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

28 July 2010

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

28 July 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.

Good afternoon, everybody.

**Secretary-General’s Trip to Japan

The Secretary-General is planning to visit Japan next week.  In Tokyo, his first stop, the Secretary-General plans to hold meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada.

He is then scheduled to visit Nagasaki and Hiroshima.  In Hiroshima, he plans to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony, and he will be the first UN Secretary-General to attend the ceremony.  In both cities, the Secretary-General will visit memorials to Korean atomic bomb victims.  The Secretary-General hopes that his visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki will draw attention to the urgent need to achieve global nuclear disarmament.

While in Japan, he will also meet with UN Goodwill Ambassadors in the country, Japanese business leaders, academic leaders and students.

**Office of Internal Oversight Services

As you will already have seen, the Secretary-General has welcomed today’s action by the General Assembly to quickly approve his nominee for Under-Secretary-General for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), Carman Lapointe-Young of Canada.

Ms. Lapointe-Young possesses the breadth and depth of experience and expertise required for this demanding position.  Since February 2009, she has been the Director of the Office of Audit and Oversight at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  From 2004 to 2009, she was the Auditor General of the World Bank Group.  We have more biographical details, which include her experience in Canada as well, in my Office.

Transparency and accountability are essential to the work of the Organization, and the Office of Internal Oversight is critical to advancing this effort.  That is why the Secretary-General acted as quickly as possible to propose an experienced, high-profile and able successor to this important post.  The new chief will be expected to build up the OIOS team, filling vacancies and taking on responsibilities of the department that in recent years have unfortunately gone unmet.  The staff of OIOS have been working under difficult circumstances.  We are all committed to taking prompt action that will help the Office carry out its vital work.

The Secretary-General and the senior management team will continue to put the highest priority on strengthening the United Nations from within — a stronger UN for a better world.


On 26 July, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur, UNAMID, lost contact with one of their helicopters after they landed in Aborjo, South Darfur.

Three Liberty and Justice Movement (LJM) commanders, who were on board the plane, and the pilot were beaten at the scene.  Subsequently, the crew and passengers, with the exception of the pilot, were taken to a Government military camp overnight.

Following further contacts with the Government and security officials, the crew and the Liberty and Justice Movement commanders returned to Nyala yesterday.  However, the pilot is still unaccounted for.  The United Nations remains deeply concerned about his welfare.  UNAMID is working with the Government of Sudan to locate him.


The Cypriot leaders met today in the UN-protected area in Nicosia, in what Special Adviser Alexander Downer described as “a very good atmosphere”.  They continued the discussions about property, and the Cypriot representatives will meet again this Friday to continue with those discussions.  The leaders’ next meeting will be on 4 August, followed by one on 10 August.  Mr. Downer’s remarks to the press following today’s meeting are available in my office.

Okay.  Yes, Erol?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, since this report that we are now all aware of, the final report of Ms. [Inga-Britt] Ahlenius, was mentioned, the Secretary-General did refuse to have an interview with her Office, if I am not wrong.  Is the Secretary-General looking forward?  Here is the question, is he going to be more open to the new Head of the Office, Ms. Lapointe-Young?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I don’t quite understand your question, but if I did understand it correctly…

Correspondent:  I will repeat it.

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General met the previous Head of Internal Oversight Services many times in different formats, and with and without different people.  The suggestion that he did not meet her and was not available to meet her is just simply not true.

Question:  So, are you saying that what was mentioned, that he was not available for her Office to meet…?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General said right at the start — and indeed, it is something that Ms. Ahlenius herself refers to in her end-of-assignment report — the Secretary-General said right at the start that he would be available 24 hours, seven days a week to meet her at any time.  He was available to meet her and did meet her often. 

Question:  So it was wrong, that statement?

Spokesperson:  It was wrong.

Question:  Okay.  And just as a follow-up to this appointment, how many candidates were also taking into regard that highly appreciated biography from Ms. Lapointe-Young, how many other candidates were in the game, if I may put it like that?  And why the Secretary-General, for example, did not go for the candidate from the third world that everybody was shooting for?

Spokesperson:  I beg your pardon?

Question:  [inaudible] from the third world?

Spokesperson:  I understood.  I think this has been explained clearly enough.  The key point here is that the General Assembly has approved this nomination, and that means that the Member States have backed this nomination.  That is the first thing.  The second thing is that the Secretary-General was able to explain to regional groups the search for the right person for this post.  This is a merit-based search, and we are where we are with Ms. Lapointe-Young.  So that is the next thing.

The final point is that, of course the Secretary-General understands the importance of regional diversity and representation, and he has explained the search and the outcome of the nomination very clearly to regional groups.  And, as I say, we are where we are.  The nomination was approved.

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  You indicated that the helicopter in the Darfur area was lost.  Other reports indicate that this helicopter was transporting… it was a Russian helicopter that was transporting four Russian staff and five or six Sudanese, and that it was seized by rebels over there.  Would you explain this dichotomy?

Spokesperson:  What we have is what I have given you.  Now, I know that Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari was also able to provide you with some details yesterday.  The details that I have read out — and obviously, we are aware of the keen interest in this story — what I have read out is what we know at the moment.  As I say, the most important aspect now is that the pilot is unaccounted for.  We are obviously rather concerned about that, and we are in touch — the United Nations African Union mission in Darfur is obviously in close contact with the Government of Sudan to try to locate him.  As and when we have more on that, we will let you know, and if more details become available about the circumstances.  But this is what I have at the moment.

Question:  On that same topic, maybe you can at least respond to this.  Russia’s envoy on Darfur, Mr. Margelov, has said that they have received information by Janjaweed, Government connected…  It is a direct quote where he says: “It has become clear today that our helicopter pilots are in the hands of regular armed formations that theoretically must obey Khartoum”, Janjaweed.  So I am wondering, given that that is a major Member State presumably getting that information from…

Spokesperson:  As I say, there have been a number of different reports, different media reports and other pieces of information.  DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] is working very closely with our colleagues on the ground to try to establish exactly what happened.  And, as I say, the main focus is on finding the pilot.

Question:  Still on helicopters in Sudan, yesterday, the Japanese, I guess Mission, I will say… they had been very close to giving helicopters for UNMIS [United Nations Mission in the Sudan] in South Sudan and then decided not to.  Yesterday they explained it as follows:  they said the United Nations required the total disassembly of helicopters that arrive in Port Sudan, and that that seems unnecessary and made it unlikely to give helicopters, and also that the United Nations process of reimbursing countries for helicopters does not distinguish between commercial and utility helicopters, and therefore is a money loser, not that they would not take one on the trim.

So I am just wondering, does DPKO acknowledge that some of their difficulty in obtaining helicopters was both the restrictions they allow Sudan to impose and their failure to compensate countries even at their own cost?

Spokesperson:  As I mentioned to you yesterday, I think you will be briefed by DFS [Department of Field Support] later this week and by DPKO soon after that and you would be able to ask directly at that point.  I do not have anything specific.  James?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I have two questions on Goldstone.  Am I right in thinking that the Secretariat has now received a response from Hamas, the government of Gaza?  And also, in the Secretary-General’s report today about the delays, it says that the report from the Palestinian Authority was submitted on 12 July.  We have also been told that the reason for the delay is the translation of the Palestinian report.  So can you just confirm that they are both accurate, that it was received on the 12th and that it is still being translated?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I mentioned to you, the number of pages involved is more than 380, if I remember correctly.  The bulk of those pages was in one submission — or contained in one of those submissions.  I will need to come back to you on the 12 July date that you mentioned.  But even if that is the case — it may well be the case, I just need to confirm that for you — translation into the other languages of a document of that length is no easy task and takes some time.

And on the first part of your question, the request went to the missions here in New York.  Of those missions present, meaning the Palestinian Mission, Israeli and Swiss Missions, it is for the Palestinian Mission then to respond as it needs to respond.

Question:  Have you received a document from the government of Gaza?

Spokesperson:  That is how I am answering you, James.  We received the submission from the Palestinian Mission. 

Question:  Did that include one from the Palestinian Authority and one from Hamas?

Spokesperson:  Why don’t you ask the Palestinian Mission?  If I have anything else, I will give it to you.

Question:  Now once again, whenever the United Nations is attacked, we never really find out who did it.  I am sure that UNMIS and UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] will look into that.  Is it possible to give us this, like a follow-up on that, or will they follow up on that?

Spokesperson:  I can tell you that my colleagues are actively looking into this, but the priority has to be at this point to find the pilot.  But I hear what you are saying about who is behind this, and we are looking into it. 

Question:  My second question is on the OIOS.  If the new [Under-Secretary-General] decides to appoint Mr. Appleton, would she have the same trouble, or is the South African going to get the procurement section, which is where the big money is?

Spokesperson:  I did not catch the first bit.  Say again?

Question:  I’m sorry, you didn’t hear what?

Spokesperson:  I did not catch the first part.  Could you say it again?

Question:  Yes, if the new [Under-Secretary-General] wants to appoint Mr. Appleton, would she have the same problems as her predecessor, or is the South African already slated for that job for the procurement section, which is where the money is?

Spokesperson:  What we said is that the new head of this Office, the new Under-Secretary-General for the Office of Internal Oversight Services, is certainly going to have her hands full.  There are many vacancies to fill, as you know, and it will be obviously for her to set about that.  We are committed, as we have said, to take the action that is necessary promptly, so that the Office can carry out the important work that it needs to do.

We are trying to look forward and I think that it is important that the new Under-Secretary-General be given the chance to arrive, to take stock and to start filling those vacancies and to build up the team.  People there, as you know, have been working in tricky circumstances.  This is a chance for Ms. Lapointe-Young to start to build her team once she is here.  That is as far I would like to go.  Yes, Erol.

Question:  When is she starting, actually?

Spokesperson:  Not sure yet.  Let me find out.

[The Spokesperson later said that her five-year term begins on 13 September 2010.]

Question: And are we going to have an opportunity to have her for a briefing?  If I could request that, actually.  And also for Mr. [Ivan] Simonovic, the Assistant Secretary-General for [the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)], that would be also fun if we have him here.

Spokesperson:  Well on that latter part, I know, because I have spoken to him about it, that he is interested to do so.  We will let him settle in a little bit, but he is interested to do so.

Question:  And UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association] may welcome him also.

Spokesperson:  Well, that is for UNCA.  And on the other part, again, heard the request and let’s see.  I think that will be certainly for Ms. Lapointe-Young to decide when she is here.  And we will find out exactly what that date is.  Yes, please. 

Question:  Yesterday, I gather, France declared war against Al-Qaida in the North African area.  Is this going to be something that will reach the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  Look, all I would say is we — the Secretary-General you heard very clearly, I said it already — condemned the killing of the French hostage.  I think that is all I need to say on that.  Masood, did you have a question?  I am sorry.

Question:  Martin, while the Secretary-General is in Asia, would he have the opportunity to visit other countries, such as the Republic of Korea?

Spokesperson:  On this occasion, this is to Japan and back.  Yes, Erol.

Question:  Regarding this discussion on the water and the issue of water as a human rights item, I wonder whether the Secretary-General stands with that, and whether he thinks that that issue should be tied with human rights problematic?

Spokesperson:  Water is fundamentally important, needless to say, and access to water is crucial.  The Millennium Development Goals clearly revolve around the need for water amongst many other resources.  That is the first thing.  The second thing is this is a General Assembly resolution, and obviously we would like to be able to look at that and then I will probably come back to you with something a little bit more substantive and substantial later.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  One more about Sudan and then something about Ahlenius and Angela Kane in her response today.  On Sudan, there seems to be a… yesterday at the stakeout, Mr. Gambari said there is a child soldier agreement reached between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and I think RadhikaCoomaraswamy’s Office.  Mr. Gambari spoke less than favourably of it, and said if they do not have child soldiers, why have an agreement?  The United Nations focus should be to bring JEM to the negotiating table, whereas Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative on the issue, RadhikaCoomaraswamy, is totally in favour of the deal, likes the deal.

There seems to be two ways of thinking of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and his Special Envoy on whether it is good to make these types of deal with JEM at this time.  What does the Secretary-General himself think of the balance between child protection deals or putting pressure on JEM to return to the Doha process?

Spokesperson:  Good question.  I will find out.

Question:  The other one is, Ms. Kane… On iSeek today there was her rebuttal.  I guess it is a second, not bite at the apple, but a different take on the Ahlenius memo.  What I wondered from it is that every single point in it is a negative one, saying the memo is inaccurate and Ms. Ahlenius left all these vacancies.  So I am wondering, I remember you said from this podium a couple of times that the Ban Ki-moon team is going to keep studying the memo and if there is anything positive or useful in it at all…

Spokesperson:  Did you not read the first paragraph?

Question:  I did.

Spokesperson:  Well why didn’t you refer to that then?

Question:  It says “where there are lessons to be learned, we will draw them”, but it has now been out there for 10 days and there have been two United Nations documents sent to staff sort of entirely negative.  So I am wondering, has any portion of the memo been identified as useful yet?

Spokesperson:  As we said, where there are lessons to be learned, we will draw them and that is what will happen.

Question:  It seems like there have definitely been conclusions reached about inaccuracies and negative…

Spokesperson:  That is absolutely right because there are many of them.

Question:  Sure.  What is the balance between useful and un-useful parts of the memo?

Spokesperson:  It is not about trying to put them into plus and minus columns here, right?  It is about being able to put the record straight where we believe it is essential to do so.  This is what Ms. Kane is doing right here, it is what Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar has also done.  In both cases, we have said that an end-of-assignment report by this person or any other person is a chance to reflect on what is good and what could be better, where there are constructive ideas for improving the work of the Organization, which after all is ultimately the aim of anybody who works for this Organization — to make it even better than when you arrived.  Where there are such concrete and constructive proposals, we will look at them, and if there is action that can be taken then action will be taken.  And I know that you said we were taking time.  It is a long document and we want to be very clear about which areas we can highlight that Ms. Ahlenius has identified as being those where we can tighten things up.  And also, let’s not forget that we have our new Under-Secretary-General now approved by the General Assembly, and I sure she will want to be a part of the discussion on identifying areas for improvement as she moves into the job and settles in.  That is what the job is about.

Question:  No, absolutely, I understand.  I guess I am just wondering if and when, or let’s say when, these lessons to be learned are identified, are they going to be addressed in a similarly semi-public iSeek document to staff way?  The positive will be internal but the negativity will all be…

Spokesperson:  There is an inherent contradiction there, Matthew, because if there are positive conclusions to be drawn and action to be taken, action will be taken and it will be visible.  So I do not quite see how… you cannot kind of hide positive change, right?

Question:  When we will see it?

Spokesperson:  When will we see it?  Let’s wait and see, but it is not as if we are not working on it.  We are working on it.

Question:  And just one… this is a follow-up to Evelyn’s.  Several Permanent Representatives yesterday were saying that the way in which the disquiet of the developing world and regional groups was resolved was a commitment to South Africa of posts.  I would like to know, and maybe you will just deny it outright, can you do that?

Spokesperson:  What I will say is that the Secretary-General explained very clearly the rigorous process that was gone through in selecting and identifying the nominee whose name was subsequently given to the General Assembly.  This was explained very clearly to the regional groups and they have understood the process and they have understood how the Secretary-General was very careful in this search and it was strictly based on merit.

Question:  Was there any other understanding reached as sort of part of that explanation?

Spokesperson:  The most important thing here is that we have a new Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services.  And that is the most important point.

Question:  Do you expect to see a South African in a senior position in OIOS and [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Let’s focus on what we have today.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  Is there any… Yesterday we were talking about this ship that strayed into India, which is carrying the weapons for… This has been an ongoing situation for Pakistan.  Has there been a conclusion to that affair so far?

Spokesperson:  Obviously we had several rounds on this ship’s odyssey yesterday.  I do not have anything further for you at the moment, but when we do we will let you know.

Question:  The African Union Summit decided that it would not comply with the decisions of the ICC [International Criminal Court] to try President [Omar Hassan Ahmad al-]Bashir.  What does the Secretary-General think of the implications of this decision?

Spokesperson:  Well first of all I think the key part there, if I have understood it correctly, was directed towards the Security Council, so that is a matter for the Security Council.  If there should be a request from the African Union, then that is really for the Security Council to decide on, in that particular case.  I think that is what I have to say on the matter.

Question:  Martin, yesterday, OCHA [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] issued another flash appeal for Kyrgyzstan and others.  Pakistan’s flash appeal still remains underfunded.  It is 47 per cent funded.  That was a funding until April, it has not been upgraded since.  Is there any move the part of OCHA to make another appeal or will that remain so, or simply wait for funds from Member States? [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  I have a feeling that my colleagues from OCHA, if they are not watching this, they will hear from us shortly afterwards.  Once we have something we will let you know.  I am sure that OCHA, Stephanie Bunker and her colleagues, will be able to give you an update on that.  Yes, Erol.

[The Spokesperson later said that OCHA is working hard on getting support for the Pakistan Humanitarian Response Plan, and in fact, they are currently revising it to better meet the needs of the people on the ground.  The Plan is currently 39 per cent funded, ($257 million), with another $59 million in outstanding pledges.  Work is still going on to turn those pledges into allocations against specific projects.  In addition, outside the Plan, donors have contributed another $79 million.]

Question:  Martin, I just wonder when the Secretary-General met Ms. Lapointe-Young and for how long, if he met her, that meeting lasted before this appointment.  Sorry if I missed that if you announced that.

Spokesperson:  Erol, I am not privy to the exact minutes and hours of each of the Secretary-General’s meetings.  As we have said — and meetings can be by video-conferencing, they can be face to face meetings, they can be conversations over the telephone, they can take many different forms, of course.  I do not have the precise statistics there for you, Erol.  The most important thing is that this was extremely rigorous and merit-based.

One thing, Masood, which I wanted to mention was that the Secretary-General is aware of the terrible plane crash in Pakistan today, and he has expressed his sadness over the loss of life in that plane crash, and indeed he has written to the Government expressing his condolences.  Yes, Bill.

Question:  Just a couple of questions concerning the note you read earlier concerning the Russian helicopter pilot.  The note says that the commanders and the pilot were beaten at the scene, but I take it we do not know who exactly did the beating, whether it was by Government or just some sort of, I do not know.  We do not know who, right?  They were beaten by somebody but we do not know who?

Spokesperson:  They were certainly beaten by somebody, and that is a fact.  We are obviously not happy about that, but we want to find out.  We are still working on that.  As I said, my colleagues are working on that, but more importantly on finding the pilot.

Question:  Right, I mean obviously when the LJM [Liberty and Justice Movement] commanders were returned to Nyala, they were not able to… You have not received information yet that they identified the persons who had beaten them or taken them to the military camp?

Spokesperson:  As I say, this is a moving target in the sense that we are trying to pull together different strands of information.  We do not have all those strands together yet.

Question:  [inaudible] they were taken to a Government military camp overnight, but I guess we do not know who actually took them, whether they were taken by Government…

Spokesperson:  Again, I will see if we have anymore detail on that, but that is as much as we know at the moment.  The focus for us is finding the pilot.

Question:  Right.  Is it a presumption at all that he is in the hands of the Government?  They were taken to a Government military camp and you are working with the Government of Sudan to locate him.  Is that just a presumption that they have him?

Spokesperson:  There is no presumption here.  Our simple concern is for his welfare.  The rest of it will follow, but obviously we need to find him.

Question:  We do not have any idea how badly these people were beaten, whether they were really… if their lives were in critical danger or anything like that?

Spokesperson:  That I do not know, but let’s see if we can get some more on that.  As I say, we have been trying to pull together as much detail because we understand the obvious interest in this story.  We have been trying to pull together as much detail as we can.  This is what I have for you at the moment.  If we get more, we will certainly make it available to you.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Okay, pleasure.

Question:  Can I ask one on Somalia?  At the African Union Summit, the US representative Johnny Carson is quoted that Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mahiga urged the AU not to seek a change in the mandate of AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia], saying that Chapter VII is enough to take on Al-Shabab and do what they need to do.  But additionally, it was reported there that the US, UK and France are dealing with AMISOM to give helicopters.  My question — and I understand that you can say to ask each of those Missions – but what is the United Nations role or the Special Representative of the Secretary-General’s role or UNSOA’s role in trying to coordinate between Security Council members and AMISOM the provision of military supplies to Al-Shabab?  Is that a United Nations function?  Is that something that Mahiga works on, or is it just big Powers in AMISOM?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I do not have the answer to that here.  Let me find out.  And also, as I mentioned to you, there are two opportunities coming up soon where you can ask people who are directly involved in peacekeeping operations, whether Field Support or DPKO itself.  That may be of some use to you.

Okay, alright.  Thank you very much. Thank you.

* *** *

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