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

7 March 2011

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

7 March 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.

**Secretary-General on Libya

A statement we issued yesterday expressed the Secretary-General’s concerns about the fighting in western Libya, which is claiming large numbers of lives and threatens even more carnage in the days ahead.

The Secretary-General had spoken yesterday morning with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kousa, and strongly appealed for an end to the hostilities and for full compliance with Security Council resolution 1970 (2011).  He urged the authorities in Tripoli to respect the human rights of all the country’s people, and to lift restrictions on the media.  And he suggested the immediate dispatch of a humanitarian assessment team to Tripoli, a request that was agreed to by the Foreign Minister.

The Secretary-General also appointed the former Foreign Minister of Jordan, Abdul Ilah Khatib, as his Special Envoy to Libya to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region on the immediate humanitarian situation, as well as the wider dimensions of the crisis.  Mr. Khatib will come to New York in the next few days before taking up his responsibilities in the region.

** Libya

The United Nations and its partners today launched a $160 million appeal to address humanitarian needs arising from the crisis in Libya.  The appeal will help fund the activities of 17 aid organizations for the next three months to help the projected 400,000 people expected to escape the violence in Libya.  That includes the nearly 200,000 people who have already left.  It will also help another 600,000 inside the country.

This weekend, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, travelled to the Tunisia-Libya border to review ongoing relief efforts.  And she also called for urgent access to Misrata in western Libya following reports of violence and killing in the area.

At a press conference in Geneva today, she noted that the work of UN agencies and their partners has been able to meet the needs of the more than 100,000 people who have transited through Tunisia so far.

** Sudan

Haile Menkerios, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, has welcomed the agreement reached Friday by the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM).  The parties agreed to jointly ensure security in the Abyei region.

The agreement stresses the need to deploy joint security units to key locations around Abyei and monitor developments through a joint mechanism.  It also demands the immediate withdrawal of all other forces from the Abyei area.

Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Georg Charpentier, has voiced concerns about the impact on civilians of recent fighting in the Abyei region.  He said that UN and other aid agencies are assessing the needs of civilians displaced by the fighting.  He also urged the parties to respect their agreement to refrain from violence.

**Civilian Capacities Report

The Secretary-General has urged United Nations Member States to join him in supporting the report of an independent advisory board, entitled Civilian capacity in the aftermath of conflict.  The report puts forward wide-ranging recommendations aimed at strengthening international civilian support for post-conflict countries.  The report was the result of a review conducted by the Senior Advisory Group chaired by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

In a follow-up to the report, the Secretary-General has decided to set up a steering group empowered to facilitate informed decision-making and pursue coordinated action, and designated Susana Malcorra, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, to lead it on his behalf.  We have a press release available containing the Group’s recommendations.  And I know that the Group would be happy to answer any questions after the briefing.

**United Nations Children’s Fund

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is calling for $1.4 billion to help women and children caught in the throes of crises in dozens of countries.  It notes that the unprecedented scale of the disasters in Haiti and Pakistan last year highlighted the need to strengthen preparedness and risk reduction in areas hit repeatedly by disasters.  UNICEF says it is deeply committed to granting vulnerable communities the skills to face and withstand risk, an increasingly important component of humanitarian action.

**Press Conferences

At 1 p.m., here in the Auditorium, there will be a press conference on biosafety.  Participants will include Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

And then at 11 a.m. tomorrow, here, there will be a press conference on the preparations for Rio 2012, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

That’s what I have.  Questions? Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can I take you to say that the Secretary-General has asked the new special representative, Mr. Khatib, to make urgent contact with the Libyan authorities?  Is that correct?

Spokesperson:  That’s correct, to undertake urgent consultations with the authorities in Tripoli and in the region, of course, on the immediate humanitarian situation, but also as well the wider dimensions of the crisis.

Question:  Right.  You also said that it is going to take Mr. Khatib a few days to come here to New York.  That doesn’t seem to be an urgent issue?

Spokesperson:  He will be here to see the Secretary-General on Wednesday, and I think that the Secretary-General will have more to say about that on Wednesday.  He will then, having seen the Secretary-General, be able to take up his responsibilities in the region.  Barbara?

Question:  Just a few more questions about that.  Do you have any idea where the representative is going to be based?  Will he be based in Libya, and if so…?

Spokesperson:  Not in Libya, but in the region.

Question:  He won’t be in Libya?

Spokesperson:  Not in Libya, in the region.  And I would anticipate that we would have more on that on Wednesday.

Question:  And just — you probably will say the same thing to this — but what does “wider dimensions of the conflict” mean?  Do you anticipate him having some sort of political role?

Spokesperson:  Well, wider dimensions; you only have to look at what is happening.  As I mentioned, Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, was on the Tunisia-Libya border; your colleagues have been reporting about the ramifications of what is happening inside Libya for the countries on the borders with Libya.  So that is another aspect of it.  Again, I think that, as we get to Wednesday, we will be able to provide a little bit more detail.  But clearly, this is an extremely distinguished and experienced individual, and I know that he will be undertaking this role as Special Envoy to Libya in that context.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Martin, do you know when is Mr. [Ali Abdussalam] Treki coming to see the Secretary-General?  When is he going to present his credentials?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t, no.  No.

Question:  Has there been any contact between the Mission here and the Secretary-General since the appointment of Mr. Treki?

Spokesperson:  Not on that matter, no.  No.

Question:  When Mr. Secretary-General talked to Mr. Kousa yesterday, did he touch on this subject — I mean, of who represents Libya here?

Spokesperson:  This was not a topic of the conversation, no.  Yes, Matthew; and then I am coming to you, yes?

Question:  Sure, I want to ask on Sudan and Sri Lanka.  But on Sudan, I mean, I heard your message lauding this agreement between the SPLM and the NPC.  Has the UN seen, and can it… seen this report, and can it confirm that three villages were burned down in Abyei, 300 buildings destroyed, and what’s the relation between that… is this the violence that the agreement that you are applauding will be stopping or… and what was, did Ahmed Haroun, this indicted ICC [International Criminal Court] individual, what was his role?  Did he sign this for the NPC, and do you think that villages will no longer be burned down in this way?

Spokesperson:  First of all, it is precisely that kind of violence and damage with human, as well as material, cost that this agreement would be designed to stop, and to try to stop.  Governor [Ahmed] Haroun of South Kordofan, as you know, is responsible for the Misseriya’s respect for the rule of law and finding a solution to their migration, and so that is why his role was crucial in that respect.

Question:  What do you say to those who say that, since he is actively charged by the ICC with organizing nomadic tribes to burn down villages that may be relying on him, transporting him may be not a good idea?

Spokesperson:  I think the point here is that, as I just said, his role in ensuring that Misseriya respect the rule of law and also in helping to find a solution to their migration is really crucial.  And, indeed, the talks between the Ngok Dinka/SPLM and the Misseriya/NCP really can’t take place without his participation.

Question:  And also I want to ask on this Sri Lanka question that I e-mailed you over the weekend.  There is a report in Sri Lanka quoting UN sources, saying that after a meeting between the Attorney General of Sri Lanka and Mr. Ban and other officials, there was another meeting with, in fact, the Secretary-General’s Panel.  That, I just want you to either confirm or deny that, and also that the deadline has been extended for two or three weeks.  Is that true and if so, why was it extended and will, in fact, the Panel travel to Sri Lanka or not?

Spokesperson:  Well on the first, as you also saw, the reporting over the weekend suggested that there was a secret meeting with the Secretary-General, and you know as well as I do, because you were there, that that is simply not the case.  You were there taking pictures, so the reporting may be a little bit shaky.  It is, of course, for the Panel to comment on any meetings that they may or may not have had.  And I don’t have anything for you on that.  With regard to when the Panel will submit its report, it is scheduled to be, as we have already said, this month.  It is for the Panel to decide when that will take place.

Question:  Who speaks for the Panel, just in the sense of were they in town?  The reporting… I understand… I guess you are denying that, that report from Sri Lanka, but were the three members in…?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I said…

Question:  You are saying it’s shaky?

Spokesperson:  I said it is for the Panel to comment on whether a meeting may or may not have taken place.

Question:  Isn’t it the Secretary-General’s Panel?

Spokesperson:  The Panel needs to do its work independently, and then be able to report to the Secretary-General.  And that report, as you know, is in the making, and as soon as it is ready to be presented to the Secretary-General, it will be.

Question:  And will it be public, is my last one… Will that report be actually released given the…?

Spokesperson:  Again, that’s for the Panel to decide, in consultation with the Secretary-General.  Okay, other questions?  Please?

Question:  As you mentioned, the $160 million flash appeal fund in Libya — last week, Valerie Amos announced that she was going to contribute $5 billion from the Central Emergency Response Fund.

Spokesperson:  $5 million.

Question:  $5 million to the $160 million?

Spokesperson:  Well, the $5 million was really to set things going.  That’s what this Central Emergency Response Fund is for, so that, ahead of an appeal, you can already have money in place to help to make things happen.  So, that was, if you like, the start, and the appeal that was launched today is for the larger sum, which is clearly needed.  I understand that there has been a good donor response already.  And I am sure that my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) will be able to provide details as we get them on how much has been pledged by donor countries.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Saudi Arabia has issued a warning or banning of any demonstrations.  Is there any remark regarding this decision, which is, of course, against any forms of freedom of expression?

Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll make the general comment, which we have made throughout and which the Secretary-General has made throughout, that freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are fundamental rights.  Yes?

Question:  So the SG’s Special Envoy will meet with authorities in Tripoli; will he also meet with opposition forces?

Spokesperson:  I think the first thing is that the Secretary-General will need to meet with the Special Envoy — that’s on Wednesday — and then I am sure we will have some more details on precisely how this will work out after that.  Yes?

Question:  The humanitarian assessment team you that speak about going; there is this agreement to have them go.  Do you have any assurances on their freedom of movement, given that all the problems are in the suburbs in Tripoli?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s conversation with the Foreign Minister yesterday was quite firm, but also productive in the sense that the Foreign Minister did agree to the request to send in a humanitarian assessment team, and that needs to happen immediately.  As I understand it, there is a team already in place on the border.  As soon as there is the specific clearance from the Libyan authorities to enter, they will do so.  I understand from the conversation that they had that the Libyan authorities in Tripoli would be granting access to the assessment team to be able to go beyond Tripoli.  But those details will need to be finalized, I think, there.

Question:  I wanted to ask you about a couple of labour issues that seem to have arisen.  One is the Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, that represents the UNTV, UN Radio and Conference Services people, put out a press release over the weekend complaining of how they… complaining that their labour rights are being destroyed.  I know that the Staff Union here has said that the UN no longer collects dues for it and essentially seems not to recognize it as a union.  And the G-level staff have submitted a petition — maybe you could confirm that — to the Secretary-General about changing the ways in which they are paid and saying this violates their rights.  What’s… is it… what would you say to those who say they see a trend of kind of anti-labour actions by the Secretary-General and on each…?  Can you confirm the receipt of the petition, and will there be a response to complaint of these IBEW workers that they have now made public?

Spokesperson:  I really don’t agree with the notion that there is some kind of trend here.  On the other specific questions you have asked, if I have further details, then I would get back to you.  Yes?

Question:  From the SG’s meeting with the Foreign Minister over the weekend, was there any indication…?

Spokesperson:  Say, the meeting with?

Question:  With Musa Kousa.  Was there any indication that they would eventually allow humanitarian assistance, not just an assessment to be provided within the borders of the country and not just at the borders?

Spokesperson:  First of all, just to be clear, this was a telephone conversation, not a meeting.  It was a telephone conversation.  We are talking here about an assessment team.  You need to assess before you assist, and clearly, there are already preparations in train to provide that assistance.  First of all, you need to know precisely what it is that is required.  And that’s precisely what the assessment mission would be about.  Yes, right at the back?

Question:  The Secretary-General, does he have any contact with anti-Government, anti-Qadhafi Government, we can call it, in Benghazi?  Did he have any contact with them?

Spokesperson:  Well, not direct contacts, no, at this point.  Obviously, there are a couple things here; one is that an assessment team, as Valerie Amos told you last week, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, an assessment team did already visit Benghazi on the humanitarian needs.  And that is very separate from the question that you are raising.  But there has been, already there, an assessment mission carried out on humanitarian requirements.  We will have to see how things develop on that.  Nizar?  We’re making this the last question.

Question:  Yeah, on Bahrain, in fact we have received… we heard a lot of reports talking about mercenaries and thugs attacking demonstrators with machetes, with daggers, in Bahrain.  Since the violence that took place in the last few weeks, has there been anybody from the United Nations monitoring the situation on the ground there?

Spokesperson:  Of course.  As you know, we have a country team in Bahrain, and the Secretary-General is well briefed on developments across the region, including in Bahrain.  There are various reports out there on the kind of protests that there have been, and the demands that there have been from demonstrators.  And I think that the Secretary-General has spoken quite clearly on that topic.

Question:  Does he expect any report soon on what happened exactly there, especially that there were a lot of reports talking about foreign involvement, including Saudi military crossing the causeway into Bahrain and taking part in shooting at the demonstrators, as well as Asian mercenaries brought in and used by the State?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything for you on that at this point, Nizar.  Okay, all right.  James, did your arrival mean that you have a question, or just you came to hear the end of the briefing?  You just came to say hello?  Well, that’s very kind of you.  All right, have a good afternoon.  All right.

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