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

7 October 2010

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

7 October 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, everyone.

**Security Council Mission

The Security Council delegation to Uganda and Sudan is currently in El Fasher, Darfur.  They landed a few hours ago and have been briefed on the work of the UN-African Union peacekeeping mission at its headquarters there.

On Thursday morning, the delegation flew from Juba to Rajaf where they visited a police training location.  They were briefed on that training and they were given demonstrations of that training as well.  The delegation was due to stop at Wau on its way to El Fasher — in order to meet with civil society representatives – but this stopover visit was cancelled as a result of delays arising from a technical problem with the delegation’s aircraft.

The delegation later took a different United Nations plane to El Fasher, and tomorrow, they’re expected to meet Government officials, community leaders and visit a camp for internally displaced persons.

** Nepal - Pascoe Visit

Wrapping up a two-day visit to Nepal, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said that the final months of the United Nations Mission in Nepal’s (UNMIN) mandate represented “100 days of opportunity” before the peace process enters a new phase.  Pascoe told journalists that priority should now be on the resolution of the Maoist integration and rehabilitation process.

The Mission’s mandate ends on 15 January, as set out in the Security Council’s resolution 1939 (2010).  Pascoe said that the coming months must be used productively.  He encouraged the parties to view this period as a time to demonstrate to the Nepali public and international community their obligation to fulfil their commitments, spelled out in the 13 September agreement. 

He also urged the parties to redouble their efforts to complete the constitution-making process and to adopt a new constitution by May 2011.  The full transcript of Mr. Pascoe’s press conference is available in my Office.

**World Health Organization Guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) says millions of people with common, but untreated, mental, neurological and substance-use disorders can now benefit from new simplified diagnosis and treatment guidelines.  The World Health Organization says the guidelines are designed to help manage depression, alcohol use disorders, epilepsy and other common mental disorders in the primary health-care setting.

The Intervention Guide extends competence in diagnosis and management to non-mental health specialists, including doctors, nurses and other health providers.  Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan says that the Intervention Guide transforms a world of expertise and clinical experience, contributed by hundreds of experts, into fewer than 100 pages of clinical wisdom and succinct practical advice.

World Mental Health Day is this Sunday.  The Secretary-General has a message for the day, which is available online.

And that’s what I have available for you, and I am very happy to take questions.  Mr. Abbadi, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Ould Sidi Mouloud, POLISARIO member who was jailed a few days ago as a result of his declaration in favour of the Moroccan autonomous plan, has been released finally, following reaction by Governments, human rights organizations and others.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to this development?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is aware of the reports, but we don’t have any comment on that.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  A follow-up, please Martin?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Khaled, yes.

Question:  [inaudible] the reports say that this person, Salma, was transferred to the, like, some no-man’s zone or some zone between Morocco and the POLISARIO.  Would this, like, the United Nations be involved in his handing over back to Morocco or in any process of transfer?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that, but we don’t have any comment that I am aware of.  But let me check on that.  Yes, Edie?

Question:  Martin, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the report by Refugees International today on Haiti, which was highly critical of the UN’s performance, saying that it had failed to protect earthquake victims in camps?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is aware of the reports from Refugees International.  He specifically doesn’t have any immediate comment.  But clearly, others who advise him have already taken a pretty close look at this.  I know that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in particular, and the Mission on the ground, MINUSTAH, are looking closely at this.  It’s obviously highlighting some very important matters, including the protection, especially of women, and that’s been a major concern for everybody right from the start.  And we obviously share those concerns and we also want to see increased protection capacity when it comes to tackling sexual violence, which, as you know, is primarily against women and girls.  Measures have already been taken, as you know, to improve protection.  That includes patrolling camps and having a 24-hour presence of UN troops and police officers in some camps where the problems are particularly serious.  And there is work going on right now to improve lighting in camps and to provide specialist services with the help of NGOs such as Médecins sans Frontières.

Just a couple of figures that may or may not help you: as of 15 September, there were 559 UN police officers permanently present in six of the largest internally displaced persons camps, and there are also five mobile units that conduct random patrols both by day and night.  And something that is not actually mentioned by Refugees International is that there are also UN military personnel permanently stationed in six of the largest camps — 614 of these UN military personnel and another 704 are carrying out mobile patrols.  Again, random patrols at all times.  And obviously the real key here is getting people out of camps in the long term, and providing improved access to help women have that access if they have experienced gender-based violence, sexual or otherwise.

It’s worth noting, I realize, that what women face in these camps now is awful and more is being done to try to help them, but it’s worth noting that sexual violence has been a serious problem in Haiti long before the earthquake. And it also continues to be a serious problem outside of the camps as well.  As I said, this is no comfort for the people in those camps, and we need to work very hard on that.  I also know that the Secretary-General is planning to speak to the Head of the UN Mission in Haiti to receive an update.  And if I have any further details after that I’d be very happy to provide them.  Yes, Masood?

Question:  In the aftermath of the floods in Pakistan, I mean, now that the relief and rescue operations are almost coming to an end, there are some figures around for rebuilding the infrastructure in Pakistan.  So what is happening as far as the infrastructure is concerned, because United Nations relief agencies were up ahead in all the operations?  Has the United Nations agencies, are they going do any, some sort of exploration as to what it will take, how much money it will take to rebuild the infrastructure?  We have figures from 40 billion to 50 billion being said.

Spokesperson:  I think we have said consistently right from early on that the relief effort is the immediate priority.  But you cannot start planning for rebuilding at a later stage.  You must do that in parallel.  So that is something that is being actively worked on — so-called post-disaster needs assessment.  That is something that is conducted by UN agencies and the broader international community, including the World Bank, for example.  I think that they still need to pull together all the information before one can start to talk about the kind of figures that are required.  Clearly it is an enormous undertaking, and no one doubts that for a second.  Yes?

Question:  The reason I was asking was because the figure of $50 billion has come about again and again in Pakistan itself.  Is that the figure that is [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  As I say, it’s too early to start to talk about specific numbers.  This is something that needs to be assessed, and is in the process of being assessed by those who are experts in this area.  Yes, Bill?

Question:  Martin, you said that the Secretary-General would speak to the head of MINUSTAH to get an update on this particular situation that he referenced.  Was this a prearranged thing or was this in response to the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  It’s not a specific response to this report.  As you know, President Clinton has been on the ground, and I think that it’s likely that the Secretary-General will also speak to President Clinton as soon as that’s feasible.  But at least initially, right now, to get a little bit of a readout, he would like to speak to Mr. Mulet, and he is planning to do that.

Question:  So he was intending to do that even without this report coming out?

Spokesperson:  As I said, President Clinton was on the ground this week, and obviously Mr. Mulet was involved in that visit.  So Mr. Mulet would give a readout on that visit.  Clearly we want to be able, and the Secretary-General wants to be able, to understand if there is, what more needs to be done; how it can be done.  He takes that very seriously.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  Martin, yesterday, Mr. Ban Ki-moon made very clear statements about his position on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, that he supports that it should go on and should remain as it is.  But is there any concern at all that his statements would be interpreted as siding with one group inside Lebanon against another group, which basically could fuel more tension inside the country, because that’s how the Lebanese newspapers have interpreted it today?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, I think the Secretary-General was very clear in what he said.  And I don’t need to repeat that.  He was at pains to talk about all parties, meaning not political parties but those on the ground; all parties in Lebanon and regionally.  So I don’t need to go beyond what the Secretary-General has said.

Question:  Another question, please?

Spokesperson:  Yeah.

Question:  Also, some Lebanese papers published a memo which was, I assume, leaked by the Office of the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Ms. Patricia O’Brien.  A briefing that she submitted to the special court of Lebanon basically asking the Judge not to hand over any documents related to the United Nations to a former detainee, in this Mr. Jamil el-Sayyed.  I was wondering, I mean, like can you confirm this memo?  And also, is this a kind of an attempt to influence the court one way or the other?

Spokesperson:  Well, there was a memo that was sent by the Legal Counsel on 4 October, and we need to stress very clearly here that this is a technical legal matter.  It’s not specifically related to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  This is about a general inviolability that applies to all United Nations documents wherever they are located and whoever has custody of them.  And this applies, for example, to all UN documents that are held by the International Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.  And it is not something specific related to the Tribunal, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  That’s the first important point.  The second thing is that the UN clearly has a policy of maximum cooperation with all of the International Criminal Tribunals, including the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and that there is a well-established process for authorizing the disclosure of United Nations documents in all appropriate cases.  And we will give every assistance to the Tribunal so that it can carry out its mandate.

Question:  [inaudible] if the letter was addressed to the Judge of the Special Tribunal?

Spokesperson:  I mean, this is not… I think you’re just picking up on an individual word here.

Correspondent:  No, no, no, [inaudible] because, I mean, this letter was addressed to the Judge of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

Spokesperson:  It was sent by the Legal Counsel.  But it is a technical legal matter and it is not specific to the Special Tribunal.  The contents of that letter are not specific to the Tribunal.  This is talking about the inviolability, and that applies to all UN documents wherever they are held — not just the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, but other tribunals like…

Correspondent:  This letter was sent particularly in relation to the request by the former detainee, Mr.Jamil el-Sayyed, asking for some documents to be revealed.  So I mean, it is related to a particular issue [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  And as I also said, Khaled, there is a well-established process for authorizing the disclosure of UN documents in all appropriate cases, and we will give every assistance to the Tribunal so that it can carry out its mandate.  Yes, please?

Question:  Martin, a quick question about the WHO’s guidelines on mental disorder intervention as well as diagnosis.  I mean, do you think Margaret Chan or any of her associates will be giving any kind of press conference to, given the big impact on the broad range of countries as well as the divisioning, or demarcation of the present practices?  Do they have a plan or strategy of having a sort of guideline to be adopted or executed by, I mean, practitioners across country or region?

Spokesperson:  I am sure that my colleagues at the World Health Organization would be able to help you with more details on that.  As I understand it, Ms. Chan was speaking today ahead of World Mental Health Day, which is this Sunday.  And so I am sure that my colleagues in Geneva would be able to provide you with more detail on that.  Yes, please?

Question:  Yesterday, the Secretary-General spoke about rapes in the Congo and the UN peacekeepers’ role in preventing or not preventing them.  He said that his Deputy High Commissioner of Human Rights is in the Congo now, working with local NGOs to consider the idea of reparation for the rape victims.  Is that financial reparation, and if so, how would that work?

Spokesperson:  Reparation takes many, many forms.  This is something that we can provide more detail on, I am sure, with the help of our colleagues from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  But this is not simply about money, obviously.  It goes well beyond that, and I think you understand that.  Yes, Catherine?

Question:  I have got a question coming back to Haiti and the report from Refugees International.  Is the Secretary-General supporting an added number of peacekeepers being sent to Haiti?  Because you mentioned that there were about 500 UN police forces and 600 UN military officers, if I remember correctly?  But obviously it doesn’t seem to be enough.  There is a lot over a million IDPs.  Is that one of the avenues that the Secretary-General would support?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, in the aftermath of the earthquake the Security Council very rapidly approved a request from the Secretary-General to increase the number of personnel, peacekeeping — meaning military and police personnel who could be assigned to Haiti.  And those figures have since then gone up.  So, there are more people on the ground.  Is it enough?  That’s something that would need to be looked at.  My colleagues in MINUSTAH, the Mission in Haiti, would be able to give me some extra help with that, I am sure.  But obviously, as I mentioned to you, the police, UN police officers and the UN military personnel, the numbers I mentioned are those who are working in the camps and patrolling in the camps.  And then there are others — and I mentioned the numbers: five mobile units of police officers and 704 military personnel in mobile units who are carrying out random patrols and not specifically based in an individual camp, but moving around to these camps.

As we said, protection, especially of women, is a major concern, and it has been right from the start.  The Secretary-General himself has addressed this when he visited for the second time.  The Deputy Secretary-General went specifically to address this and to talk about and to speak to people on the ground to help to move things along.  Obviously there is still a lot to do.  Nobody is saying that this is in perfect order - it is not.  It’s extremely difficult on the ground, as you know.  It is extremely difficult on the ground for the people who are in those camps now for week and months, but also for the people who are trying to help them.  It’s tricky, and it’s obvious that more could be done.

Question:  What about the issue of translators?  That seems to be maybe easier to resolve.  In the report they mention also the fact that it’s difficult for UN personnel and those patrolling to just simply communicate with the local populations.

Spokesperson:  Yes, we saw that reference in the report from Refugees International, and I know that my colleagues on the ground there will be able to provide some more information on that.  The information I have been able to give you is what I have at the moment, based on what they have been able to tell me.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  On the Western Sahara still, there are indications that the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Christopher Ross, will be holding an informal round of discussions with the parties.  Can you confirm that?

Spokesperson:  No, I can’t confirm it. I think everybody knows that Mr. Ross has been working hard on this topic.  That’s what he does.  But I can’t confirm any dates at the moment.

Question:  [inaudible] have not been helpful so long as there is a sign that there isn’t really much happening?  I mean, last time we had [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  No, not at all, not at all, Khaled.  Just because things don’t happen in the glare of the media spotlight doesn’t mean that things are not happening.  Things can still be happening behind the scenes.

Question:  But not a single round of indirect negotiations or direct meeting or anything.  So what is happening?

Spokesperson:  As I said, this is what Mr. Ross does.  He works with the parties with that particular aim.  And if we have more information, I am sure we’ll give it when we get to that point.  Okay, thank you very much.

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