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

25 January 2011

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

25 January 2011
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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Guest at Noon

It’s a real pleasure today to introduce my guest at the briefing, of course,  Michelle Bachelet, the Executive Director of UN Women, or to give it its full title, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.  As you know, Ms. Bachelet is here to brief you on UN Women and on its priorities for 2011.  So, I am going to hand over to you without further ado.  Welcome.

[Press Conference by Ms. Bachelet issued separately.]

**Secretary-General in Switzerland

The Secretary-General is in Geneva, where he just addressed the Human Rights Council.  He said that the Human Rights Council must do more to fully rise above national and regional interests.

He added that we cannot and should not limit the independence of human rights rapporteurs, yet we cannot condone irresponsible behaviour that undermines the Human Rights Council and the United Nations.  Also, the Secretary-General said, we cannot be selective in promoting human rights.  Our watchword should be all people, all countries and all rights.

And earlier, the Secretary-General opened the 2011 Consolidated Appeal Resource Mobilization Conference with the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarians Affairs, Valerie Amos.  He said humanitarian needs were growing and that we all needed to make extra efforts to secure sufficient and predictable funding for urgent, life-saving humanitarian work.

And this morning, the Secretary-General visited the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne and met with its chief, Jacques Rogge, as well as the heads of some international sports federations.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing in an open meeting this morning from Jack Lang, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser dealing with legal issues related to piracy off the coast of Somalia.  And they also heard from the Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, Stephen Mathias.

Mr. Lang described his visit to the region around Somalia.  He said that there had been an increase in the number of pirates and in their sophistication, as well as the emergence of a new industry related to piracy.  He warned about difficulties in eradicating piracy, with 9 out of 10 pirates having to be released because no jurisdiction is prepared to prosecute them.  And he discussed possible alternative ways of supporting the prosecution of pirates.  Mr. Lang will speak to reporters here in this room at 3 this afternoon.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Secretary-General welcomes today’s surrender of the Executive Secretary of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Callixte Mbarushimana, to the International Criminal Court in The Hague by French judicial authorities.  Mr. Mbarushimana is accused of having committed crimes against humanity and war crimes in the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

And in this connection, the Secretary-General also welcomes the decisive steps taken by the German judiciary to prosecute and try the President and Vice-President of FDLR, who are also accused of having committed serious international crimes.  This cooperative burden-sharing in prosecuting individuals for serious international crimes will greatly advance the fight against impunity.  And we have the full statement available in my office.

** Sudan

The UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has confirmed reports of intense fighting between the Sudanese Armed Forces and Sudan Liberation Army-Minni Minnawi movements in Tabit, which is located approximately 45 kilometres south of El Fasher in North Darfur.

The clashes began yesterday evening.  UNAMID peacekeepers have been prevented from entering the area by Sudanese Government forces who invoked security concerns.  Despite the lack of access, our peacekeepers continue to seek further information, especially about the possible impact of the fighting on the local population.  The Joint Special Representative, Ibrahim Gambari, is very concerned about this latest outbreak of violence.

And also, the UN-AU mission says that at least one person is now reported dead, following a search operation by Government security forces in the Zamzam camp for internally displaced persons.  The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear, and the authorities say they are investigating the incident.  UNAMID’s human rights section is closely monitoring that case.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is continuing work on a camp in eastern Liberia to shelter refugees who fled post-election violence and tensions in Côte d’Ivoire.  It took more than three weeks to clear some 80 hectares of jungle for the site, and construction of the camp’s main reception centre is beginning this week.  The agency says that, in Liberia, there are now more than 30,000 Ivorian refugees.  Many are being hosted by Liberians who spent years as refugees in Côte d’Ivoire themselves.

** Afghanistan

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said that it welcomes the understanding reached in recent days that paves the way for the inauguration of the National Assembly on Wednesday.  The UN Mission further commends the spirit of cooperation between the presidential office and the recently elected members of Parliament.

This process has shown that a healthy debate is under way amongst Afghanistan’s democratic institutions, an encouraging sign of a progressing democracy.  The UN Mission and other members of the international community plan to attend the inauguration of the National Assembly tomorrow.

**Peacekeeping — Sexual Exploitation

The United Nations Departments of Peacekeeping Operations and Field Support have announced that the number of allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse involving all categories of peacekeeping personnel fell markedly between 2009 and 2010.  The UN takes all allegations seriously and is committed to eradicating such abuse.  There is a press release with more information on this in my office.

**Press Conferences

And, as I mentioned, Jack Lang will be here at 3 p.m., and then at 4 p.m., there will be a press briefing by Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who is the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.  That’s what I have.  Questions?  Yes, Sylviane?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I don’t hear anything in the statement on the new appointment of the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Najib Mikati.

Spokesperson:  Well, how about hearing it now?  The Secretary-General is following developments in Lebanon closely.  And following two days of consultations with Lebanon’s parliamentary groups, President Michel Sleiman today requested Mr. Najib Mikati to form the next Government in Lebanon.  The Secretary-General calls on all the parties to maintain calm and avoid any act of violence, and he welcomes the statement issued by caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri urging calm.  The immediate concern of all Lebanese leaders should be the maintenance of domestic stability and the avoidance of incidents that could easily escalate.

Question:  I have a question on Lebanon, the majority change; there is a big change.  It seems that it is a major setback on the international community with this change, especially when Hizbullah is considered by the United States and by the international community as a terrorist?  How will the UN be able to deal with this new Government, especially they have in mind to cancel, to go after the Tribunal, which they call illegal?  And how also the UN will be able to ensure the full implementation of all relevant resolutions, like 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006)?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the immediate concern, as I have said, is that there should be domestic stability.  That’s a major priority, and to avoid any incidents that could escalate.  With regard to the Tribunal, I can tell you that the Secretary-General expects any Government that is formed in Lebanon to abide by international obligations that Lebanon has undertaken.  And the Secretary-General again strongly supports the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which is an independent judicial body.  And the work of the Special Tribunal should be unaffected by political developments.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, I just want to follow up on this question, but what is the SG’s comment on the election of Mr. Mikati himself?  You’ve mentioned in your statement that he welcomes the statement made by the caretaker Government of Saad Hariri, but does he believe that Mr. Mikati was elected in the proper constitutional manner in his view?

Spokesperson:  Well, what I can tell you is that the main message from the Secretary-General is for all parties to maintain calm and to avoid any acts of violence.  And as I have said, he sees it as the immediate concern that Lebanese leaders should maintain domestic stability.  That is the main message.

Question:  But no particular comment about the protests that were organized today by the supporters of Mr. Hariri; in particular, they attacked a group of journalists, they burned a car in Tripoli?  No particular reference to these incidents?

Spokesperson:  As I just said, incidents need to be avoided of this kind, in general, that we are seeing because these can easily escalate.  Yes, Ali, and I think this is also on the same subject; then I am coming to Neil, because I am assuming that’s a different subject.

Question:  Yeah, thank you, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General have any plan to call the new nominated Prime Minister Mikati and is he expecting specifics from him?  And whether the UN personnel at all levels are working normally in Lebanon or not; do they have additional precautions?

Spokesperson:  Well, we have talked about that before, mainly to say that we don’t talk about it.  And that’s on the last point, Ali.  On the other point of whether the Secretary-General intends to speak to any new Prime Minister, the Secretary-General has contacts with Government leaders around the world and let’s take it one step at a time.  Yes, Neil?

Question:  I’m just wondering what reaction you have to the briefing at the US Congress, that there is a lot of mismanagement and waste, and a lack of corruption investigations at the UN, and so the US should consider withholding its budget and some specific claims about… it’s a mess, nobody can get in [inaudible] UNDP in allowing satellite mapping stuff be brought into North Korea, [inaudible] missile technology, Human Rights Council [inaudible] where violators like Iran, etcetera, and financial disclosure forms are useless?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’m not going to go into specifics at this point.  What I can tell you is that the United Nations has always worked constructively with the United States, and we share the same goals, which is for a stronger United Nations and one that is efficient, effective and accountable.  And that is why the Secretary-General has made strengthening the United Nations one of his top priorities since he took office.  The Secretary-General is convinced that a strong, effective and efficient United Nations needs the active and constructive support of Member States.  And to achieve that, he will continue to engage with the US Administration and with the US Congress on ways to ensure that the Organization can find solutions to today’s challenges, and deliver on the mandates given by its Member States.

Question:  Any specific plans on meeting with members of the US Congress or…?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has said that he does intend to visit Washington and to meet with congressional leaders, but that no date has been set for that yet.  Yes?  We will make this the last question, okay?

Question:  Thank you very much.  There are reports of some protests in Egypt asking for democratic reforms and against corruption in the Government.  There are also reports of some police brutality against the demonstrations.  Is there any reaction from the UN, considering the Human Rights Watch report and its criticism of the…?

Spokesperson:  Well, Khalid, we’re obviously watching that very closely.  That’s what I have for you; we’re watching it very closely, yeah.  Thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon, thank you.

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