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

23 September 2010

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

23 September 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, everybody.


My guest today is Michel Kazatchkine, who is the Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  I am going to be very happy to turn over the floor to you in just one second.  I will of course have a few points for you at the end of this part of the briefing and be happy to take questions.  But for now I am going to hand over to you, Mr. Kazatchkine.  Very nice to see you here.

[Mr. Kazatchkine’s briefing issued separately]

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much, indeed Mr. Kazatchkine.

**Secretary-General at General Assembly

So, just to continue with a couple of other points; the Secretary-General opened the sixty-fifth high-level session of the General Assembly this morning, warning that we are seeing a new politics of polarization at work.  Amid such uncertainty and so much confusion of purpose, he said, we naturally seek a moral compass.

He said that the soul of global governance involves taking a collective stand, principled and pragmatic, against forces that would divide us.  And that is why the United Nations remains the indispensable global institution for the twenty-first century.

We have his statement in my Office and it is available online also.

**Security Council

This afternoon, the leaders of the Security Council Member States will hold a summit meeting at the Council on preventing and ending conflict and building peace.  The Secretary-General will address that meeting and detail the mediation, peacekeeping and peacebuilding work of the United Nations.  And he will detail steps to strengthen the United Nations’ work in building and maintaining peace.


As a reminder, the Secretary-General will be chairing a mini-summit this afternoon to focus on peace and stability in Somalia, at a critical time for the future of the country.

More than 30 Governments and regional organizations are expected to attend, including eight Heads of State.  The principal speakers are the Secretary-General, President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of Somalia and Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission.  The meeting reflects the very high priority the Secretary-General has placed on helping Somalia.  A communiqué will be issued at the end of that mini-summit.

** Pakistan

The World Health Organization (WHO) says a massive health relief effort is under way in the flood-affected parts of Pakistan, where nearly 6 million people have been treated for health conditions since the floods began in late July.  But WHO says there are urgent needs to prevent further health crises or food insecurity caused by large-scale damage to crops and agricultural land.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is hosting leading cancer experts from around the world this week to discuss the growing cancer crisis in the developing world.

Cancer is on the increase globally.  The disease now kills nearly 8 million people a year — and that is more than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined — with around 75 per cent of these deaths occurring in developing countries.

These countries are worst hit by the cancer crisis since, despite rapidly increasing numbers of new cases, the resources needed to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease are severely limited or non-existent.

Questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Martin.  A couple of questions: The Government of Burundi has written to the Secretary-General about their presence in the Mapping Report on the Congo, I guess in the same way that Rwanda did.  And they are saying that their name should be taken out of the report.  Has the Secretary-General received that request, and is he considering, the same way he did Rwanda’s, or is he simply telling them, they’ll just make their letter of protest part of the 1 October publication?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me check on whether the letter has been received.  We are obviously aware of the press reports on this topic.  As you know, the Human Rights Commissioner has made it clear that all countries concerned, in other words those countries mentioned in the draft report, have until the end of this month, 30 September, to submit their comments.  And they will then be released, published alongside the final report, which will be published on 1 October.  And that is what I can tell you on that topic.

Question:  Just relatedly about Rwanda’s protest, can you just factually confirm that President Paul Kagame of Rwanda will participate in Friday’s high-level meeting on Sudan?  And also, I believe that senior UN officials have been saying that his presence at that meeting signifies that there is no intention of withdrawing the Rwandan peacekeepers from the UNAMID [United Nations-Africa Union] Mission in Darfur.  Is that really the UN position?  I am pretty sure that is what some people are being told by the UN.  So, I want to know whether you will say it here.

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, I will need to check on the list of participants.  I don’t have it with me right now.  I think we should be able to check that and get back to you.  On the second point, the Secretary-General has said publicly that both he and President Kagame agree on the importance of Rwanda’s contribution in the peacekeeping forces that operate in Sudan — UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] and UNAMID.  And that is our position. 

Question:  Does that mean that Rwanda has made some commitment to the Secretary-General not to withdraw from UNAMID?

Spokesperson:  What I can tell you, Matthew, is that the Secretary-General would strongly hope that Rwanda would keep up the excellent work that it has done up to now in peacekeeping operations, including in this area.  Other questions…?  Yes, please.  Yes.

Question:  Martin, I wanted to know, has the Secretary-General already met with Myanmar Foreign Minister or not?  Myanmar Foreign Minister, separate talk, any talk?

Spokesperson:  Let me check.  I don’t think so yet.  But let me check.  There is rather a long list of bilateral meetings and it may be that I have missed something there. But let me check for you.  We can speak right after the briefing, and we could be in touch.  [He later said that no such meeting has taken place yet.]

Question:  The Bosnian Government sent a letter to Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and the UN, telling him that the [inaudible] presidency came to the UN and New York in unofficial visit and that by doing that, he violated the constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I was just wondering if the Secretary-General received that letter, and did he have a chance to respond?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I am not aware of whether that letter has been received.  But let me find out.  Yes, please.

Just one point.  Given that we have three rows of empty seats, it’s really useful because the microphones are placed prominently the front seats; it’s very useful if you can sit closer to the front in the briefings.  This helps, for example, to ensure that colleagues who are watching the webcast or the TV broadcast of this can hear your question clearly.  But, please do go ahead.

Question:  Earlier and again last week, the Nigerian Permanent Rep. made an appeal at the Security Council about commensurate pay in peacekeepers who are serving in Somalia.  Martin, is that on the cards this afternoon in the discussions?

Spokesperson:  On the first point, again, afterwards I think I can probably help you with the list.  I don’t have a list of participants for all of these meetings with me.  On the second point, I have given you a bit of an overview of this.  I can tell you further that participants will take stock of progress on the strategy that the Secretary-General set forth in 2008, and the need to move forward on the ground in critical areas, including divisions within the Somali transitional institutions and advancing the Djibouti Peace Process, bolstering security on the ground through stepping up support to AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] and Somali security institutions and furthering the fight against piracy.  So, I think there is a partial answer to your question there in that they will, it would appear, be talking about bolstering security on the ground through stepped up support to AMISOM.  Exactly what form that discussion takes, we will have to wait and see. Yes.

Question:  Do you have a time for the bilateral between the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the Nigerian President?

Spokesperson:  I will find out for you.  Yes, if you — again, it looks like there is going to be a group of you who are coming back to my office afterwards.  But I will be very happy to help you.

Question:  I know this may be a General Assembly question, but do you know why [US President Barack] Obama was late this morning?

Spokesperson:  Have you tried the White House?

Question:  [laughter]

Spokesperson:  I think that is the best place to start.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to, something may be serious on MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] and then something less serious.  But, yesterday at the stakeout, you were there, when the Secretary-General did his stakeout at the end of the MDG Summit.  I guess, maybe it was the sound quality of the location or something.  But I tried to ask him what his response was to this critique which was actually by another UN system official, [Olivier] De Schutter, who is the Special, the expert on the human right to food…

Spokesperson:  Special Rapporteur.

Question:  Special Rapporteur.

Spokesperson:  I think you know what the status of Special Rapporteur is. 

Question:  Yeah, yeah, I know exactly.  I am thinking more; I want to phrase this thing right; which is just basically saying that the MDGs are treating the symptoms of the problem, don’t go to the heart of it.  That there should be much more attention paid on debt relief for poor countries, on tax havens to which corrupt leaders take money.  It is a pretty, it was in the Guardian, it was a pretty cogent critique.  I just wanted to know whether maybe, yesterday it wasn’t possible at that stakeout, but what does the Secretary-General make of that and does he, he seemed to be saying that it is not appropriate for him to speak on it, and it wasn’t clear to me as Secretary-General why it would be inappropriate for him to speak about an issue of the MDGs.

Spokesperson:  Maybe it was the acoustics, who knows?  But this is the outcome document — a fairly weighty document; a lot of detail about what remains to be done in the five years that we have until 2015.  You have heard many world leaders, I know, talking about the challenges that there are; the accomplishments, the success, about the difficulties that there are.  And that kind of tallying of the pluses and minuses you see not just reflected in the speeches of world leaders, important though they may be, but in the entire cross-section of non-governmental organizations, civil society, individuals in various capacities with op-ed pieces and newspapers and so on, or commentary on TV stations, radio stations.  That is natural. 

What is really important is that it shows that there is a lively debate and a keen interest in this topic.  I don’t think it is necessary to focus on one particular individual, whatever that person’s title may be.  When you look at the bigger picture, this is part of the debate, a lively debate of which our exchange could be considered a part, possibly.  This is the way that it goes.  The most important thing is that everyone has recognized that if we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, and everyone agrees that this is what needs to happen if we are to achieve them, there needs to be action now. That’s what this outcome document was about; action that can be taken to ensure that we get where we need to be in 2015.  There are a range of different opinions on how you do that.  I think that one would see comments that you are referring to in that context.

Question:  And this just as a much more limited point; I just wanted to be clear…

Spokesperson:  What was the funny question?

Question:  Okay.  Alright.  I don’t know if it’s funny or not.  But it’s the musician, or artist, Taylor Swift has announced via PR Newswire and elsewhere that she would be performing at the United Nations on 25 October with an album release.  So it struck me like, I know we have had as many, various sort of foibles here, of sort of commercial presentations within the UN.  But are you aware this is widely circulated, in what context, what would be the rule that was applicable to…

Spokesperson:  It’s trending on Twitter or what?

Question:  No, no.  No I’m talking; this is put up by a public relations firm, saying the UN will be used for an album launch.  And I just wanted, maybe you don’t know now, but maybe you can find out whether it’s true.  And if so, who in the UN system would have sponsored such an event?

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s find out.  I am sure that my colleagues in the Outreach Division will be able to help me.  Alright.  Okay.

Question:  Just one last question.

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  We’ve seen reports that the Nicaraguan Consul has been found dead in his apartment in the Bronx.  Does the UN have any comment on this?

Spokesperson:  This is the first I have heard of it.  Alright, thank you.  Final question.

Question:  Martin, I have a brief question.  Do you know why the press conference to be arranged by the Iranian President this afternoon at 5 p.m. was cancelled?

Spokesperson:  No idea, no idea.

Question:  And if there is any alternative?

Spokesperson:  No idea.  I think that the Iranian Permanent Mission would have to help you with that.  Alright, thank you very much.

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