperson:  Say again that last bit.

Question:  Unless, if I want an answer to these questions about Alan Doss I should ask in the noon briefing.  This is what I was told today, this morning.  So, I am asking you here, and I will just do it very quickly, maybe.  It has to do with who paid to repair Alan Doss’s apartment in Kinshasa?  And what’s going to happen with that apartment now that he is leaving UN service?  Were air assets of MONUC or other UN Missions used to transport family members of Mr. Doss?  Did he in fact, bring a staff member from UNMIL, a local staff to MONUC as a cook but characterized him as an engineer in order to do so?  And there, and his DSA.  There are some questions about DSA itemized over three years.  Issues have been raised, raised by journalists based in Kinshasa.  And for some reason I was told to ask it here.  I mean, it seemed very detailed and I don’t expect you to have answers, you know, but I would like to get the answers before he leaves UN service.

Spokesperson:  Well, by asking it here certainly plenty of people will be able to hear the questions and find the answers.  And I am sure they will help to provide those answers.

Question:  And the OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] report on Alan Doss that’s now with the Secretary-General, does he expect to rule before 31 May when Mr. Doss leaves UN service?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on that at the moment.  Okay, thanks very much.  Thank you.

* *** *

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